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Frequently Asked Questions about Rhodesian Ridgebacks

When researching Rhodesian Ridgebacks, people find helpful information from Wikipedia, the AKC and other reputable resources. After that, they tend to end up in an unsavory corner of the internet where a simple minded Chicago man pretends his Ridgebacks are dinosaurs and blogs about it.

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I guess Mr. Wikipedia is hard to get a hold of because I get a lot of emails with questions about the breed. The inquiries cover everything from finding a breeder to training techniques.

I’m always happy to pass on whatever help I can to prospective Ridgeback people so I figured I would compile a FAQ here as a resource. As always, I have to stress I am not a trainer/behaviorist/vet/breeder/expert in any fashion.

This guide is a compilation of everything I’ve learned from the pros and from personal experience as it specifically applies to life with Ridgebacks. There are undoubtedly exceptions to everything said below, but I hope the overview provides a helpful reference index for the most common questions.

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  1. I want my Rhodesian Ridgeback to be like Eko/Penny/Zero. Where did you get them?

I love championing the wonderful breeders I’ve used, but it is critical people don’t view puppies as build-a-bears. Every dog is born with a unique disposition and body type. There’s no copy/paste function and no guarantees. A good breeder will help guide you, but every dog is one of a kind. Embrace it!

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  1. Is it a bad idea to get a Rhodesian Ridgeback if I live in an apartment?

It depends. I once lived with two Ridgebacks in an apartment that was not much wider than Eko and Penny standing nose to tail. The key? Lots of exercise.

When properly exercised, I think Ridgebacks make awesome apartment dwellers. Most Ridgebacks don’t bark much and are content sunbathing quietly for hours. If you can make the commitment to keep your pup well-run, a Ridgeback will have no trouble in an apartment. If you can’t make that commitment, you’re in for a whole heap of trouble.

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  1. My puppy eats too quickly, what should I do?

Ridgebacks are fiendishly food motivated and notorious speed eaters. This can put them at risk of a life-threatening condition known as bloat. Ridgeback owners should familiarize themselves with the symptoms of bloat as well as related preventative measures. If your dog eats kibble, one easy step to slow them down, make mealtime a rewarding challenge, and reduce the risk of bloat is to feed meals in a slow bowl.

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  1. What dog food is best for a Rhodesian Ridgeback?

Memorize this sentence – “There is no best dog food.” But take hope, because you can find a diet that works best for your dog. As with human diets, there are a ton of theories, trends, fads and marketing budgets involved in dog food. It’s up to you to find the diet that keeps your dog healthiest. My guys do great on ProPlan Sport but there’s no guarantee it’s best for your pup. Buy small bags of whatever you try, transition to new foods slowly and see what works best.

If you bring a puppy home, do not change their kibble! They have a lot to adjust to, so wait until they’re settled before considering a switch.

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  1. How do I get my puppy to stop biting me?

Biting is attention-seeking behavior common in many puppies across all breeds. I get a lot of emails about this so my guess is the issue is pronounced in Ridgebacks since they tend to be natural brawlers.

My favorite thing to do to teach bite-restriction is melodramatic acting. My rule is that if my dog’s teeth touch my skin, even accidentally, I give a tremendous YELP. This immediately stops the behavior and lets your startled puppy know that teeth + skin = bad. I also stop playing/engaging with my puppy for a short time to show that ANY biting means playtime is over.

The best antidote to biting (or any attention-seeking behavior) is ignoring your pup entirely whenever they do it.

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  1. My puppy plays too rough with other dogs, what should I do?

Welcome to the club! Most Ridgebacks prefer highly physical play with lots of good natured rough and tumble wrestling. Many other dogs do not. Your responsibility is to socialize your pup extensively so they learn how to modulate their behavior around other dogs.

You will fail at this. A lot. Ridgeback pups can be as rambunctious as they are stubborn, so settle in for the long haul here. Training classes and puppy socialization events are helpful for teaching your dog self-control on and off leash. Whenever you sense your pup is riled up, redirect their attention or bring them somewhere to cool off a bit before releasing them to play again.

