Recently, it has become popular to use pets as part of a therapy program for individuals with various conditions, however pets are now being used for a different kind of therapy. In some prisons, dogs are being given to inmates as part of their rehabilitation. The prisoners care for and train the dogs to prepare them for adoption. Some prisons are even utilizing these training programs to train service dogs for the disabled.
What is truly unique about these types of programs is that the dogs that are being trained are not those that would typically be expected of service animals. These are not dogs that were bred or raised with the intention of being trained to serve others. The dogs that are being trained by inmates in various prisons all over the country are rescued from shelters and humane societies. Thus, the program gives the dogs a life saving second chance by preventing them from the potential fate of euthanization.
Each dog receives all shots and vaccines to ensure the long-term health of the animal and the safety of his trainers, handlers and potential owners. After receiving adequate healthcare, the dogs will learn to socialize with a variety of people and other dogs. In addition, the dogs are taught basic commands, house training and crate training, as well as obedience, and some are even trained to understand hand signals. Essentially, these dogs undergo the same programs as other service animals, to be certain that they can offer the same level of assistance.
Still, these programs benefit more than just the dogs and their future owners. As they train and care for their temporary pets, the inmates learn patience and responsibility. Moreover, many of the inmates develop a completely different attitude and begin to exhibit improved behavior. Additionally, these programs are providing numerous marketable job skills that will prove invaluable upon the inmate’s release. In participating in these dog training programs, many inmates feel that they are given a new purpose in their lives.
With many prisons experiencing overcrowding, it is not uncommon for mental health services to be reserved for those with significant needs. Therefore, routine difficulties with depression or anxiety simply are not a priority. While some might argue that individuals should not receive such services during incarceration, this means that the majority of prisoners will re-enter the community with extremely limited help readjusting to the outside world. Subsequently, many will return to the prison system at some point.
Inmate dog training programs present a special opportunity to help so many. Rarely does a program benefit all parties involved. However, these programs offer a new life for dogs, assistance and companionship for families and disabled individuals, rehabilitation and skills for inmates, as well as better citizens for the communities to which the inmates will return. This is truly an all around win.