or the past two months, animal trainer Mark Vette has been teaching dogs to drive, New Zealand TV station Campbell Live reported.
The lessons are part of a campaign by the New Zealand Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), meant to clear up “common misconceptions” about rescue dogs.
“Sometimes people think because they’re getting an animal that’s been abandoned, that somehow it’s a second-class animal,” SPCA Auckland CEO Christine Kalin told the New Zealand Herald. “Driving a car actively demonstrates to potential rescue dog adopters that you can teach an old dog new tricks.”
Kalin added that the canines’ achievements behind the wheel shows “just how much potential all dogs from the SPCA have as family pets.”
All the new drivers are shelter dogs: Monty, an 18-month Giant Schnauzer, was given to the SPCA when he became too much for his owner to handle. Ginny, a 1-year-old whippets cross, was rescued from an abusive home. Porter, a 10-month old Beardie cross, was abandoned on the streets.
The dogs trained for several weeks before hopping into a real car, modified to accommodate the unique needs of a canine driver.
So far, the animals have driven only with some human guidance, in the form of verbal commands and the occasional steering wheel readjustment.
Next week, star pupil Porter will take the Mini Countryman for a spin — completely unassisted — on Campbell Live, the Fraser Coast Chronicle reports.
That’s not to say the other two dogs haven’t made great strides in their driving as well.
“The way all three SPCA rescue dogs have taken to training really does prove that intelligent creatures adapt to the situation they’re in,” Vette told the paper. “It really is remarkable.”