This section will always be updated and extended as more and more relevant questions are asked. My dogs and I have attended the Kennel Club's Discover Dogs Exhibition every year since it began as breed representatives on the Ridgeback stand. Over the years it has become apparent that certain questions keep arising so I have tried to cover most of them in this section. I have sub-divided as follows:
Other relevant questions are dealt with under the Showing and Breeding sections of this web site.
I work full-time, would a Ridgeback be a good dog for me? No is the answer to that question. Ridgebacks are very much people loving dogs, they need plenty of attention and are not good when left for long periods. If you want a chewed kitchen and to alienate your neighbours due to the dog's howling then a Ridgeback is the perfect dog! It is most unfair to any dog to leave it all day whilst you work, do not consider having a dog until you can give it the correct amount of time.
How much exercise do they need? Ridgebacks are large active dogs and require good daily free-running exercise. However, as puppies they should not be exercised but taken out for socialisation be it to the pub, friends' houses, shops, in the car etc. The more you can expose your puppy to as a youngster the better adjusted it will be as an adult. Puppies require a lot a sleep, do not overtire them. Avoid boisterous play with other large dogs as injuries can happen to their soft bones if the play is too rough. Give the puppy time to grow in its bone structure and then slowly in its muscle development. Once the puppy is about a year old it can be taken for longer walks.
Are they good guard dogs? Ridgebacks, as with many other breeds of dogs, do have a good guarding instinct but they are not "guard dogs" in the same way as certain other breeds such as German Shepherds, Rottweilers or Dobermans. Ridgebacks are fundamentally a hound and their hound characteristics are generally stronger than their guarding instincts.
Will a Ridgeback need company? Ridgebacks love company, preferably yours on a full-time basis, but they do thrive if they live with another dog. Most people with Ridgebacks eventually have more than one but NEVER get two puppies together. You'll end up with twice as much trouble. Start with one Ridgeback and when that is about 2 years of age you can consider getting it a companion.
Are they good with cats and other small animals? Ridgebacks can live very happily with cats, pet rabbits etc. if bought up with them from the beginning. However, being hounds they have a very keen hunting instinct and anything that moves is fair game be it rabbits in the fields, squirrels or deer. They are both a sight and a scent hound and as such use their eyes and nose constantly when hunting. Be extremely careful if you live in an area where there are sheep, especially on the moorlands.
Do I need a large garden? I do not consider it necessary to have a huge house and garden in order to give a Ridgeback a good home. Around the house an adult Ridgeback is extremely lazy and loves nothing more than to lie is a warm sunny spot or in front of a fire. More important is the need for outdoor exercise, a smallish garden is adequate but a Ridgeback MUST be taken out daily. One essential thing required for a Ridgeback is a safely fenced garden however large or small the garden is.
Can they be walked off the lead? When exercising a Ridgeback in large open spaces or woodland they thrive on free-exercise. Be extremely careful however, on farmland with livestock. If necessary, take preventative measures and put your Ridgeback on a lead around stock. Never walk your Ridgeback off lead along roads if a cat or squirrel were to dash across the road your Ridgeback will follow; they do not have any road sense.
They're good with children aren't they? This always seems to be a statement rather than a question and my response is always the same:
"Depends on what?" is the response.
"It depends on you and how well you have bought your children up to respect dogs."
All dogs should be treated as dogs and not as toys. Dogs must have their own space and childfree zone. All dogs should ultimately be looked after by a responsible adult. Children should be encouraged to take part in all aspects of looking after a Ridgeback but only under the supervision of an adult. Young children should never be left alone with a Ridgeback, they are extremely tolerant around children but every dog has its limit and often young children do not know how to behave around dogs. Young Ridgebacks can be very energetic and a small child could accidentally get knocked over and hurt. My own children have been born and raised with Ridgebacks and have been very active in all aspects of their care. Many times people have approached me saying that my dogs are wonderful with my boys and asking if all Ridgebacks were like them. No, was my answer, my dogs behave as they do because of how I have bought them up; likewise, my children behave as they do for the same reasons.
