Porter, Monty, and Ginny (top row) in their driving test chairs! (via Mark Vette)
The saying ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks’ has just gone out the window with the New Zealand SPCA’s (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) new initiative to teach man’s best friend to drive. Ok, so the dogs in question, aren’t exactly old and the mere notion of canine driving seems preposterous at best. However, there is a purpose behind the project that could help stray/shelter dogs find a new home. The NZSPCA enlisted the help of animal trainer Mark Vette (from Animals on Q) to help them train three rescue dogs to drive. Porter (a 10-month old male Beardie Cross), Monty (an 18-month old male Giant Schnauzer) and Ginny (a 1-year old female Beardie Whippet Cross) were specially trained for eight weeks on a simulated mock-up of a modified vehicle. The cars controls were arranged and laid-out in a fashion that allows the dogs to start, accelerate, brake and shift gears by using their front paws while sitting on their haunches in the driver’s seat. At the end of their two month training, all three dogs were successful in driving a Mini Countryman down a race track at fast speeds at the end of which they were successful at turning onto the tracks first corner. The initial training did have its pitfalls (and close calls), however, as one of the dogs, on their initial real-car trials, went a little too fast, and one of the trainers nearly got run over. While the canines are still learning how to successfully brake, all three have since become relatively decent drivers (considering they’re dogs) and will be showing off their skills on live TV (in New Zealand) sometime this week (as of 12/12/2012). If anything this surely will give the dogs a ‘leg-up’ on chasing cats and mail-men.