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Dogs taught how to fly a plane

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 7/04/2016
Shadow, a rescue dog, has flown a plane © Facebook/Mark Vette Shadow, a rescue dog, has flown a plane

The idea of an old dog learning new tricks has been taken to unprecedented heights after a New Zealand animal behaviourist taught three rescue canines how to fly a plane.

In an effort to further understand dogs' cognitive abilities, Mark Vette, the host of Pound Pups to Dog Stars, chose 12 dogs from British rescue shelters for the study.

While he'd previously taught three dogs to drive a car, flying a plane is at a different level, he said.

Think you’ve seen everything a dog can do? What we achieved will blow your mind >

Posted by Mark Vette - Animal Behaviourist on Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Only three dogs - Reggie, Shadow and Alfie - made it through to the final stage after extensive training designed to simulate different aspects of flight as well as the delicate manoeuvres required.

They were taught on specially-designed training simulators.

"We built a deep connection to the dogs we were training, and that formed the basis for why we were able to achieve this feat," Mr Vette said.

"The crucial element was communication - we needed to understand the dogs, and the dogs needed to understand us and what we wanted them to do."

"By building a shared language I call Dog Zen, we were able to guide the dogs through the flying process."

The three dogs successfully completed a full figure-8 in a four-seater Cessna 172 while in London.

Following the making of the documentary- named Dogs Might Fly - Vette went on to adopt his protege, Reggie, bringing him back to New Zealand where he'll live at his Auckland home.

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