What are the Chances?
Alot of people think that most English Bulldogs can skateboard. But, this is a myth. And, while many of these low center of gravity dogs can (to some degree) move the board - none can do it with the skill and speed of Tillman http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CQzUsTFqtW0.
Tillman is our 4-legged mentor who holds the Guiness record for "World's Fastest Skateboarding Dog". He has a grace and force that is inspirational because it seems to be a super-canine gift from God. He can pump for speed, restrain his own strength when necessary, turn the board with precise control, and skate ANYWHERE. When you watch him, you'll see the difference between
"what seperates the men from the boys".
I fell into this crazy business of traning English bulldogs by a random twist of fate, and if you've read the rest of this blog, you already know that story. So, what are the chances that my second English Bulldog, Wally, would actually learn to skateboard? The first time, with Lyle, I never set out to train him to skate. He discovered and perfected his craft on his own. And, while he was AMAZING, he had a different style than Tillman. Lyle was a long boarder. His nick name was Biggie, and this was in part because he had a gansta swagger and a low slug gait, which he brought with him where ever he went - even on his skateboard. Because he was a little slower when he cruised, he never got the media attention that Tillman gets; but, he did win himself a full-time sponsor and job with http://www.naturalbalance.net/ which is no small feat.
Needless to say, when my boss, bought me Wally and said "teach him to skate", I had a few concerns (not all bulldogs skate!!). But, being as persistant as a bulldog, I knew I would try my best to teach Wally everything that Lyle taught me. And, so, at 3 months old, I began skate training Wally. The most important thing that MUST occur in early board training, is indentifying and nurturing raw passion for the sport. This is a very tricky and fine line. One mis-step and a young puppy could become terrified of all boards - forever. Or, err on the otherside - over stimulation - could create boredom, and there is NO bouncing back from boredome - it's worse than kryptonite.
After the first 3 months of short, treat and prey-drive motivated sessions, Wally got lesson number 1 - Passion. I didn't over-do it with the treats, but, rather made the board itself the treat. And, just when his interest and excitment for the board would peak, I would take the board away...leave him wanting more. The activity itself must be the motivation!! So, this went on for months and months, until he started learning simple commands like "On the board", "Stay", "Push", "Skate" and "No Chew". As each day went on, Wally, seemed to combine his moves like a puzzle, to the point where he began pushing, and hopping from side to side, AMAZING. But, could I build up his confidence enough so he could take the final leap of faith and hop on with all 4's.
Confidence. That was the last and final step. And, how would I build this precious dog's confidence to the point where he would trust that if he hopped on the fast moving object, he wouldn't crash and burn. So, I did what I always do, and talked him through it. You see, I believe that dogs understand me. And, they do (listen here) http://www.blogtalkradio.com/palm-springs-savant/2012/02/18/palm-springs-savant-co-behind-the-scenes-lexi-beermannThat's how Lyle and I were successful together, so, I figured it's gotta work again. Wally already trusted me and our language, so, I knew that by being his #1 cheerleader, he would get it soon enough. I gave him daily pep talks, and goodnight stories, and even worked on a visualization method showing him in mind images of him skating like Tillman.
And, it was yesterday, when the miracle happened. I took him to the big park. Lyle's favorite! And, I told him, that, and how this was his big shot to NAIL IT. And, that he did. He had more space than usual, and he'd been working so hard for 9 months. And, as i yelled out his commands, and cheered him on, it happened. He pushed and pumped on both sides, and then POPPED UP ON ALL 4'S. OMG - he's skating. I ran and cheered and as I looked up in the sky to give props to my co-trainer, Lyle, a rainbow appeared through the sun and clouds. And, I knew, Lyle and I had helped push Wally into championhood. I am proud and happy Mom, and can't for everyone to see him shred!!!