SPCA's driving dogs have their day

Auckland SPCA smart dogs' world-first

STACEY KIRK
Last updated 17:44 10/12/2012
TheDrivingDogs

Can you teach a dog to drive?

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In a world first, three dogs have put some humans to shame, driving safely down a race track and negotiating hairpin turns.

The trio of misfit mutts from the Auckland SPCA  successfully put their paws in the 10 and two position and drove a Mini Countryman solo down a race track in Auckland live on national television this evening.

The stunt, aired on Campbell Live, was part of a months-long campaign to show that dogs don’t have to be pure bred to be intelligent and encourage the adoption of dogs in SPCA care.

Monty, a giant schnauzer cross, Ginny, a beardie whippet cross and Porter, a beardie cross, have featured in media across the world, even providing inspiration for the Top 10 on the Late Show with David Letterman, as they were trained to drive.

The dogs have also made headlines with the BBC, the New York Daily News and New York Times, as well as the Guardian and the Daily Mail, and science blogs from international journals Live Science and the Smithsonian.

Monty was the first to successfully complete the task, starting the car, putting it in gear and then driving it 70 metres before bringing it to a stop.

Porter then drove a reporter around a 180 degree hairpin turn, although it wasn't without a bit of drifting.

The camera crew may have proven to be a little too much for Porter who veered slightly off the track and required a small amount of assistance, although trainer Mark Vette assured viewers he had "done it beautifully" in the past.

Vette and his team have been training the dogs for the past 12 weeks. Vette has trained animals on a number of major movies including Lord of the Rings and The Last Samurai.

The dogs were carefully selected and underwent five weeks of simulated training to teach them to how to brake, shift gear and steer - being plied doggy treats along the way.

After just seven weeks the dogs were ready for a real car.

A SPCA spokeswoman said there had been "considerable interest" in adopting the dogs.

"There have been many applications and the team are assessing those because the point is not to just find them a home, but find them the right home."

She said there still 44 more other "smart dogs" who were all waiting for adoption as well.

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- Auckland Now

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