Inmates spend 'time' training dogs

August 19, 2004

In the September issue of Dog Fancy magazine there are two articles that intrigued me. They are both about dogs helping people and it is surprising who the trainers are in one of the articles.

The first commentary, titled "Training for a New Life" by Kyra Kirkwood, is about a dog training program conducted at a minimum security prison in Virginia. Five shelter dogs scheduled to be destroyed are rescued every six weeks and brought to the prison. The warden screens the inmates and selects five inmates to care for the animals 24/7. These inmates are permitted to attend training classes with two professional trainers from outside the prison, but they are expected to practice each day so that the animals will pass the Canine Good Citizen test at the end of the six weeks and be placed in the community.

This article makes a number of points to consider before a trainer should even think of starting such a venture. I think the third point should be considered first. That is: "Create a game plan. Brainstorm everything, asking and answering potential questions such as 'Who will take the dogs to the vet at 2 a.m.?' and 'What kind of program do I envision?'" There are eight additional points such as contacting the local shelter, making friends with the warden and gathering a solid volunteer base before starting.


It is hard work but rewarding according to Kirkwood and she quotes one of the inmates as saying that the experience has "allowed me the opportunity to discover that I can be compassionate without being weak." Kirkwood says that this inmate hopes to work with dogs the rest of his life.

The second article called "Short Walks" by Hiromi Yamamura, tells about a Labrador retriever who works at a community college in Palm Bay, Florida.

This dog's duties comprise working with students with disabilities or problems. Trained by Canine Companions for Independence, the dog responds to 30 commands, yet she is capable of selecting the student who needs her the most and provides stress relief by calming a student with test anxiety or retrieving an object dropped by a student in a wheelchair.

A number of years ago I wrote about a women's prison in one of the western states that had a dog training program for people with physical challenges.

This training is more advanced and takes longer than six weeks to accomplish, but what a service to those who need help and companionship.

Along these lines, I have just received two books in the mail: "Teamwork" and Teamwork II. These books are dog training manuals for people with disabilities and can be ordered from "Dogwise" 1-800-776-2665 or I was asked about these books and have just found the source. I recommend purchasing both volumes if you hope to train your own dog. |8/18/04|***

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