Pet Owner's Guide to the Rhodesian Ridgeback by Stig Carlson

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Pet Owner's Guide to the Rhodesian Ridgeback by Stig Carlson

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Category: Pets
Rating: 2/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: The cheapest book about Rhodesian Ridgebacks but not worth the money. There's a good chapter about the origins of the breed but the rest of the book would seem to have been written with the breeder or shower of dogs in mind, rather than the pet owner.
Buy? No Borrow? Maybe
Pages: 80 Date: July 1998
Publisher: Ringpress Books.
ISBN: 1860540589

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Every breed of dog has its peculiarities and a sensible owner does some research before buying a puppy. Most breeds have specialist guides and quite a few are to be found in the "Pet Owner's Guide" series. They're published as hardback books and usually have a cover price of £5.99. Their guide to the Rhodesian Ridgeback was published in 1998 just before we acquired our first Ridgeback. Once you see a Ridgeback you'll recognise the breed readily because of the ridge of hair running along its spine which grows in the opposite direction to the rest of the fur.

The credentials of the author, Stig Carlson, are impeccable. He's a Swedish national with an international reputation as a breeder, author and lecturer on Rhodesian Ridgebacks. He's owned Ridgebacks since 1968 and is a respected officer of many dog clubs. He's a man who knows his dogs.

The chapter on origins and development of the breed is probably one of the best I've read. It separates fact from some of the rather more fanciful legends which have grown up around the dog. They may be known as "the lion dog" but that's because they were originally bred to hunt lions and not because they were bred from them. I liked too the fact that he stresses the obligations which fall on owners - these are big, powerful dogs.

It's in the chapter on Breed Characteristics that my problems with this book begin to surface. Mr Carlson's English is fluent but it is not always natural. He also has an unfortunate tendency to invent words. "My guiding star" he says "is functionability." I don't know what he means - I can't find the word in any dictionary. There's quite a bit of jargon too. He says that the dog should have "a good stop" but doesn't explain what it is. I can't help but feel that this chapter (and most of the book) was written for people who are looking to show their dog, or breed, rather than for a pet owner as the title of the series would suggest.

On the other hand I do like the fact that he doesn't take the breed standard as gospel and suggests that you should disregard discrepancies and look at the dog as a whole. My older dog weighs some 5kg more than the breed standard and is rather taller too. She's an exceptionally fit dog and the vet says that her weight is perfect.

I was rather surprised that there wasn't a lot of advice on choosing a Ridgeback puppy. There are problems within the breed and the book doesn't give sufficient emphasis to this point. In the United Kingdom the breed has problems with allergies. Both my dogs suffer. The elder is allergic to house dust mite and the younger has various allergies, including pollen. Most vets will tell you that this is one of the main problems which bring Ridgebacks into their surgeries. Testing to establish the cause and giving medication is expensive. Treatment is time-consuming, but the problem is barely mentioned and even then is explained as probably being caused by the wrong food. This may well be a factor, but breeding has a large part to play too.

Hip dysplasia is mentioned but once again the responsibility for the problem is foisted onto the owner rather than the breeder - the food given has been too rich or the dog has been over-exercised. I'd like to have seen some advice about the questions which a potential buyer should ask the breeder and of which puppies should be avoided.

I lost the will to live part way through the chapter on breeding Ridgebacks. In a book which has a mere 75 pages of text nearly five pages are given over to the problem of why some puppies are born without a ridge. This would be essential reading for a breeder, but to devote so large a proportion of a book for pet owners to the subject did seem excessive.

There are some good photographs of Ridgebacks in the book. Some are taken professionally, but I suspect that most are of Mr Carlson's own dogs. It's a limited selection though. Ridgebacks fall into two categories. Most have a dark nose and correspondingly dark eyes. There are some though who have a pink nose and hazel eyes. These are known as livers - and there isn't a single photograph of a liver in the book. My younger dog is a liver and she looks so different to my older dog that some people have thought them to be either dog and bitch or two different breeds. Not having even one photograph of a liver seems to be quite an omission.

I find Mr Carlson's attitude to safety suspect too. He advocates cycling whilst holding a Ridgeback on a leash. Personally I'd regard this as the height of folly. No matter how well-trained any dog is they all have their weaknesses and to do this could endanger the life of the dog, the owner and possibly other people. I'd also like to have seen some acknowledgement of the fact that big dogs such as these can inflict injury without intending to. My older dog has such a strong tail that when she gets excited she can bruise the legs of anyone standing nearby. It could be traumatic for a toddler with a face at tail height.

This is the cheapest book about Rhodesian Ridgebacks which I've found, but it's not worth the money. If you like Ridgebacks it's a reasonable read and there are some good pictures, but if you're looking for advice before buying a dog there's a lot missing. If you want to use it as a reference book after you've bought a dog the lack of an index will make it a time-consuming task.

If you're looking for a book about Rhodesian Ridgebacks The Rhodesian Ridgeback by Eileen M Bailey is a better book.

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