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Not everyone is suited to own a Rhodesian Ridgeback. Ideally a Rhodesian Ridgeback should be owned by a mature, reasonably active; adult who processes the time and willingness to provide their dog with the training, socialising and exercise that is vital for producing a calm, well adjusted companion.


  •  A male can be up to 69cm at the shoulder and can weigh approximately 37 to 45kg, sometimes more Bitches are smaller and lighter weighing around the 30kg mark. A healthy fit Rhodesian Ridgebacks lifespan is approximately 10 to 12 years and some even longer. This means that your little puppy will grow into a sizable adult which you will have a responsibility to for many years.
  •  The Rhodesian Ridgeback can have great strength, mentally and physically, therefore is not suited   for frail or weak people.
  • The RR need a leader that they will respect.
  • The RR is a dog that needs plenty of exercise. To leave a bored dog in a backyard by itself for long periods at a time is just asking for trouble. When bored they will find something to keep themselves amused this is usually something undesirable such excessive chewing, digging, barking and pulling clothes off the line. If your lifestyle suggests that you have little time to exercise and train your dog then a RR is not for you.
  • If you are just looking for an alarm system to leave in your yard then a RR is not for you.


As a prospective puppy buyer it is very important that you do your research and ask lots of questions before you buy a RR. The information you gather will enable you to make an informed decision. If you rush into buying a RR you may regret your decision later. Talk to several breeders to help determine what style of dog or bitch would suit you and your family. Indeed, after meeting lots of RR and their families you will know if a RR is the right dog for you. Get as much information from the breeder as you can. This should include information on the pedigree and any hereditary problems or faults within that particular bloodline.

The RR Club can provide you with a list of breeders who currently have litters. Call our Secretary or Puppy information officer via our contact page. In the event that no puppies are listed with these officer holders then you will be given a list of club breeders so that you can contact as many as you like.


WHY DID THE BREEDER HAVE THIS PARTICULAR LITTER? Matings should always be planned. Just because someone has a bitch or dog does not mean they should be bred. In fact, only first-class breeding stock with health clearances should be mated. There are many so called “breeders” around that don’t have the knowledge to be able to make sound decisions in regards to genetic influences etc. Look for a breeder that can discuss their breeding program. They should be able to tell you why they bred from this pair and what qualities they are hoping to obtain from the mating.

HOW LONG HAS THE BREEDER BEEN BREEDING AND /OR INVOLVED IN RHODESIAN RIDGEBACKS? HOW MANY LITTERS HAVE THEY BRED? Experience within the breed is essential. Knowledge of what constitutes good breeding stock and then selectively breeding is what produces sound puppies. You might say a breeder has to start somewhere, and yes this is true but make sure they have done their homework first or have the guidance of a more experienced breeder.   

BUYING SIGHT UNSEEN OR DOES THE BREEDER ENCOURAGE PROSPECTIVE BUYERS TO VIEW THEIR STOCK AND LITTERS   It is never wise to buy a Puppy sight unseen unless you know and trust the breeder 100%. Preferably view the pup’s Sire (father) and Dam (mother), as well as the rest of the litter. If the whole litter is not available to view, ask why. Are there problems the breeder doesn’t want you to see or is it simply that the other pups have already gone to their new homes? Remember hereditary diseases, conformation faults or poor temperament should not be bred from as to do so simply passes on the undesirable trait to the next generation. Viewing the parents can give you an idea if they are well adjusted, socialised dogs that are more likely to produce puppies that will fit easily into their new homes. Also check how the puppies have been housed? How much time is spent with them? Are the pups bright eyed, happy and clean? Are the puppies happily to meet you? It is paramount that puppies are brought up with lots of handling and different experiences so that they are properly prepared for their new homes and accept human activity as normal.

