So I know there are quite a few Ridgeback lovers on COTH and I want to know it all! The ins, the outs, the good/bad/ugly.
Someday, (not right now, but hopefully within the next year), I'll be getting my first dog on my own and I'm leaning towards getting a Ridgeback, (or an Airedale, which is my families breed of choice, or a Dobe). I work at a doggie daycare and we have one Ridgeback who's been coming since he was 4mos and he's almost 3 now and I absolutely love him! I try not to have favorites but he is definitely at the top of my list, hence my interest in the breed.
They are big and strong, have a strong prey drive, high energy dogs that need strong leadership from the start. They can be aggressive but usually are protective of their families and reserved with strangers. How much they are socialized probably affects that though! The ones I've known tended to mellow with age. They have funky eyes that look right through you too! LOL
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I love Rhodesian Ridgebacks. I've had them for about 12 years now and I will likely have them for the rest of my life. They can be amazing, awesome dogs. I get wonderful compliments on my dogs every day and they are incredible.
That said. They are incredibly, incredibly difficult puppies. You HAVE to be 100% consistent with them. And by "you," I mean EVERY single person who interacts with the puppy needs to be 100% consistent with the puppy, including expectations, rules and commands. They do not make good dogs for families because they really, really want to belong to ONE person. They take a long time to mature--I have a girl now that did not GROW UP until she was three. That's a long, long time to deal with a difficult puppy.
Ridgebacks have a reputation (at least in my area) for being fear biters or aggressive, and I can understand why, because if you don't do right by your puppy, it could go either way.
You MUST find a breeder who focuses on producing an animal with good temperament. You must find someone who has long years in the breed and is proving their stock in some way.
This is what I tell horse people: if you can take a rank stud horse and make him a solid citizen, you can handle a Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy. If you don't think you can do that, I'd really recommend another breed.
I've had them for about 14 years. I love the breed. They are powerful, athletic, and handsome. They're great all-rounders. Consider what they were initially bred for; hunting, protecting the family, and being the family dog. This has resulted (generally speaking) in a dog with a high prey drive, a dog that can be protective, but a dog that can also be good with a family, in packs, and with kids.
The challenges of the breed include:
1. They were bred to work independently so if you're used to a "what is thy bidding, Master?" breed you'll have a tough time with this guy.
2. The high prey drive of the sighthound makes recall training tough but necessary. Even though all my ridgies had solid recall I'd still not take Yoshi to the park off leash. I don't know what he'd do first; get hit by a car chasing prey into traffic, get shot by the farmers for chasing livestock, or eat the neighbor's cats!
3. High prey drive makes sighthounds generally unreliable with prey animals as pets, especially if you have a pack of sighthounds. So if you plan on having cats, pick another breed. I have cats with my pack (now currently single dog) and I do things like lock the cats away when I'm not home, and they never get to go outside.
4. They are very discerning with regards to protecting the family so they have to be well trained. They have to learn how to subside when told. They take their jobs seriously and will make the decision on their own who to love and who to eat. I personally love this quality about them. They are not people-eating dogs who are just not reliable around humans, don't get me wrong. People could come to my house and my dogs would love them all. But if you are a person who causes my rigebacks suspicion then you weren't getting in the house!
I like the breed alot. All breeds come with baggage, but this hound suits my personality.
My trainer is friends with a major breeder in Florida, and has had a couple of her retired show dogs. The last dog, Mahdi, was the most beautiful, friendly, girl I've ever met, and I had the honor of dog sitting her until her death at 13 last year. They just took in Cam, one of her retired show stud dogs, who is 9 and a true gentleman. You can tell this dog has been shown - he is calm, great around the horses and people, and SO well trained. Their dogs have simply spoiled me for the breed. But I have a feeling that these dogs are not entirely typical, given the level of training and socialization that they're received.
But certainly, they do show what the dogs can become. I have met some of their younger dogs, and while they are much more high-energy, they are well on their way to becoming like these dogs.
They remind me VERY much of the Catahoula Leopard dogs I used to breed and train, and seem to have a very similar personality. Catahoulas are maybe a bit more feral and obstinate? But they were bred for similar purposes so it makes sense that they would share similar characteristics. Truthfully, many Catahoulas HAVE a ridged back, and share bloodlines with the americanized version of the breed. I know a couple of people who had RR's in their breeding programs, to give size and aggressiveness to their hunting dogs, as CLH's, don't have to be purebred.
Some of our dog club members had ridgebacks that were in the top ten nationally in their breed in agility.
They were wonderful dogs, very easy to train, but very, very hard to motivate to do what the person wants, if it is not their idea, so very hard to show when they had an off day.
