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Driving Dogs

I don’t know if you’ve seen that clip on You Tube yet about the driving dogs. If you haven’t, you can watch it here.


Now, by the looks of that video (which, as far as I can make out, is genuine and isn’t a clever bit of film editing), someone has indeed managed to train that dog Porter pretty well so he responds to commands to turn the car left and right and so forth.  But when you stop to think about it, and if you’ve had anything to do with dogs that are amenable to learning tricks (our Staffy isn’t in that category – he won’t do tricks unless there’s an immediate payoff for him), you might realise that what the dog is doing isn’t all that hard. It’s moving paws here and there so that it steers the car and keeps its foot on the accelerator. Really, apart from the awkward pose – which doesn’t come naturally to dogs – the trick isn’t that much harder to do than teaching a dog to fetch the paper or to shake hands. The dog isn’t changing gear or anything like that – you really do need hands to do that, as well as a foot that’s capable of applying the clutch pedal at the right moment. OK, the car in question could be an automatic.


nd there you have the thing that really is amazing in that video clip: the car in question. It appears to be a good old Mini Cooper. Granted, to perform this stunt, you need a small car and a large dog so the dog can see out the window(which is more for looks than to actually let the dog drive – it’s the trainer who’s actually doing the steering and telling the dog when to turn left and right). But this isn’t the first time that the Mini has appeared in a similar wacky driving stunt.


The similar stunt I’m thinking of here is the scene in Mr Bean where he’s running late for his dentist’s appointment and has to get dressed, wash his face and brush his teeth while driving there in his beloved Mini. In that sketch, Mr Bean puts a brick on the accelerator and drives hands-free while doing his morning ablutions. It could be clever film editing again, but again, it might not be – certainly the similar episode where Mr Bean pulls his swimming cossie on over his trousers and then removes his trousers doesn’t seem to have been edited. Is it possible?


To pull this sort of stunt off, whether it’s getting a dog to drive or whether it’s trying to change your clothes and brush your teeth while driving, you need to be able to ensure several things:


  • 1 The car has to be in the right gear so it doesn’t stall while going around the track but not in so low a gear that the car goes slow and film footage from outside looks boring. An automatic would help here.
  • 2 The accelerator needs to be depressed enough to keep the car going at a constant speed but not so heavily that it accelerates and goes out of control.
  • 3 You need to be able to operate the steering wheel somehow. With anything with power steering, this is an easy enough task. For things without power steering, it’s a bit harder unless you do the “round and round the roundabout” thing that Mr Bean did, where you just keep the wheels at the right angle. Humans have excellent hands but can steer with other bits of their anatomy – my dad used to steer with his knees.

One point that is rather intriguing here is whether only Minis are capable of performing this sort of stunt. Does it have to only be a Mini Cooper or could you get a dog to drive another old classic small car such as a VW Beetle or a Fiat 500? And what about more modern little compact hatchbacks? Would it work with them?


You can try it if you like, but for goodness sake, do it on a controlled track rather than on the public roads…