DOES THE BREEDER HAVE A KENNEL PREFIX REGISTERED WITH DOGS NSW OR THE EQUIVALENT IN THEIR STATE? If not then they are not a registered breeder and registration papers will not be available. A registered breeder has to abide by a code of ethics DOES THE BREEDER BELONG TO A RR IN THEIR STATE? Membership of a breed club shows a serious interest in the breed, their welfare and their future. In addition, the Rhodesian Ridgeback club Inc members have an even stricter Code.

ARE BOTH THE PARENTS X-RAYED FOR HIP AND ELBOW DYSPLASIA? Hip and Elbow Dysplasia are problems which can affect most large breeds of dogs. Responsible breeders are actively trying to lower the incidence of these diseases via active participation in an assessment scheme. An example of this is not to allow Rhodesian Ridgebacks with high hip or elbow scores to be bred from. Most UNREGISTERED BREEDERS don’t x-ray at all. Responsible breeders have dogs and bitches x-rayed before breeding with them. The parents are tested under official programs (AVA Scheme or designated Radiologists) and positive identification via microchip shows testing belongs to the correct dog. The hip results must show both the score and the grading, the elbow result must show the grade. The original certificate can be produced for verification.  

HOW OLD IS THE SIRE AND DAM? Most responsible breeders ensure sire is mature say not be under 12 months old. There is no restriction to the upper age limit of a sire remembering also frozen semen could have been used from a dog long deceased or desexed. A dam should be between 12 months and 8 years at the time the of mating but most responsible breeders wait until the bitch has matured e.g. 2 years old and ensures the bitch is fit before mating regardless of age.

HOW OFTEN HAS THE DAM HAD A LITTER A Bitch should not be bred more than twice in any successive 12month period. In the event a bitch is bred twice in a 12-month period, then she should not be bred from for the next 12 months after the second litter.

DOES THE BREEDER OFFER A GUARANTEE? If so, what does it cover? The breeder should fully explain what is covered by any guarantee  

ARE THE PUPPIES VACCINATIONS UP TO DATE? The breeder should have had the pups vaccinated at 6 to 8 weeks; this gives the vaccine plenty of time to take effect before the puppies go to their new homes at 8 to 10 weeks. The breeder should supply a vaccination certificate which will have the next vaccination due date recorded on it. They should also explain what vaccine your puppy received.

DOES YOUR PUPPY COME WITH WRITEN INFORMATION FOR YOU TO TAKE HOME? It is important for a breeder to give you information on what your puppy is currently being fed and how the diet changes as the puppy grows, how it is wormed, heartworm, vaccinations and other information like basic obedience. This helps ensure a smooth transaction to the puppy’s new home. It also helps the new owners to have something to go back to as some information is forgotten with all the excitement of picking up a new puppy. You should also receive a copy of the dog’s microchip information which has been transferred to you and sent to council. The registration papers will be given to you at this stage unless the breeder is still waiting for their return from the controlling body

WILL THE BREEDER CONTINUE TO ASSIST YOU AS THE PUPPY GROWS INTO AN ADULT, AND THEREAFTER IF REQUIRED? A responsible breeder will be available should you have any questions regarding your puppy as it grows into adulthood and thereafter. A responsible breeder would have already taken the time to interview you to make sure that you are aware of what is required of to bring up a healthy, well-adjusted dog. They would have also asked about the basic requirements you have to offer the puppy as in fencing, shelter and time. A responsible breeder will want you to stay in touch, ask questions and let them know how you and your puppy are going. An issue that may really concern you may be easily rectified by the breeder. BUYERS BEWARE OF BREEDERS THAT WON'T WANT TO KNOW YOU AFTER YOU HAVE PICKED UP YOUR PUPPY   

AT WHAT AGE CAN YOU COLLECT YOUR PUPPY? A puppy should not leave its litter mates until it is 8 weeks old. Younger puppies do not have their full health protection or correct behavioural patterns established yet. 

DO YOU SELECT THE PUPPY OR DOES THE BREEDER PICK IT FOR YOU Either is acceptable, and may depend on whether you want your pup as a show prospect or as a pet (be sure you understand which it is to be)? Some breeders pick the puppies for the buyers and try and match which puppy's temperament they feel suits that particular buyer.

