Three shelter dogs in New Zealand have been taught to drive a car by a local SPCA, and one of them will be demonstrating his skills behind the wheel on live television next week.
The SPCA in Auckland had the dogs trained in how to shift gears, brake and steer — all part of a marketing campaign aimed at demonstrating the intelligence of rescued dogs.
The SPCA hired animal trainer Mark Vette to teach driving to the dogs — Monty, an 18-month-old giant schnauzer whose owner was unable to control him; Ginny, a one-year-old whippet cross who was rescued from abusive owners; and Porter, a ten-month-old bearded collie cross who was found roaming the streets.
The dogs underwent five weeks of indoor training to encourage them to touch and move brakes, gear sticks and steering wheels, and received treats along the way, New Zealand’s TV3 reported. Once they mastered the basics, they were given a mock car to practice with.
“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.”
(Not speaking New Zealandese, we can’t tell you what “hoon along” means.)
“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,” Vette said. “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.”
On Monday, Monty the dog’s driving abilities will be tested on the television show Campbell live, shown nationally in New Zealand. (You can learn more about the project on its Facebook page.)
“I think sometimes people think because they’re getting an animal that’s been abandoned that somehow it’s a second-class animal, SPCA Auckland chief executive Christine Kalin to Newscom.AU. “This really shows with the right environment just how much potential all dogs from the SPCA have as family pets.”
(Photos: Auckland SPCA)
Posted by jwoestendiek December 6th, 2012 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: abandoned, adoption, animals, auckland, bearded collie, brake, car, dog drives car, dogs, drive, driving, gear, giant, ginny, learn, mark vetter, mix, monty, mutts, new zealand, pets, porter, rescue, schnauzer, shelter, shift, spca, stray, taught, trainer, whippet
The scientist behind the study, biology professor Ronald Oldfield, hopes his findings benefit the 182.9 million ornamental fishes in the United States. (Animal welfare proponents, he notes, often overlook our underwater friends.)
But, beyond that, the findings of his study could apply to other species as well.
Oldfield, according to a university press release, is the first to scientifically study how the environment of home aquariums affects the aggressive behavior of ornamental fishes. The results are published in the online edition of Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science.
Oldfield compared the behavior of Midas cichlids (Amphilophus citrinellus) in a variety of environments: within their native range in a crater lake in Nicaragua, in a large artificial stream in a zoo, and in small tanks of the sizes typically used to by pet owners.
The study focused on juvenile fish, so that aggressive behavior related to mating would not be a factor. Also, resources such as food and shelter were removed prior to observation to eliminate direct competition for those.
Along with environment size, Oldfield tested the complexity of an environment and the effects of number of fish within tanks.
The addition of obstacles and hiding places using rocks, plants, or other similar objects can increase the complexity of the aquarium environment. He found that an increase in tank size and complexity can reduce harmful aggressive behaviors, and make for healthier fish at home.
The aggressive behavior he monitored included flaring fins, bites, chasing or charging at another fish.
In environments sufficiently large and complex, fish spent less time exhibiting aggressive behavior. And a more natural environment elicits more natural behaviors, Oldfield said. “This study might help us to better understand how human behavior changes when people are placed in different social environments,” he said.
Among the species that could benefit from Oldfield’s findings, it seems to me, are America’s 2.3 million prisoners (prisonus inmatus) and others held in what are often stark, impersonal institutions that lack visual stimuli, mental challenges, or for that matter tiny treasure chests, mermaids and sunken ships.
Posted by jwoestendiek September 26th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: agression, animals, aquairums, behavior, biology, case western reserve university, connection, environment, fish, learn, research, ronald oldfield, science, species, study, surroundings, violence, welfare
On my first night in Missoula, I fell asleep with one dog and woke up with a different one.
On the next night, I fell asleep with two dogs and woke up with one.
On the third night, I fell asleep with two dogs and woke up with none.
For the first time in our five months of traveling, in the latest of the long line of friends and family off whom we have freeloaded, Ace opted to sleep with someone other than me.
My feelings are hurt, but not too badly.
Back in Missoula, Ace has found a lively playmate, and I’ve been in full freeloading mode, enjoying all the comforts of somebody else’s home.
Gwen Florio, a reporter for the Missoulian, who I used to work with at the Philadelphia Inquirer, was kind enough to invite Ace and I to stay with her, her husband Scott, and their dog Nell – a four-month-old Brittany spaniel.
I’ve eaten most of their leftovers, drank most of their milk, eaten most of their eggs, watched their TV and had my own room in the basement, featuring one of the top two beds I’ve slept on (the other being in Santa Fe) during our journey.
Two more weeks on it, and I think my back would stop hurting.
But, as much as I’ve enjoyed nesting at Gwen’s, it’s time to press on to Seattle.
On the first night, I retired early and Ace came to bed with me. When Nell jumped in – well to be honest, she jumped up, putting her front paws on the bed, and I pulled her up the rest of the way – Ace jumped off. I fell asleep snuggling with Nell, but when I woke up she was gone, and Ace was laying at my side.