Those dogs don't mind ignoring their human and do what they want, no matter how well trained.
They are not bred to be nice and polite and considerate and work with their humans without question, as other working type dogs are.
If you like the independent hound temperament, they are a match for you.
Some like the biddable dogs, that live to do what you want, some like the terrier more busy being busy mind, some like the more aloof hound dogs, that don't care that much what you do.
Ridgebacks, while being a hound, do have some working dog's characteristics also, so are a bit better to work with you than, say, greyhounds.
Ridgebacks require very tight management, but are true couch potatoes once older and well trained, while still being very athletic, strong and lithe dogs outside.
They run like a cheetha, awesome to watch them take off, so light on their feet.
If you can spend much time with them and have the time to train them thru their lives, they are lovely, wonderful, clean, very sweet dogs.
I don't think there was anyone in our dog club that didn't consider seriously getting one of those awesome dogs for their next dog.
I've known two Ridgebacks - one male, one female - beautiful dogs - and both owners say they are the best but very protective & independant. Not very social with other dogs and people.
Both also took/take the dog for long walk/jogs everyday and let the dogs loose to swim in neighborhood lakes/creeks every day. They said without about an hour of hard excercise (out in the open, not a backyard pool) a day, the dogs get wound up and tend to get into trouble around the house. They love to run and hunt.
Both families are athletic and outdoor families that go jogging themselves so a perfect match for someone who has a good excercise routine. I suppose if you have a larger piece of property like a small farm, they would be a good match since they would have room to run.
I have had ridgebacks for over 20 years and studied the breed for over 30. I was mentored by one of the original breeders, Margaret Lowthian Cook, (www.lamardeperro.com). Most ridgebacks here in the US go back to her bloodlines. I also judge them.
They should not be aggressive. They are good guard dogs, but not indiscriminate biters. "Dignified and even tempered. Reserved with strangers." I have found them easy to train and they retain their training throughout their lives. While they are "classified" as sighthounds, many breeders world wide disagree with this as they scent hunt. They were originally developed and used as guard dogs, drovers and hunting dogs.
Mine stay very close to me when off lead, they range out and then always come back to check on me, unlike the other hounds ( dachshunds) I breed and train (or try to train).
Rigdebacks can stop a person in their tracks just by the stare and low growl, when they are guarding. Ask my neighbor who tried to enter our proporty when we were not home....
The key is to train them very young and be consistent!!! If you can get past their adolescence, you will have a wonderful dog!
Having said that, do your homework and buy from a good breeder! There are some lines that do not produce the correct temperaments and a bad temperament on a large dog is dangerous!!
Read about and study the breed, probably the best book is by MAJ T.C. Hawley. You may be able to find his book through the Rhodesian Ridgeback Club of America. Good luck! I love this breed!
We do not have an overpopulation of dogs, we have an under population of responsible dog owners!!!
I have definitely heard that you need to be consistent with your training when they are young, and you need to be firm, I am okay with that, and will definitely invest in puppy classes. I'm am used to dealing with terrier deafness from Airedales (ours always tended towards if I don't acknowledge you than I can't here you thus do not have to do what you're asking) and proper socialization because our Airedales were always very wary of strangers, but were okay when we introduced them. I am a jogger/hiker/out doorsy person so hopefully that will help keeping a dog sane. Maybe some other dog sport to keep puppy sane?
What do you suggest as far as going about finding a reputable breeder?
My dogs come from Oakhurst. Barbara Rupert has been in the breed for 40 years and is a respected judge and breeder.
If, for some reason, I could not go Oakhurst, I would look at Kimani or Calico Ridge, or look for other breeders who have been successful somehow (I look at the conformation ring) over LONG periods of time. You also want to look for a breeder who is screening hips, elbows, eyes, etc.
We have a ridgeback/boxer cross female, she came from the pound, after being adopted and returned several times.
She came as a package deal with my in-laws. Not a dog I would personally choose, but perhaps if I had had her from puppy hood I would feel differently. I'm sure the fact that my in-laws are not good with dog training is a factor.
She is stubborn, but loves my mother in law (that must be her human), and is fine with the family, but is very protective, and has nipped a few people that she decided she didn't like.
She gets more protective when the "stranger" attempts to leave the house. It is very strange.
If she thinks I am trying to boss her - then the stubborn streak comes out, and it is not pretty, things like trying to get her into the house so we can go out to dinner, and especially if my mother in law is not home.
And then sometimes, she is just a big ole lovebug, sits on the couch next to you, and leans until she is practically in your lap.
There are friends and faces that may be forgotten, but there are horses that never will be. - Andy Adams