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:
• 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 breeding.
• An ethical breeder will obtain an OFA (Orthopedic
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.
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.
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:
• 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
• 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 Animals.
• 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
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.