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Ridgeback FAQ

How is the Ridgeback around children?

The Ridgeback is can be a reasonably tolerant, companion for children, able to amiably withstand a great deal of aggravation from even the smallest of toddlers - but they must be introduced to the little ones while they are still Rhodesian Ridgeback puppies - before they become adults. No child should be left unsupervised around any dog, especially if the dog hasn't been socialized with children.  It has been noted that Ridgebacks not socialized around children become nervous with their sudden movements, and a childs natural behavior of chasing and handling a Ridgeback that is not familiar with them. *Socialization is key. There is also the possibility that due to the Ridgeback's large size, younger and more excitable Ridgebacks may knock smaller children over by accident.

Do Ridgebacks "play well" with other animals?

The Ridgeback is a sociable animal, enjoying the company of other dogs. However, male dogs of any breed can have trouble co-existing due to dominance issues. Mileage may vary. They can be good with cats if raised with them, but fiercely effective in clearing their territory from sojourning felines or other canines.

How are they as a watchdog?

The Ridgeback is bred with the instinct to protect family and property. Its general propensity to carry on such tasks are mitigated - or aggravated by the level of intensity the owner wishes to instill.

Are they barkers? Do they have any bad habits?

Ridgebacks generally only bark only when there is a good reason to do so. Of course, if a Ridgeback has been neglected, they may fall into various negative behaviors - including indiscriminate barking - out of boredom. They are very vivacious dogs  with great energy and determination, Thus they have been known to clear fences unless the owner has taken steps to prevent it. Quality time - walks, playful attention, releasing of energy by exersize - will markedly reduce the desire of a Ridgeback to escape even if they have the opportunity to do so. Although they are not neccesarily water lovers, they can become excellent swimmers, This can become a problem if you don't want them in your pool!

They are not usually nuisance diggers, but can create large pot holes to escape summer heat if left outside. A Ridgeback can become a roamer out of boredom, often meandering unwittingly into oncoming traffic, making it imperative to have a properly fenced area when off leash.

Is the Ridgeback a good "house pet"?

One of the most amenable characteristics of a Ridgeback, is his personal hygene. Rhodesians are extremely clean dogs with very little odor, and minimal shedding due to the shortness of their coat. One breeder has described them as "wash and wear dogs". In general, a Ridgeback kept indoors sheds a little all year round. However, if a Ridgeback is kept outside they will undergo seasonal shedding. They don't really slobber, except perhaps in anticipation of food. They are generally easy to housebreak. They will take over the couches and beds unless their owners discourage this habit from puppyhood. A happily wagging tail will easily knock over plants and clear off low profile tables.

Are there any special feeding issues?

A Ridgeback that doesn't display interest in eating, is probably unconscious. They will inhale their food, and although rare, it can endanger them with a condition known as "bloat". Therefore, it is better to feed them with an elevated dish, using mechanisms that can be found at various pet supply outlets. Another way to slow their eating down is to place large objects in their food bowls so that they have to manuever the objects to get at their food, thereby slowing down food intake.

Ridgebacks can be "counter surfers" and are intelligent enough such that a good cupboard lock may be required to keep a creative fellow from helping himself. Weight can be a concern, as they will happily woof down most anything you put in front of them. Do not go by weight, but rather body shape. There should be a pronounced waste between the rib cage and the pelvis  as you look down over his back, with just a wee bit of fat covering the ribs which you should be able to see from the side when they are stretching.

What are the exersize requirements of a Ridgeback?

Though a Ridgeback might appear content to lay around, they need excersize for emotional, mental and physical vitality. It would be a serious mistake to think otherwise. A daily  romp in the back yard or open field and a couple of longer trips to the park per week should be sufficient. The matter is greatly simplified if there are at least 2 that live together, as one will instigate the other into a playful mood, which in turn will cause both to expend a goodly amount of energy.

Are they energetic or hyper?

A young Ridgeback puppy is a very lively fellow. However, as they mature, most of them settle into a quieter demeanor. They are professional snoozers. The combination of energetic excitement that they display at a moments notice, and their contented disposition to simply lie at your feet is one of the most attractive aspects of this breed. It has been said that a Rhodesian Ridgeback is most content when either sprinting flat out across a meadow or fast asleep at your feet. In general, they mature into splendid, relaxed dogs that do wonderfully when raised with children and other house-pets.

Are Rhodesian Ridgebacks pre-disposed to any health defects?

Yes. The most notable congenital condition is dermoid sinus. Hip and elbow dysplasia is occasionally a problem,  but generally, many other breeds are much more at risk. Thyroid problems and cataracts appear from time to time. Although instances of these problems occur, reputable breeding practitioners make strenuous efforts to make sure these conditons do not appear in their lines. It’s an essential step to ascertain if a puppy’s parents have been checked for any of these abnormalities. Evidence of responsible breeding practices are certifications for each risk by the Othopedic Foundation for Animals. You can verify whether or not proper test screening has been completed by obtaining the AKC registration numbers from the breeder for both sire and dam. Take these numbers to the OFA web site ( and enter those numbers to look at the test results. The breeder should also be able to show you the paperwork for Canine Eye Registration Foundation ("CERF") and reports showing the results of thyroid and/or heart screenings. Read more on the elsewhere on this site.

On the average, how long do Ridgebacks live?

With proper health-care, observing any irregularities that appear and by reacting responsibly, you can expect a liefespan of anywhere between 11 -14 years. It is key to feed a proper, good quality dog food, watch their weight, get them good exersize and pay attention to dental hygene.

How do they get the ridge on their back?

The Rhodesian Ridgeback's ancestry includes a dog native to Southern Africa--a dog that originally was discovered to have been domesticated by the Hotenetot  tribes of the region. Early settlers described a dog living with the aboriginal tribes as having a "peculiar section of hair running in the opposite direction along the back".

European settlers had appreciation for the hunting ability and temperament of the indigenous dogs and began mixing them with the dogs they had imported from Europe and North African colonies. They found that the "cross-breeds" that had the ridge had the most desirable hunting ability and temperaments and began to breed specifically for the ridge and certain other characteristics, such as temperament, agility, and endurance. Thus the Rhodesian Ridgeback was born.

Did they really hunt lions?

Yes, when the breed was imported to Rhodesia (Now Zimbabwe), the big game hunters of the time found them to be outstanding hunters and used them to hunt lions and other large game. They were found to be the only breed of dog that could, in a pack, keep a lion at bay for the hunter, and survive. There are recorded instances where the African Lion Hound gave his life in the course of his job.

Are they good for other types of hunting?

Yes. Hunters have benefited by the hunting instincts of the Rhodesian Ridgeback in the pursuit of bobcat, mountain lion, bear, coyote, deer, wild boar and raccoon throughout the North American continent. There have been reports of Ridgebacks having become accomplished pointers for upland game,  and some have been trained to retrieve various fur and fowl. Nevertheless,  their real abilities lie in baying (cornering) larger prey, allowing the hunter to take his objective. They are principaly silent trackers, only signaling once the prey is sighted. Since a Ridgeback is a silent hunter, they are generally not used by themselves to track game that can cover a lot of ground, such as deer, or fox,  unless they have a bell attached to their necks so their human cohorts can easily locate them. Because they are generally amenable to other canines, they will gladly share the trail with breeds that vocalize more in the pursuit.