What sort of owner is a good match for a Rhodesian ridgeback?
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What sort of owner is a good match for a Rhodesian ridgeback?

Whilst “Rhodesian ridgeback” might sound like the name of a Harry Potter dragon, this large, imposing-looking animal is actually a pedigree dog breed, and one of the most distinctive and handsome large dog breeds of them all.

Rhodesian ridgebacks are excellent watchdogs that were historically used for guarding homes and livestock, and dogs of the breed are hugely loyal, very alert, and almost fearless when faced with a potential threat. Earning a ridgeback’s loyalty is an achievement to be proud of, and when properly handled and managed, they can be the most rewarding of dogs to own.

However, Rhodesian ridgebacks are large, strong, powerful and like to get their own way – which means that they need a very specific type of handling and management to channel all of these traits into positive directions and ensure that the dog remains under control.

If you have fallen for the Rhodesian ridgeback’s good looks and noble demeanour and are wondering what it takes to own one, this article will explain what traits and skills are required to care for and manage a Rhodesian ridgeback. Read on to learn more.

The Rhodesian ridgeback temperament

Rhodesian ridgebacks are first and foremost known as a courageous and almost fearless dog breed when faced with a threat or perceived threat, and they aren’t prone to backing down in the face of danger. They also have the physical size and strength to support this, and tend to be very tenacious too, and not easily diverted once something has caught their attention!

The ridgeback is also well known for having something of a stubborn streak – if they don’t want to do something or don’t see the benefit of doing what you ask them, they might simply refuse to comply! The dog’s sheer size and strength means that it is virtually impossible to physically move them if you want to, which means that you need to convince the dog that what you want is a good idea by other means.

Another common trait of Rhodesian ridgebacks is that they are loyal to a fault – they love their families, and will protect them at all costs if it comes down to it. This also means that dogs of this breed can be wary and speculative around strangers, often taking a long time to warm up to someone new.

That said, they don’t tend to be outright aggressive or go looking for problems – but they will let anyone they don’t know well or haven’t built trust with that they are being watched carefully!

Territorial instincts

Rhodesian ridgebacks are excellent watchdogs – they are very switched on and alert, and will often seem to know with an almost psychic sense of awareness if someone is approaching your home or if something is going on nearby.

They are highly territorial and will soon define the boundaries of their home and garden, and will bark and alert you quickly if someone is coming to the door.

Careful introductions need to be made with any other dog or person that enters the ridgeback’s territory, and their tendency to guard is something that is innate to the breed, and needs to be channelled into positive directions rather than manifesting as being highly defensive.

Dominance and control

Ridgebacks are very loyal, often bonding particularly strongly with one member of the family and looking to them for direction above all others. They take direction well from people who have earned their respect, and will go out of their way to please and impress their handler. However, they can be slow or reluctant to take commands from others – even other people that live with them – and so they need to be taught to respect and look up to everyone that they live with.

The confidence and general outlook of the ridgeback makes them a naturally dominant breed, who will almost certainly be the pack leader in a mixed household of other dogs. However, it is vital to ensure that they recognise and accept their human family as above them in the pecking order, and to instil good manners and appropriate behaviour in the dog from a young age.

Positive reinforcement training, a regular routine and firm, fair and clear boundaries are all vital to ensure that the Rhodesian ridgeback is a good housemate. Any potential indicators of dominance or pushy behaviour should be nipped in the bud early on, with a kind but firm and consistent approach.

Training and handling a Rhodesian ridgeback

Rhodesian ridgebacks respond well to a calm, confident leader who doesn’t get worked up when things go wrong. This generates respect and a sense of security in the dog, who is unlikely to respond well to someone who is inconsistent, anxious, or unsure of themselves.

This means that a Rhodesian ridgeback needs an experienced trainer who is used to working with large, strong and confident dog breeds, and knows how to work with their traits to get the best out of them and avoid problems.

Training a ridgeback should start from virtually as soon as the new pup comes home, and should be interesting, rewarding and highly consistent, across both commands, responses, and every member of the family.

Managing the ridgeback’s stubborn streak means offering lots of praise and rewards to ensure that the dog understands that there is more benefit to them for doing what they are asked than ignoring you!

The ridgeback is not generally considered to be a good choice of dog for a first-time dog owner, someone who is not familiar with the breed, or who is not used to handling and managing a large, strong and confident dog.

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