Dog’s Eye View: Keeping lions at bay
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
An interesting program on TV, “My Cat from Hell,” featuring colorful and capable feline behaviorist, Jackson Galaxy, brought this article to mind. A young couple have two cats in their family. They then obtained a female Rhodesian ridgeback puppy. The couple had very little experience with dogs and did not reveal why they chose this particular breed. The puppy was 9 months old at the time of the program.
Ridgebacks, called Lion Dogs in the past, are gorgeous, smooth coated dogs that are in the American Kennel Club hound group. They are a sumptuous, rich red color with a distinctive hair pattern that rides down their back. It is their hair that grows in the reverse direction of their coat; hence their name. Adult females average 70 pounds in weight. They are described as having a strong prey drive.
There is a very early history, in the 1500s, of the breed but it wasn’t until about 1922 that the breed standard was written and the name Rhodesian ridgeback was chosen. South African farmers used them to hunt, not kill, lions that were marauding their livestock herds. The dogs hunted in packs and their specific job was to keep the lion cornered and at bay while the farmers moved in to dispatch it. Another strong trait of the breed was loyalty to the family.
You might guess that the problem in the home was that the puppy was cornering the cats and making their life miserable. The cats began hiding and hissing and spitting whenever the irreverent puppy started making sport of the situation. Everyone was unhappy, including the young couple.
Now any dog, young or old, could be found chasing and cornering cats. This situation was interesting to me because of the breed of dog the couple had chosen. The genetic substrate of the Rhodesian ridgeback carries with it a DNA code that may affect the intensity of their behavior. Granted, house cats are not lions, but just as border collies are driven to herd sheep, ridgebacks might especially want to chase and corner cats.
Galaxy, who came to assess the situation and offer help, immediately asked the couple to make changes to their pet’s home environment. His final directive and homework assignment was, “train the dog.”
This young, high energy, adolescent dog was in desperate need of some clear direction in her life. The simple exercise of, “sit while the kitties walk by” was a start. The couple managed to accomplish just this as the program was coming to a close, leaving us with some important messages.
I’ll write more on this topic next time.
Sandra Kruczek is a certified professional dog trainer at Total Teamwork Training with more than 30 years of experience.
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