One of my worst nightmares has finally come true: Some idiots scientists in New Zealand are teaching dogs to drive.
They modified a car to bring the foot controls up to paw level, rescued three “bright looking” dogs from the local pound, took them back to the lab and taught them not only to steer but to shift the gears.
The reason for this madness? They say they want to prove that dogs are intelligent.
Well, duh. If you’ve ever lived with a dog, you’ve seen plenty of evidence of his/her intelligence.
Consider these true examples:
— A hungry dachshund (hounds are always hungry) spies the roast his mistress left on the kitchen counter. After studying the situation for a moment, he climbs onto a kitchen chair, jumps to the table, then leaps onto the counter. An hour later, his mistress walks in and discovers her best friend asleep on the counter, belly rounded, snoring.
— A golden retriever, ball in hand, attempts to entice someone to throw said ball. The human refuses. Retriever nudges the hand. Human ignores him. Retriever sighs, plops at the human’s feet and gazes up with liquid eyes. Guilty human throws ball.
— A standard poodle works a crowd, stopping to listen to – and agree with – a scientist as he expounds on a new theory, commiserate with a misunderstood teenager, coax a bored child into a game of tug.
Scientists will argue that the above are mere anecdotes. Science doesn’t deal with anecdotes; science requires experimentation and analysis.
His name was Ivan Petrovich Pavlov, the father of behavioral psychology. You probably know him as the chap who taught dogs to drool when a bell rang. He did this by presenting food immediately after ringing the bell.
Well, duh, any school child learns to associate the ringing of a bell with lunch or, even better, recess. Back in the late 1800s, however, this was big news.
What’s less known is that despite his gruff appearance, Pavlov had a gooey center. His wife claimed he was the most romantic man she’d ever met. So it’s no wonder he grew attached to the dogs he trained. Let’s face it, dogs know how to manipulate charm humans.
Jump forward into the 20th century to meet a psychologist named Wolfgang Kohler. Kohler spent years working in the Canary Islands creating puzzles for a bunch of chimpanzees. He’d hang bananas out of the apes’ reach, then scatter boxes and poles around the cage. Then he’d record how long it took the chimps to figure out that stacking the boxes and using the pole would allow them to reach the bananas.
These experiments became the foundation for Gestalt Psychology which basically says that the mind worries over a problem until it finds a solution or closure. This explains why after trying to remember something trivial like who played Victor Laszlo in Casablanca, you wake in the middle of the night thinking Paul Henreid.
Back to the brawl. At one point in history, Pavlov and Kohler found themselves presenting research papers at a major scientific meeting. Pavlov apparently grew weary of listening to Kohler brag about the intelligence of his chimpanzees.
In front of thousands of his peers, Pavlov shook his fist at Kohler and proclaimed: My dogs are smarter than your apes!
Now if Ivan Petrovich says dogs are smart, who am I to doubt him?
Which brings me back to the question: Why do we need to teach our dogs to drive?
One of the benefits about having puppies instead of children is when puppies grow up, they don’t ask for the car keys.
Then there’s the question of where, exactly, the dogs would drive the car. The dog park? Downtown to meet some hot studs? The beach so they could run in the sand, splash in the water and return home demanding their human clean salt/sand/mud from their fur?
I can imagine Sam with his best buddy Tucker arguing over their destination. Tucker would want to drive through every fast-food restaurant in town. Sam would insist they head immediately to the nearest Toys ‘R Us.
Oh, well, maybe I don’t need to worry. They’d probably never get beyond the county line.
If you’re one of those
crazy indulgent dog parents and would like to teach your best friend how to drive, here’s the video that shows how.
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