The purpose of the Prison Dog Program is to increase the adaptability of shelter dogs and provide inmates with job skills beneficial upon release. During the training period, dogs receive socialization and are taught basic obedience commands such as sit, stay, come and to walk by your side without pulling on the leash. Inmates learn about daily dog care (including feeding, grooming, and routine health care) as well as positive training techniques. The inmates learn empathy, patience and respect while teaching the dogs basic skills, increasing the dogs’ chances of finding forever homes.

The program provides inmates a training skill while building a sense of accomplishment, empathy, and patience. Similar programs report 97% of inmate handlers and sitters demonstrated greater empathy and decreased depression during incarceration; 87% demonstrated improved communication skills; and institutional staff report a decrease in disciplinary issues and improved institutional adjustment by inmates involved in canine training programs. The program demonstrates the true picture of “Second Chances”, both to the canine and to the inmate. Inmates are selected for the program based on a history of institutional adjustment and willingness to participate in the program components. Inmates with histories of repeated violence, crimes against animals or sexual related offenses are not allowed to participate. Canines are trained and cared for by a designated handler and sitters who assist with the day-to-day care of the canine.

They learn to train the dogs to the standards of the American Kennel Club’s positive training techniques. They learn to train the dogs to the standards of the American Kennel Club’s Canine Good Citizens (CGC) program. Equally important, the dogs are socialized around a variety of people and other dogs during this period. The program also provides inmates a training skill while building a sense of accomplishment, empathy, and patience. Similar programs report 97% of inmate handlers and sitters demonstrated greater empathy and decreased depression during incarceration; 87% demonstrated improved communication skills; and institutional staff report a decrease in disciplinary issues and improved institutional adjustment by inmates involved in canine training programs. The program demonstrates the true picture of second chances, both to the canine and to the inmate. Inmates are selected for the program based on a history of institutional adjustment and willingness to participate in the program components. Inmates with histories of repeated violence, crimes against animals or sexual related offenses are not allowed to participate. Canines are trained and cared for by a designated handler and sitters who assist with the day-to-day care of the canine.

They also have been shown to improve mental health, pro-social bonds, and behaviors; reduce violence and suicide attempts; and even boost morale and improve the climate of the prison itself. These programs even have positively impacted prison staff members. Inmates become “more attentive and responsible citizens of the world, more aware of the needs of others, and more responsible for their own behavior.

Benefits to the Community

Dogs have long held the title of “man’s best friend” for their ability to provide companionship, comfort, and support. This friendship and love are unconditional, with no judgments or expectations of anything other than love in return. Studies have shown that interacting with dogs benefits humans in a variety of ways, to include:

  • Decreased heart rate and blood pressure;
  • Increased positive mood levels;
  • Reduced loneliness; and
  • In senior citizens, increased mental stimulation and social interaction.