Are cages/indoor kennels a good idea? Yes, is my immediate response. Raising a puppy with the use of an indoor kennel should result in a well-behaved, non-destructive, easily house-trained puppy. Puppies can easily overdo their play sessions and many puppies have far too much exercise for their age. By introducing a puppy to an indoor kennel from the start means that you can restrict the amount of play and exercise and encourage the puppy to rest when needed. I have an indoor kennel in my kitchen, puppies are used to this from the age of 3 weeks and they can sit and watch the activities of house life without being "shut away". You try washing the kitchen floor with a puppy trying to help! Proper use of an indoor kennel trains your dog to being restricted for short periods. When it comes to having to leave your puppy for short periods they accept this more readily as they are used the kennel being their "bed". My recommendation is that when buying a kennel get a full adult size one to begin with. I consider that the kennel should be big enough that an adult can stand upright, sit and stretch. Buy the best that you can afford. A strong well made kennel will last for years and years, should you want to sell it I can guarantee that it will be snapped up quickly enough by somebody else. The manufacturer that I can thoroughly recommend is Barjo Engineering. I like the fact that the door lifts completely off the kennel which means that I do not have to have the door attached unless I want to close it up. As you can see from the photograph my dogs love their kennel, four of them get in easily, the fifth does at a squeeze! Needless to say, I do not close the door when they are all in it but my kennel easily accommodates two Ridgebacks together.
I am not interested in showing but can Ridgebacks do other things? One of my dogs' favourite occupations is tracking. This gives them an opportunity to use their extremely sensitive noses and they thoroughly enjoy themselves. Other owners have had considerable success with Obedience trials and Agility. Agility involving jumps should not be started until the puppy is fully grown but the flat work can be started alongside obedience from an earlier age. I have recently heard of somebody having some success with Working Trials but I believe this is fairly new to Ridgebacks.
Where should you start? The first contacts should be made through the recognised Kennel Club Breed Clubs. We have 4 RR clubs in the UK and you will find links to them in the Other Sites section. Members of any of the RR clubs should be knowledgeable regarding the Breed Standard and inherited faults DO NOT BUY A PUPPY FROM A PUPPY FARM. Now you ask, "How do I know whether or not the breeder is responsible?" Here are a few questions to ask:
How long have you had Ridgebacks?
How many dogs do you have?
How many litters have you bred?
How old are your dogs?
When could I collect my puppy?
Will it be Kennel Club registered?
Are you a member of any RR Club?
What is the difference between a show quality puppy and a pet one?
Unfortunately there are people around who breed purely for monetary reasons (irrespective of what they may say). The Ridgeback fraternity are pretty close and most people are familiar with the names of responsible people. Feel free to ask whatever questions you want and DO NOT commit yourself over the telephone to buying a puppy. You MUST visit the breeder, preferably before a litter is planned, find out as much as possible about the breeder and their dogs - you can always ask other RR people for their opinions. Visit large dog shows where you can see many Ridgebacks, if you see a particular dog or bitch you like, ask the owner about their plans (if any) to breed from that particular dog. Most puppies are born to breeders who use outside stud dogs so a show is a good place to see the potential sire. Remember, you will be living with a Ridgeback for the next 12-14 years or so, make sure it is what you want and that the breed is right for you.
"How long have you had Ridgebacks?" With a breed such as a Ridgeback much thought should be given to the reasons for breeding, new owners should NOT breed without being fully aware of their responsibilities. Make sure you talk with somebody who is experienced with the breed.
"How many dogs do you have?" This question can be very useful. Most Ridgeback owners and occasional breeders have more than one Ridgeback. Responsible breeders "space" their dogs out. If a breeder has several young bitches and a stud dog be warned.
"How many litters have you bred?" This is another question that should be asked. Work out how many litters this would be a year. People in the "know" are aware that the Kennel Club publish a Breed Record Supplement four times a year, this publication lists ALL the puppies registered with the Kennel Club during the previous quarter. It makes extremely interesting reading. Especially when we hear that a person has bought a puppy from X and that X said that they only had a couple of litters a year! The uneducated purchaser would not be aware of the actual figures nor would X want them to know the truth. It is not uncommon for some breeders to breed one or two litters a year and for others to only breed one litter every 2 or 3 years, however, it IS unusual for people to breed several litters EVERY YEAR. These are undoubtedly puppy farming.
"How old are your dogs?" Responsible breeders keep their dogs until the end of their time. Puppy farmers don't. Puppy farmers will tell you that their aunt, sister, friend etc. has their older dog.
