It is often said that you cannot 'teach an old dog new tricks,' but either these three New Zealand pooches have never heard of the idiom or have decided to prove otherwise by learning a skill that even most of you have yet to master - Driving a car!
What's even more impressive is that the trio who have become proficient in just eight short weeks are not a particular dog breed that belong to some ultra-rich owners, but abandoned strays residing at New Zealand's SPCA.
To get their training started, 10-month old Porter - a Beardie Cross, 18-month old Monty - a giant Schnauzer and one-year-old Ginny - a Beardie Whipped Cross, were selected from a pool of seven potential candidates by the shelter's CEO. The dogs were relocated to Animal Q, a talent agency that specializes in teaching animals tricks for movies and television shows.
The two-month driving classes that were overseen by trainer Marke Vette began with teaching the dogs some basic driving techniques like moving the gears back and forth, turning the steering wheels and of course, applying the brakes. After that, the dogs practiced everything they had learned behind the wheels of a motorized wooden go-kart. Then finally, it was time for the big test - Driving a real car!
In order to take into account that human cars are not built for four-legged animals, the Mini they drove was modified so that the pooches could sit comfortably on their haunches and easily reach the steering wheel with their paws. An extension lever attached to the accelerator and brake ensured they were able to stop and go, without having to take their eyes off the road!
Though they all seemed to do very well, the real test came on Monday night when Monty, the best driver of the trio showcased his motoring prowess on live television with no human intervention whatsoever - And, he passed with flying colors!
As to why a rescue shelter would go through so much trouble to highlight the skills of stray dogs. The same reason a South African woman is taking her dog around the world - To demonstrate that adopting a dog from a shelter does not mean owners are getting a pet that is inferior to one purchased from a breeder. The CEO of the SPCA is hoping that this awesome stunt will be enough to convince the residents of New Zealand to consider them when searching for a pet.
We sure hope so. Meanwhile, we are confident that these three pioneers have at least landed their names in the Guinness World Records as the world's 'First Driving Dogs' - A category that probably does not even exist today!
Resources: telegraph.co.uk, autos.yahoo.com,abc.go.com