THREE dogs in New Zealand are learning how to drive in a bid to change the public's perception on the intelligence of rescue dogs.
Monty, Ginny and Porter have been taking driving lessons for the last eight weeks in preparation for an official test drive on live television - hoped to position SPCA rescue dogs as a top choice for adoption in New Zealand.
Porter's drive will air on Campbell Live next week as the 10-month-old Beardie Cross takes the wheel of a Mini Countryman.
Mini came on board with Auckland SPCA's project to help change "common misconceptions" about rescue dogs.
The challenge was then taken up by acclaimed animal trainer Mark Vette and his team from Animals on Q to showcase just how intelligent SPCA dogs can be.
"I think sometimes people think because they're getting an animal that's been abandoned that somehow it's a second-class animal," said SPCA Auckland CEO Christine Kalin.
But SPCA dogs are just as intelligent as any other pet, she said.
"Driving a car actively demonstrates to potential rescue dog adopters that you can teach an old dog new tricks. The dogs have achieved amazing things in eight short weeks of training, which really shows with the right environment just how much potential all dogs from the SPCA have as family pets."
The trio was selected from SPCA Auckland two months ago when they were rehoused at Animal on Q headquarters to begin their "doggy driver training process".
"Monty, Porter and Ginny are great dogs each with their own distinct personality. You wouldn't believe any dog could learn to drive a car on its own and 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," said trainer Vette.
Kalin said Mini approached Auckland SPCA about the campaign.
"We have a relationship where we have a common love of animals and they're a trusted partner."
She said while the SPCA had never done anything like this before, last night's preview on Campbell Live had been met with a wave of positive feedback.
"People have a compassionate view towards animals that have no home.
"One of our hopes with this campaign is not only do we see an increase in adoption in the next month but on a long-term basis too."
And thoughts on whether Porter's test drive will be a success?
"Like the rest of the New Zealand we'll just have to sit back and hope they perform on the day," she said.