Key Breed Facts
Intelligence / Trainability
Children and Other Pets
Caring for a Rhodesian Ridgeback
Average Cost to keep/care for a Rhodesian Ridgeback
The Rhodesian Ridgeback is a very distinct looking dog with their ridge down their backs. They are highly prized in their native Zimbabwe for being superb watchdogs, but over the years these handsome dogs have become popular in other parts of the world including here in the UK thanks to their striking looks and loyal, kind natures. The Rhodesian Ridgeback, or African Lion Dog is among one of the most popular hound breeds in the UK and for good reason because they make wonderful family pets and loyal companions to share a home with the added bonus being they are known to be good around children.
It was during the 16th and 17th Centuries that Dutch and German settlers travelled from Europe to South Africa and they took a variety of dogs with them which included Great Danes, Mastiffs, Greyhounds, Salukis and Bloodhounds. Over time, these dogs were crossed with the native Hottentot 'ridged' dog and their offspring were the forefathers of the modern Rhodesian Ridgeback.
Ridgebacks were bred to be tough with enough courage to hunt down lions and to protect owners in the harsh bushland terrains of Rhodesia. They inherited the distinctive ridge down their backs from the native Hottentot dog. The story has it that a missionary in the late 1800's loaned two dogs to a big game hunter in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and the hunter was so impressed with the dogs that he decided to breed a pack of Ridgebacks of his own. It was not long before the Ridgeback became the dog of choice for lion hunters throughout the land thanks to their courage and bravery on hunting expeditions. Pretty soon their fame spread throughout the world. The first Ridgeback club was formed in Africa in 1922 when a breed standard was drawn up which remain to this day.
Today, Ridgebacks are a popular choice as both companion dogs and family pets not only here in the UK, but elsewhere in the world thanks to their handsome looks and loyal, kind natures.
Height at the withers: Males 63 - 69 cm, Females 61 - 66 cm
Average weight: Males 36 kg, Females 32 kg
The Rhodesian Ridgeback is a handsome, large dog that boasts a lot of presence. They are powerful and strong with the now famous ridge that runs the full length of a dog’s back. Their heads are quite long and broad between the ears with a stop that's nicely defined. A dog's nose can either be black or brown to match the colour of a dog's coat and their eyes can be dark or amber. Their muzzles are long, powerful and deep and their eyes being set nicely apart and round in shape with dogs having a bright, alert and intelligent expression in them.
Their ears are set high on a dog's head and moderately large being wider at the base and they gently taper to a round point at the tip. Dogs carry their ears close to their heads. The Rhodesian Ridgeback has a strong jaw with a perfect scissor bite where their upper teeth neatly overlap their lower ones with dog having well developed canines. Their necks are quite long and strong with nicely sloping shoulders. Front legs are straight, well boned and strong.
Their chests are very deep, but not too wide with ribs being well sprung. The Ridgeback has a very powerful, strong back and their loins are muscular and nicely arched. Their hindquarters are powerful with dogs having well developed back legs. Their feet are compact with well arched toes and hair in between both their toes and their paw pads. Tails are stronger at the base but taper gently towards the tip which dog carry slightly curved.
When it comes to their coat, the Rhodesian Ridgeback has a short, dense and very sleek coat with a nice natural sheen to it. The accepted breed colours are as follows:
Dogs can have dark muzzles and ears which allowed under the breed standard.
Known to be extremely courageous, the Rhodesian Ridgeback is an impressive dog that boast being powerful in body and mind. They are intelligent, but boast having a bit of a stubborn streak in them which in short means they need to be handled and trained by someone who is familiar with the breed or this type of intelligent, strong willed dog. They form strong bonds with their families and make exceptionally good watchdogs because they are naturally wary of people they don't know. However, a Ridgeback would not show any sort of aggression towards a stranger, preferring to just keep their distance and let an owner know there is somebody about.
These powerful dogs need to be well socialised from a young enough age for them to mature into more confident and relaxed adult dogs. They are good around children although because of their size and their playful, boisterous natures, they are a better suited to families where the children are slightly older and who therefore know how to behave around a dog.
Ridgebacks respect a calm and confident leader and react accordingly during their training. They are intelligent and have no trouble learning new things as long as their training starts early. It has to be consistent and fair so a dog understands what is expected of them. These dogs need to know their place in the pack and who is the alpha dog in a household or they may start to show a more dominant and unruly side to their nature.
They are not the best choice for first time owners because as previously mentioned, they need to be handled and trained by someone who knows how to manage such an intelligent and strong willed dog which can make training a Rhodesian Ridgeback quite challenging for a novice owner.
Although highly intelligent, the Ridgeback is a strong willed and often stubborn dog to train. However, if their socialisation and training starts early enough, in the right environment and with the correct amount of training, these dogs can be a real pleasure to have around. The key to successfully training a Ridgeback is to use positive reinforcement and to show a dog a lot of patience and understanding during a training session. It would be a mistake to try to rush things with a young Ridgeback, but rather to take the time to guide them gently into learning how to behave.
Making their training as diverse and interesting as possible helps keep a Ridgeback focussed and the more they enjoy the one-to-one attention they are given, the better they respond to a command. They do not respond well to any sort of harsh correction which would not achieve any sort of good results and may even harm a Ridgeback's confidence. As long as their training is consistent throughout their lives, these handsome dogs will always do their best to please an owner.
