Happy Thursday Everyone!
As you woke up this morning and prepared for your day, I’m sure that alot of you had a doggy, kitty, or some kind of creature that shared in the daily routine. That same creature might have watched you from a front window as you jumped into your car. If only they could ride with you today like they might on your day off (assuming you permit dirty little feet in your car). What if they could even give you a ride to work, freeing up some time for phone calls or even breakfast on the go?
While the idea of dogs navigating congested roadways is silly, the SPCA in New Zealand does not think that teaching dogs to drive is so far-fetched. In fact, to increase awareness about their adoption program, they hope to show the public just how trainable a rescue animal can be. It turns out that you can teach an old dog new tricks, as these rescue animals have learned to do something that no other animal (except the human animal) has done before. These rescue dogs have learned to drive!
With veteran trainer Mark Vette at the helm, the SPCA has assembled subcompact class cars with special accessories, such as a harness to keep the dog in place, and shifting/break paddles that are more dog-friendly. The dogs selected for the program begin their training in a virtual version of the same vehicle. Pairing a clicker with a reward has enabled Vette to link 10+ trainable behaviors together. Ultimately, dogs that have successfully completed the initial steps are able to pilot the actual car on a closed course.
One dog that made the cut is a giant schnauzer named Monty, whose owners turned him into the SPCA when they thought he was “too much to handle.” Monty can be seen taking a ride here. While some people might be deterred from rescue adoption due to the misconception that the dogs are un-trainable, Monty’s abilities clearly demonstrate the opposite. The New Zealand SPCA hopes that Vette (who has worked with all kinds of animals for television and other purposes) can highlight the intelligence of rescue dogs and boost the organization’s adoption rate. The dogs will demonstrate their ability to drive on live television sometime next week.