Inmates Training Dogs: A Partnership with Powerful Benefits
July 19, 2016
For many inmates training dogs, relating to an animal that has seen more downs than ups is not very difficult.
The bond between a human and his dog is one of the strongest. Any dog-lover will tell you that.
In exchange for affection and attention, a dog will provide you with true unconditional love and loyalty.
But what about the dogs who have been forgotten, who have never been taught that a human can be kind?
A shelter dog with an unknowable past can often be the very best companions. But, training them to love and trust takes patience and a very special skill set.
Giving Back to the Community
Programs to pair these dogs with inmate trainers have sprung up all over the country.
In some cases, such as the training program at Maryland Correctional Institution, future service dogs are brought in to work and live with an inmate day and night. The dog is trained both by the inmate and a professional instructor to become certified therapy dogs for wounded veterans.
These dogs go on to provide invaluable service to their future owners who suffer from PTSD, anxiety and other afflictions.
In training to become a therapy dog for a disabled veteran, the inmates will teach their dogs a total of 30 key commands.
At the California State Prison program in Los Angeles County, inmates training dogs give the rescues “a second life by caring for them, training them, and after an intensive 12-week program, turning them over to an adoptive family.”
The rescue dogs come to the prison without basic commands like “Sit” or “Stay”, and often without being house broken.
After twelve weeks living side-by-side with an inmate prepared to teach him, the dog leaves the program and is put up for adoption.
The training gives the animals a much better shot at finding a family. For the inmate, the impact may be even greater.
Inmates who participate in the training program are often allowed to do so after showing particular good behavior. They work directly with professional trainers, and learn new skills to help them help the animal.
Some of the inmates training dogs are quoted to say that working with animals brings them true joy.
It puts smiles on their faces again.
Having the dogs in the prisons calms the inmates. It creates opportunity for affection, laughter and love—something rarely seen inside.
An inmate from Florida says working with his dog helped him overcome an addiction to pain pills. The Warden of this Florida facility noted that none of the inmates training dogs have been disciplined since enrolling.
What’s more: volunteers make these programs possible.
Nearly all of the dog training programs are facilitated by non-profit organizations that locate and place the animals with the inmates. The professional trainers volunteer their time to provide the inmates with skills they need to train the dogs.
Inmate Dog Training Programs
There are a variety of organizations that oversee these types of inmate dog training programs:
- Prison Pet Partnership is a non-profit organization in Washington that rescues and train homeless animals. It provides service dogs for persons with disabilities. This organization operates a boarding and grooming facility to provide vocational education for women inmates.
- 4 Paws for Ability specializes in training dogs for children. With programs in five correctional facilities, this non-profit pairs a dog with a two-inmate training team. The team learns how to work with their dogs to ready them for advanced service dog training.
- Patriot Paws, also a non-profit organization, is dedicated to training and providing service dogs at no cost to disabled American veterans and others with mobile disabilities and PTS. Through their partnership with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Patriot Paws has created opportunities for inmates to work while incarcerated, learn a career trade and give back to the community.
- D.A.W.G.S. In Prison is a long-running organization currently on it’s 47th round of dog training classes. Their mission is to provide training and education for both inmate and dog, resulting in permanent homes for the dogs. The inmate receives viable job skills, productive jobs and a law-abiding life upon release.
About the inmates, Volunteer Patty Armfield (from New Horizons Service Dogs) says, “It gives them permission to be soft and to be gentle…I do think it teaches them to love.”
The end result: bringing shelter dogs into correctional facilities can create a positive effect on all involved.
If you are looking for even more information about inmates training dogs, the documentary Dogs On The Inside shares the powerful bond shared between the inmate and his dog during training.
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