Ridgebacks are known to be good around children thanks to their placid natures in a home environment. They love being part of a family and being involved in everything that goes on in a household. However, they are a better choice for families where the children are slightly older and who therefore know how to behave around a dog. With this said, any interaction between a toddler or young child and a Ridgeback should always be supervised by an adult to make sure things stay nice and calm.
If well socialised from a young age, Ridgebacks generally get on well with other dogs and rarely would one of them show any sort of aggressive behaviour when they first meet another dog. However, care has to be taken when they are around cats and smaller pets because of their high prey drive. With this said, if a Ridgeback grows up with a cat in a household, they generally get on well together.
For further advice please read our article on Keeping Children Safe around Dogs.
The average life expectancy of a Rhodesian Ridgeback is between 9 and 15 years when properly cared for and fed an appropriate good quality diet to suit their ages.
Like so many other breeds, the Ridgeback is known to suffer from a few hereditary health issues which are worth knowing about if you are planning share your home with one of these energetic, intelligent dogs. The conditions that seem to affect the breed the most include the following:
As with any other breed, Ridgebacks need to be groomed on a regular basis to make sure their coats and skin are kept in top condition. They also need to be given regular daily exercise to ensure they remain fit and healthy. On top of this, dogs need to be fed good quality food that meets all their nutritional needs throughout their lives.
Ridgebacks boasts short, close and quite glossy coats which means they are low maintenance in the grooming department. A weekly brush and a wipe over with a chamois leather every couple of days is all it takes to keep their coats looking good. They do shed throughout the year only more so during the Spring and then again in the Autumn when more frequent brushing is usually needed to get rid of any dead and loose hair in a dog's coat.
It's also important to check a dog's ears on a regular basis and to clean them when necessary. If too much wax is allowed to build up in a dog's ears, it can lead to a painful infection which can be hard to clear up. In short, prevention is often easier than cure when it comes to ear infections.
Ridgebacks are high energy, intelligent dogs and as such they need to be given the right amount of daily exercise and mental stimulation for them to be truly happy, well-balanced and obedient dogs. They need a minimum of 2 hour's vigorous exercise every day and this has to be combined with a ton of mental stimulation.
A shorter walk in the morning would be fine, but a longer more interesting one in the afternoon is a must. These dogs also like to be able to roam around a back garden as often as possible so they can really let off steam. However, the fencing has to be extremely secure to keep these high energy dogs in because if they find a weakness in the fence, they will soon escape out and get into all sorts of trouble. However, care has to be taken when walking a Ridgeback in the country or in the park because of their high prey drive. As such, letting a dog off their lead has to be in a secure and safe area.
With this said, Ridgeback puppies should not be over exercised because their joints and bones are still growing. This includes not letting a dog jump up and down from furniture or going up or down the stairs. Too much pressure placed on their joints and spines at an early age could result in a dog developing problems later in their lives.
If you get a Ridgeback puppy from a breeder, they would give you a feeding schedule and it's important to stick to the same routine, feeding the same puppy food to avoid any tummy upsets. You can change a puppy's diet, but this needs to be done very gradually always making sure they don't develop any digestive upsets and if they do, it's best to put them back on their original diet and to discuss things with the vet before attempting to change it again.
Older dogs are not known to be fussy or finicky eaters, but this does not mean you can feed them a lower quality diet. It's best to feed a mature dog twice a day, once in the morning and then again in the evening, making sure it's good quality food that meets all their nutritional requirements. It's also important that dogs be given the right amount of exercise so they burn off any excess calories or they might gain too much weight which can lead to all sorts of health issues. Obesity can shorten a dog's life by several years so it's important to keep an eye on their waistline from the word go.
Because Ridgebacks are prone to suffer from bloat, it is really important that they be fed twice a day instead of giving them just one larger meal a day. It's also a good idea to invest in a stand to place their feed bowl which makes it easier for these large dogs to eat comfortably without having to stretch their necks down low to reach their food. Dogs should never be exercised just before or just after they have eaten either because this puts them more at risk of suffering from bloat.
If you are looking to buy a Rhodesian Ridgeback, you would need to pay anything from £150 to over £1000 for a well-bred pedigree puppy. The cost of insuring a male 3-year-old Ridgeback in northern England would be £53.10 a month for basic cover but for a lifetime policy, this would set you back £71.26 a month (quote as of June 2016). When insurance companies calculate a pet's premium, they factor in several things which includes where you live in the UK, a dog's age and whether or not they have been neutered or spayed among other things.
When it comes to food costs, you need to buy the best quality food whether wet or dry, to feed your dog making sure it suits the different stages of their lives. This would set you back between £40 - £50 a month. On top of all of this, you would need to factor in veterinary costs if you want to share your home with a Ridgeback and this includes their initial vaccinations, their annual boosters, the cost of neutering or spaying a dog when the time is right and their yearly health checks, all of which quickly adds up to over £1000 a year.
As a rough guide, the average cost to keep and care for a Rhodesian Ridgeback would be between £100 to £130 a month depending on the level of insurance cover you opt to buy for your dog, but this does not include the initial cost of buying a pedigree or other puppy.
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