The Ridgeback, singly or in a pack, will silently track the lion to its lair and only on discovery of its quarry will it give tongue; tanatlising, feinting, darting in and out, just beyond the reach of those fearful slashing claws, with the nonchalance of a matador; harassing and wearing it down until that majestic creature, bewildered by such elusive impudence and weary of trying to shake off its tenacious nuisance, presents a sitting target of injured majesty.
Pride. It’s word that signifies an awareness of the recognition of innate talent and the importance of continuing achievement. It’s also a word that perfectly defines the character of Rhodesian Ridgeback.This breed is self-assured, completely confident and completely conscious of his own speed, agility and limitations. But his temperament contains interesting complexities – alert, arrogant, devoted, independent, self-reliant and non-combative are all terms that specialists have used to describe the Ridgeback. And all have some element of truth – for superior animals, like people, are not simple creatures.
Place the Ridgeback in certain situations and his breed’s behaviour can be easily recognised. Quite simply, this is a great tracking dog, as has been proven time and time again, and able to put this talent to work both by air and ground contact. Frequently, the Ridgeback will instinctively herd other animals into a tight-knit group simply by circling them.
His guarding reactions can vary. If he senses a threat to his master, he will make a decision based on the circumstances. Sometimes, he will merely encourage his master to move on, away from what the dog sees as a danger, or he may circle behind approaching “enemies” in an attempt to manoeuvre them away from the area.
Because of the breed’s above-average intelligence, a great deal of mental stimulation is required by the Ridgeback. Repetitive and regimented obedience routines don’t spark this breed – game-playing is how they like to learn and develop skills from an early age. Just playing a standard hide-and-seek round can help the Ridgeback achieve success in scent discrimination and simple retrieving. This kind of give-and-take in training also creates a lasting and positive bond with you and your pet, as well as being a great deal more fun.
Despite his strength and courage, the Ridgeback can also display sensitivity. Being rough-housed by an overzealous child will not sit well with him – but being treated with respect and kindness will be repaid many times over. This quality also makes it important to socialise this breed with many other kinds of dogs, different animals and people from outside the family circle – the more accustomed the Ridgeback is to a variety of situations, the better he is able to cope with them.
Also, the breed does require a little “personal space” and comfort room. In general, this is not the kind of dog that happily greets strangers with overwhelming affection at the drop of a hat, nor does he appreciate being pushed on to people he does not know. The Ridgeback takes his own time to decide whether someone is worth knowing before he begins to show warmth and initiate a relationship with that person.
This trait carries over to conflict – the Ridgeback will not go looking for a fight anymore than it will go looking for a new friend. The breed, however, will stands its ground if challenged or threatened – let’s remember it was trained to stand down a lion! – and you do need to keep this in mind. Since some people, particularly young children, are jumpy around dogs, it is imperative that the Ridgeback owner has total control and is fully confident that he has trained his pet to stop, sit or stand on command.
The good news is that the Rhodesian Ridgeback was originally developed only for hunting, not killing. The breed has no inherent aggressive tendencies, because its job, originally, was to track down and corner the game, but never to kill it. This means that a properly-trained and socialised Ridgeback is a good-natured and exceptionally versatile dog which will give his owner many years of pleasure and companionship. You are not only gaining a pet, you are gaining a wonderful experience – and a brave, loyal friend.