(ABC News) Three dogs in New Zealand have been taught to drive a car by an animal rescue charity.
After weeks of indoor training in how to change gear, brake and steer, canines Monty, Ginny and Porter have finally been allowed behind the wheel of a real car - with a little help from their handlers.
The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) in Auckland decided to teach the dogs to drive to demonstrate the intelligence of rescued dogs.
The charity rescues, cares for and rehomes dogs, but struggles to secure enough good homes for all the animals they find or rescue.
The SPCA engaged animal trainer Mark Vette to teach three of their rescued dogs to drive, New Zealand's TV3 reported.
Vette, who has worked with a range of animals, including birds, deer and rats, believed the dogs could be taught to drive through learning a sequence of movement skills required to operate a gearstick, release a brake, and steer a car.
"No animal has ever driven a car before so what we're going to do is we're going to do a straight and we're going to head off, so we'll start the car, get into position, brake on, gear in place, back onto the steering wheel, accelerator, take off and hoon along the straight and then stop."
Vette selected three dogs from a shortlist of seven to undertake driving lessons.
Monty, an 18-month-old giant schnauzer, was given to the SPCA by an owner who was unable to control him.
Ginny, a one-year-old whippet cross, was rescued from abusive owners.
And Porter, a ten-month-old beardie cross, was found roaming the streets after being abandoned.
The dogs underwent five weeks of indoor training to encourage them to touch and move brakes, gear sticks and steering wheels, and received doggy treats as rewards along the way.
Once the dogs had mastered the basic movements of driving, they were given a mock car to practice on indoors, under the watchful eye of their trainers.
Vette says he sought to create a series of instinctive behaviors for the dogs to learn.
"When we chain behaviors together, in this case we've got ten behaviors we're all putting together, so each behavior is a trained behavior and then you put them into a sequence. So 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."
After seven weeks of tuition the dogs graduated to a real car, which had been modified by engineers to include an extended brake pedal that the animals could reach with their paws.
Following commands and directions from their trainers to accelerate, brake, steer and change gear, the dogs were filmed driving the modified car at an off-road track in Auckland.
On Monday 10 December, Monty the dog's driving abilities will be tested live on national television.
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