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January 11, 2018

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.
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. DSC03280.JPG 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. DSC09494
  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! DSC08784.JPG
  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. Kyjen SloBowl
  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. DSC04420.JPG
  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. DSC04487.JPG
  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. DSC01359.JPG
  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 DSC01657.JPG
  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. DSC08470.JPG
  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. DSC09884.JPG
  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. DSC09635.JPG
  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! DSC06961.JPG
  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. DSC02226.JPG
  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. p8.JPG
  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 – [email protected]

Comments for Frequently Asked Questions about Rhodesian Ridgebacks

  1. that was a super interesting post!!!! I had no clue that RR’s have to live with the danger of bloat too… the nightmare of all dog people…
    I tried your way too stop the puppy biting, I yelped like crazy but the only result was that our neighbor came over because he thought someone was near to death (yes me and marks nose too). Either Phenny is the reincarnation of genghis khan and enjoys painful cies or there is something wrong with his ears ;O)))))

  2. Connie Taylor says:

    Once again Wil, the advice you have shared can be used on all breeds and ages of dogs! Each day is a new adventure and dogs just help us find our way and liven things up as we go along!!

  3. KarenS says:

    One of the hardest things to do is watch you dog play “RR” style, it can be scary as they hunt and then body slam into each other. And other dogs. I always let mine get as much energy out of them prior to letting them around other dogs. And it always helped if we found another Ridgeback first! Like you said, I’m no expert and it worked for us. Years ago we, when dogs and people were younger, we would walk with a group of Ridgebacks. The joy watching them turn various geographical features into a playground was incredible. The games of chase were epic. Sadly most have been taken away by development.

    The best advice we ever heard was be consistent and have a sense of humor. They have taken my heart and I found them to be wonderful companions.

  4. It’s certainly not for everyone, which is why I’m glad Zero and Penny have each other to bounce off of. Hills, fallen trees, whatever it is – Ridgebacks will make it part of the game! And yes, not taking yourself too seriously is especially helpful when you’re outwitted by a dog, again and again.

  5. Stephanie says:

    Great post. Written with great love for RR’s and great empathy for your readers. Thank you

  6. Ellen Quilty says:

    Rough play among Ridgebacks is really something to watch!They are fast too and love to play the “chase me “ game.Fortuneatly Nikki is good at reading signals from other dogs who don’t want to engage.But when she finds a willing victim she is like a bat out of hell!


    seems to me you could title this “FAQ about Newfoundlands or FAQ about shelter pups” – all good info for any dog owner – training and socialization are so important to having a quality life for you and your dog. Just my 2 cents.

  8. Cynthia Marquez says:

    Loved this. My 4th ridgeback, named Ridge since he was ridgeless, was my biggest challenge. Rescued at 8 months, huge, no clue that verbal commands were meant for him, not the brightest ridgie ever and with the highest prey drive I have ever seen. I was dragged down the asphalt more than a few times when he saw a squirrel or cat….
    I kept telling him that that had he been my 1st ridgie, I would never have gotten another one. So, in addition to consistency, firmness but no yelling, and a sense of humor, I would add a huge dose of patience is required. So, if some of you feel you have an “over-the-top” ridgeback, you have quite a challenge on your hands. However, he was extremely treat motivated making obedience class a dream and followed up by a successful time at agility. I’m happy to say all the blood, sweat and tears were totally worth it now that he is 6 and settled.
    LOVE everything about your blog. Your pictures, your eloquence and your way of expressing what so many of us ridgeback-owned people feel about our furry BFFs.

  9. Patrick says:

    First Ridgeback for me. Picked him up from a breeder in Augusta GA in August 2017. He’s 6 months and finally figured out that being a couch potato is the way to go when it’s single digit temperatures in Chicago. Any puppy is a lot of work from 8 weeks until about 3-4 months. Need to be looked after constantly and are hard to crate train. Overall my Ridgeback (named Django) is receptive to training probably because he loves nothing more than eating. He is just starting to figure out he has major hops. It helps to have a network of family and friends to watch your Ridgeback for the puppy stages. When I go to work in the afternoon I drop him with my dad and the rest of the family watches him. From 3-6 months energy levels are through the roof and the best advice I could give is get your Ridgeback somewhere where a lot of dogs are and find a couple young dogs of friends or neighbors and have them run around and wrestle together. You on your own could never tire these dogs out by walks alone.

  10. Emmadog says:

    Good informative post. We hate that apartment question, as we find it totally ridiculous! If you walk your dog, do activities, take them places, any size dwelling is just fine. Mom doesn’t want any dogs of any size using the house as a race track, so get them out and they will be fine at home. Big dogs tend to be more mellow and quiet anyway, which is why we think they are better suited for smaller spaces, but most think only small dogs can live in small spaces.

