The Rhodesian Ridgeback

by Elizabeth Akers

I would not do well owning a Collie. I like Collies and have nothing against them—in fact I think they are quite beautiful—but they are not the right dog for me.

How do I know what is right for me? Well, I do not like dogs that bark a lot; I do not like dogs that shed a lot; I am not thrilled with the type of dog that needs constant (and often expensive) grooming; so where does that leave me?

My choice is the Rhodesian Ridgeback. There are many choices such as a Beagle (nope, too small, too noisy); a Weimeraner (too hyper and often too snippish); a Labrador Retriever (too much shedding and too much "what-can-I-do-to-please-you-now-now-now-Huh? huh? huh?); there are more than 160 different breeds of dogs recognized by the American Kennel Club today. Each breed has distinct characteristics, traits and needs.

In order to satisfy my needs and wants I would go to visit breeders, dog owners, dog shows, as well as look for books specific to the breed I might be thinking of buying in order to glean enough information that will help me make an educated decision. Buying general dog breed books gives one a quick overview of the breed, but it does not give any in-depth information necessary to an educated purchase of an animal that will hopefully live with me for the next 12 to 14 years.

So, what is it you are looking for in your next canine companion? Do you want a dog that is hedonistic? Would you like to love with a dog that has a fair sense of humor and can be appropriately sheepish when caught out in embarrassing moments? Do you want a dog that sheds little, barks less, and hates water so much that muddy footprints will seldom be a problem in your home? How about a dog that when you blink an eye in the kitchen, steals your roast, or your cube of butter or even that sandwich you were just about to take a bite out of, right under your very eyes? Would you like a dog that is loyal till the day s/he dies? How would you like a dog that will be a faithful companion, a great hiking partner and a foot warmer, bed hog, couch potato and protector of hubcaps for your car? What would you do with a dog that you could take lure coursing, do obedience training with, show in the conformation ring, go to agility classes, do tracking and even carting, but probably you will not win many ribbons for the dog that swims the most. Would you make sure the potential for any or all of these activities is high on the list of events planned around your life with your new dog? Can you imagine that even though your sandwich was just removed from the kitchen counter, the satisfaction of seeing your dog thoroughly enjoying the agility course, or finishing the lure course, makes that sandwich theft seem so minute?

What soul mates these Rhodesian Ridgebacks are. They are definitely not the right dog for anyone nor everyone. They have a reputation for being "difficult," hard to train, aloof, independent, stubborn and will often have a dislike for water or places that not a five-star bed or couch. These dogs are still hunting dogs. Their innate nature is to hunt, chase, corner or tree something. They love the thrill of the chase. Yes they are independent, they need to be independent thinkers too so that they can outsmart the game they were originally bred to track. (they will often also show you that you need to go to the front door as there is obviously something going on out there. As soon as you leave your warm seat, Fido jumps into the chair/couch and curls up, looking for all the world like an innocent lamb. Of course, Fido knew there was nothing outside, he just wanted your chair. How many cocker spaniels have you seen pull this trick?)

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