I cannot stress the fact that Ridgebacks are a unique breed. They are very rough-and-tumble.... if you have two Ridgeback puppies playing in front of you for the first time you could swear they are trying to do some damage. This breed has been known to survive snake bites that would probably kill many other dog breeds, and they make great dogs for everything from jogging partners in the suburbs to therapy dogs, and from trail riding companions to police cadaver dogs. They can be fierce enough to hunt a lion in the African wilderness and gentle enough to play with a child on the living room rug.
Ridgebacks are a breed apart and there are few veterinarians who are extremely familiar with them at all life stages. This information should help you to be aware of certain breed specifics when you take your dog to a veterinarian for the first time. Many veterinarians are simply not familiar with this breed and will tell you various things that are not true regarding the breed specifics because they are comparing them to other breeds. This is an explanation of certain characteristics specifically associated with Rhodesian Ridgebacks and some interesting things that are different between Ridgebacks as compared to other breeds.
Coat and Skin
They have short, thin coats until about 3-4 months of age when they begin growing their adult hair coat. Their current hair coat when they go to new homes is their puppy coat. Ridgebacks have a thin, single layer coat, especially on areas such as their belly, head, and bony areas such as legs. It is similar to newborn baby hair or down. Their hair will always be thinner than most breeds, but it does change slightly as they grow from a puppy into an adult. They were bred for warm climates and this thin hair helps keep them cool. Their skin is thick and this is evident when they are given vaccinations.
One thing I wanted to address is a question that comes up every now and then - It is not unusual for Ridgeback adults and puppies to get calluses on their elbows or the bony parts of their legs. All dogs get these if they spend any amount of time laying on a rough or hard surface, but it is easily noticeable on Ridgebacks because of how short their coats are. This can be lessened by them having their own doggy bed and spending minimal time laying around outdoors or on a hard, rough surface. But it will not hurt them, it is the body's way of protecting the bony areas.
Feet, Legs, and Gait
Rhodesian Ridgeback's front feet are more like individual toes. You will notice they use their paws a lot when they play with other dogs. This instinct was used to keep predators and prey at bay while hunting.
Ridgeback's legs are designed to run from a standstill. This gives them their unique gait that is different than any other dog breed. They move in long, determined strides and their front paws are wide and thick with very thick pads. This can make them somewhat clumsy when they are babies until they grow into their paws.
Ridgebacks are well-known for their appetites and for eating all the food they can. They will literally eat themselves sick if they are free-fed (as much as they want). This probably correlates to the wild part of their history when they were in the wild and had to eat when they could, and didn't necessarily get to eat every day while on the hunt. Whatever the reason, we have owned dogs from many different bloodlines and all of them love to eat. Suggestion: Do not leave your dog food stored where the puppy can get to it. Most new owners find this out the hard way.
I am always happy to address any other breed specific questions that may come up when owning a Rhodesian Ridgeback for the first time!
This advice is given solely as a means of educating individuals; all vaccinations, heartworm prevention, and general medicine should be discussed with a licensed Veterinarian before administering. I do not recommend leaving any dog unsupervised with a young child.
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