The Rhodesian Ridgeback, a more detailed look
The Rhodesian Ridgeback is a medium to large dog. It should not be massive like the mastiff, more tending towards the athleticism of the greyhound (but with more substance). It is a uniform light to red wheaten colour (wheaten being brown, but not a solid colour: consider a field of wheat ready to harvest). You may occasionally see them with white toes and/or white splashes on the chest (these are quite acceptable); the nose colour is commonly black (which may spread up the muzzle in the form of a "mask") and occasionally brown (liver). Eye colour is normally dark brown, but is lighter in a brown nosed animal. The single most important feature is (of course) the ridge, this cannot be described better than in the breed standard (look under characteristics). I have heard many interesting fallacies about the ridge, for example: it develops with age, you can see it when he's angry, it must take a lot of grooming, etc., etc., etc. So it is probably best if I clarify this characteristic: pups are born with the ridge that they will die with, it does not alter from birth, it will always stay the same in proportion to the dog, it does not have to be groomed into place (it is quite natural), the hairs will stand up in it with displeasure the same as any other dog (hackles up). However, the ridge formed, sometimes, when another breed has his hackles up is in no way connected to a Ridgeback's ridge.
The Rhodesian Ridgeback is classified under Group 4: Hounds. This places him with such seemingly diverse breeds as the mini Dachshund, the Afghan Hound and the Irishwolf Hound, amongst many others. The common denominator amongst these breeds is their ability to hunt, the Rhodesian Ridgeback's claim to fame being the Lion, but it most certainly hasn't limited itself to them. Here in Australia they have successfully hunted Pigs, Rabbits & Goats (conversely then have been quite successful in looking after Goats), this is the key to the Rhodesian Ridgeback's temperament: He is a quiet confident dog capable of working without human intervention.
As can be seen, if you want your Rhodesian Ridgeback to hunt you should have no problems, however most (99.9%) of owners do not and yet still have happy confident dogs. It is most important that you teach your dog what not to hunt. This is relatively simple, but must be considered; though it's often not as important in a suburban setting. Your Rhodesian Ridgeback will happily cohabit with your cat/other dogs etc. once properly introduced. The average suburban Rhodesian Ridgeback seems to happily satisfy its hunting instincts with the occasional sortie after an annoying fly, coupled with dreams of game on a grander scale.
And so, what would life be like with a Rhodesian Ridgeback as your companion, the puppies are a delight to behold but remember they are only about quarter size at 8 weeks of age. Your new companion will probably not mature completely until 2 years old, but should be substantially more sensible by 1 year of age. While still a puppy your patience is going to be very important, initially with housebreaking (oh no! another wet spot in the Axminster) and then his obedience training: remember he is a hound and will not become a slavish servant but will work with you as a partner. Now is also the time when he must learn his place in your society and the general rules and regulations.
For example: do not eat the food off the dinner table (very difficult), do not eat contents of bins (also difficult), do not eat the cat (not as hard as it sounds), gardens are not for exploratory tunnelling, tails must not wag next to coffee tables. (It is an extraordinary thing about the RR: it's head is exactly the right height to steal off the dining table and its tail exactly right to clear the entire contents of a coffee table with one wag). He must also clearly know his place in "his pack" (ie. your family) and he must be made aware that his place is subservient to even the youngest human member (this comment goes for all dogs from the Jack Russell to the Irish wolfhound). During his growing period you must ensure he has an adequate diet and receives any medical care necessary, your breeder will explain these to you. He must always be treated with kindness, care and never harshly: corporal punishment is normally counter productive with the Rhodesian Ridgeback.
In return he will reward you with a love that knows no bounds and he will protect his family with his life (though he is not normally savage and can be trusted not to bite except with extreme provocation). He will be aloof with strangers and will do his very best not to wag his tail near the coffee table.
A few things to remember:
Your new companion will appreciate comfort, ensure he has an adequate bed and do not encourage him onto your bed/lounge unless you mean to continue. Remember he will be substantially larger at 2 years old than he was at 8 weeks and the bed might not seem big enough for the three of you.
Do not allow young children to terrorise your dog (any breed of dog). Watch young children carefully until you are sure they can relate to and respect him properly (even a chihuahua can give a nasty bite if accidentally hurt by a child's rough play, even though he had not intended to bite at all).
Your new companion will not happily accept being permanently separated from the family (ie. the permanently outside dog). While some Rhodesian Ridgebacks are happy to sleep outside and spend daytime inside with Mum, they are much happier when permanently in with the family. If you want a dog that will never be allowed in the house you will probably be better off without a Rhodesian Ridgeback.
Rhodesian Ridgebacks seem to have a peculiar form of selective hearing; they can hear the rattle of the dinner bowl from several kilometres, but the command "come" can be clearly missed at a few metres (back to the obedience training with emphasis on "partners").
Rhodesian Ridgebacks are highly intelligent and can sometimes become destructive when bored: back to the obedience training, fifteen minutes brain work seems to leave them more exhausted that a four hour march.
Rhodesian Ridgebacks will match your lifestyle with regard to exercise and do not have to have a routine hour walk everyday like some breeds; they will, however, happily participate of you wish.
There is a thing called the "Rhodesian Ridgeback lean", this is where your dog tries to get as close as possible to you, generally by leaning with all his weight on the side of your leg. As it is a progressive transfer of weight, you generally are not aware of it until you start to topple off your feet.
Please Note: My use of only the masculine gender is strictly for ease of reading and must not be seen as a recommendation or even personal preference (most of my Rhodesian Ridgebacks are girls). Your decision on which sex to choose is a personnel one. If possible you will find it better if your decision is not absolutely firm, as a rule of thumb you will find that when looking for a girl all the litters have mainly boys and vice versa; this is called murphy's law.
Take care of your new companion and you will be well rewarded.