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Finding a good Rhodesian Ridgeback Breeder

Finding a Good Rhodesian Ridgeback Breeder
- By Mark Shirley

There are a variety of "signals" or "traits" you can use to ascertain what you should look for when talking with Rhodesian Ridgeback breeders. Here  are just a few to help you in your decision.

Proper Health

The most important thing you should search for in a Rhodesian Ridgeback breeder is one who breeds only properly health tested stock. A good breeder only breeds dogs chosen from a historically healthy lineage. AKC Rhodesian Ridgeback Puppies from such a breeder will have the highest advantage for fewer overall health issues - and a much longer life.

In its early history, the Rhodesian Ridgeback was a generally healthy breed. However, indiscriminate breeding practices due to ignorance, lack of concern, and monetary gain has changed the landscape dramatically. It is important to insist on a minimum set of standards when acquiring a puppy.

Our beloved breed has a few issues that need to be addressed prior to whelping a litter of puppies. These are hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, and thyroid condtions. Testing for eyes (CERF exam) is also appreciated, and any dog that has had a Dermoid Sinus must never be bred. Remember that these are serious health conditions that will severely impact on the quality and length of life of any affected puppies. While health screening of breeding stock can’t guarantee that your puppy will be excluded from any of these problems, the risk factor is mitigated substantially. A good breeder should be able to demonstrate testing of these issues by either providing a link to the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals for records of the testing (, or they should be able to supply copies of the certified paperwork they received after the test screen was completed. If they do not, or are not willing to provide this information, search out a breeder that is willing to disclose this information.

Warranty support

Your breeder should also offer a minimum of 2-year written guarantee against genetic health conditions, preferably more. Three and even 5 year health guarantees are common in the kennels of high quality breeders.

Why the Good breeders "show" their dogs

Its a complete misconception that dog shows are merely glory events for “pretty dogs”. The main purpose for showing dogs is to arrive at dogs of proper type and temperament that aresuitable for breeding, thereby protecting the available gene pool of potential breeding stock. A good breeder shows their dogs to obtain approval by unbiased judges. This amounts to several independent opinions (several shows under different judges) as to whether or not a dog is worthy to be bred. This final approval (championship) tells us that the dog is worthy of breeding, and that it fits the proper standard, both as to temperament and conformation.

"Conformation" does not mean that the dog is merely good looking - although this turns out to be a delightful side benefit.  Perhaps more importantly, "good conformation" means that the dog has proper skeletal structure and type. Reputable breeders call this "Form and Function". The Rhodesian Ridgeback is an enduarance animal, and it was also bred to be very agile, and very intelligent. There are subtle indications of whether or not these attributes are present in a particular dog. The job of Judges in AKC sanctioned conformation events is to single out these qualities, and make champions of dogs that possess them. Of course, reputable breeders know what these traits are, and what it takes to combine the right dogs together to get them.

Respected Breeders "prove" that their dogs meet a high breeding standard.

A strong indication that you have found a great Ridgeback breeder is that they are actively showing their dogs. This is one of the best tests you as a puppy buyer can administer. By virtue of the nature of dog shows, only dogs with good health testing, conformation, intellegence and temperament will make the grade. If the breeder has a kennel of champions, you can rest assured that the pups are going to be of the highest quality.

Some things to be aware of

The public is starting to be come aware of the true meaning of dog showing and how important it is to obtain puppies from RIdgeback breeders actively taking part in such events. Unscrupulous breeders are also getting smarter. They have found a new way of  "Skirting the issue".  They do this by displaying their dogs at hobby shows that are more for passing time than anything else. In other words, they are not showing their dogs in events that count towards anything of value. The reason they are doing this is that they know that their dogs would not "pass the test" if they were shown seriously at events sanctioned by the American Kennel Club. The simplest way to know for sure is that you can ask for a copy of the AKC pedigree of both Sire and Dam. It is on this pedigree that you can tell if the dogs are truly the proper type for breeding. Almost all of the dogs in the pedigree should have "CH" in front of the name.

Another phenomenon that has come about is even more insidious. Some kennels make claims that they go out of the country to get their dogs because they want a dog that more closely approximates the "true Ridgeback characteristics." Often, the real reason these people go elsewhere to buy dogs to breed, is that they are not trusted by reputable Rhodesian Ridgeback breeders in the United States.

A little logic is in order here. The United States has some of the most competitive dogs in the world, and win in a variety of competitions internationally. Many of the breeders of these fine dogs have been involved in the breed for nearly half a century. Do these highly regarded kennels know where to find the best dogs? Wouldn't they have "gone out of the country" to get dogs if they were closer to the standard?  Indeed. In fact, the U.S. version of the Rhodesian Ridgeback is so well appreciated that many, if not most of the better kennels world-wide come to us to get quality dogs - Not the other way around! Lets face it - The competitive American spirit and ingenuity improves on almost everything - including dogs.

In Short, be on the look out for any Rhodesian Ridgeback breeder that

  • Does not or cannot supply records of health testing administered on the Sire and Dam of any puppy you are thinking about. Simply walk away from this individual.

  • Will not provide a written guarantee of at least 2 years against genetic problems that may crop up.

  • Does not put championship titles on their dogs. It isn't necessary for a breeder to show every dog in their kennel, but if a breeder doesn’t show any of their dogs, then you should have cause for concern... Best to move on.

  • Talks the Talk, but doesn't “Walk the Walk”. These breeders will banter phrases around such as “My dogs have champion lines”, but when you look at the pedigree, Grand Sires or Grand Dams several generations back may be the only dogs that are titled. What we want to see is many champions in the pedigree. Ask for a Copy of the pedigree. Look for either “CH” or "FC" in front of the dogs names on the pedigree. Good breeders are proud of their dogs, and will happily provide a copy of the pedigree of their championship lines. VERY IMPORTANT: In the US, only AKC championship titles are of any significance. In Canada, only Championships sponsored by the Canadian Kennel Club are of significance.

  • Insists that the better dogs come from some other country - even South Africa. Although this sounds exotic, the fact is, Africans have not done nearly what Americans have done to improve the breed standard. If this were not so, then why do serious breeders approach kennels from the United States when looking for serious improvement in their breeding stock?

  • Keeps their dogs outside. A good breeder raises their dogs in the home and most certainly whelps their puppies indoors with the family which not only keeps the puppies safe, but provides superb socialization.

  • Suggests, or requires that you should take your puppy home before it is at least eight weeks of age. Important socialization is accomplished during these early weeks and it is imperative that puppies stay with their litter at least until they are 8-9 weeks of age.

  • Doesn't appear to provide ongoing support for the life of the dog. A good breeder will always be available, even after your puppy has grown. Look for a breeder that is readily interested in the progress of the puppy as it grows up. They should be available for ongoing support for any questions or issues that might crop up over the lifetime of your new puppy.

The foregoing is a relatively simple way to find out the most important considerations when choosing a Rhodesian Ridgeback breeder.  Other breeds  may have differing criterion for things such as health testing. Other aspects might include how comfortable you are with a particular breeder's philosophy, such as whether or not they believe in dew claw removal, or importance of long term vaccinations.

Hope all of this helps, and we wish you all the best finding a great Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy!

This article was prepared, written and researched by Mark Shirley, Rhapsody Rhodesian Ridgebacks, Crystal Lake Illinois -