Friday, February 6, 2009

Downsizing from the Ridgeback?

It rained a bit yesterday morning and looked as though it might rain again at any moment, but Ginger was telling me she wanted a walk (Ginger who hates the rain); so I decided to make a dash for the park at the end of the street, and if Ginger got wet, it would serve her right. Both girls were delighted and anxious to be off; so off we went.

As we walked along, it began raining lightly. The girls shook their coats and kept going, Ginger stopping to sniff trees and Bushes and Sage mostly just staring off at things in the distance. We got almost to the end of the park when the rain started falling more heavily; so we turned back. Normally when we go this way, we go through a hole in the park fence and off for a long walk, and perhaps it was in the girls’ minds that they didn’t really want to go on a long walk in a heavy rain. Anyway, when we turned back, they were both delighted and started dancing and chasing each other around me. I had trouble keeping their leashes straight. Ginger wanted to play while on leash, but not Sage, who wriggled backward until she wriggled out of her collar.

Now Sage has never had any formal training. For the sorts of things we do, I didn’t think she needed it. So when I yelled at her – not too loudly since there was no harm being done, but I did express my disapproval – she didn’t immediately come back to me. Instead she dashed back and forth, roundabout, up and down the park for about a minute. By the time Sage had completed her run, Ginger had calmed down. That meant it was time to come back and let me put her collar back on. I didn’t scold her. I could sort of see what she had done. Ginger is larger and stronger and can overwhelm her in close quarters; so Sage wriggled off and had herself a run until Ginger got over her playful intentions. And I did enjoy watching Sage run.

So how bad was that in terms of misbehaving? Not very, which is one more indication that a Ridgeback is easy to live with – or is it? My son and I have an ongoing debate about the protectiveness of Airedales. He has three, one of which is protective, but that one is 10 years old. I tease him about becoming defenseless once that one dies. He teases me about being defenseless already since my too girls would not rate very high in any guard-dog test. I get less teasing since Sage did stand up on three different occasions; so she has proved herself, but she doesn’t seem very guard-doggish, and for the most part she isn’t. As for Ginger that simply isn’t in her repertoire.

But as we learned not so very long ago, there is a spectrum for every breed running from extreme sociability/friendliness, etc. on the left to extreme dominance/territoriality/etc. on the right. Thus, theoretically, a Golden Retriever of the Radical Right (so to speak) might be more of a guard dog than a Rhodesian Ridgeback from the Radical Left. Nevertheless experts tell us what is “typical,” and that typicality means something. If we want a guard-dog, we will be much better off choosing a Rhodesian Ridgeback than a Golden Retriever, because even though Golden Retrievers guard-dogs exist, chances are you won’t get one because typically, Golden Retrievers are very friendly, at least toward people.

My son insists that he would be able to make sure that his next Airedale will have “guard-dog” capability by choosing one from a breeder who breeds “working Airedales.” He might be right. The one Airedale he has that is a guard dog came from a “working Airedale breeder.” And if I were to get a “working Airedale,” I am quite sure he would be very “Right Wing” when it came to standing up to feral dogs and coyotes.

On the other hand, I think my chances of getting a Ridgeback that would both stand up to coyotes and feral dogs while doing a creditable job as a watch and guard dog is higher than if I sought all those qualities from an Airedale, because “typically” the Ridgeback has them and while they are all found to a much lesser extent in the modern Airedale. Although it is possible that the “Working Airedale” has them like the Airedale of old. We don’t know. Neither my son nor I have any real evidence to support that other than his one dog that has those qualities.

Then there is the fact that the Ridgeback suits my life style extremely well. If I want to study or write, my girls are content to nap. People who rate the various breeds, rate the “indoor activity” of Ridgebacks as “low.” The “indoor activity” of Airedales, on the other hand, is “high.” My son says that his Airedales calmed down once they got older, but my son’s definition of “calm,” I suspect, isn’t quite the same as mine.

One advantage an Airedale might have is that he might be more content to be an “only dog.” If my downsizing consisted of going from two Ridgebacks down to one, would that one be content to be an only dog? Probably, but probably not as content as a breed which was more “typically” kept as an only dog.

One other thing. When I inquired about the size of the males being produced by Kathy in Oregon, I got the report that they ranged from 70 to 80 pounds. I didn’t inquire about the females, but I could downsize even further if instead of one male I had one female – from Kathy in Oregon. A “working Airedale” male would probably be as large or larger than a female Ridgeback from Kathy in Oregon. I still haven’t adjusted to the idea of grooming an Airedale as often as they need it, but I have become very attached to my two female Ridgebacks.

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