"When could I collect my puppy?" Puppies should NOT leave their dam and litter mates until at least 8 weeks of age. Don't be fobbed off with statements such as "Well, according to all the experts, puppies bond best with their new owners at 6 weeks of age." Personally, I do not let my puppies go until 9+ weeks as I feel that they learn so much more from being with their littermates and with my adults. They certainly learn their Ps and Qs. The reason why many people want their puppies to go at an early age (we are talking of puppy farmers again) is because Ridgeback puppies eat phenomenal amounts of food and a litter of 8 or so puppies costs a fortune to raise, especially between 6 and 8 weeks of age when they are growing so fast. No only that, what goes in one end comes out the other and boy, it is hard work raising a litter properly.
"Will it be Kennel Club registered?" Responsible breeders always register their puppies. When buying a puppy you should have the Kennel Club Registration form giving the puppies parentage, date of birth etc. You should not have to pay "extra" for a registered puppy.
"Are you a member of any RR club?" There are 4 RR clubs in the UK and many owners are members of more than one club. However, there are a few "breeders" who are not welcome as their breeding practices fall outside the clubs' Code of Ethics. When asked by prospective puppy owners if they are members of any club the answer is usually something like "No, I can't be bothered with all of that because they are so political" or that "They are all so clicky". Don't be fooled.
"What is the difference between a show quality puppy and a pet one?" A perfect ridge does not automatically mean a show quality puppy but there are breeders out there who think it does and will charge a top price accordingly. If you read the Breed Standard section you will find out what breeders are trying to aim for but nature throws a spanner or two into the works. Ridgebacks can be born with or without a ridge, the ridge may contain from one to 4+ crowns. The perfect ridge calls for two crowns, many puppies are born with two crowns but they can be offset (not lined up opposite each other on either side of the ridge). However, there is more to a Ridgeback than it's ridge. Very often the best puppy in a litter, the one with the best head, wonderful construction, etc. may have three crowns or too much white on it, the breeder will not be able to consider this puppy for themselves for either showing or for future breeding but it still could be the best puppy there. Do not think that just because a puppy is mis-marked in some way that it is inferior to those with "perfect" ridges. The "perfect" puppies may have bad hocks, upright shoulders, ears too high, an incorrect bite or some other fault. The majority of Ridgebacks go to pet homes, previous Ridgeback owners looking for another Ridgeback who are not interested in showing do not put the shape of the ridge as number 1 in their list of priorities. It is the dog underneath the ridge you will be living with, not the ridge itself. Most of the breed books mentioned later in this site will have illustrations of some of the faults. Ridgeback puppies are very expensive to raise and quite expensive to buy compared to some other breeds, however, there is usually quite a difference in the price of a correctly marked puppy and a mis-marked one.
As with most aspects of life, there are unfortunately some unscrupulous people around and some are involved with Ridgebacks. Without wanting to worry people I feel that I should divulge some knowledge that has come my way over the years. Not surprisingly, I am not popular with some people as I probably know more about their breeding practices than they would wish me to know.
My strongest piece of advice is GET THINGS IN WRITING. When buying a puppy you should be given the KC Registration document, insurance cover (this does not cost the breeder anything at all), full worming and feeding instructions, a detailed receipt, some food the puppy is currently eating and if applicable the vaccination document. If you have bought a puppy with endorsements on its Registration then you MUST have these endorsements specified in writing from the breeder prior to purchase (see the section on Endorsements). Most puppies are sold for a set price either as mis-marked puppies or correctly marked puppies. Mis-marked puppies are NEVER to be bred from and their Registration documents should be endorsed accordingly. However, some correctly marked puppies are sold under "Breeder Terms" - BE WARNED. THIS IS NOT NORMAL PRACTICE. This is a way a "puppy farmer" can breed from your puppy for their financial gain. These "breeders" will say that "it is normal practice....." and “that you must not disclose the agreement to anyone else ……..” (I wonder why!!), etc. Feel free to discuss whatever you like with whomever you like. If you have doubts or reservations then there are many honest people around who will tell you whether or not something is "normal".
Another area of abuse concerns the Endorsements. As already mentioned, mid-marked puppies should never be bred from, their registrations will be endorsed and this endorsement will never be lifted – this is normal procedure. However, there are people around who use the endorsements for their own financial gain. Do not buy a puppy unless you know what is entailed should you wish the endorsement to be lifted at a later date and have everything in writing. I endorse ALL my puppies, correctly marked and mis-marked ones, however, should an owner subsequently want to have a litter from a puppy that fits the breed standard, is prepared to raise the litter correctly and be responsible at all times for the placement and welfare of the subsequent puppies then I would give consideration to this and may lift the endorsement. Now to the main point of this paragraph - I would not make any further charge for lifting the endorsement. Do NOT buy a puppy with conditions attached without researching the conditions thoroughly. If in doubt, ask somebody else but do not be surprised if the breeder does not want you to! BE WARNED.
