paws4prisons® Training Program

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The paws4prisons Program teaches inmates to train various types of Assistance Dogs and then manages and supervises the training of these Assistance Dogs for and in support of the mission of the paws4people foundation.

The program inmates, a very high percentage of which have PTSD or CPTSD, learn how to train (basic and advanced obedience commands) to “shelter-rescue dogs,” then progress to training highly-trained Assistance Dogs, some of which know in excess of 100 commands. The program inmates also participate in the customized training, public access training, certification testing and final placement processes for their dogs, including the transfer training process of the dog’s “Assistance Dog Team Partner.”

This program has served as an inmate rehabilitation program and has considerable success in aiding inmates with PTSD/C-PTSD to recover, or at the very least, better cope with, their PTSD/C-PTSD and its symptoms by utilizing the therapeutic benefits of “Special K-9 Powers” possessed by the dogs they train.

ADI Disclaimer

Assistance Dogs International (ADI) has not reviewed this material and does not endorse or recommend these materials. ADI accepts no liability for the content of these materials or for the consequences of any actions taken on the basis of the information provided. Any views or opinions presented in these materials are solely those of the author and do not represent those of ADI. These materials and/or class do not qualify for ADI Assistance Dog Trainer Certification.

How paws4prisons Works

The paws4prisons Program is currently the largest training venue for paws4people Assistance Dogs. Within each correctional facility, the paws4prisons Program is an Honors program, which demands the highest behavior and performance standards of each Inmate who participates in the Program. All Program dogs reside within the prison with their assigned Inmate Trainers, and are taken out of the facility by either paws4people volunteers, training staff, or, in some programs, the Inmate Trainers themselves for socialization and public access training.

All inmates are pre-screened before they are allowed to apply to the program. Upon approval they are then allowed to complete an application and schedule an interview. Once an inmate passes the first three components of the application process they are then interviewed by a member of the paws4prisons staff.

Upon acceptance into the program, all inmates begin a rigorous academic and hands on training “boot camp” for a minimum of 20 weeks. During this time, inmates are required to attend all classes, complete all assignments, essays, quizzes and exams while learning the hands on training that works in conjunction with the academic program.

Current paws4prisons Training Venues

  • WVDOC Lakin Correctional Center, West Columbia, WV (female)
  • WVDOC St. Marys Correctional Center, St. Marys, WV (male)
  • WVDOC Mt. Olive Correctional Center, Mt. Olive, WV (male)

Curriculum Overview

The curriculum is designed to teach the following:

  • How Dogs Learn
  • The Trainer/Dog Relationship
  • Training Challenges, Training Techniques
  • Canine Behavior and Personalities
  • Canine Psychology
  • Wheelchair Etiquette
  • ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) and Assistance Dogs
  • Corrections
  • Canine Hip Dysplasia
  • Parasites, Canine Anatomy and CPR
  • Public Etiquette
  • Home Safety
  • Canine Immunology
  • Canine Reproduction
  • Canine Massage Therapy
  • Disabilities
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder /Military Sexual Trauma
  • Leash Handling
  • Coddling
  • Teaching a Dog to Read
  • Laser Retrieval
  • Elevator and Vehicle Loading/Unloading Protocols
  • Public Speaking
  • Much more!

Benefits Beyond the Classroom

In addition to the academic curriculum all inmates are required to complete a series of leadership classes and essays designed to encourage the inmates to work toward acceptance of their crimes, seek forgiveness where appropriate, and move forward with their lives on a more positive and productive path. This program, while providing highly trained Assistance Dogs that meet the mission of paws4people also teaches inmates to be:

  • more disciplined in their daily lives
  • compassionate, caring, loving, patient, and tolerant of others
  • self motivated
  • appreciative of all life has to offer
  • team oriented
  •  good leaders
  • better mothers/fathers/family members
  • proactive instead of reactive
  • professional

The paws4prisons staff is very proud of the program within each facility. We are dedicated to producing highly trained Assistance Dogs to paws4people clients and to helping our inmate trainers become tomorrows leaders.

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