  11. czechsix says:

    Not a bad blog post at all, well done. You did a good job describing many of the issues and techniques to deal with lots of large dog breeds, and I guess what it comes down to is experience with dogs. I know for certain that our third ridgeback is a much more highly trained and socialized dog than our first, over twenty years ago.

    Mentioning personality differences is a good one too – and it’s the secret key. Problem is, of course, that it takes years for a human to understand dog personalities and to be able to work with them in a positive way. I always take issue with anyone that describes a dog breed in absolutes – x is always y, etc. (Note that I’m not talking about standards, more about descriptives of behavior, activity levels, etc.) All animals are individuals, owners should always realize this, but without prior experience you really don’t have much comparison material.

    Anyway, I’m posting before coffee, so I’m wandering now, so I’ll shut up and go have a cup and throw the basketball for Mina.

  12. Shannon Schmit says:

    Hi Will!

    Great article!

    I would add that not only do you teach your dog to be good around kids, you need to teach the kids to be good around dogs.

    Regarding training I would strongly suggest positive training. Negative methods shuts down the dog and destroys the trust between you and your dog. A dog has the mental acuity of a toddler. Treating a toddler roughly does nothing good, and the same holds true for dogs.

  13. KDKH says:

    I appreciate your candor. It is extremely obvious from your blog and comments that I need a dog with lower energy! I love your blog and your family, but I can see that I need a dog who doesn’t need as much exercise! I’m so glad that you can keep up with your pups!

  14. What a terrific compilation of FAQs. Well done. Can’t believe Lincoln is 7 months old already, are you guys as surprised?!

  15. What a fabulous post! All good points and so well stated.

    Like so many of your posts, you have helped my husband and me (and our parrot) to raise Obi. For example: traveling with an RR, getting a 2nd RR (which we haven’t yet), and separation anxiety. The nose bonks are now our alarm clock! That was actually the first video I watched of yours.

    Exercising is key. They’re specific RR breed activities. Obi is a natural Lure Courser and K9 Nosework dog. Both activities tire him out faster than the usual 6 miles we walk together most days.

    Thank you for all you do. Your love comes through. You are helpful. Your pictures are spectacular. Your videos are worth watching over and over again.

  16. I am the complete polar opposite of a ridgeback (actually, Mom says I’m more like a kitten), but we loved this post anyway! Lots of good doggie info for sure. Plus a great list of must-haves! I may be getting a new coat! Woot!

    Love and licks,

  17. {snicker} Hang on to all the baby behaviors-they grow up so fast you’ll be longing to change nappies in no time just to have them close. Happy weekend.

  18. JMR says:

    Awesome info, Will. Owning an RR requires serious commitment, as you have thoroughly explained, but soooo much worth it! My RR is 4 years old and has never once mounted another dog. I am pleased, but dumb founded as to why he never displayed that behavior. I did not even get a chance to teach him not to, because he never did! Now, my older lab-mix, who has been neutered since 2 months, will mount my RR. Also worth mentioning is that my RR was neutered at 3 years old. So, during the time he was intact, my RR never mounted another dog. Also, he is not food driven, like my lab. My RR will take his time eating. In fact, I have to monitor feeding time, because the lab will try to help himself from the RR’s bowl! Strange, I know my RR was the second in line from his litter of 12.

  19. Ted loves this so much that he insisted we nominate you for a blogging award. Check out our next post!

  20. Love this post. Great sensible advice not just for a prospective Ridgeback owner, but for any prospective dog owner. Brilliant.

  21. Fran welch says:

    Trying to catch on our blog. I live this n I have found any kind of pup if they have a playmate adds hours of free entertainment n satisfaction for u n yr pup.

  22. Fran welch says:

    Trying to catch on our blog. I live this n I have found any kind of pup if they have a playmate adds hours of free entertainment n satisfaction for u n yr pup.

  23. cafall says:

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

    Monty, Harlow, and Ramble

  24. UrbanCollieChick says:

    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.

  25. francisco edwards says:

    i have a 10 month old rodhesian bitch and she is a bitting destroyer…I really don’t know how to manage it. I’ve sprayed hot sauce, vinegar, lemon, on whatever she has attacked and she continues. I’ve reprimended her hardly a couple of times, specially after she ate both license plate lights of my car…We live in a very large lot (+5000 sq mtr), so she has plenty of space to run and explore. she plays ok with our 7 yo german shepherd. she has her own toys and I share with her some wood logs to chew, but nothing works. I’m really in despair, as she has ruined several times our garden irrigating system…not giving up yet, but i’ve really considered to give it away to someone else…so any advise is more than welcome

  26. Carla says:

    Love the utube videos of Eko, Penny & Zero!!

  27. Silvio Bahiana says:

    Olá Penny! Olá Zero! Lindo os vídeos de vocês! Aí vai um vídeo de um primo aqui do Brasil: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NHAtgrWrfbs Saudações aos tutores amorosos! Tudo muito lindo! Parabéns!

    Fidel e Buga (Silvio – Brasil)

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