Practice early and often in controlled environments. Don’t get discouraged by setbacks

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  1. I’m having trouble with loose leash walking and off-leash recall, what should I do?

Once again, welcome to the club! Ridgebacks have a well-earned reputation of not being naturally biddable. They can be independent minded and this often presents issues both on and off leash.

I won’t get into training specifics here (some suggested resources are below), but I just want to make sure people are aware of these common issues so they are prepared to devote more time to them.

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  1. How do I stop my dog from humping? 

You survived puppyhood with a male Ridgeback, congrats! Now it’s time to survive his hormonal teenage phases. Yay!

Reprimanding your dog, removing him from the other dog, and redirecting his attention is one way to stop your dog in the act, but by then the deed is done.

Study your dog’s body language closely and learn all the things he does before he mounts another dog. You’ll notice there’s a sequence of behaviors leading up to mounting. By knowing these you can defuse the situation and redirect your dog before the problem occurs.

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  1. When should I spay/neuter my Rhodesian Ridgeback?

After consultation with multiple vets who have considered the latest peer-reviewed evidence, newer guidelines recommend waiting until a Ridgeback (or any large breed dog) is fully grown before spay/neuter.

I again have to stress here that I’m not a veterinary professional. But I do subscribe to the science and data behind these guidelines, as do most responsible breeders. By waiting to spay/neuter you can decrease the likelihood of a multitude of long term bone/joint/health risks.

That said, there are no absolutes here. Everyone must make the best decision for their own dog in conjunction with their breeder/vet.

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  1. Are Rhodesian Ridgebacks good with kids?

Many prospective/new parents ask me about Ridgebacks and children. I have all of seven months of expertise in the field, but I think asking if Ridgebacks are good with kids is the wrong question. The important question is whether you are willing to teach your Ridgeback how to be good with kids.

We’ve invested the time and thought to help Zero and Penny bond with Lincoln and I’m confident any Ridgeback could be taught the same. It’s just up to us to show them how!

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  1. I’m thinking about getting a second Ridgeback but I’m worried I won’t love them as much or they won’t get along with my first dog or….

If you have the desire and ability to add a second Ridgeback to your home, do it! There will be plenty to worry about, but I promise if you give both dogs the love and attention they deserve you will never regret the decision. There’s nothing like giving your best friend their own best friend and it’s so great to have two dogs who can keep up with each other’s dizzying pace.

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  1. What school/book/method is best for training?

There is no single resource which will answer all your questions. The best thing you can do is read voraciously and absorb as much information from as many sources as possible. This allows you to pick the techniques and methods best suited to both you and your pup.

Here’s a helpful list of positive reinforcement based books, online resources, and social media pages to help you get started.

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  1. What bed/leash/treats/coat/etc should I buy?

The pet industry is booming and there are more quality vendors and products than ever before. Unfortunately, there is a lot of junk out there too. I’ve put a good number of them through rigorous Ridgeback testing and these are all of the products I couldn’t do without.

Rather than Rhodesian Ridgebacks for Dummies, this FAQ is written more in the vein of Rhodesian Ridgebacks, by a Dummy. Each of the above questions has a significantly more nuanced answer, so my hope is this FAQ serves as a starting point for further research.

I’ve been lucky enough to have some great people help me along my own Ridgeback adventures and I’m always happy when I can pay it forward. If you ever have any questions feel free to reach out here, on Instagram or by email – will@markingourterritory.com

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34 Comments

RRs “by a dummy” is a clever title for an intelligent, fair and honest review of your experiences thus far. I’m going to pass this blog post around to a couple of breeders I know, and recommend it highly.

It’s great having you in the world to bond with prospective RR owners, and lifelong admirers.

We are Golden folks, but so many of the things you mentioned apply to them too! Good information!

Monty, Harlow, and Ramble

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