Rhodesian Ridgeback Parenting – Tips for thriving during the First Few Weeks with your new Ridgeback Puppy

The following is an excerpt from "The Complete Guide to Rhodesian Ridgebacks" by Tarah Schwartz. For more information visit the books Amazon Page.

Author Credit: Tarah Schwartz

The Importance of Having a Plan

It’s important to thoroughly plan the arrival of your Rhodesian Ridgeback to help reduce the stress of the transition for both your new dog and your family. If you bring your puppy home only to realize that you haven’t purchased any supplies or set up her designated area, you’re only creating a stressful environment that may scare or overwhelm an already nervous puppy. Proper planning will help make the first few days go more smoothly and allow you to bond with your new dog rather than worry about what to do with her.

If you already have other dogs at home, you may not need to plan quite as thoroughly, as you likely already have most of the necessary supplies and have also had the experience of bringing home other dogs and may already know what to expect. If you’re a new dog owner, running into problems in the first few days with your new dog can cause you to panic if you haven’t thoroughly planned things out. Figuring out a plan and writing it down will give you a helpful resource to refer to when things go awry. For example, planning out your dog’s first car ride home will allow you to focus on safe driving rather than on the carsick puppy running loose in the back seat. Adding a new member to the family can be an overwhelming experience, but being prepared will help you to focus on building a lifelong relationship instead of worrying about what could go wrong.

The Ride Home

The most important aspect of your Rhodesian Ridgeback’s first time in the car is your energy and your reaction to the event. Your dog will probably travel in a car many time during his life, so it’s important to make a positive impression on him during his first trip. Bringing home a new family member can be exciting, but you need to stay calm and collected to encourage your puppy to do the same. If you act nervous or excited, your puppy may think he also needs to be nervous about riding in the car.

Rhodesian ridgeback with toy
Photo Courtesy – Beth Keener

Another essential part of riding in the car is proper restraint. You must wear a seatbelt in the car to protect yourself in case of an accident and your dog should be no different. An unrestrained dog can easily panic and distract you from driving or leap onto your lap. If you have an accident, he may be able to escape the car and run out into traffic. It’s much safer to have your dog properly restrained in the car until you reach your destination. Depending on your dog’s preferences as well as your own, there are many types of safe restraints on the market. For puppies, the best option is a crate or carrier. Many soft-sided carriers also have straps that allow a seatbelt to be passed through to secure the carrier to the seat. Other types of crates fit snugly into either the back seat or cargo area to prevent the crate from moving around the car. Metal or mesh barriers are also available to keep your dog contained in the back seat or cargo area. Older, more experienced dogs may also enjoy wearing a harness with a seatbelt attachment. Use your best judgment to decide what method to use on your Ridgeback’s first ride home. You can always change your mind later if you’d like to try another method.

No matter which type of restraint you choose to use, it’s important to be prepared for any possible carsickness. Many dogs who are inexperienced travelers can become carsick, especially if the road has a lot of curves or changes in altitude. Lining your dog’s crate or carrier with towels can be helpful, as can absorbent puppy pads. If you choose to use barriers or seatbelts, you can also invest in waterproof seat covers. You may want to bring a few extra towels or blankets to aid in cleanup, as well as a bag to store any soiled linens.

Riding in the car can be a frightening experience for some dogs and they may react badly. Until you know how your dog reacts in the car, proper restraint is even more necessary. Some dogs may bark or cry, soil themselves, or try to escape. Containing a dog in a crate will help to restrain her, but it may also give her a sense of security. Some dogs also calm down if a blanket or towel is placed over the crate, giving them a secluded sense of comfort. Remaining calm during these times is essential. If you react to your dog’s panic, you’re only confirming her worries that something is wrong. Bringing a small blanket or toy with you from your dog’s breeder or foster family can help comfort her during the ride. The familiar smell may soothe her during this stressful transition.

The First Night Home

The first night home with your Rhodesian Ridgeback may be somewhat sleepless for you, so it’s best you bring your new dog home on a weekend or day off. This is especially true if you’re bringing home a puppy. This will be the first time a puppy spends the night away from his littermates, so he may become upset. Even if you’re bringing home an adult dog, the change can be enough to cause distress.

Rhodesian ridgeback playing outdorBefore you bring your new dog home, you need to decide where he will spend his first night. Although there will likely be a lot of howling and barking, it’s generally not recommended to keep your dog somewhere out of earshot. As tempting as it may be to actually get some rest, the isolation will only cause him to cry more and you won’t hear him if he gets into trouble or needs to go outside. Keeping your dog in a crate somewhere near your own bed is probably the best option. If he’s in a crate, he will be unable to relieve himself in your bed or bedroom or chew up your furniture or personal items in frustration. However, he’ll still be able to let you know if he needs to go outside and will be comforted by your presence.