HOW MUCH WILL A PUPPY COST? These amounts are set by the breeder and can vary drastically. You can expect to pay less for a pet (with limited register papers) than for a show/breeding prospect (with main register papers). It pays prospective buyers to shop around remembering price isn’t the only factor when assessing quality or a breeder. Please avoid buying your puppy from a pet shop or commercial puppy producer (puppy farmer) this only encourages them to pump out even more puppies, often in poor conditions, at usually exaggerated prices without the benefits that you receive from going to a registered breeder. E.g. High prices, no papers, no after sale assistance, no health schemes and breeding from poor stock- the list goes on.

DO I BUY A SHOW OR PET QUALITY DOG? You only need to buy a show quality puppy if you are really interested in showing or breeding from your dog. Be sure with your decision as you will normally pay extra for show/breeding quality puppy that is, at the time of purchase, of a high enough standard to be an exhibit or breeding prospect. You must remember that a lot of things contribute to a show/breeding quality puppy. They must have no disqualifying faults, no kinks in the tail, no eye problems, have a scissor bite. Then once their adult teeth come through at approximately 7 months, they must still have a scissor bite with all 42 teeth (any missing teeth means no showing and no breeding). Then between the ages of 12 months and about 22 months they need to be hip and elbow x-rayed and scored and JME tested as a minimum before even considering should they be bred from. If all this goes well you still are not guaranteed of owning a world beater. There are specialty shows held in NSW every year and this can be a great place to visit as you will get to see many different dogs from different kennels and have the opportunity to talk to many breeders

On the other hand, if you are after a pet quality puppy you will pay less as sometimes, not always, the puppy has a fault which would prevent it from being shown or bred with but would not affect it in any other way. In some cases, the pup has show potential but there might not be enough show home enquiries, in this instance the breeder sells the puppy to a pet home. Main Register puppies have blue registration papers and limited register puppies have orangey red registration papers. Remember only registered breeders can supply these ANKC papers


As a RR owner you have to accept certain responsibilities. With the threat of breed specific legislation, it is very important that you take these responsibilities seriously as what you do with your RR will reflect on the breed as a whole.  The Dog Act states that as a dog owner your dog must be micro chipped and transferred into your name (your breeder should have done this and given you a copy). You must register your dog with your local council by the time it is 6 months old. You must have adequate fencing that prevents the dog leaving your property unless under your control and on a lead. You can be held liable if your dog rushes at or attacks a person or animal. You must pick up your dog’s droppings so it is wise to take a plastic bag or nappy bag with you on walks. You must have your yard designed so persons can reach your front door. These are a few of your legal requirements and the fines can be harsh if you don’t comply. You must also attend to your dog’s health needs as well as supplying adequate shelter, a constant supply of fresh water, a suitable diet and regular exercise. Remember your dog will not get enough exercise by itself. Daily exercise and training are a must to achieve a happy and healthy RR. Your puppy will need free puppy play (on a non-slip surface) and your adult needs you to walk it, ideally also having areas to free run safely. Swimming can also be a great exercise just start slowly until your dog gets use to the water. If you think your lifestyle is too busy to adhere to these basic requirements or you cannot afford the extra expense of owning a dog then please do not buy one.


Your RR will need firm (not aggressive) guidance and training. Apart from the behaviours learnt from its mum and litter mates, it is vital for your RR to receive early socialisation. This includes exposure to people and many different experiences. Even before your puppy receives all its vaccinations you can take it out to see the world by carrying it. You can also have visitors to introduce your puppy to. You need all new experiences to be pleasant, non-stressful and non-threatening so they learn from positive experiences. As these early teachings are not forgotten you are laying down the foundations on how your dog will react to certain situations as an adult. The RR needs a firm consistent leader that is in charge of the dog not the other way around. As pack leader you must win most games you play with your dog. Remember you own the toys, food etc and should be able to take them away and give them back without your dog complaining and this is something you should start as a puppy. Tone of voice is a very important training tool low tones for undesirable behaviour and high tones for desirable behaviour. Short training sessions, so your dog doesn’t become bored, with plenty of praise and always finish on a good note. Some dogs   respond well with food rewards but make sure you’re only giving a food reward for desired behaviour and you’re not just shovelling rewards at them. Use what works for you. A correctly bred RR doesn’t need to be trained to protect (guard) as this is a natural instinct. Please never train your dog while you are tired or angry your dog will get confused and aggression breeds aggression.

