What are Prison Dog Training Programs?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Prison dog training programs are programs which bring dogs into prisons so that prisoners can train them. These programs have a number of important functions, from training dogs so that they are suitable for adoption to providing prisoners with therapeutic experiences, and they have become quite popular in some regions of the world. A typical prison dog training program involves at least one animal welfare organization and a prison, and sometimes multiple dog rescues and training organizations will cooperate to ensure that the program is a success.

A prison.
A prison.

From the point of view of animal welfare organizations, prison dog training programs give dogs a better chance at finding homes, by giving the dogs extra time in training. While in the program, the dogs will learn basic canine manners, becoming skilled at interacting with other dogs and obeying commands from their handlers, and the dogs often become calmer and more friendly as a result of focused handling. Since many dog rescues lack the time to dedicate extensive resources to every single dog in their care, prison dog training programs allow these organizations to farm out some of the work, making dogs more adoptable and meeting the primary goals of these organizations.

Prisons also benefit from prison dog training programs. Behavioral problems tend to decrease dramatically when prisoners are involved in such programs, and the prison also experiences improved public relations as a result of the program. Participating in a rehabilitative program can also give a prison access to grant money and other assistance which might not be available under normal conditions.

Prisoners in prison dog training programs learn skills, in the form of dog training, but they also benefit emotionally from their participation. Interacting with animals has been shown to have therapeutic value in a wide variety of settings, and prison is no different. Some prisoners feel isolated in prison, and connecting with a dog can help dispel that isolation, promoting a more healthy mental state on the part of prisoners and encouraging prisoners to work hard and take their experiences with them when they leave prison. Prison dog training programs also help prisoners with boredom and restlessness, two common problems in prison.

Competition among prisoners for the honor of participating in prison dog training programs can get fierce. Most prisons only allow model prisoners to participate in such programs, taking away the privilege if a prison violates prison rules. Prisoners have an incentive to behave well to stay in the program, and other prisoners often follow their example in the hopes of being allowed to work with the dogs as well, making the prison calmer and easier to live and work in.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


I want to see victims of crimes have this same option of knowing the healing powers of what animals can do. If only there was a facility for rape victims, families of the murdered victim abuse victims, robbery victims, hate crime victims, drug dealer victims, gang victims and children of victims. Maybe convert these class funds that the criminals enjoy for the victims of these criminals for classes and facilities for the ones that actually got hurt. Save the life of the victims and the abandoned pets.

These programs have not worked; the crime rate is no better. Actually, it is worse. It's time to give the power and money back to the good people. Being a victim myself there were no free classes for me. So I call crap on this and other victims of crime should too.

And if you are a teacher of these prison classes, I'll bet you would feel much better about yourself if you were being paid to help the innocent instead. Maybe you as a teacher can change this somehow.

Changing a minor's direction is one right thing, but someone who is old enough to know right and wrong, choose and accept prison life and know themselves that they don't deserve special treatment of any kind. Stop giving it to them!

The win, win, win program is this: Save the lives of dogs in shelters. Help victims. Save human lives by screening for cancer using trained dogs.

I'll bet you would get more support for this.


How fortunate the animals rescued from catastrophes and abuse, as well as those who are abandoned and face death at a shelter.

These programs should not even be questioned, they should be a prerequisite for every prison, jail, juvenile facility.


My son is an inmate in an Ohio prison and is involved in a rescue dog training program there. He has been successful in that all the dogs he has trained have been adopted (5). He has no internet access so he will never hear of this program. How can he be accepted into this program?


nanak? I would be interested in doing a program like this. --SnakeByteMyke


I am interested in saving dogs who would otherwise be killed in shelters by placing them with prisons with dog training programs and specifically include the training of dogs to diagnose cancer. It has been shown that the average "mutt" can be trained to "find" by smell several kinds of cancer. These dogs could then be placed as worker dogs at medical centers around the country.

A program such as this would accomplish several things:

1. Save the lives of dogs in shelters.

2. Help prisoners

3. Save human lives by screening for cancer using trained dogs.

It would be a win, win, win program.

Anyone interested in helping to begin such a program I would appreciate hearing from.

Thank you

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