At Canine Commander Nassau County dog training, we train dogs for many different situations. But we have never taught them to drive cars. Why would someone teach a dog to drive, you ask? A group of dog lovers banded together a few years ago for a holiday charity event to prove that shelter dogs can learn new tricks, with the goal of persuading people to adopt them, both for the holidays and the long term. They decided to teach the dogs to drive, and were successful.
The New Zealand Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) took up the cause of driving dogs to counter the perception that shelter dogs were in some way deficient, either not intelligent or unable to learn because, perhaps, of past environmental deficiencies or abuse.
The dogs ably proved themselves capable of driving. The cars were specially adapted to allow them to sit and steer. They trained for eight weeks, with trainers providing verbal instructions and occasionally stepping in to adjust the equipment.
In a triumphal moment in mid-December, two of the dogs, Porter, a 10-month-old Beardie Cross, and Monty, a giant Schnauzer cross, both drove a Mini Countryman. They drove it down a racetrack and turned the corner. (Indy 500 next!) The event was shown live on the New Zealand television program Campbell Live and broadcast across the country. (It can also be seen in multiple YouTube showings.)
Porter, who was 10 months old at the time, had been abandoned. Monty, who was 18 months old, came to the New Zealand SPCA because his owner found him too much to handle. The SPCA also trained a third dog, Ginny, a 1-year-old whippets cross, who had been in an abusive home.
Driving the car proved the intelligence of the dogs. The head trainer, Mark Vette, observed: “The way all three SPCA rescue dogs have taken to training really does prove that intelligent creatures adapt to the situation they’re in. It really is remarkable.”
The head of the Auckland branch of the New Zealand SPCA, Christine Kalim, chimed in: “Driving a car actively demonstrates to potential rescue dog adopters that you can teach an old dog new tricks.”
How were they trained? Well, the trainer started them slowly, indoors on a modified cart that had a steering wheel and discrete controls for shifting, braking and accelerating. Vette and his colleagues developed an intuitive sequence of behaviors to train the dogs, which gradually put them together to master the complex task. “In this case, we’ve got 10 behaviors we’re all putting together, so each behavior is a trained behavior, and then you put them into a sequence,” he said.
To lean more about Nassau County dog training for your furry best friend, contact the dog training professionals at Canine Commander.