When it comes to the Rhodesian Ridgeback and water, owners often separate themselves into two camps. While one side reports that their Ridgeback loves the water and they cannot keep them out of pools or even puddles, others insist that the Ridgeback detests getting wet and that giving a simple bath can be a colossal feat. All in all, it seems to be a matter of training, environment, and personality. Other African dogs, such as the Basenji, are also noted for their dislike of water. Predators known to lurk in Africa's lakes and streams may give the breed an inherent trait to avoid water altogether. In addition, since African hunting dogs have no odor when they are dry, many believe soggy fur may smell offensive to the Ridgeback's own nose giving them a distaste for getting wet.
When raised in areas or households where water is a natural part of the landscape, many report that their Ridgeback has no problem getting their feet wet or even diving right in. Dogs that grow up in homes with swimming pools and that watch their owner swim regularly may have a more relaxed attitude when it comes to water. This is especially true when there are other dogs in the household who also love to swim. At the same time, owners may find their Ridgeback avoids having anything to do with water regardless of who does what in the household.
The Ridgeback that has no interest in learning to swim should be offered the opportunity to try at any time but should never be forced to do so. Not only will this incite terrible emotional distress on the animal, it can create a rift that results in a lack of trust; something that is crucial to keeping a Ridgeback healthy. The robust breed has an extremely sensitive side that does not tolerate mistreatment in any way and using force can turn the breed away from ever learning to swim at all. The Ridgeback is a breed that knows how to make up its mind and will not be coerced to please its owner. The responsible Ridgeback owner knows how to respect his or her dog's boundaries at all times.
Though not all Ridgebacks like to swim, some may show an interest by sniffing or pawing at water to see what it will do. One can encourage their Ridgbeck to feel more confident with a simple wading pool filled with ankle deep water. Owners can stand in the pool with their dog and a plastic toy such as a ball can work as a motivator to encourage movement. The dog should be allowed to step in or out of the pool at will and splashing should be kept to a minimum. Once the dog is at ease with this level, owners can see how their Ridgeback will do on beaches or in ponds. Another motivator is to bring along a dog that is already a natural swimmer. Life vests for dogs are a good idea in these situations as they have a handle on the back that allows one to lift or pull their dog out of the water, if need be.