Dog Stories: Ruger

It may come as no surprise that Ruger is a pretty important guy around here. He is, in fact, the first dog to ever bear the Eromit kennel name!

When we moved to Quesnel in 2008, we began to seek a potential future stud-dog prospect that would serve as Tim’s hunting dog and as a new agility puppy for me, and would help produce future generations of versatile performance Labs. It took a while but eventually I came across an ad on the Retriever Training Forum from a sire that I was very interested in and had considered breeding to Twig- two male puppies had been held back from a litter by AFC Cosmic Blue Genes to Ecstasy’s Hells Angel SH- bred by Barb Young in Oregon. When I contacted her she let me know that one of the two was especially gifted and that she would really prefer that he went to a field trial home. Her description of the puppy fit exactly what we were looking for and I must have been persistent enough to convince her that we would be a good non field trial home for her special guy.

Barb had clearly spent a lot of time training him already- Ruger was about 4 months old when I picked him up and was already doing long water and land doubles. I was impressed. I met his sire Levi, dam Angel, and full older sister Fancy while I was there and all were smaller, athletically built dogs with very nice temperaments. I particularly remember Levi spending a considerable amount of time playing upside down with a squeaky duck which was adorable but also foreshadowing a playstyle that Ruger would inherit.

When we got home from the 34 hour round trip, Ruger and I immediately started working on his agility skills. He caught on so quickly, absorbing all training like a little sponge. By the time Ruger was old enough to compete in agility, he had master level skills. But due to a few bad experiences he had with stray dogs on our riverfront property, and poor proofing/socializing on my part, his first trials were a bust. He struggled to focus on agility with the hustle and bustle of other dogs around. Luckily, his good temperament added with a little more time and experience prevailed – the stress disappeared instead turning to ‘wild child’! This includes a very memorable run at Robert’s Roost where he broke his startline, bee-lined past me down a nice line of (not the proper course) jumps and then darted out of the ring into the nearby duck-filled pond. The ducks flushed up in a big quacking flurry and he came back a split second later all sopping and muddy, ready to finish his run.

He got better with each trial from there and developed into a particularly good gamblers dog. His distance and discrimation skills were second to none. It would have been amazing to see what he could do with a handler upgrade, but I think we sort of get the idea when we see his talented offspring running with their handlers.

Ruger is easily the smartest and most responsive dog I’ve ever trained and one of his best agility features was that he developed an uncanny ability to filter out most of my wrong cues. He is now retired from agility – finishing his career just 2 Q’s shy of his championship. In the winter, he loved being the lead dog on our labrador sled team, most often running with his daughter Verona.

Besides being my best agility buddy and a super sled dog, Ruger was also a tremendous hunting dog. Ruger would run a little big for grouse but he caught a lot of birds without being shot so made up for it that way. He would go to the end of the earth to find a wounded bird so we never had to worry about one that is lost or wasted. He really should have been a field trial dog though- those looooong wounded goose flyers were his very favorite and specialty. I had him at a seminar by Doug Grant when he was a youngster and Doug thought very highly of him – enough so that he hand wrote a pile of sheets of junior sets up that he encouraged us to practice so we might enter him in a FT at some point. Unfortunately that never came to fruition but it was encouraging to say the least!

For those that read the previous story about Renegade, Ruger is very similar in many ways, but instead of bouncing off the walls, he is a very good house dog (yay offswitch). No counter surfing, endless pacing or other naughtiness for this dude! Ruger is pretty famous for sleeping upside down with this legs straight up and stiff in the air. Another special Ruger trait is Ruger is his pitiful howl that erupts from the depths of his soul when I was running a different dog at a trial.

The other thing he is very well known for is the success of his offspring in a variety of venues. Ruger has exceeded our expectations as a sire and has produced dogs excelling in obedience, flyball, dock diving, hunt tests, field trials, nosework, rally and freestyle. His agility puppies include multiple champions in both US and Canada, Regional and national champions, Westminster and NAC podium winners, Breed Power 10 top ranked dogs, and also the first ever Labrador to represent the US at an international event- Chelsea! He’s produced an incredibly talented pool of search and rescue dogs. Ruger’s puppies have also made for great family dogs and hunting buddies and some even work as service or theraphy dogs. We’ve been fortunate to keep several Ruger puppies (Verona and Spider, now retired from breeding; currently Pepper, and our up-and-comers Ezra and Coolio. We’ve trained several through our head-start puppy program and they are always very high drive, bright and motivated dogs- a really terrific combination of traits that makes training fun!

Ruger will turn 12 this May and is a little gimpy and grizzled in his old age but is still very bright and active. He likes to learn new tricks and go exploring, and enjoys sunning himself on the deck.

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