Barking Problems in adults A lot of excessive barking problems can stem from boredom so try taking your dog out for more exercise. Puppies crying at bed time. The first few days after you get home you will probably notice you puppy screams the house down when put to bed. This is normal for most; after all they are in a strange environment away from mom and litter mates. Decide where your pup is to sleep (warm & draft free) and when you put it to bed if it starts to cry do not go to it. Some puppies scream for hours, unless you think your puppy is hurt do not go to it. If you feel you have to check your puppy is ok because of the noise go to it and in a firm voice say “NO” and walk away and do not go back. If you do keep going back you will just re enforce this behaviour and every time you put puppy to bed it will scream. Usually if you are patient and don’t go to your pup every time it cries it will settle into a routine and know it is time to sleep. This is less of a problem when people decide pup will sleep in their room or puppy has a companion. Remember to toilet your puppy before it goes to bed and as soon as it wakes up.


 Regular exercise, grooming and good diets are essential for the health of your dog. Grooming includes checking of the ears (making sure they are clean and have no discharge), brushing which will loosen and remove hair ready to be dropped (this will help stop hair ending up on your floors also) and will distribute natural oils through the coat making your dog’s coat healthier and shiny. Nail clipping (this should be started at an early age so your dog is use to it) be careful not to cut the quick. Ask your breeder to show you how these things are done if you’re not sure. A bath about once a month (unless very dirty in between) also keeps your dog’s coat healthy. Don’t forget also to wash any bedding regularly

Your dog will also need to be wormed regularly, your breeder should tell you when your puppy’s next all wormer is due, Adults are wormed approximately every 3 months. Worming isn’t only important for your dog’s health; it is also important because some parasites can be passed on and cause human health problems. You also need to think about heartworm prevention. Heartworm is contracted by your dog from mosquitoes and they require year-round protection. There are daily heartworm tablets, monthly heartworm prevention or when your puppy is older, about 12 months, your vet can give it a yearly heartworm needle. For convenience there are some products available that treat heartworm, intestinal worms, mite, lice and fleas all in one application but these products usually do not treat ticks or tape worm so you would have treat for tape worm about every 6 months and treat for ticks with a different product. Protocols can vary greatly and Your breeder and vet can help you with more advice. Vaccinations As discussed, your breeder should have given your puppy its 1st Vaccination at about 6 to 8 week it will be due again around 12 to 14 weeks and it is recommended to give a third at 16 to 18 weeks especially in high Parvovirus areas. You can also get you dog vaccinated against kennel cough which is normally given with the 2nd and 3rd vaccination (C5). This is recommended as kennel cough is like our flu and highly contagious.



 Health problems can occur with the RR, as with any breed. Buying a puppy from a registered breeder that breeds selectively can help to limit the possibility of your puppy developing health problems at a later date due to conditions inherited from its parents. Even though there are no compulsury requirements for health testing RR in Australia responsible breeders strive to produce healthy puppies and ensure the continuation of the Rhodesian Ridgeback by testing as a minimum Hips and Elbows, Dermoid Sinus, Degenerative Myelopathy and Juvenile Myoclonic Epilepsy

Dermoid Sinus A dermoid sinus, also known as a pilonidal sinus, is a tubular skin defect caused by incomplete separation of the skin and the nervous system during embryonic development. The sinus can be found at any point along the back or neck, but most commonly affects the neck or upper spine. The depth of the defect varies, the tube:

