Five-year-old Bamboo is a Labrador/Ridgeback mix who looks cooler on a skateboard than most humans. This YouTube and Instagram sensation is attracting worldwide attention because of his casual, laid-back style and his impressive ability to ride a skateboard like a pro. His family, including pet parents Mike and Nina Bolaris, have taken this rescue pup from humble beginnings to skateboarding legend status.
Bamboo seemed fated to come into his family’s life. Nina had already picked his name before they started searching Labrador rescue sites, hoping to stumble upon a pup to match it. They found the caramel-colored dog on the website Labradors and Friends and he seemed like a perfect fit, but the adorable puppy was adopted before Mike and Nina could claim him. Days later, he was listed as available again after a misunderstanding with the original adopter, so the family set up a meeting with his foster, fell in love and took him home.
Learning to Skateboard
Mike is a lifelong skateboarder, and although he modestly admits that his wheels never leave the ground, skateboarding is one of his primary modes of transportation around his California town. Young Bamboo got used to running alongside Mike as he skateboarded (it was a good way to burn off some of the dog’s youthful energy), but the decision to take the dog from spectator to participant came in a flash of inspiration. Mike had already taught nine-month-old Bamboo a number of tricks, including the command “on” (which loosely translates to “stand on stuff”). He realized that Bamboo was just the right size to fit on the skateboard, so he brought him to a small hill in a local park and asked him to get “on” the skateboard. Bamboo happily hopped on it, sat down and rolled down the hill. Mike made this little training exercise a part of their morning routine, which he says Bamboo seemed to enjoy more with each session.
Mike helped Bamboo hone his skills at a nearby basketball court, encouraging him to play around with the skateboard. Surprisingly, Bamboo conquered the most challenging part of four-legged skateboarding on his own; he figured out how to propel the board with his back legs during those early casual sessions. Once he was moving the board on his own consistently, Mike started playing a game with him where he’d show Bamboo a treat and then reward him if he skated over to get it. After a few months of practice, Mike couldn’t out-skate Bamboo – his dog caught him every time!
The Life of a Skateboarding Dog
This talented pup now has three skateboards of his own, including a remote controlled electric board. While the electric skateboard scores coolness points, it doesn’t allow Bamboo to alter the speed or make sharp turns, so he seems to prefer the old fashioned self-propelled type. Mike says that any time he gets near Bamboo’s skateboards the dog goes “crazy in anticipation” for a ride.
Though Bamboo is a gifted skateboarder – Mike calls him an extreme athlete – he seems to know better than showing off with tricky moves. Bamboo has never had a bad spill because Mike doesn’t allow him to skateboard in dangerous areas, and Bamboo is cautious to a fault. If the dog senses something isn’t safe, he jumps off the board and waits for Mike to retrieve it for him.
Bamboo has clearly mastered skateboarding, but he isn’t a one-trick puppy. This clever dog has an extensive trick vocabulary that goes far beyond just sit, down and stay. Bamboo can crawl, sit up, roll over, speak, spin, twist, leg weave, play bow, wave, limp and more. Bamboo is also honing his soccer skills, with a ball-dribbling skills that might get him recruited by the pros.
Want to teach your dog how to skateboard? Mike suggests keeping initial sessions fun, always making sure that your dog is enjoying the process. Start off with the board on grass or carpet so the movement is slowed, or better yet, stopped completely, and reward your dog with a small treat for any and all interactions with it (clicker training is great for teaching this type of trick). Get your dog used to standing on the board, then slowly introduce movement by pushing the board a few inches. Keep in mind that balance is a big part of skateboard mastery, so give your dog lots of positive reinforcement as he gets used to the unusual sensation.
Before you know it your dog will be shredding Bamboo-style!
Victoria Schade is a dog trainer, author & speaker who has contributed to The Washington Post, Martha Stewart, and other publications.