Intrigue Rhodesian Ridgebacks
Susan Morrill, MS RDN LDN
We are Susan and John (Chris) Morrill and developed Intrigue Rhodesian Ridgebacks with the purchase of our foundation girl, Gemini, in 2003. Our original goal was to get a well bred pet for our active lifestyle. Gemini was the pick bitch in a litter of 13, bred by Toni Salter and Marjorie Crouch of Tandiwe Ridgebacks. With a show contract in hand and absolutely no idea where we were headed, we were well on the way to a major change. Gemini went Reserve in her first show, and the rest followed.
Susan holds a Master's Degree in Nutrition and Dietetics and recently finished her Dietetic Internship in May 2021. She passed the RDN exam and became licensed to practice in August 2021. She has also had a keen interest in canine nutrition for almost two decades and we feed our dogs exclusively a raw based diet. Chris is the Director of Facilities for a local chain, Biscuitville, in North Carolina and Virginia.
Our dogs live in the house with us, we are not a kennel nor do we breed often. This is a purely a hobby for us, so we breed when we want a puppy for ourselves. We do not supplement our income, nor is this an income based endeavor. We currently have 4 ridgebacks. We enjoy performance events as time permits, but spend more time hiking and running our dogs at home.
The choice we made to bring home Gemini many years ago has resulted in so many friendships across the USA. It has allowed us many opportunities with our dogs to learn new things as care givers, investigate various events, and become better people. We are truly thankful that we had the opportunity to choose Gemini and travel such an incredible journey with her. Even better, what Gemini has started as our foundation will continue through the incredible hard work, devotion and endless love we have for this breed.
It all started when we were at a show, our very 1st show in Virginia Beach in 2003, and Gemini would not show for our breeder, wanted "mommy" and Susan said "I can do that", " I just run in a circle, stop and hold my leash up", "not hard". Susan went out that night and bought some show clothes. The next day she showed Gemini in the 6-9 puppy class to Judge Michelle Billings at the National. Judge Billings had a few handling tips for Susan in the ring as well as pointing in the direction she needed to go... and so the journey began.
We have since moved into all kinds of AKC events... including agility, lure coursing, obedience, Rally and scentwork. And RRCUS events like the Triathlon and Versatility program. We have been blessed to have the kind of solid temperaments that make success attainable in so many venues.
Health Testing here at Intrigue
Health Testing here at Intrigue
All of our dogs have been tested for the required and suggested tests for our breed. This includes OFA
Hips, Elbows, Thyroid, Eyes, Cardiac, EOAD Deafness, and DM DNA. The stud dogs we choose also
have had this set of tests. Thyroid is a bigger issue in ridgebacks, so we retest several times in a dog's
lifetime. Gemini, Apollo, Calypso, Titan, Fusion have all been retested as Veterans (between ages 8-10
yrs), and passed.
All of our dogs have easily passed their AKC Canine Good Citizen (CGC) tests. Several also have their
Therapy Dog International Certificates (TDI), certifying them to do therapy dog work. No dog is worth
anything with a sketchy temperament. Dogs in our society today are pets first. You have to be able to
live with them. We feel the dog should easily assimilate into society with proper training and
socializing. Fear issues or aggressive responses are not what we want to see. Temperament is one of
the strongest genetic factors to come down in a breeding. Poor temperaments that cannot be trusted
in public and around other dogs, in my mind, should not be bred. Reserved is one thing, spooky is
quite another. We require soundness in that department. We look for outgoing and confident.
We breed a litter on average once a year, sometimes and often less. The amount of time it takes to properly rear puppies is utterly exhausting. Pups are whelped in our home and under 24 hour watch for the first couple of weeks at least. Dew claws are removed at a couple days old, and vet checks are done for cleft palette by our reproductive vet. At about 4 weeks, puppies head out to the puppy room and then outdoors during parts of the day for exercise, again, supervised always. Once weaned, they are fed a quality holistic kibble with raw additions, and goat milk. We do not suggest full raw diets until pups are mature, such as 18 months old. Fast growth and imbalances occur way too often, and I see it even in puppies fed by more experienced raw feeders. Pre-made raw diets (Instinct or Stella & Chewy for example) also tend to be too low in calcium, and calories for ridgeback puppies. You could spend a fortune trying to keep up feeding as a sole source. The skeleton of a large breed dog can suffer, and its not a risk worth taking, so we advise at least 1/2 kibble to our owners until that growth period has passed. Pups are wormed multiple times, and have their first vet exam (and vaccines) before they head home, and are also micro-chipped. Puppies are released to their new homes at 8-9 weeks. 8 weeks is a critical period for bonding, and we see the change over in the 7th week as pups transition from interest so much in their littermates to more interest in human contact/ interaction. Simply put, puppies are looking for "their human". We are there to support our owners for the lifetime of the puppy as well.
We also strive as a part of our breeding program to produce a very well rounded Ridgeback. We obviously look to improve conformation, but also look hard at the performance side of pedigrees. We have learned more about correct structure watching a Ridgeback run in the field or in agility than at any dog show. Lure coursing, for example, shows whether the structure is true to function and survival. Our standard is built around a dog where speed and agility are imperative to survive the lunges of a lion. Holding a lion at bay for hunters was the original job of the Ridgeback. A dog that is too long in the loin is hindered in the agility needed for quick sharp turns. We also look for a well balanced dog, front to rear. As an artist with my bachelor’s in Art History, I look at dogs much like I do a painting. The picture must be harmonious, fitting and well balanced. When viewing a dog, you do not ever want to see "parts", but rather a whole that works. The pieces should match and flow. I want a strong rear with plenty of thigh and muscle, for powerful drive. I do not want a top heavy, overdone front end. Ridgebacks are a sight-hound after all. Not a sporting breed nor a working breed. Front substance should balance with the rear substance. We look hard at this as well in dogs we breed.
We are also very specific about nutrition and vaccinations. Our dogs are raw fed a meat/bones diet, with vegetables and supplements. We do a lot with antioxidants and probiotics as well. Puppies are raised on a moderate protein kibble with raw additions. I do believe nutrition plays a roll in a more even growth pattern. We have also seen the impact a good diet has on health, energy, aging and coat.
As for vaccines, we only DHPP and Rabies, ALWAYS given separately. We then do titers every three years vs a booster, to verify need. Autoimmune diseases are definitely on the rise as a result of vaccinosis (over vaccination), as are allergies and thyroid malfunction. Tha said a healthy dog should be able to handle simple vaccines without reactions, this indicates a sound immune system. For heart worms, we use Sentinel. We also test for heart worms annually. We are not fans of topical (chemical) flea and tick medications. And avoid them whenever possible.