Three SPCA dogs are being taught how to drive in attempt to change the public’s perception on the intelligence of dogs which were rescued.
“I think sometimes people think because they’re getting an animal that’s been abandoned that somehow it’s a second-class animal,” said SPCA Auckland CEO Christine Kalin, assuring that the organization’s dogs are just as intelligent as any other pet.
“Driving a car actively demonstrates to potential rescue dog adopters that you can teach an old dog new tricks. 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.”
According to the local media, it took eight weeks of indoor training to teach canines Monty, Ginny and Porter how to change gear, brake and steer, and to seat behind the wheel of a real car – with a little help from their handlers.
The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) in New Zealand struggles to secure enough good homes for the found or rescued animals.
The animal trainer Mark Vette was asked to teach three of SPCA’s rescued dogs to drive. The specialist has a great experience in training a wide range of animals, including birds, deer and rats.
Vette believes that the dogs could be taught how to drive by learning a set of movement skills required to operate a gearstick, release a brake, and steer a car.
“No animal has ever driven a car before so what we’re going to do is we’re going to do a straight and we’re going to head off,” he explained.
“So we’ll start the car, get into position, brake on, gear in place, back onto the steering wheel, accelerator, take off and hoon along the straight and then stop.”
Monty, an 18-month-old giant schnauzer, was taken to the SPCA by an owner who explained that he couldn’t control the animal. Ginny, a one-year-old whippet cross, was rescued from owners who treated the dog in an awful way. And Porter, a ten-month-old beardie cross, was found in the streets after being abandoned, Clarion Ledger reports.
“Monty, Porter and Ginny are great dogs each with their own distinct personality. You wouldn’t believe any dog could learn to drive a car on its own and the way all three SPCA rescue dogs have taken to training really does prove that intelligent creatures adapt to the situation they’re in. It really is remarkable,” said Vette.
After the animals were taught the basic movements of driving, they were even provided with a mock car to practise on indoors, under their trainers’ control.
“When we chain behaviours together… in this case we’ve got ten behaviours we’re all putting together, so each behavior is a trained behaviour and then you put them into a sequence,” Vette said.
“So it’s a lot to do, and for the dog to actually start to get an idea of what actually is happening takes quite a long time.”
After eight weeks of intense training Monty, Porter and Ginny graduated to a real car, which had been modified in a special way in order the animals could reach the brakes with their paws.
Listening to commands from their trainers to accelerate, brake, steer and change gear, the animals were filmed driving their car at an off-road track in Auckland.
On Monday 10 December, driving abilities of one of the dog will be tested live on national television.