Inmates help train service dogs

By on August 5, 2015

We recently wrote about CARES, a Kansas-based organization, that pairs service dogs with those in need of canine assistance. Ever wonder how those dogs are trained for their new jobs?

That answer is: a variety of ways. However, we think one way is particularly cool.


Inmates at correctional facilities and state penitentiaries nationwide are getting the chance to give back while behind bars.

Select inmates are helping with the first round of training that service dogs receive- basic obedience lessons. For over a year, the dogs in training get to live with a a carefully chosen few inmates who aid in the training of the dogs. The inmates do not receive pay or incentives, but get to experience the genuine, humbling feeling of giving back, doing something good for society and training a dog for someone that they will never meet.

Some of these men haven’t seen a dog in over 20 years and are overwhelmed with the sight and feel of one. Often, tears are brought to grown men’s eyes.


Tina Saley of SCI-Greene prison said in this article that four dogs graduated basic obedience training with 15 of their inmates, “They cried the first night and they all had puffy eyes the next morning. It brought humanity to the jail.”

Each dog was paired up with two direct trainers and one alternative. They trained for a couple hours a week with a volunteer. The dogs and their assigned trainers spent nearly all hours of the day together, training and bonding.

Although the inmates will probably never get to see the dogs again -the fruits of their labor- they say they wouldn’t trade any second of the year they had with the dogs. It brings back memories and “unconditional love.”


Of course there were naysayers in the beginning, but at the end of the experience, all staff members and inmates were in agreement that this is a wonderful program that really benefited the inmates and service dogs.

Once the dogs graduated- at a ceremony in front of the inmates- they move on to their next phase of training, eventually getting into the foster program, awaiting their permanent partners.

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