As the seasoned breeder has come to find, the mating and pregnancy of the Rhodesian Ridgeback must consist of carefully selected males and females. While the characteristic ridge is of utmost importance, it is also imperative that specimens be a non carrier of genetic maladies common in the breed. Because of the many strains of dog in their background, mixed breed dogs such as the Rhodesian Ridgeback are more likely to be carriers of genetic maladies. This is not to say the breed is unhealthy, only that there is a knowledge for breeding Ridgebacks that amateurs and backyard breeders are not likely to understand or recognize.
Even with seven to eight pups per litter, the Ridgeback typically experiences uneventful pregnancies and births. This has to do with the roomier pelvis found in larger dog breeds. Females selected for breeding not only exhibit the desired physical characteristics and temperament, they are allowed to reach at least two years of age or older before giving birth to their first litter. This allows the pelvis to complete a healthy development, not to mention the necessary health tests cannot even be performed until this age. In the months prior to mating, the Ridgeback female will be supplemented with folate to help lower the chances of neural tube defects developing in pups.
Those who have little experience or are mating their Rhodesian Ridgeback for the first time should have someone with experience in breeding present. Unbeknownst to many amateurs, it can take several tries before a female becomes pregnant. Once a vet confirms the pregnancy, an owner can expect a gestation period of approximately sixty days. A female is able to keep to her regular activities and diet for the first four to five weeks of pregnancy; afterward, any strenuous activities are not recommended. A diet rich in calories for pregnant and nursing mothers also becomes necessary at this time. In the last week or two, a vet check up will confirm that things are on schedule. It is also when the vet will explain signs of labor and what complications warrant an emergency hospital visit.
If one has not been chosen already, a special out of the way place should be prepared where the mother can not only give birth but nurse her puppies in quiet. An area with bare floors covered in old towels or sheets that can be thrown away are a best bet. During cold weather, a heating pad set on the lowest setting possible may be necessary to help keep the new pups warm. It is not uncommon for a special area to be chosen, only to have the mother give birth someplace else. If the spot is not inconvenient, owners may choose to leave the pups there or move the group over to the special area after a day or two.