Your dog might be loyal, obedient or cute. It might be able to fetch, roll over or swim. If it trains long and hard enough, it might someday assist the handicapped, work with the police or serve in the military.
But there are only three dogs in the world trained to drive a car: Porter, Monty and Ginny.
The New Zealand pups are a shoo-in for the 2012 Best in Show-Off Award.
And the patient, skillful and intelligent canines are the stars in a series of viral videos produced by the ad agency DraftFCB to benefit the Auckland, New Zealand, SPCA and demonstrate potentially how smart shelter dogs can be.
The three would-be future Sprint Cup contenders trained to drive a specially modified MINI Countryman Cooper S as opposed to a Land Rover, Volkswagen Fox or Greyhound bus.
The video featuring Porter, a 10-month-old beardie, as the world's first driving dog has more than 5.75 million views.
Monty, the second driver, is an 18-month-old giant schnauzer, and Ginny, who trained as a backup, is 1-year-old beardie-whippet cross.
To position the dogs to drive, their front paws were on the steering wheel, while their back paws rested on levers attached to the accelerator and brake. They followed commands of the trainers, who walked alongside the car during each drive.
"I have what you might call an adventurous nature, so I need someone who can keep me in check, otherwise I'm likely to get up to mischief. That's what they say anyway," Porter says on the Drivingdogs YouTube page. "When I'm not out cruising, I love playing with kids and chasing cats, which I'm still a little uncertain on."
Those cats don't stand a chance now.
Here's their backstory:
As one representative of DraftFCB, who was hired by MINI to produce the spots to raise awareness for the SPCA and pet adoption, put it to Playbook, New Zealand is "much more than sheep and hobbits."
There are 21 videos on the Drivingdogs YouTube Page. They tell story of each dog, offer behind-the-scenes footage and information on shelter animals and adoption. Naturally, the Drivingdogs can be found on Facebook and @DrivingDogs on Twitter.
Playbook caught up with Simonne Mearns, MINI brand manager of New Zealand, and trainer Mark Vette, who helped get the dogs prepared for their time behind the wheel and eventual worldwide stardom:
How did you choose these particular dogs, and what made them such good candidates?
Vette: "All the dogs we had to choose from had great character and were loving animals. These three had confidence, strong food drive, happy factor and a desire to work."
How long was the training, and what particular skills did the dogs have to learn?
Vette: "It took four weeks to learn the basics, then another four weeks to turn those basics into real driving. Concentration, desire to please, grit and something special only rescue dogs have allowed them to succeed."
Mearns: "Throughout the training, I was so impressed seeing our drivers' skill sets improve. Seeing Monty, Porter and Ginny actually behind the wheel cruising down the track never gets old; it is such a beautiful thing. You can’t help but smile and laugh."
What was your reaction when this idea was proposed, and how did it come about?
Mearns: "When DraftFCB presented the driving dogs idea, I was very impressed with the insight; it is a perfect integration. I am reasonably open to the concept of anything is possible, although this idea did require a little leap of faith. After clarifying the plan was to actually teach some dogs to drive, we got stuck into the detail of how we could make this happen. There were plenty of people keen to apply some Kiwi ingenuity to the project."
Vette: "I initially thought they wanted me to fake it and make it look as though the dogs were driving for camera. When I realized they wanted to teach the dogs for real, I was shocked and slightly apprehensive, but to satisfy my own curiosity we had to give it a go."
What special safety precautions were taken?
Mearns: "Every precaution has been taken to make sure the dogs and team involved have been kept safe throughout the training process. While in the MINI, dogs are supported by a specially designed seat belt harness, the MINI Countryman Cooper S is fitted with a speed control cap that prevents the car going over 12 kilometers [7.45645 miles] per hour and the instructor is present at all times with a remote-control brake and kill switch, allowing them to stop the MINI at any time. All driving has been carried out on closed roads or racetracks."
What changes had to be made to the cars to make them dog-friendly behind the wheel?
Mearns: "The MINI Countryman Cooper S was modified slightly to enable Monty, Porter and Ginny to reach the pedals, move the gear stick and grip the steering wheel."
Did the dogs enjoy it?
Vette: "They absolutely love it. The training is stimulating and fun, and they love to please and be with their trainers. I went to get in my car the other day, and Monty beat me into the driver seat, looked at me as if to say, 'Put your seat belt on, boss, I’ve got this.'
What do you think of the reaction to the campaign?
Vette: "It has gone way beyond what we hoped for. From what I have heard, animal shelters around the world have seen a huge increase in adoption inquires. The beauty of this project is these dogs are ambassadors who have helped their own kind. We already have enough homes to empty the shelters, so let’s hope we do."
Mearns: "It is raising awareness for a fabulous cause and animal rescue shelters around the globe. MINI as a brand is full of energy, extroverted and cheeky -- this campaign just reinforces [that]."
If someone were to adopt one of these dogs, could they drive the car home?
Vette: "I’m sure Monty and his mates would love to get behind the wheel and jump on the freeway, however, this project was put together purely to illustrate the potential of all SPCA dogs. I don’t think the world is quite ready for driving dogs on the open road!"