You see her sizing up the ramp – judging its length, its curl. She hesitates, thinking, then runs forward, jumps on his board, arranges her little body aerodynamically, and she’s off, sailing down like a pro. For some folks skate boarding is an art form, for some transportation. For eleven-year old Jack Russell Terrier Jordan, it’s a job, and she’s good at it. She’s been featured on the David Letterman show, and on Animal Planet’s Pet Star. She’s starred in commercials for Union Bank and Trust and for Maddie’s Fund, and even in local Virginia political ads. Jordan is a bona-fide local celebrity.
“I was taking a tricks class with Jordan when she was a young dog, and the instructor had a box of random items/props for us to play around with,” says Deanne Davenport, Jordan’s owner and best friend. “Jordan just took right to the skateboard, but she is so little that she couldn’t really paddle the skateboard like some dogs do, so I decided that we would use slanted surfaces for momentum, and the idea just grew from there.”
“We used a clicker and lots of food rewards to encourage Jordan to learn skateboarding – and lots of other tricks. As a child, I figured out on my own that using food rewards was a great way to teach my dogs tricks, but never did any type of formal training until I got my first dog as an adult many years later,” she says. “I started off doing agility with my first Jack Russell, Guinness, in the late 1990s, which is how I was first introduced to clicker training. He was great at agility, but he had no manners and was very reactive around other dogs, so I needed to learn about dog behavior and behavior modification. We met a great trainer around 2002 (the same one who helped me get started with Jordan’s tricks), and I learned how to work on his problem behaviors, and that’s where i really became fascinated with clicker training, and shaping and tricks,” says Deanne.
Eventually Deanne got involved in teaching, and has taught puppy, basic obedience, Canine Good Citizen, and therapy dog classes, as well as tricks and clicker classes and even some agility. “Right now,” though, she says, “I’m just concentrating on taking classes with my own dogs and getting back into agility after ankle surgery in 2010.”
Deanne and her husband live in Fredericksburg, Virginia, with four dogs. In addition to Jordan, they have two rescued Australian Shepherds, SoBe and Roux (from Aussie Rescue & Placement) “and our newest ‘project,’ Pedro, a Chihuahua, who is just over a year old, and also a rescue,” says Deanne. “Jordan is my second Jack Russell Terrier, and I am the first to admit I went through a lot of trial and error with my first — Guinness, who’s no longer with us — and I really learned a lot in the 13 years I had with him.
Did Jordan ever get hurt while learning to skateboard? “No, no injuries from skateboarding – and I do not skateboard myself. I always ask kids if Jordan looks like she is having fun on the skateboard, and then I ask if they think I would have her do the trick if she was scared, and of course they always know the right answer. If she didn’t eagerly jump on the skateboard, we wouldn’t do it!” says Deanne.
“Tricks in general are great for ALL dogs – regardless of age, size, or breed,” she says. “Teaching silly tricks can take the pressure off the person doing the training, and make training more fun and relaxed for both dog and handler. We should really view everything we teach our dogs as just another trick. It’s a really good way for dog and handler to gain confidence and strengthen their relationship in general. As far as skateboarding, it may be easier for leggier dogs to ‘paddle’ the skateboard, with one paw on the ground, but most dogs can learn some version of a skateboarding trick, as long as they are introduced to it properly and safely. The great thing about tricks is there’s really no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ – each dog will have their own way of doing things, and each trainer will have their own ideas about what’s cute or funny. As long as everyone is having fun, that’s all that matters.”
“Jordan will be 11 in July,” says Deanne, “but has really not slowed down much. Her brown face has gotten mostly white, and she probably doesn’t run quite as fast as she used to, but otherwise, she’s ready for almost anything. She is mostly retired now, and has just been doing about one event or job a year for the past few years.”
You can see Jordan perform and meet Deanne, at Springfield Days, at 3:00 PM on Saturday, June 4, 2011, at the Loisdale Road side of Springfield Mall. And you can get a sneak preview by visiting Jordan’s Facebook page! And see the video attached to this article to see another of Jordan’s great tricks!