Rui is now eight months old, and in four days he'll have been living with us (and us with him) for half a year. Half a year! It seems just the blink of an eye since we brought home a cute little 6 pound puppy who cried through much of the first night. Now we have a 50 pound beast who happily leaps onto my stomach when I'm dozing on the couch, and seems surprised that I react violently when his paw goes into my crotch. Or maybe he's taking a just revenge for the operation we sent him off to have a month ago.
Most of what I've written has been about training Rui, the conflict between how he acts and how we want him to act. But as well, there's the fascination in seeing his personality emerge. He's my first dog, so some of his characteristics are probably standard doggy behaviour (he's never too full for a treat, and is always convinced that what we're eating is more interesting than what he's given. This is, of course, quite accurate.) But some of his traits are not universal, and he is clearly becoming the unique individual he'll grow into. Puppy is father to the dog, as Wordsworth almost said.
His dominant characteristic is that he's affectionate. With Diana and I, of course: we're his Alphas. He'll follow us upstairs and downstairs, and is insatiably curious about what we're doing. Last week he stood intently watching me in the jacuzzi, possibly debating whether to jump in. When I got out, he started enthusiastically licking me dry, though he eventually sadly accepted my preference for a towel. He's learned that when I'm at the computer I'm not focussed on him, so he nudges my mouse hand with his nose so that I can't use it until I pay attention to him. (Bad training on my part: never give positive reinforcement, like laughing and hugging to behaviour you are trying to stop.)
He's affectionate with other dogs, ranging from the 150 pound pit bull he tried to leap on (fortunately it was muzzled, as it clearly was not amused.) In the park he'll greet all dogs and play with any who respond. He has a distinctive way of initiating play in which he bats the other dog with his paw. Other doodles and poodles seem to share this, and they'll often respond in kind. Other dogs less so.
He's also very friendly with other people- he'll sometimes play with other owners rather than their dogs, and on walks is always happy to stop and lick passersby when he gets a chance. And he's much more excited when a stranger comes in than when Diana or I come home. We get a tail wag and wriggle; they get the full leap up ecstacy of puppy enthusiasm. Today i was walking him and we passed a teenager listening to her walkman. When she saw Rui, she paused it and asked if she could pet him. She rubbed him, he wriggled happily and licked her hand, and she turned to me and said in amazement, "So much love!" It's a glorious miracle...and such a joy to live with.
One morning last week I encountered a pure-bred poodle owner who asked what Rui was, then explained that his poodle was 100% poodle, (implying that Rui was clearly a lesser creature at a mere 62.5% poodle.) He said that he'd never met a labradoodle who wasn't goofy, though he allowed that as Rui was only a puppy he was still allowed to be goofy. I was amused at the time, but thinking about it later was struck by the extent to which I'm very happy with a goofy dog. Yes, he runs into an amazing number of things every day, but it's because of his utter joy in doing whatever he's doing (chasing a ball) that leads him to crash into the wall. And his joy in nature leads him to do spectacular forward somersaults on grass, and then lie on his back wriggling happily and waving all his limbs in the air. It is goofy, but also utterly joyful and uninhibited, and I wouldn't change it for anything.
He does get bored easily. When Diana and I are on the couch watching TV or reading, he wants to be with us, chewing on one of his toys. But he'll get tired of it in five or ten minutes, and jump off the couch, go off to the kitchen where his toy box is, fish out another toy, charge back into the living room with it in his mouth, and leap back up on the couch for the next few minutes. By the end of a good evening there'll be half a dozen toys scattered around the couch. Training him to put them back in the toy box when he's done with them still hasn't happened, but as I remember my parents had trouble with training me to do that too.
He's generous with his toys: other visiting dogs are welcome to chew his favourite bone. Diana or I can take whatever he's chewing on away from him, and while he might try and keep it (the dead mouse he found had a particular appeal) he never growls or snaps at us. But while he's generous with his stuff, he's suddenly developed a sense of the house as something that he needs to protect. He was lying with Diana on the couch last week, and suddenly started barking. This is very unusual...he's a very quiet dog, and sometimes two or three days will go by without a single bark from him. Diana looked out the window, and saw someone was walking across our front lawn. Two days later, when Diana was bringing a few loads of groceries in from the car she left the first load in the mud room rather than bring it in. Again, Rui barked, hearing someone outside on our property. So it appears we've got ourselves a watchdog to protect the house. If someone does try to break in, they may be frightened of the dog barking and if not, he'll lick them to death.
He hasn't fully understood three dimensional space. He was chasing a squirrel, which ran to a tree and disappeared up it to a safe limb. Rui kept circling the tree, trying to figure out where this small creature had gone, but absolutely refused to look up into the tree, however much I tried to point the squirrel out to him. I suppose he's not quite ready for string theory, and ten-dimensional space yet.
He has amazing bladder control...after his afternoon walk around three or four pm, he'll not pee again until his morning walk at nine or ten. We religiously take him out last thing at night before putting him into his crate, but it's an opportunity that he almost never uses. Instead he'll stand in the back yard, head up in the air, nose twitching, as he intently takes in the scents that are way beyond my level of perception, and clearly communicate a fascinating story to him.
He has the Labrador energy...the monks' guide book says to give him a walk to tire him out twice a day, but we've come to realize that even with cunningly spaced relay stations both Diana and I would be exhausted long before Rui would. Other dogs are the only thing that can exhaust him, so dog parks are a frequent direction for walks. When he hasn't had enough exercise he's most likely to be nippy and ignore boundaries, but when he's tired, he's much better behaved (curiously, that's just the opposite of how I am).
But he's a delight to be with,and is clearly intelligent. When a dog doesn't behave it's obviously either because he doesn't want to,or because he doesn't understand. Rui won't lie down on command, usually, unless there's a treat involved. Then he's down in a flash. I probably spoil him with too much affection, but he spoils me the same way, so it's ok. And if it isn't, I don't really care.
Sent in by breeders Paddy & Maura
Cranfield Kennels, Ontario