  •          may extend into the tissue just beneath the skin,
  •          may extend deeper and connect to the membrane covering the spinal cord (dura mater) or
  •          it may be a blind ended sac beneath the skin

Dermoid sinus is most common in Rhodesian ridgebacks,it is congenital and heritable. Therefore, affected pets should not be bred. The condition has also been reported in other breeds. A dermoid sinus can be recognized at a young age as an opening on the midline of the back with protruding hair, often in a swirl. A tube or cord may be felt beneath the opening. Some dermoid sinuses may not be associated with any clinical signs or may be associated with mild discharge that can be controlled with gentle cleansing. However, sinuses that become plugged with keratin debris may become infected and an abscess may form. Sinuses that connect to the lining of the spinal cord can be associated with neurologic abnormalities. The prognosis for dogs with dermoid sinus is very good if no neurological signs are present. Failure to remove the sinus entirely results in redevelopment of the sinus which may require a second surgery to search for remnants of the tube that were left behind. Presently there is no DNA Test for this condition. Experienced breeders feel for the condition and along with puppy vet health checks most DS is picked up before pups join their families and either treated or in severe cases the pup is humanly euthanised.


Degenerative Myelopathy (DM) is an uncommon, progressive degenerative disease that causes hind limb weakness and paralysis and eventually affects the front limbs, as well. The symptoms of DM start gradually, usually in adult dogs over 5 years of age. Early in the course of the disease, affected dogs will start to lose muscle coordination and balance in their rear legs (ataxia). They will develop slight or incomplete hind end paralysis (paraparesis), which will progress to total rear end paralysis (paraplegia), accompanied by varying degrees of urinary and/or faecal incontinence. As the dog loses its ability to stand and use its hind legs, it may develop bed sores and wounds from urine scalding, which can be extremely painful. It usually takes somewhere between 6 and 12 months for full pelvic paralysis to develop in dogs with DM. The front legs will be affected next, starting with lack of coordinated movement (ataxia) and progressing to complete paralysis. The ability to chew and swallow can also be affected. When all 4 legs are paralysed, the condition is called “tetraplegia.” Tetraplegia usually occurs within several years of the diagnosis. The dog’s sensory perception abilities are unaffected by this disease, and most affected dogs do not suffer from pain. Some owners mistakenly assume that their older pets are developing arthritis, when DM is actually the culprit. Affected animals usually become incontinent late in the course of the disease, although they do not seem to be painful. In fact, one of the key clinical features of canine degenerative myelopathy is the absence of any localizable spinal pain.                                                                          The mean age of affected dogs is 9 years, with males and females being affected equally. It is extremely uncommon for young dogs to develop DM. There is a DNA test for this condition and inheritance is autosomal recessive

Juvenile Myoclonic Epilepsy (JME) is an inherited disease in the Rhodesian Ridgeback breed. Affected dogs start showing symptoms between the age of 6 weeks and 18 months. Symptoms include frequent myoclonic jerks or twitches especially when the dogs are sleeping or resting. Photo sensitivity has also been noticed in affected dogs. Most affected dogs will also develop more severe generalized and tonic clonic seizures.  Due to the recessive mode of inheritance, affected dogs must inherit two copies of the mutation, one from each parent.                                                                       There is now a DNA test for this condition. The test will tell you if your dog has 0, 1 or 2 copies of the mutation. Clear (N/N) and carriers (N/ JME) are healthy dogs and will not develop the specific symptoms associated with the JME mutation, however carriers should only be bred to clear dogs to avoid having affected puppies.                                  There is a DNA test for this condition and inheritance is autosomal recessive                                                             Please note that there are other forms of epilepsy that cannot be eliminated by this test.                                                                                                           

HIP DYSLASIA (HD) The term refers to the shape and fit of the Ball of the Femur with the socket of the hip. Some signs to look for are discomfort when running or running holding is back legs together (bunny hoping), discomfort when rising or if your dog seems to be unwilling to use its hind legs. As discussed, responsible breeders adhere to strict guide lines and only breed from stock that has been x-rayed and falls within the set parameters.

