Moultrie Observer

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December 15, 2012

On teaching old dogs some new tricks

MOULTRIE — There’s an old saying that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Well, time and time again that old saying has been proved wrong. In New Zealand, a dog trainer has taught three dogs rescued from the pound to drive a vehicle. There are videos on Google of them doing this.

Now I’m not going to suggest that such training has practical application. What I mean is, I don’t think you will ever see a dog being a designated driver. The whole idea behind this project was to illustrate how smart dogs are in hopes of getting more of them adopted from the pound.

Well, I don’t need convincing. I know that dogs are smart. Most importantly, they are very forgiving. Teaching one to drive a car under very guarded circumstances indeed illustrates their intelligence.

I’m pretty sure these dogs can’t parallel park, change a tire or wave to another motorist with just the middle finger. But the fact that they could steer and operate the specially designed brake and gas pedals is remarkable.

The other night I watched a special on the Animal Channel where dogs were being used to sniff out drugs in airports and in vehicles crossing the Mexican border. They are used to track lost people, find bombs, find bodies in rubble and even sniff out skin cancers with an incredibly high success rate. (I guess that would be similar to a CAT scan.)

I’m surprised one hasn’t been able to find Bigfoot ... but then maybe they are smarter than the people who are trying to find that illusive creature. So therein may lie the answer.

Now this training is obviously somewhat of a novelty, and I would guess there’s a couple of cats somewhere with big smirks on their faces. But it may also be food for thought. If we should scratch our beards, smoke our pipes and let our minds ponder, we might find all sorts of socially redeeming value in this display of canine intelligence and human abilities.

If a person is smart enough to train a dog to drive a car, he might accomplish many other feats should his energies be motivated in a particular direction.

For instance, this person might be able to build a practical hydrogen generator whereby water could be used as fuel. The operative word here is “practical.” In other words, it would be something for which you and I could find “practical” application. An advanced high school kid can already extract hydrogen from a glass of water. The crux of the matter is how would it fit into our economic system now driven by fossil fuels?

Now back to the dog. I’ve often heard that a dog is a good judge of character. In that vein, we might use them to point out good candidates for public office. Yea, I know I’m being facetious here. But given the public’s dismay with the overall performance of our nation’s leaders this day, I could not pass up the opportunity to sic the dogs on them.

I’ve owned quite a number of dogs through the years. I use the word “own’ here very loosely because somehow I never felt that my relationship with my dogs was about title to property. We were friends. Each had their own personalities and were all special in their own individual ways.

 I never had one that could drive a car, but I had a couple that loved to ride shotgun. I also had one that could sniff out a bream bed. He liked to fish and hunt. One pointed quail really well, and one mostly pointed biscuits.

When these New Zealand dogs were being trained to drive cars, the trainer would run alongside the car giving commands. I tried to envision that, and I must have had the same perception as radio commentator Earl Pitts. The dog looks out at the man chasing the car and says, “So that’s what it’s like.”

(Dwain Walden is editor/publisher of The Moultrie Observer, 985-4545. Email:


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