Rescue Dogs Taught How To Drive A Car

Jonathan Samuels, Australia Correspondent

Three rescue dogs in New Zealand have been taught how to drive a car.

Monty, Porter and Ginny have learned the skills to prove how intelligent dogs can be, in an attempt to encourage more potential owners to come forward.

The drive for publicity by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals saw the four-legged friends spend weeks getting to grips with four wheels.

The dogs, a giant schnauzer, a whippet cross and a beardie cross can change gear, steer and brake.

They sit in a driving position on their haunches responding to instructions called out from the dog behaviour experts.

Animal trainer Mark Vette and his team began training the animals using a mock vehicle before introducing them to a real car - a Mini especially adapted for paws.

He said: "We chain behaviours together ... in this case we've got 10 behaviours we're putting together. Then you put them into a sequence. It's a lot to do, and for the dog to actually start to get an idea of what actually is happening takes quite a long time.

"So we'll start the car, get into position, brake on, gear in place, back onto the steering wheel, accelerator, take off and hoon (drive fast) along the straight and then stop."

However, the animal trainer says things did not always go smoothly when the dogs got into the real car.

"A couple of days ago the car was going too fast, the trainer nearly got run over," he said.

Now the animals can start a car, accelerate and steer they are scheduled to show off their skills on live TV in New Zealand next week.

For the final test the dogs will also have to brake as they are driving along a narrow lane.

Trainers are hoping they won't become too distracted driving past any lamp posts.