Sunday, April 10, 2016

If you look down, you'll see Barking

Reality TV is a genre that truly has no boundaries. Like the universe, it can only expand endlessly until eventually, one day, it collapses in on itself.

We've seen reality TV shows about animals. And we've seen plenty which challenge people to try things they've never done before. But a show which challenges canine contestants to fly a plane? It was thought to be outside the Hubble bubble. Until now.

This week, I watched the culmination of the Sky TV show Dogs Might Fly, which ended with a pitbull cross managing to execute a figure of eight in UK airspace. The mutts involved in the selection process - who were all rescue animals - went through an arduous training course involving makeshift simulators on the ground.

Lifted up in a harness to prevent them putting too much weight on their front paws, the dogs were taught through Pavlovian-style rewards to turn the steering wheel left and right. The would-be Luftwoofe pilots were then acclimatised to the turbulence of life in the air by going for speedboat ride on the Thames.

The results were impressive. With a trainer behind him and a human pilot beside him (presumably ready to seize control in the event of disaster), the winning pooch actually managed to navigate the skies.

Can you imagine the conversations the producers had with air traffic control? But now the precedent has been established, it can't be long before Ryanair presses these dogs into service as a cost-saving exercise.

Anyone for  southern Europe? Viva Espaniel!




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