Sophisticated Pets: Meet Radical Ruger
Written By Carrie Edelstein
As pet owners, we all tend to think we have the smartest, most handsome or most beautiful creatures on the planet with a variety of tricks up their paws.
Tanner can “get the mail,” pull in the trash bins on cue, stretch on demand into yoga poses and identify his human sisters by name, often heading the mad dash for carpool once the backpacks have been loaded. Rory can pull wads of cash out of Mom and Dad’s clothes in the dirty laundry basket, jump into the bathtub, full or empty, whenever thirsty and will stand on hind legs for what seems like an hour, waiting for a treat. Whether these are tricks or neuroses are all in the beholder’s eyes. So the pair of “repawters” scoured the internet, this time Instagram, for a four-legged someone who could maybe teach them a trick or two. They found “Radical Ruger,” an Australian Shepherd with a certified list of 100 tricks– and an agent.
It’s only fair to say Ruger had a head-start from the time he was a puppy. His mom, Kaitlin Bockman, has a degree in agricultural business and animal science, and runs Mind Your Manners dog training. At just 25, she’s been training all kinds of pets, including service and assistance dogs, since she was a teenager, and then she went to college to learn more about the animal industry. Her first trick dog came to her as a service dog. As he helped Kaitlin with her seizure disorder, she in turn taught him 40 tricks. His shorter legs didn’t allow for the strength required for some more advanced moves though.
“I got Ruger knowing I wanted to do fun and active sports,” says Bockman. “You can’t really start training for agility or disc until they’re two or older so you don’t cause a lot of stress to their joints so we started with obedience and tricks. And by the time he was four months old, he knew about 30-40 tricks. We just kept expanding on that and now he’s at over 100 tricks.”
With that talent, Ruger has landed commercials for Purina, and he performs in shows from their Gray Summit location to Wentzville, and up to Quincy, IL. Some of his personal favorite stunts and crowd pleasers include his “rebound,” that’s jumping from trees or buildings or a person on and off, like bouncing. Bockman says he also loves the “back-sault,” when he jumps onto her back and sits. And of course, there’s “play dead.”
“It’s not your typical ‘play dead.’ He will get down on the ground and put his paws up and literally play dead,” says Bockman.
Ruger lives just north of St. Louis and travels quite often for STL Dog Moms meet-up groups, pet events like Arch Bark and hikes in Castlewood State Park. In his down time, Ruger plays with any big stuffed toy, which he also takes to bed and then falls asleep with it in his mouth. He has three pet siblings. His next obstacle? Learning how to do a handstand and skipping with his front feet.
“If you have a dog that’s great at ‘shaking,’ it’s just then getting him to move with the foot in the air and rotate paws,” says Bockman. “A handstand is a lot of body strength. We do a lot of disc work and agility and he already has some, but it’s a lot of just taking it slow and letting him build up the muscles for it.”
In case you’re wondering how your dog ranks, Bockman says learning “sit, shake and down” are the average tricks a dog knows. As for her “tricks” for training your pet to do more?
“Make it fun. The trick training is not normal for dogs to do. You’re asking them to do something really unfamiliar and in a lot of cases it can be uncomfortable for them to move their body that way because it’s not natural. So just take it slow and be extremely positive with lots of treats and happy baby talk. Don’t ever scold them if they get it wrong just reward them for getting it right,” says Bockman.
If you think you have a potential star, Ruger recommends “Got Pet-ential,” an animal talent agency in St. Louis.
Tanner and Rory surfing online for pawfect talent.