HD is considered a Polygenic disorder so is more difficult for breeders to manage. To manage polygenic disorders, they must be considered as threshold traits. A number of genes must combine to cross a threshold producing an affected individual. We also know that the environment has a role in the expression of hip dysplasia. Overnutrition and excessive environmental trauma during the critical growth periods will promote later dysplastic development. There is no DNA test

OSTEOCONDRITIS (OCD) / ELBOW DYSPLASIA canine elbow dysplasia (ED) is a disease of the elbows of dogs caused by growth disturbances in the elbow joint.  There are a number of theories as to the exact cause of the disease that include defects in cartilage growth, trauma, genetics, exercise, diet and so on. It is likely that a combination of these factors leads to the condition, usually showing up between 4 and 9 months in rapidly growing puppies. It presents as a lameness and pain in the joint. It can be difficult to diagnose so do not rush into surgery. Responsible breeders have all dogs/bitches elbow x-rayed before breeding.

CRUCIATE LIGAMENT Limping in the hind legs doesn’t necessarily mean your dog has hip dysplasia. The anterior cruciate ligament is located in the stifle (Knee) of the dog and is important as it helps keep the knee strong and stabilized when moving. If the ligament tears the knee becomes unstable, inflamed and causes joint damage. This tear can occur due to degenerative changes in the ligament or from an accident which has damaged the ligament. In large breeds surgery is required to repair the damage.

TEETH PROBLEMS A RR is required to have a scissor bite to be bred from A scissor bite is where the top teeth fit closely over the bottom teeth. There are variations to a scissor bite for e.g.: being undershot, overshot or having a wry mouth these conditions don’t usually affect the dog except for the fact that it is not permitted to be bred with. A RR must also have a correct dentition of 42 adult teeth. 20 upper and 22 lower teeth. Missing teeth do not cause the dog problems except this also renders them not suitable to be bred with. 

 BLOAT is a condition where the stomach over-distends with gas and can twist. Large breeds with deep chest are susceptible to this condition. Early signs are restlessness and stomach pain. Then they may begin vomiting, usually saliva, or retching and their discomfort increases until the dog becomes weaker with laboured breathing. The dog can collapse and die, this can happen very quickly so it is a matter of urgency to get your dog to the vet.

HEAT STRESS Can kill your dog. DO NOT leave your dog in a car even for a short time. Cars heat up very quickly and become furnaces even in the shade. Cool by placing the dog on a cool wet surface and increase the air circulating around, possibly with a fan. Heat stress can cause organs to start shutting down and if this doesn’t kill your dog it can cause brain damage.

There are many illnesses that can affect a dog; this information is not meant to scare you but to make you aware. Not every little thing will require a vet but use your common sense. You as an owner, hopefully, will spend much more time with your dog than anyone else so are much more likely to know when something isn’t quite right.

                                                                IN CONCLUSION

 There are an infinite number of subjects and questions regarding Rhodesian Ridgeback ownership and health making it impossible to cover everything in this informational club site. There are many illnesses that can affect a dog; this information is not meant to scare you but to make you aware. Not every little thing will require a vet but use your common sense.

This is only a basic form of information and can be discussed in more depth with your vet and experienced breeders. Remember not all lameness is due to a form of Dysplasia and other issues such as injury and growing pains have to be ruled out.

If you feel you still have any questions or concerns please contact your breeder or a Ridgeback club in your state and they will do our best to answer your enquiries.                                                            

 If after careful consideration and research you find the Rhodesian Ridgeback is the right companion for you and your family, remembering they are not a toy or a child substitute and require a strong pack leader that will keep them safe from harm, then please contact a registered breeder or The Rhodesian Ridgeback club Inc and they will endeavour to help you find your new companion. Please take your time in choosing a puppy, all puppies are cute, but you need to be happy with your decision on breeders so you can have a long, rewarding relationship with your Rhodesian Ridgeback.                                                         GOOD LUCK     


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