So you (think you) want a ridgeback?
Apart from the fact that they are short coated larger dogs with a cool feature running down their back (note: approximately 5% of RRs are ridgeless), how much do you really know about the breed? Please take your time and LEARN about the breed (beyond its physical attributes) BEFORE you decide you want an RR.
Did you know that RRs were bred to work (in a pack) independently of man? Working independently of man has resulted in a breed that is an independent thinker that is programmed to achieve its goals, not yours. Do you know why you should care about this trivia? You should care because it affects how you train your dog and should mitigate your expectations and understanding about the breed. If you put dog breed personality on a circular scale, if you think of where you would put breeds like Golden Retrievers or German Shepherd dogs (or any other breed that was designed to work closely with man), find the point on the opposite side of the scale (diametrically opposed) and that it where the RR would be found. When you are working with/training RRs there has to be something “in it” for them or they will simply shut down ... this is one of the reasons that punishment /negative training does not work well for this breed.
RRs are master manipulators (it goes back to the concept of them pleasing themselves), be it about food (more on that below), getting on the furniture, getting their toenails done (oh the drama) or simply walking nicely on lead. Put the time in and work with your dog .... there is no shortcut with this breed. This is NOT a breed that you bring home and forget ... they are NOT a short haired Golden retriever that you can bring home, do very little and still end up with a nice social family pet. This breed requires LIFELONG work and socialization. Ignore your RR at your own peril as you may come home one day to a house that is destroyed or (even worse), a dog that has become fearful and phobic of things it does not know - this includes having their toenails done!!!!!!!
Sadly in ~ 25 years of ridgeback rescue, I have seen too many ridgebacks that were inadequately trained and socialized that became fear biters. Here is the deal with fear biters, once a RR has figured out that it can stop whatever it doesnt like or make the person/animal that it doesnt like go away by putting its mouth on someone or something, it WILL do it again. Trust me when I tell you that there are few things scarier than a fear aggressive ridgeback wanting to stop something it doesnt like ... remember my comment about the breed wanting to please itself, not you.
RRs are a very physical breed and are nasty little vampires as baby puppies that will bite any and everything that comes close to their mouths ... while most puppies (any breed) will do some biting, RR puppies are biters on steroids. This is the #1 complaint of all new puppy owners. They WILL bite you and your children ... they will also body slam you and your family - especially young children who run and scream around the puppy. This is why many RR experienced owners and breeders will caution against getting a puppy when you have toddlers and younger children in the home. With time and consistent training, this too will pass ..... BUT .... you have to live through /survive the first few months of a RR puppy life.
RRs (most) are prey driven hounds. Apart from being an interesting fact, do you know why you should care? First ... while there are going to be people who tell you that they have dogs in an unfenced backyard or use e-fencing and that they take their dogs on wonderful off leash walks, the reality is that they are the exception, not the rule. The vast majority of RRs will not respect an unfenced yard and/or an e-fence and will chase any and everything that runs. The thrill of the chase applies equally to off leash walks - most RRs should NOT be trusted off leash in an area that is not completely secure. This is also not a breed that should be walked by children .... while I occasionally see pictures of children on the end of a leash of a RR, the breed is too strong and the prey drive is too high in most dogs to make this safe ... I dont care how well leash trained your dog is.
Food ... the master manipulator can go one of two ways: you have have a “I am starving” RR that will eat until it explodes or the I dont want that food, give me something else picky eater. RRs are supposed to be lean athletic hounds - they are not supposed to have the outline of a lab. There are waaaaaay too many people that have obese RRs that are in denial.
Hopefully these musings will help set your expectations about the breed ... there is one thing that I didnt mention, to lovers of the breed, RRs are like potato chips or peanuts, one is never enough!!!
By Carole Bradley-Kennedy (as posted for RRCUS)