As the Ridgeback is a special dog, he also requires a bit of special care and training. Here are a few important things to keep in mind when raising a Ridgeback.
Personality and Training
What works with ordinary sporting or working dogs isn’t right for the Ridgeback, which requires a trainer he knows and trusts, and discipline that is fair and justified. Treat the Ridgeback fairly and with respect and you will find he will happily reciprocate. While the Rhodesian Ridgeback projects strength and determination, he also has a surprising sensitivity due to his above-average intelligence. Excessively harsh training methods are not only unnecessary with this animal, they could backfire. Therefore, it is vitally important that the Ridgeback owner builds up a trusting relationship with his dog right at the get-go. If the animal senses otherwise, or if he is subjected to drill-style commands, the dog can become afraid or just unresponsive. You may end up getting his hearing checked, but he’s probably just stopped listening! Positive reinforcement is the ticket to success in training this breed. Rather than punishing a Ridgeback puppy for a rule that he has no idea exists, reward him for behaving in the manner you wish. This not only builds a strong bond between you and your Ridgeback, it also ends up accomplishing your desired training results in a pleasant and affirmative manner. This breed does tend to have a rather short attention span, so design your training sessions with this factor in mind. Make them fun and full of play, with lots of variations of tasks and rewards. Overall, bring a sense of firm guidance combined with understanding guidance to really get the most out of this special dog.
A great deal of socialization does the Ridgeback a world of good from a very early age. The worst thing you could do for your new Ridgeback puppy is to only keep him around other Ridgebacks. If you’re interested in finding a training school, always ask the breeder to recommend a good puppy class – one in which it’s possible for your pup to meet as many different dogs, all shapes and sizes, as possible. This helps the Ridgeback to quickly adjust to various situations and grow up more flexible and open to new experiences.
Obviously, the Ridgeback needs regular exercise to keep hard and fit – but avoid overdoing it with a young animal with growing bones. As a matter of fact, until the dog is nine months old, you need only take him on short lead-walks and allow him to do what comes naturally, such as play in the garden. After nine months, more free galloping can be gradually introduced until the Ridgeback is physically mature – then either jogging or bicycling with your dog can be very good exercise (for you as well as your pet!). Regular training is important, but standard obedience competitions are generally not for the Ridgeback. The breed is much happier indulging in agility, which is an ideal way of maintaining fitness and providing continual mental stimulation.
Care and Feeding
The Ridgeback requires little coat care other than a weekly session with a stiff bristle brush, as well as an examination of teeth for tartar build-up and ears for excess wax. Nails should be clipped regularly and we strongly suggest that you get the puppy accustomed to this as a normal routine at an early age. Trying to work a nail clipper on a headstrong adolescent Ridgeback is not for the faint-hearted! It is best to feed the mature Ridgeback twice a day. Avoid at all costs, however, giving the Ridgeback strenuous exercise for at least two hours after feeding, as this can invite bloat or gastric torsion, which can actually be life-threatening. Providing the Proper Home The first thing to understand about a hunting hound, a category that the Ridgeback definitely falls under, is that you can’t expect it to stay put. The Ridgeback has very quick reflexes – and should he spot a strange cat or other animal making its way through the yard, the dog could be off in a heartbeat, leading you on a not-so-merry and exhausting chase! Consequently, it is essential that your pet’s home is secure and escape-proof. The Ridgebacks are powerful jumpers; they can jump 1.80 walls with ease. While they are most likely not giving any particular thought to wandering or leaving home, it is difficult for them to ignore the thrill of the hunt.
Some Rhodesian Ridgebacks are born without ridges – or with faulty ridges and crowns. While this may limit their career as show dogs, these are still wonderful animals who make wonderful pets and companions to owners who really have no desire to show. The ridgeless Ridgeback possesses the same exceptional talents in agility, tracking, flyball, lure coursing and other activities as his perfectly ridged sibling does. If your aim is purely to own a Ridgeback as a companion, don’t be afraid to discuss giving a home to a ridgeless puppy with a reputable breeder.