New Zealand’s Driving Dogs

by Joe Ferguson on December 18, 2012

Dogs have been evolving alongside humans for over 30,000 years, so it should come as no surprise that their capacity for learning new tasks is boundless. Just ask the New Zealand SPCA: they recently taught a group of rescue pups to drive around a small track in dog-modified Minis.

Apparently, New Zealand is the most magical place on Earth. Not only does it serve as the perfect middle-earth mock-up for the Lord of the Rings trilogy (and new Hobbit film), but now this enchanted island-country has the planet’s first set of driving dogs.

Note: These dogs were specially and painstakingly trained for this project. Your dog might not be up to the challenge without the proper precautions and you may end up in the auto shop if you try to throw Fido into the driver’s seat without giving him this training or at least a look at the owner’s manual.

Porter (a bearded collie mix) managed to steer his modified Mini around the small racetrack, turning the wheel around the first turn and eventually veering off into the grass. His counterpart Monty (a giant schnauzer) took the Mini straight down the track with no help from outside trainers.

Videos of these mutts’ amazing feats have gone viral, giving much-needed attention to these rescue dogs. Rescued animals have a stigma that comes with them. This can sometimes lead to a lifetime of loneliness because of the potential owner’s nervousness around taking in a previously abused or neglected dog.

This should serve as an example, however, that these rescue dogs have an endless amount of learning and loving ability. A quote from one of the videos states, “A dog this smart deserves a home,” a sentiment that goes a long way.

Considering that dogs who were mistreated or abandoned were the ones chosen for this project proves that (and believe me, I know this is an overused cliché, can’t help it) old dogs really can learn new tricks.

This doesn’t mean that in the near future we’ll be driving down the interstate, look over to the car next to us, and see a German Shepherd leaning his head out the window steering its way to the nearest fire hydrant. This experiment was the Auckland SPCA’s attempt to show the unlimited abilities of even the most marginalized dogs.

This can’t be stressed enough: it’s okay to sit your dog in the front seat (keys out of the ignition, of course) and snap a funny picture with the caption, “He thinks he’s people! LOL!”, but don’t go trying to get your dog to drive you to the grocery store. If your pup does somehow find its way behind the wheel, make sure you have a good auto repair company waiting in the wings; you’re going to need the mechanics’ help.

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