When registering puppies with the Kennel Club breeders can apply to have endorsements attached to the registration. This can be either or both of the following:
(R)Progeny not eligible for Registration
(X)Not eligible for the issue of an Export Pedigree
Most responsible breeders endorse all their puppies with the first endorsement. This protects the puppy from being bred from at too early an age or, in the case of mis-marked Ridgebacks, from being bred from at all.
If a puppy were being sold overseas then the second endorsement would not be required. However, I usually endorse my puppies with the second endorsement, again to protect them. This prevents a puppy from being bought by an unscrupulous person with the view of selling the puppy on overseas to an unsuitable home purely for monetary purposes.
If a puppy’s registration is endorsed then the breeder MUST put this in writing to the puppy buyer prior to the puppy being sold.
These days fireworks are not restricted to 5 November, you are likely to hear them at the end of concerts, at weddings and at various other events throughout the year. Consequently, our pets are being subjected to the loud noises and bangs throughout the year. Some dogs accept them as just part of life whereas others find them very traumatic. There are various products available to pet owners which may help calm their animals. These products range from prescribed sedatives from your vet (such as ACP) to burning essential oils. Below is a list of advertised products which some of you may like to try as an alternative to drugs. I have compiled this information from various newspaper articles over the past couple of years. If one of my dogs were to show signs of stress from fireworks or loud bangs my preference would be to try an "alternative" remedy first of all rather than resort to medication.
Many remedies are obtainable in both tablet and liquid form, apparently the liquid forms are digested faster than the tablet versions but the effects don't last as long. I haven't used any myself but suggest you contact the companies directly regarding doses etc. and quite a lot of information can be gleaned from their websites.
Herbs which have a calming effect include Sculcap, Valerian, Mistletoe and Vervain whereas Hops, Pulsatilla and Lime flowers are sedatives. Products containing these should be given daily, preferably starting a week before November 5 as festivities can start early and continue for days afterwards. Preferably, use a licensed veterinary herbal medicine with a recommended dosage as this will be supported by many years of safe use. The most effective way to ensure an overall relaxed approach is by giving the remedy in the morning and again about two hours before dusk. Most companies have telephone advice lines to contact for help and websites for useful information.
Gold Label sell "Canikalm Liquid" (calms within 2 hrs) Tel: 01964 543924
W.P. & A.F. Supplies Ltd sell "Stong Silent 4" Tel: 01245 422559/423973
Petcetera - sell Osmonds No Stress Tel: 01948 668100
Stock Nutrition - sell Valerianea Calamative Tincture Tel: 0800 0744302/6526299 www.doghealth.co.uk
Hellenia Ltd./ Vets Choice - sell Z8 Tel: 01765 603816www.hellenia.co.uk
TPL - sell Natural Calm 08704 424 525 www.aviform.co.uk
Another suggestion is to add essential oils to water and use them in a room burner. The best oils for anti-stress and calming are geranium and lavender. The sense of smell is the only sense that goes directly to the brain, via the olfactory nerve, this is why smells are so powerful and can evoke many different emotions. In order to get the best benefit from oils you must use good quality essential oils and I can recommend Napiers on 0131 3343 6683 (fax: 0131 343 1152 www.napiers.net Napiers sell the individual oils but you can also buy specialist blends such as Dream Blend which is a mixture of geranium, lavender, vetivert and ylang ylang.
In recent years new products on the market include CDs which are used to accustom your dog to a variety of noises from traffic to thunder and fireworks. Two such products are the Fear of Fireworks CD available from 01260 273222 www.fearoffireworks.com and Crash Bang Wallop from 01952 261051 www.dogdayz.co.uk
The following is an article which appeared in the latest edition of the PRO Dogs magazine, ARGOS:
Although the Government has passed enabling legislation offering some controls to reduce concerns by pet owners, many feel that this does not go far enough and fears that the enforcement is impractical have resulted in renewed calls for more effective bans to be introduced. To this end, a new petition has been drawn up for submission at the end of April 2005. This calls for sale of fireworks ONLY to licensed displays and restriction of noise levels to a maximum of 85 decibels for ALL fireworks.
For further information contact 01553 775461.