On the second night, Gwen was working late on election night, and after watching a little bit of the “shellacking” on TV, I retired early. This time, Ace didn’t mind Nell joining us (if only Republicans and Democrats could learn to co-exist so quickly), and I fell asleep with the two of them – once Nell completed her process of nibbling my hands, squirming, walking over me, turning in circles, pawing at the bedspread, nibbling my hands some more, turning a few more circles and finally flopping down with a sigh. By morning, though (like many a Democrat), she was gone.
On the third night, I retired even earlier, and they both followed me to bed, and both got in. But when I woke up they had both abandoned me. While I slept, Gwen had returned home and the dogs joined her for the night. Fortunately, her husband was out of town so there was room in her bed for them both.
Ace and Nell have gotten along great, and it has been interesting to watch their play progress — from timid and restrained to no-holds-barred wrestling. She’s Muhammad Ali to Ace’s Joe Frazier. In her back yard, a stone’s throw from the base of Mt. Jumbo, she runs circles around him, eggs him on, gives him a jab or a nip, then darts away. He keeps plodding forward, swinging with his paws, then watching as she bounces across the yard like a pinball.
Ace — despite my initial fears — hasn’t tried to use Nell’s dog door. It’s the perfect size for her, and she speeds in and out of the house at her will. It’s the perfect size for Ace to get stuck in. I had visions of having to take the door off its hinges and taking them both to a vet, or a hardware store, to have dog and door surgically separated.
Luckily, Ace hasn’t tried to use it, or even poke his nose through, probably because it — also like politicians – flaps and makes noise .
Nell, at four months, still engages in the kind of mischief pups perpetrate. At home during the day, while I wasn’t paying attention, she snagged a full roll of toilet paper, took it through her dog door and proceeded to decorate the lawn with confetti. She managed to get into my toothpaste, but apparently decided not to make a meal of it.
Ace, though he seemed unsure how to react to her puppiness at first, now wrestles with her in the way he does with his favorite dogs, nipping at her legs, trying to put her entire head in his mouth, going after her little nub of a tail — all with his trademark gentleness.
When he tires of it all he flops down in the yard, as he did yesterday morning. The grass was white with frost, and Ace relaxed with one of Nell’s toys that he’s grown especially fond of, probably because it has, or once had, peanut butter in it.
For 15 minutes, as Nell alternately looked on, ran circles around him, darted inside and out again, Ace laid there with the purple toy, and when he got up, there was a big green circle where the frost had melted away under his body heat.
To me, it seemed symbolic (then again, I hadn’t had my coffee yet) of what dogs do for us.
They melt away our frosty exteriors, they bring out the unjaded us that can be buried pretty deeply beneath the shells we hide behind, the image we project, all our bullshit and bluster.
They knock down the walls we put up.
Maybe our politicians could learn a thing or two from them, to the point of even becoming bedfellows — not in the dirty sense of the word, but in terms of working together to achieve a goal.
How cool would that be, if they could all settle down, bark less, share the toys, and — as dogs do — make the world a better place?
Posted by jwoestendiek November 5th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, bed, befellows, behavior, bluster, brittany spaniel, bullshit, democrats, dog, dog's country, dogs, dogscountry, election, freeloading, gwen florio, learn, missoula, montana, nell, play, playmate, politicians, politics, pup, puppy, republicans, road trip, shellacking, sleeping, travel, traveling with dogs, travels with ace
In his weekly commentary on CBS’ “Face the Nation” yesterday, Bob Schieffer passed along some anonymous wisdom, well worth sharing, about what we can learn from dogs.
Posted by jwoestendiek January 11th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: bob schieffer, cbs, commentary, daily, dogs, drink lots of water, email, face the nation, growl, if dogs were our teachers, learn, loyal, naps, nuzzle, pets, play, romp, run to greet loved ones, stretch, teach, wag, walk, wisdom
Harvey Mackay, a columnist for the Star-Tribune in Minneapolis-St. Paul, had a nice column yesterday on what humans could learn from their dogs, if they only tried.
It was prompted by an email about a 6-year-old boy whose family dog was put to sleep.
As the dog drifted away, Mackay wrote, the little boy seemed to accept the dog’s transition — even when the rest of the family was struggling with why animal lives are shorter than human lives.
“I know why,” the young son announced. “People are born so that they can learn how to live a good life — like loving everybody all the time and being nice, right? Well, dogs already know how to do that, so they don’t have to stay as long.”
The family’s veterinarian, Mackay said, offered a list if other lessons dogs can teach — similar to others I have read, but worth repeating just the same:
â€¢When loved ones come home, always run to greet them. Dogs treat us like celebrities when we come home. There’s nothing wrong with showing people we care.
â€¢Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joy ride. On warm days, there’s nothing wrong with stopping to lie on your back on the grass.
â€¢Take naps. If you can’t take a nap, at least take a break. It’ll improve your disposition.
â€¢Run, romp and play daily. If you have a chance to have fun, go for it … Work hard and play hard.
â€¢Let people touch you. Don’t be aloof. Allow people to get close to you.
â€¢Avoid biting when a simple growl will do … It’s OK to warn people that you’re upset or even angry, but keep your temper in check.
â€¢When you’re happy, dance around and wag your entire body. We have a right to be happy!