Rhodesian Ridgeback: Interview with an Owner

Ridgeback – a big old softie

A natural calmness is described as the best feature of this breed by Helen, perhaps not something you would expect from looking at them? The Kennel Club describes this breed as a “Lion hunter from Southern African, who are athletic and courageous.” Ridgebacks are a large breed with a short coat, originally developed as a scent hound to track a variety of game.


The Kennel Club says that the breed takes its name from a ridge of hair growing in the reverse direction along its spine. His ancestry is linked to the ancient dogs of the Hottentots which possessed this same feature. Canine folklore suggested that a well-marked ridge was a sign of courage.

Long hikes or duvet days

When choosing the Ridgeback, Helen says “We were looking for a large, short-coated breed with a calm nature, who is independently thinking, can be taken on hour long hikes, but is equally as happy having a duvet day – initially, we whittled it down to a few gun dog breeds and the Rhodesian Ridgeback. What swung it for us is spending time with a few breeders and their dogs. We were bowled over by their calm, (not needy) nature, so Ridgebacks was the breed for us and we now live with three of them.”

Helen says “Give a Ridgeback what they need and you have the most loyal and loving partner in crime, who you can take anywhere!”

Generally healthy

The Ridgeback is a largely healthy breed. Most common issues such as hip dysplasia are quite rare, despite them being in the large breed category. They can suffer with Dermoid Sinus, which is where a hair grows inwards and can cause excruciating pain. This is however diagnosed when they are pups and is not something that develops later in life. It will require an operation, which good breeders will do before they go to their forever homes.

Recent studies have shown that intact male Ridgebacks are more susceptible to developing prostate cancer later in life.


A slight aloofness

The Ridgeback is described by Helen as being ‘an independent thinker’. She feels that where things might go wrong is when people try to be their boss, or micro-manage them. Helen says “He does very much make his own mind up, based on what’s in it for him, so Positive Reinforcement teaching is an absolute must for this breed!

They are naturally suspicious of strangers and can be a bit aloof, so continuous socialisation and habituation is also an absolute must.

Another aspect to be aware of is their prey drive. Helen says “Ridgebacks are hounds, so they will leave their owners behind in the quest of chasing rabbits, squirrels etc. They live for the chase though, so once they have scratched that itch, many are happy to return to their owners afterwards, IF the return has been reinforced sufficiently!”


Luckily Helen has never had any issues because “we have always worked with what they gave us and reinforced their good natural choices, which is always my number one advice for any new Ridgeback owner.”   

Sofa sleepers

The Ridgeback is very versatile, so they can easily adapt to busy family life or with a single person, in a house or even a flat. However, Helen says “People must have the time to give them good quality off-lead exercise. You must not be precious over your soft furnishings because Ridgebacks are not floor dogs, they need their warmth and comfort!”

Helen recommends having more than one Ridgeback, as they are destined for pack living. I would NOT recommend getting more than one puppy from a litter though – that is asking for trouble! Here’s the link to my thoughts on this issue.

Rain or shine?

Helen is quite clear that Ridgebacks do NOT like rain! She says “Unless it rains, we take our dogs out twice daily in the summer and once daily in the winter. As long as they get to have a good off-lead run through the woods or across the fields, they are more than happy stopping in for the rest of the day, wrapped up in a duvet!”


Best advice for new owners

People who are happy with the breed of dog they have chosen ALL say this: “We were lucky that we have chosen the perfect breed for us but only because we did our homework, so always DO YOUR RESEARCH and spend some time with people who have lived with the breed for a long time. Good, responsible breeders will happily answer any questions and let you join them on walks, so you can observe them in real life, not just on paper.”

Thanks Helen, for a really honest and clear description of this distinctive breed.


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