If you're thinking of getting a Rhodesian ridgeback, you need either sufficient acreage for the dog to exercise or the time to take him for daily long walks or runs. Called the African lion hound in his native South Africa, he was bred to chase large game for miles.
Rhodesian ridgebacks can serve as both guard dogs and beloved family pets. While they might not warm up to strangers right away, they make good companions for older kids, since both kids and ridgebacks usually have energy to spare. While good guardians, they bark very little. If someone in his family is threatened, there's instantly a 100 pound dog between them and the instigator. Ridgebacks usually get along well with other dogs and cats.
Your dog could as easily be named the Rhodesian ridgeback runner, because that's what he loves to do. If you're an active person, this could be a good match. If you prefer more sedentary activities, bringing a ridgeback into your home is probably a mistake unless you're looking for a complete lifestyle change. As a large dog with a strong prey drive, make sure you are physically capable of dealing with the ridgeback, especially in his rambunctious adolescence. Don't let him loose unless it is in an enclosed area.
Remember he's a hound - a sighthound. That means he primarily sees his prey, and has the athletic ability to catch it. While he's a sighthound, that doesn't mean his nose doesn't also rule his brain. It's important to train your ridgeback from an early age in the basics, especially that all important command - come. That's not the favorite word of any hound, since if they see or spot potential prey they're off and running. Ridgebacks can be stubborn, so be patient in training and he'll eventually get the point. Since he's so athletic, he's a natural at canine sports such as tracking and agility. You might want to try lure coursing with your ridgeback.
Ridgebacks have other hound traits, namely eating. Feed your dog a high-quality dog food, and don't overdo the treats. Even a reasonably active ridgeback can get fat if he eats more than he burns off. Don't give in to those pleading eyes -- the ridgeback knows nothing of portion control. His short coat requires only occasional brushing. For all his strength and size, he's definitely a house dog. Take him to the vet annually for checkups. Ridgebacks are prone to mast cell cancer, diabetes and hypothryoidism, a lack of thryroid hormone that can be corrected with supplementation.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.