Norman - Upright Rider
By Whitney Wilde
Is Norman really a dog—or a kid in a dog suit?
Norman the Scooter Dog has outgrown his moniker. He doesn’t just scooter anymore—he skateboards, surfs, rides a bicycle, and pretty much anything else you ask him to do. There are at least 100 behaviors Norman can do on cue: open cabinets to get a treat, dry off his face on a towel, and wipe his feet before coming in the house, to name a few . . . better than most kids.
Norman just does not look like a real dog; he looks more like the offspring of Chewbacca and Fozzie Bear. Norman is a Briard, an ancient French herding breed, and he was born on July 14, 2009. Professional dog trainer Karen Cobb got Norman as a pup from a reputable breeder, and he was welcomed into the family by Karen’s husband, Chris, and their kids Kaylee and Bryson.
In 20 years of training dogs, Karen has never had a dog yearn to learn as much as naturally curious Norman. Starting around 12 weeks old, he learned obedience, agility, and herding. Karen uses positive reinforcement methods that reward a dog for what he does correctly and, and she ignores his mistakes.
"We do a lot of free-shaping." Karen explains that she rewards Norman for demonstrating interesting behaviors without being asked to or cued, then shapes those behaviors into tricks. When Norman saw his family riding scooters, he tried riding a Disney Princess Scooter and the rest is history. "The scooter thing just happened," Karen laughs. "It wasn't in the original plan."
“The key is to make it fun for the dog. If they are having fun, they will want to learn and will try their very best. Failure is not fun for your dog." Karen continues, “It was easier to teach Norman to ride a bicycle than it was to teach my daughter.”
Before Norman joined their family, the Cobbs had started planning a yearlong exploration of the U.S. and Canada, to begin in April, 2011. In February of that year, Norman appeared on David Letterman’s “Stupid Pet Tricks” riding his scooter, and it started a storm of public appearances: The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Rachel Ray, Good Morning America, Inside Edition, TMZ, Dogs 101, Wheel of Fortune, and over forty different local news programs throughout the country. Norman even became a cartoon, Super Scooter Dog, on the Cartoon Network.
The Cobb family and Norman left on their trip as planned, but after seven months the trip was cut short when Natural Balance Pet Foods asked Norman to co-star in the TV show “Who Let the Dogs Out” with Tillman, the skateboarding Bulldog. The two canines tour the country searching for other inspirational or uniquely talented dogs.
Norman’s fame has given the Cobb family some incredible adventures. They have been backstage at Universal Studios, taken a behind-the-scenes Safari tour at the San Diego Zoo, and ridden in the Rose Parade on the Natural Balance float that was specially designed so that Norman and his pals could surf real waves atop the float!
Norman knows not all dogs are as fortunate as he is – they are sitting in local shelters or with rescue groups, just waiting for a loving family to come adopt them. These dogs really appreciate a good home, just like his canine sibling Zsa Zsa, a rescued Pomeranian.
Norman came from a reputable breeder—someone who breeds to improve a breed and ensure that a pup’s health will be as good as possible. Norman says if you must buy from a breeder, only buy from a breeder listed on the National Breed Club’s Breeder Referral list. Please do not buy from backyard breeders, puppy mills, or pet stores! (Pet stores that adopt out pets from local rescue groups are acceptable.)
Regardless of where you get your new furry family member, Norman is living proof that they will forever change your life!
Norman’s Facebook page has updates, lots of great videos of Norman, and a valuable “Training Tip of the Day,” such as this one: Don’t wear sunglasses when training. Your dog needs to see your eyes.
“Who Let the Dogs Out”