It’s crucial that you take your puppy outside to go to the bathroom just before bedtime. The later you can take him out, the more sleep you’ll be able to get before he needs to go out again. You’ll also need to make sure that taking him outside is the first thing you do after getting up. If you’re bringing home a puppy, you’ll need to take him out every few hours during the night. You’ll need to develop the ability to distinguish his cries for attention from his cries to go outside. This may be difficult during the first night, so try to keep to a strict schedule of taking him out every few hours.

If your Rhodesian Ridgeback cries after you’ve brought him inside or is obviously crying for attention, it’s important that you ignore him as much as possible. When you first put him in his crate before bed, he may bark or become upset, but you must ignore him so that he begins to develop a nightly routine. It may be difficult to ignore a barking dog when you’re trying to get to sleep, but acknowledging him will only encourage him to act out when he’s unhappy. Eventually, he’ll give up and fall asleep.

First Vet Visit/Choosing a Vet

Your Rhodesian Ridgeback’s first visit to the vet will set the tone for a lifetime of vet visits, so be sure to make it a positive experience for all. Even if your new dog isn’t quite ready for his next round of vaccines, you should take her to visit the vet within her first few days in your home, just to make sure she’s healthy and is handling the transition well. Many breeders require this in their contracts, as it helps to ensure that they are keeping their end of the deal by sending you home with a healthy puppy.

Rhodesian ridgeback grss
Photo Courtesy – Caroline Higgins

If you don’t already have a veterinarian, the best way to find a reputable one is to ask friends and family who own dogs. Many owners can be quite opinionated about the clinic that they will and will not use, but they will readily recommend someone they know and trust. If you have gotten your puppy from a local breeder or shelter, they may also be able to recommend a vet based on their own experiences. Once you’ve chosen a vet, be sure to ask about their emergency hours. If clinic staff are not available around the clock, they may be able to recommend a reputable emergency veterinary clinic to consult if something happens outside their normal hours.

During your puppy’s first visit to the vet, she will undergo a physical exam. During this exam, the vet or veterinary technician will weigh the dog, listen to her heart and lungs, and check her temperature. Your puppy’s eyes, ears, teeth, and abdomen will also be examined to make sure she’s in good health. The veterinary staff may also ask if your puppy is eating, drinking, and relieving herself normally.

It’s likely your vet will talk to you about which vaccines your puppy will receive during this visit and when you need to bring him back for more. The vet may also discuss any potential allergic reactions your dog may have to the vaccines. Most dogs handle vaccines well, but it’s important to keep an eye out for any type of reaction so that proper treatment can be administered as soon as possible. If you notice any hives, swelling of the injection site or muzzle, or difficulty breathing, your dog needs to be treated immediately. Many vets ask that you wait around the clinic for 15-20 minutes to make sure your dog doesn’t have any adverse reaction.

It’s common for veterinary staff to also perform fecal exams on puppies as well as dogs coming from shelters. Even if your Ridgeback isn’t showing any symptoms of a parasitic infection, it’s still important to make sure she’s healthy. Roundworms are a common occurrence, especially in young puppies. Thankfully, if your dog tests positive for intestinal parasites, treatment is generally easy and inexpensive.

Your puppy’s first vet visit is an excellent time to discuss microchipping. Microchipping is a simple procedure in which a small microchip, about the size of a grain of rice, is inserted beneath your dog’s skin over his withers. The microchip can be scanned by any approved scanner and will help to reunite you with your dog should he become lost. Unlike collars and ID tags, microchips cannot fall off, so it’s a great way to ensure that your dog can be identified. Just be sure to update your contact information with the microchip company to make sure they have your most recent phone number and address should these ever change.

You should also discuss the proper time to spay or neuter your puppy with your veterinarian. Most vets recommend performing the surgery at around six months of age, but your vet will be able to make a more accurate recommendation based on your dog’s size, weight, and overall health. You’ll be able to get an estimate of the cost of the procedure so that you can budget accordingly if necessary. If you have any concerns about the procedure or about your dog undergoing anesthesia, now is the time to mention them. Modern anesthesia techniques are incredibly safe, but your vet will be able to answer any questions you may have.

Puppy Classes

Teaching your Rhodesian Ridgeback to be a responsible member of your family and the community is an important part of puppyhood. To help your Ridgeback reach his potential, you might want to attend puppy classes. It may not be a problem to have your puppy pulling on the leash or jumping up on your leg now, but as an adult those behaviors can be dangerous. The sooner you begin teaching your dog good manners, the better. Puppy classes are simply basic obedience classes, but they tend to focus more on the short attention span and curious nature of puppies. Your puppy will learn basic commands, such as sit and stay, and you’ll be able to get the professional advice of a trainer on any problems you may be struggling with, such as housetraining or bad habits. Puppy classes are also a great place to begin socializing your puppy with other dogs and people.

