Although Rhodesian Ridgebacks are still a
relatively rare breed (about 2,000 AKC registrations per year, compared
to >50,000 for breeds such as Rottweiler, Doberman, Labrador Retriever),
there are quite a few reputable breeders who are members of the
Rhodesian Ridgeback Club of the United States (RRCUS), and subscribe to
the RRCUS Code of Ethics (PDF document).
The Code includes several important provisions that are intended to
assure the continued improvement of the Rhodesian Ridgeback breed, and
also to protect puppy buyers. These provisions include the following:
Avoid buying puppies from pet shops. These dogs are typically produced
wholesale by "puppy farms" where the sole purpose is producing a salable
product. Although pet shop puppies usually have AKC registration papers,
you should know that this registration implies absolutely no guarantee.
Puppy farms are in the business of wholesale production and typically
pay no attention to possible inheritable problems like the dermoid
sinus, hip dysplasia, and temperament.
- An ethical breeder does not engage in the overbreeding of stock
for profit without regard for quality and health of the dogs.
- An ethical breeder studies and weighs the faults and attributes
of a stud and bitch, becoming well informed of those considered
genetic (inheritable). An ethical breeder is sincere in the intent
of not breeding dogs with defects that are likely to cause
impairment of the health of the dogs or offspring.
- An ethical breeder informs his/her buyers about the dermoid
sinus and how to detect it.
- An ethical breeder is always available to buyers for
consultation even after completion of a sale.
- An ethical breeder will x-ray the hips of all potential breeding
stock and will use only dogs certified clear of hip dysplasia for
- An ethical breeder will obtain an
Foundation for Animals) certification of clear hips, or an OFA
preliminary x-ray and will provide a copy of this certificate to a
puppy buyer, on request.
Often you will see Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy ads in the newspaper.
Sometimes these ads are placed by reputable breeders. However, often
these ads are placed by "backyard breeders." These are people who have
acquired a dog and one or more bitches and crank out litters of puppies
for the sole purpose of profit. You can spot one of these backyard
breeders in several ways:
Most reputable breeders make a distinction between "show-quality" and
"pet-quality" and price the dogs appropriately (show-quality dogs are
usually 30-50% more expensive than pet-quality dogs). Show-quality means
that the dog has no obvious faults that would make it difficult or
impossible for the dog to achieve a championship. With Ridgebacks, the
most common faults are a defective ridge (too short, less than or more
than two crowns) and excessive white. Other faults that might be present
are kinked tail or imperfect bite. Faults of this sort are usually
cosmetic rather than functional and do not effect the health of the dog.
Remember that the breeder is making a decision that a puppy is "show
quality" at a very young age (usually seven or eight weeks of age). It
takes a fair amount of experience to make these kinds of predictions
with any confidence, which is a compelling reason to buy from a breeder
who either has considerable experience in the breed, or who has a
network of friends who can serve as consultants.
- If the seller has trouble remembering details of the pedigree of
the puppies for sale, beware. Breeders who are breeding with the
goal of improving the breed will be very familiar with the pedigree
of their puppies, and will be able to tell you the AKC names of sire
and dam, grandparents, and usually even great-grandparents. People
who are just in the business of selling puppies for a profit will
often "not remember" these important facts.
- If the seller does not know what a dermoid sinus is, beware.
This is a common genetic problem in the breed. The condition is
present at birth and considerable experience is required to detect
it. A dermoid sinus can be removed surgically, but the operation is
rather major and costly. It is a genetic condition and is likely to
pop up in any litter.
- If the seller tells you that "hip dysplasia is not a problem in
Ridgebacks" or that it "is not a problem in my line," beware.
Although the incidence of hip dysplasia in Ridgebacks is much lower
than in many other breeds, it is still about 3%, meaning that the
chance of a given puppy developing the condition is one in thirty!
The probability of a puppy having hip dysplasia is much reduced if
both parents and all four grandparents have been x-rayed and
certified clear of the condition by the Orthopedic Foundation for
- If the seller is not willing to provide a written health
guarantee, beware. Most ethical breeders do provide written
guarantees that cover genetic conditions like the dermoid sinus, hip
dysplasia, etc. There are enough reputable breeders that you can
certainly find a guaranteed puppy, so there is no need to take one
with no strings attached and then find in a year that you have a
$300 vet bill to remove a dermoid.
- If the seller tells you that the puppy "doesn't have a ridge
yet, but it will come in later," beware. A certain number of
Ridgebacks are born without ridges. This is due to a genetic fault
and reputable breeders are trying to eliminate this characteristic
from the breed gene pool. You should know that the ridge is fully
visible, in its complete form, at birth. A puppy that does not have
a ridge will never have a ridge.
- If the seller tells you that
he/she "doesn't make a distinction between show-quality and
pet-quality puppies," beware. The purpose of dog shows is to obtain
independent judgment from a number of qualified judges that a dog is
a good representative of the breed, as measured by the written
breed standard. Breeders who are sincerely trying to improve the
Rhodesian Ridgeback breed want to have their very best puppies
exhibited in dog shows, and hope that their best animals will
achieve American Kennel Club championships. Back yard breeders often
tell potential customers that "show dogs" are inbred and have
genetic problems that will result in poor health. The truth is
exactly the opposite. When you buy a dog whose sire and dam are AKC
champions (as evidenced by "Ch" before the name on their names on
the registration application), you know that at least three
different judges (and usually many more) have measured these animals
against the breed standard and awarded championship credit.