Thanks to the Internet, there is no shortage of either pictures or video of our pets doing silly things. One of the most popular, aside from scaring cats with cucumbers, is images of dogs behind the wheel. It's ridiculous, after all, that even the best-trained dogs could get behind the wheel and drive us home, after all...
Real Dogs Are Driving Real Cars
It seems that, while most of the world thinks the idea of dogs driving cars is laughable, that New Zealand has been taking the proposition quite seriously. After all, cars aren't overly complicated devices when you get down to the nuts and bolts of operating them, so why couldn't a dog drive a car?
As the Society For Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) has shown, according to the Huffington Post, there really is no reason dogs can't drive cars... with a little mechanical modification.
The initial idea for the driving dogs program back in 2012 was to fight the common misconception that rescue dogs have inherent defects. The idea goes that, because these dogs were abandoned or given up, that there must be something wrong with them, as opposed to something wrong with the former owners, or the situation the dogs were caught up in. It is these misconceptions that cause people looking to become dog owners to bypass shelters, and their "used" dogs, when looking for a new pet. As such, the SPCA decided to teach their dogs some new tricks just to make a point that there is nothing wrong with the animals they've rescued.
How Does The Driving Part Work?
How do these dogs drive cars, though? Well, given their canine bodies, a few adjustments have had to be made. First among them was that they needed paw access to the pedals, since they can't reach them. They also needed a little help gripping the wheel, and they needed seat belts that fit their unique bodies. Once all that was taken care of, all the canine automotive enthusiasts needed was the proper training, and a little bit of direction.
The car's setup isn't really that different from the cars used in driver's education courses; there are two sets of controls, allowing the human trainer to take over if the four-legged pupil makes too big of a mistake. While the dogs drove primarily with a human trainer in the car with them, they did graduate to solo driving after a time.
What Does This Say About Dogs?
The point was made quite clearly that dogs, regardless of their backgrounds, are capable of some surprising feats when we put our faith, time, training, and love into them. Also that we underestimate what dogs are capable of, while we greatly overestimate how big the difference between us and them really is. Particularly when it comes to skill and experience behind the wheel.
So, are we likely to see a future where dogs drive taxi cabs, or at least push the buttons to program autonomous cars for trips down to the supermarket? Probably not. We're also not likely to see dogs becoming auto mechanics either. But the fact that dogs can be trained to do such a complicated task that we don't associate with them, and that we've turned into a joke because of ludicrous the very idea was, is something that we should take time to really think about.
After all, what's the next joke going to be? Dogs flying planes? Dogs piloting space ships? Dogs doing your taxes? The possibilities are endless, if we're willing to sit down and really work with our four-legged friends to make them the best they can possibly be.