How long did it take you to pass your driving test? These dogs may have you beat — they learned how to drive a car in just eight weeks. The canine chauffeurs have been trained by a New Zealand charity in a bid to show just how intelligent rescue animals can be.
After careful training, three dogs from the Auckland SPCA — Monty, Ginny and Porter — have learned to work the gear shift, accelerator, brake and steering wheel. Working with specialized trainers, they rehearsed in a “practice vehicle” made of wood, responding to spoken commands such as ‘A’ for ‘accelerate.’ Then they moved on to a real car: the Mini Countryman. There are a few adjustments made for these doggie drivers — as the BBC video above shows, they are fitted with special pup-friendly seatbelts, and the controls are tweaked to accommodate furry paws. But otherwise, these hounds really are taking the wheel.
The Doggie Driving School was designed to change the public’s impression of rescue dogs and to encourage greater adoptions. “I think sometimes people think because they’re getting an animal that’s been abandoned that somehow it’s a second-class animal,” SPCA Auckland’s CEO Christine Kalin told the New Zealand Herald. “The dogs have achieved amazing things in eight short weeks of training, which really shows with the right environment just how much potential all dogs from the SPCA have as family pets.”
So who are these capable canines? Monty, a giant schnauzer mix, was abandoned by his family six months ago because they felt he was too hard to control. Porter, a ten-month-old bearded collie cross was found on the street, while Ginny, a brindle pup, was rescued from abusive owners after being found locked in a bathroom. All have been taught the step-by-step process of driving, including managing the stick shift and pressing the brake pedal, which has been extended to fit the dogs’ short legs.
So far, the pooches have been accompanied by their human handlers on their drives, just in case they get distracted. But now, Porter is prepping for his moment in the spotlight — his first solo journey. Next week, the pup will be driving the Mini Countryman without human help along a closed track on a New Zealand TV program. Invoking the old cliche, SPCA CEO Kalin explained their amazement at teaching dogs how to drive: “You can teach an old dog new tricks.”
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