This is a FAQ about Rhodesian Ridgebacks in general. We also have a separate FAQ about puppies.
Rhodesian Ridgebacks are friendly, loyal, cuddly good natured dogs that thrive in a loving family home with lots of contact with people. They prefer to be warm, often lying directly in front of a fireplace or heater for hours on end – perhaps this comes from their sub-Saharan roots in Rhodesia (modern-day Zimbabwe)?
Ridgebacks are well-suited to being “inside dogs”, and while they’d very much like to share your bed and sofas, they are just as comfortable on a dog-bed on the floor. Ridgebacks are excellent around children – even babies – stoically withstanding the “friendly abuse” young children dispense, if they are familiar with the child. But, we recommend teaching children that while the family dog may accept ear-pulling and tail grabbing, other dogs may not, and it’s best to treat all dogs with respect.
Ridgebacks tend to sleep a lot – some have been witnessed to sleep up to 23 hours a day, though 15 hours is more common. Typically, they are happy to play when their family wants to, but equally happy to sleep, or at least lie down and watch the world go by with naps liberally sprinkled in their schedule.
Ridgebacks are very suitable in a office work environment, and having dogs at work is proven to increase morale and makes a work day more enjoyable.
Occasionally puppies are born “liver-nose”. This is a unique difference to the more common black-nose Ridgeback, and has a light-brown nose.
This is because the liver-nose gene is recessive, both parents must carry it, even though they may be black-nose themselves. If both parents are liver-nose, all offspring will be liver-nosed (double recessive).
Liver-nose Ridgebacks are within the breed specification but tend to have these physical variations from black-nose:
- Liver nose (instead of a black nose)
- “Clear” muzzle (brown) (instead of blackened muzzle)
- Amber eyes (instead of black eyes)
- Tan toenails (instead of black)
- Usually less white hair blazes (instead of typically white toes, and a white blaze on chest)
Their temperament is said to be a little more friendly and trusting, compared to black-nose dogs. Most breeders agree that adult liver-nose ridgebacks are more outgoing, boisterous, and playful.
Selecting a liver-nose is a matter of choice, but it’s often that people who meet the dog in the street will identify the dog as a Hungarian Vizler, which do indeed share similar colouring and general shape (but are different in many other ways). Some owners might find this annoying!
Any dog, regardless of the breed, is part of your pack and will be distressed being away its pack (for example, being outside when its pack is inside).
This is bad when the pack is away from home, but much worse when the pack is home inside, and the dog is outside! The dog sees this as a punishment.
Of course, the dog needs access to outside areas to explore and relieve itself, but “storing” a dog outside permanently is unnecessarily cruel.
Ridgebacks who have been well-socialised when young tend to be careful and protective of children (though play can get rough with older kids). Well-socialised Ridgebacks seem to innately know that babies are fragile.
However, we strongly recommend any time children are with Ridgebacks of any age, they are supervised by an adult, at least until the children are at least school-aged and sensible.
Below some images of Rani (from Kaspar and Olivia litter, born May 31, 2018) with kids. Dressing the dog up is our fave.
Larger dog breeds tend to live shorter lives than smaller dog breeds.
Healthy ridgebacks can live to 15, through 12 is more common. Eating appropriate food ensures your dog is healthier for longer.
Rhodesian Ridgebacks are big. strong dogs. We have owners in their 80’s with no problem handling their dog, but we have also had owners in their 60’s return their dog after a few months due to a fall (from the dog pulling), and broken bones.
If you’re not able to commit the the socialisation and training requirements, your ridgeback will likely pull you over (even if you’re young and healthy, and the dog is poorly trained). Continuing with obedience raining will help the dog be more responsive to your needs.
Good hips and elbows greatly reduces the risk of the dog developing hip or elbow problems, which can be an issue with larger-breed dogs.
All breeding stock have been hip- and elbow-scored if the breeder is reputable, and of course we organise the scores for our breeding stock. Also, many generations before them will have been scored too.
We use the AVA (Australian Veterinary Association) system, where lower scores are better and 0 is a perfect score.
Dogs are pack animals, and in the absence of other dogs, your family becomes it’s pack, to be defended and cared for as a priority.
Ridgebacks tend to be loyal, and will always bark when they spot someone on their home turf (for example, someone walking to your front door from the road). They have excellent hearing and sense of smell, and will often alert you to visitors with loud barking that will not stop until the visitor leaves, or is introduced to the dog.
However, if it’s a member of their pack approaching (for example, a family member coming home after work or school), the barking will settle down to whining – they want to be reunited with their pack promptly, and will be very pleased.
Regular visitors tend to be considered part of the pack after several visits.
If fed our recommended diet, most Ridgebacks can go out twice a day to poo and wee, once in the morning and once in the evening, once the dog the dog is mature and house-trained (estimated around six months of age).
So long as the dog has water, the dog can be left home alone for up to 10 hours, but that’s never preferred, and should be a rare occurrence at most.
All dogs need regular exercise, but compared to “working” or “gun” dogs (eg, Border Collies, Huskies, German shorthaired pointers), Ridgebacks need considerably less exercise.
Allocate an hour a day for dog exercise, with an off-lead run is best. It can be a little less sometimes, but exercise is very important to your dog’s health. It’s fine to couple your own exercise with your dogs, for example, accompanying you on a 5km jog.
With this much exercise, when left alone you dog will tend not to dig up the garden, tear apart furniture, or run in circles in the backyard for hours on end.
Your dog will consider you its “pack”, and intensely dislikes being separated from you. Ideally (for them), they will be with you 24/7.