Rhodesian ridgeback sleeping
Photo Courtesy – Steve Warwick

Most puppy classes will require your Ridgeback to be a certain age before she is allowed to attend. The reason for this is that most puppies will have been vaccinated several times by that age. You may still need to provide proof of vaccination before your first class. This is to keep all puppies in attendance healthy and free of communicable diseases.

You should be able to find plenty of different options for classes, depending on the area you live in. Most areas have private trainers or obedience schools that hold regular classes. Many pet stores and shelters also hold regular puppy and basic obedience classes. If you’re unsure of where to look, try contacting your breeder, local shelter, or veterinarian, as they may be able to recommend a particular trainer or facility.

Most puppy classes are held as a group, as this can help with socialization. Many puppy classes have age limits, which is to help protect puppies from larger adult dogs should they show aggression. If you’re bringing home an older dog, try looking for basic obedience classes rather than puppy classes. They will cover the same subjects, but will be directed more toward adult dogs instead of puppies. If your new dog has any bad habits or has not been socialized properly, you may want to search for one-on-one lessons with a local trainer. Group classes can be overwhelming to some dogs, so starting out with private lessons can be a great way to develop basic skills before you try attending group classes.

Cost Breakdown for the First Year

Dog ownership can be expensive, so if you’re living on a particularly tight budget, you may want to reconsider bringing a dog into your life. However, many owners are able to take excellent care of their dogs on a tight budget because they’ve budgeted accordingly.

Rhodesian ridgeback brown
Photo Courtesy – Mike Kryza

If you’re buying a Rhodesian Ridgeback from a breeder, the initial purchase price will be one of your biggest costs in the first year of dog ownership. Depending on the quality, area, and potential of the puppy, you’ll likely spend somewhere between several hundred to several thousand dollars. If you’re adopting a dog from a shelter, your initial adoption fee will probably be a few hundred dollars at most. However, adoption fees also usually cover vaccinations, deworming, and spaying or neutering. If you’re buying a dog from a breeder you’ll need to cover those costs yourself.

Mandatory expenses such as food, veterinary care, and supplies, can add up quickly. Depending on where you live, you could be spending between $900 and $3,500 just for basic care. The following table contains an estimate of the cost of the first year of Rhodesian Ridgeback ownership:

Mandatory Expenses

Cost Estimate

Food $300 – $900
Food and Water Dishes $10 – $50
Treats $50 – $150
Toys $20 – $200
Collars and Leashes $10 – $100
Crate $25 – $100
Dog Beds $25 – $100
Vaccines and Routine Veterinary Care $100 – $350
Heartworm Testing $10 – $35
Heartworm Prevention $25 – $125
Flea and Tick Prevention $40 – $200
Spaying or Neutering $150 – $600
Puppy Classes $200 – $500
Total $965 – $3410


Unfortunately, those are not the only costs that you may encounter in the first year with your Rhodesian Ridgeback. Although Ridgebacks are short-haired, they still need regular grooming and many owners find it difficult or impossible to bathe a large dog at home. Professional grooming costs will vary according your area and the services you choose, but they can add up to several hundred dollars per year.

If you plan on traveling without your new dog, you’ll also need to consider the cost of having someone care for him in your absence. You may choose to drop your dog off at a boarding facility or have a pet sitter care for your dog either in their home or in yours. The price for these services will range from around $15 per day to over $100 per day. If you have friends or family who are dog lovers, you may be able to ask them to care for your beloved Ridgeback in your absence and offer to watch their dog the next time they leave town.

The biggest potential expense you face as a dog owner is emergency veterinary care. Although you can do your absolute best to keep your Rhodesian Ridgeback safe and healthy, accidents and illness can and will happen. Emergency care can range in cost from a few hundred dollars to several thousand or more. Pet insurance is one option that owners have to help cover the cost of emergency care. Many owners also choose to set aside a small amount every month to have available should an emergency occur.

Possible Expenses

Cost Estimate

Professional Grooming $100 – $500
Emergency Veterinary Services $200 – $1000+
Pet Sitting or Boarding $15 – $100+ per day


The numbers listed in this section may make you feel somewhat overwhelmed, but it’s important to understand that caring for an animal is a big financial responsibility. By bringing this dog into your home, you’re accepting the responsibility of caring for her to the best of your abilities. Before bringing your Rhodesian Ridgeback home, you need to carefully consider whether you are ready for such a commitment. Regardless of your financial situation, careful planning and budgeting can help you be prepared for the potential costs of dog ownership without undue strain on your finances.

To read more from "The Complete Guide to Rhodesian Ridgebacks" by Tarah Schwartz, or purchase on Amazon, visit the link below:

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