BREED 101! Everything You Need To Know About The RIDGEBACK
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Where does the Rhodesian Ridgeback come from? This large, lean and muscular dog stems from South Africa, where it served as hunting companion for the Khoikhoi – an African people native to the Cape Peninsula. Even the ancestors of our modern Ridgebacks were praised for their ferocity in guardian roles. And it did not take long for European settlers to fall in love with these athletic local dogs. However, they refined the breed by adding Great Danes and Greyhounds to them, making the dog larger and more elegant. Whilst serving as fearless farm- and estate guardians for their owners, Ridgebacks were predominantly used as hunting dogs for lions: Working together in packs, they would apprehend the large cats and keep them in check, until the hunters arrived on the scene to shoot the lions. The first official breed standard for the Rhodesian Ridgeback was drafted in 1922. What is their temperament like? Ridgebacks are naturally quite confident, as well as courageous, protective and fiercely loyal to their owners. But at the same time, these dogs are not given to sudden attacks on people, even though they are wary towards strangers: When well-socialised, these African lion hunters are quite capable of adjusting their response to the situation at hand. All these traits are fantastic to have in a guard dog, but the Rhodesian Ridgeback is far more than that: Highly social and extremely athletic, these energetic canines are the ultimate outdoor companions: Particularly well-suited for active families, they will happily join their owners on hikes, bicycle tours, long walks and even camping expeditions. And even though Rhodesian Ridgebacks are very outgoing and energetic, they have the sweet temper of most large hounds: They are quite attached to their owners and make amazing snuggle-buddies. How intelligent and trainable are Rhodesian Ridgebacks? Apart from excelling in hunting lions, these dogs can be trained to perform beautifully in all kinds of canine sports – for example Agility, tracking trials, sleeve work, and advanced obedience contests. They are very smart and highly trainable, as they lack the stubborn nature of other large guardian breeds, like the Mastiffs or the Giant Schnauzer. But with that said, Ridgebacks are surprisingly sensitive, which is a typical feature in large hunting breeds. Therefore, they do best with an approach that is based on positive reinforcement. In the care of a calm, consistent canine leader, these marvellous multi-talents will unfold their full and amazing potential. Are Rhodesian Ridgebacks healthy dogs? As a large breed, the Rhodesian Ridgeback can be affected by hip- as well as elbow-dysplasia and bloat. Thyroid problems are quite common in the breed, and some dogs can develop dermoid sinus, degenerative myelopathy and various eye conditions. Recommended health screenings for breeders include cardiac testing and testing of the dogs’ hearing, eyes, hips, elbows and thyroids. The life-expectancy of this robust South African breed ranges from 10 to 13 years. Exercise and Grooming Requirements of the Rhodesian Ridgeback Bred to tirelessly track and pursue large game, Rhodesian Ridgebacks love to run, sprint, and explore. Ideally, they should be given daily extended walks off leash. But as their prey drive is quite intense, this absolutely requires perfect recall. Apart from walks, hikes and runs with their owners, Ridgebacks enjoy extended play sessions. As they have been quite used to hunting in packs in their native Africa, these dogs should be given the chance to regularly play with other dogs – be it in a dog park or in the backyard of a fellow dog owner. But whilst they need lots of exercise, these African hunters need only minimal grooming: Their gorgeous, short and shiny wheaten-coloured coats tend to stay quite clean, and hardly shed. Therefore, giving them a quick rub with a grooming mitt once or twice a week is sufficient to keeping a Ridgeback’s coat in order. Overview The beautiful Rhodesian Ridgeback may look like a harmless Labrador, but its mellow appearance is deceiving: This large hunter is a force to be reckoned with, and will put its life on the line to defend its owner, if necessary. Ridgebacks are incredibly intelligent and versatile. When socialised well, they will happily embrace the role of family companion and -guardian. Ridgebacks can be a good choice for novice owners, as long as they are provided with plenty of exercise.