Rhodesian Ridgebacks can adjust to their owners’ schedule of being away 6-7 hours a day, but will tend to get bored and that may manifest in destroying bedding, digging up plants in the garden, or other mischief. Additional exercise before humans depart will reduce this. A large, raw meaty (not cooked) bone offered before departing helps keep the dog occupied (and is good for it’s diet). But, as soon as you are home, you must have your dog with you to avoid great stress for the dog.
If your family’s lifestyle will mean your dog would regularly be alone for long periods of time (for example, 9 hours a day, five days a week), a Rhodesian Ridgeback (or indeed, any dog) is probably not right for your family.
It can be better to have two dogs, so they keep each other entertained, but we do not recommend two puppies at the same time. It will be too hard to train them both – they’d rather play than listen to you, and one is likely to dominate and bully the other.
We recommend to wait a year (or more) then get a second puppy (or possibly a re-housed dog, if it’s used to having another dog around, and personalities suit). In these circumstances, a second dog can be a good companion for your first dog.
But, consider that you have to walk, train, and clean up after two dogs, as well as feed, vaccinate, and worm them – more cost.
Obedience training is vital for such a large and strong dog.
Learning basic commands like “sit” (wait for me to start moving again), “stay” (stay where you are until I come back), “heel” (walk beside me, on-lead, without pulling), and “come” (also known as “recall”; come to me when I call the word and make this gesture) are extremely valuable, especially if your dog will be associating off-lead with other dogs, or if you have young children.
Modern obedience training is run in weekly small classes in a park, are fun for both dog and owners, and greatly enhances their bond. Typically kids over the age of 10 can attend and participate (depending on the trainer’s rules).
Dogs should start attending obedience classes from 3 months of age, but it’s never too late to start! We recommend continuing obedience classes until at least 12 months of age, though attending for longer will result in huge benefits for the life of your dog. It is essential to spend a few minutes every day at home to reinforce the class learning.
Puppy preschool provides useful socialisation opportunities (meeting other people and dogs in a positive environment) for puppies, tips on grooming and care for your dog (but beware of the hard sell for dried food if run by vets – you know better!). These early experiences have a life-long benefit. Puppy preschool can start as soon as you take your puppy home, as all pups in puppy pre-school are required to have been vaccinated.
Over four weeks, one night a week, an expert gives tips on grooming, washing, feeding, exercising, playing and living with your dog, and most importantly pups get supervised socialisation and a few simple obedience lessons (this is not enough training for the dog, but it’s a pleasant start).
Puppy preschool usually runs for four to six weeks, one weekday evening a week, in a group of perhaps seven other families with puppies.
We strongly recommend attending Puppy Preschool, but it must not be considered to be all the training the dog needs!
Commercial dog obedience training
Over the past few years, there has been a large increase in commercial dog training companies (for example, Four Paws). These tend to be good quality, and valuable for the dog. They all practise positive reinforcement (usually food-based, sometimes only praise-based) training, and have a series of levels dogs can grow into.
But they are comparably expensive – $15 to $25 per group session, once a week.
Obedience club dog training
Obedience club dog training is run by teams of experts in not-for-profit clubs around the suburbs. See a full list of Victorian clubs to find one near you (dog authorities in other states will maintain similar lists).
Club-based obedience training costs about $70 a year, to attend once a week in local parks. Much cheaper and just as good as commercial training organisations, we recommend this approach.
Dermoid Sinus (“skin hole”) is a small hole on the back of the puppy’s neck (usually on the neck, but may appear anywhere on the spine) that can travel all the way to the spinal cord. This is a problem as dirt can get in the hole and cause an infection of the spinal cord, which is fatal. Shallower holes also occur, that can also get infected. The sinus (hole) does not extend after birth, but may cause a lump if infection occurs.
Dermoid Sinus occurs in around 10% of Ridgeback puppies. If a puppy is found with a dermoid sinus (as assessed by a vet at around 7 weeks of age), surgery is a viable solution. The surgery can happen at 10 weeks of age, with two weeks recovery before the puppy can be collected by its new owners.
Dermoid Sinus is a congenital defect (an inherited medical condition that occurs at or before birth), and can be present in any Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy. It’s not possible to control by breeding (that it, it cannot be “bred-out”). If several puppies in a litter suffer from Dermoid Sinus, we’d not repeat that mating, however.
Hip dysplasia is an abnormal formation of the hip socket that, in its more severe form, can eventually cause crippling lameness and painful arthritis of the joints. This tends to show up in older dogs, and in severe cases results in them not being able to walk. Somewhat hereditary, his dysplasia is combated by doing “hip scoring” of all breeding stock dogs, where x-rays are taken and assessed against an ideal standard. The dog must be over 12 months of age to be hip and elbow scored.
The score (lower is better) is an indication of how likely that dog is to suffer from hip dysplasia, and thus how likely they will pass on that trait to his puppies.
Hip or elbow dysplasia can be caused by lifestyle factors, even if parents, grandparents have excellent hips and elbows. Lifestyle causes includes:
- Over-exercise under 15 months
- Overweight, especially when growing, as there’s not enough muscle to support the growing joints
- Bad feeding, for example, low quality dried food or mostly-meat diet (instead of 50-50 meat and bone)
- Occasionally, a bad accident, such as falling down stairs
A bigger garden is definitely preferred by your dog – more things to sniff and explore, more changes to keep it interested.
But that’s not always possible, so if a smaller garden is the reality, more regular walks around the neighbourhood are required to keep the dog engaged and occupied.
If you live in apartment with no garden area, we recommend taking the dog out four times a day for at least 15 minutes each time (more will be appreciated by the dog).
If you live on a larger property, we strongly recommend it is well-fenced (for example, 1200mm high ringlock or equivalent), with all hole blocked (eg, under gates). Despite a large yard, dogs want to explore, and will escape if not prevented from doing so – and risk being hit by a car or even stolen!
The Australian Vet Association has a good page for background on keeping a dog as a pet in Australia.
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