The Rhodesian Ridgeback, or African lion dog, although bred to hunt lions and known for its courage, also has its sensitive side and needs to be handled gently. Rough handling and harsh training techniques will not work with this breed.
Rhodesian ridgebacks, or any breed, for that matter, respond well to rewards. If you take your Rhodesian ridgeback to a pet supply store such as Petco or Petsmart, which allow dogs to shop there, you can test which kinds of treats he or she will like. Hold a package of treats to your dog’s muzzle and when he or she wags his or her tail, you know you have a treat that will work.
The best time of day to train your Rhodesian ridgeback is before his or her usual dinnertime. Wear a bag of small treats around your waist.
Gently push down onto your dog’s hindquarters while saying, “Sit.” When the sitting position is achieved, give a treat. Repeat this until your dog learns to associate the command with the action. Then give the command and wait for the action before giving the reward. If your Rhodesian ridgeback sees the treat and jumps up, do not give the treat. He or she should be sitting at the time the treat is given. If your dog runs to the door and frightens guests when the doorbell rings, the “sit” command will keep him or her from running to the door. It is also good at the veterinarian’s office or anywhere you want your Rhodesian ridgeback to stay calm and not get involved with other pets or people.
Walking on a leash is another good skill to teach your Rhodesian ridgeback. Use a comfortable cloth collar. You should be able to insert two fingers between the collar and your dog’s neck to be sure that it is not too tight. The leash should be 6 feet long. Say, “Let’s go,” and walk forward, holding your end of the leash. If your dog tries to pull in the opposite direction or to tug at the leash, stop and go the other way, so that he or she learns that the walk will only commence with proper behavior.
The command to “leave it,” is good for any dog, but particularly a large one, to learn. Hold a treat out in front of you while saying, “Leave it.” Take away the treat and substitute another treat with your other hand. After this is repeated a number of times your Rhodesian ridgeback will learn that good things come from obeying this command.
Besides dog training, another way of bonding with your Rhodesian ridgeback is with play. Just as we humans bond by having fun together, dogs like to play. Get a ball that is small enough for your dog to pick up easily, but too large to swallow. Show the ball to your dog and act enthusiastic. Throw the ball and say, “Fetch,” or “Ball.” This will excite your Rhodesian Ridgeback’s natural desire to chase things. He or she will want to bring it back as part of a fun game. Running together is a good way to bond as well. If you are running on city streets, run at a time of day when the streets are not too hot for your dog’s feet. Be sure to use a leash even in the country, so that your Rhodesian ridgeback will not take off after rabbits and squirrels.
Many people enjoy talking to their dogs as a way of bonding, and this can also cause unconscious training to occur. Dogs can learn to understand many words if they hear them consistently paired with given situations. If, for instance, you always say, “Let’s go in,” when you go into the house, the dog will learn to approach the door when he or she hears that sentence. Of course, this is not always a good thing. If your dog learns to associate the word “vet” with being stuck with needles, you might need to avoid saying it. Have fun bonding with your Rhodesian ridgeback.