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Grooming your Ridgeback

Of ears and tails

By Denise Flaim

Grooming a Rhodesian Ridgeback is a bit of an oxymoron. “One of the reasons I chose this breed was the minimal care involved,” says breeder and judge Barbara Sawyer-Brown of Kwetu Kennels in Chicago. “Their coats seem to naturally resist dirt, and they do not need frequent bathing.”

The breed’s short coat makes it easy to find and remove fleas and ticks, and the Ridgeback is surprisingly low-odor compared to most other hounds.

A quintessential wash-and-wear breed, Ridgebacks do shed, but regular brushing with a hound glove will keep it to a minimum. Still, Sawyer-Brown warns, the stiff hairs are tenacious: They will stick to clothing, are not easily brushed off, and are 

“This is why,” she laughs, “my wardrobe is now mostly shades of wheaten!”

Because of the breed’s pendulous ears, yeast infections can be a concern. Staying on top of them with weekly cleanings is crucial. Chronic ear-shaking can lead to split ear tips, which can take an interminably long time to heal.

Arguably the biggest grooming challenge with many Ridgebacks is nail trimming. The breed is notoriously wimpy in the face of a clipper, and some may scream and hide as if being confronted with the guillotine. Perhaps this has something to do with the fact that many black-nosed Ridgebacks have black nails, making it very easy for an owner to misjudge and hit the sensitive quick, the vein that runs inside the nail.

In frustration, some owners forsake the traditional nail clipper for a handheld rotary power tool known as a Dremel. Nails can be gradually ground and shortened with the grinding attachment – as well as ample treats dispensed to blunt the trauma of the ordeal. Talk to your veterinarian or groomer for advice on using a Dremel tool, and keep in mind you’ll have to get your dog used to the sound before being able to use it effectively.

Denise Flaim is the pets columnist at Newsday and author of an upcoming book on holistic dog care. She lives in Sea Cliff, N.Y.