Dog-training programs: What’s all the fuss?


The last three years of my life have been spent researching the effects of dog-training programs in correctional settings. I use the term “correctional settings” rather than simply “prison” because these programs can be found in a variety of correctional facilities and even in the community.

So what are they? Dog-training programs, or as I’ve abbreviated them to in my writing, DTPs, use offenders or at-risk youths to train dogs for a variety of purposes. Many dog-training programs train shelter dogs (often “death row” dogs) to increase their chances of finding a forever home. Service dog training is the other type of dog-training program and can include seeing-eye dog training, PTSD dog training, explosive detection dog training, and much much more. I’m still surprised when I read/hear about all of the different types of service dogs are being trained in prisons!

Dog training programs are super duper popular in the United States–I’ve counted over 270 facilities that have a program!–but they are also popular in Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. Programs have popped up in other countries and there’s not doubt that they’ll continue to grow.

That’s actually the reason I decided to post about this today–the UK (where I live!) is finally jumping on board! Well, actually they’ve been on board for a while, but bear with me.  Paws for Progress, a program in Scotland that started in 2011, was profiled in The Guardian yesterday! I received a flood of tweets and messages from friends and colleagues about this article. People in the UK are finally taking notice of these programs and that makes me smile. Granted, the people I’m referring to might just be friends and followers, but that’s a start! If the comments on the article are anything to go by though I am pleased that people are taking notice and acknowledging the benefits that I’ve observed in my own research.

I also want to add that there is another program running in the UK called Taking the Lead. This program is a bit different, though, in that it is a Community Order program for juvenile offenders. Both look promising!

That’s all I have to say on the subject for now, but I promise there will be loads more to come.


Book Review: Research Design: Creating Robust Approaches for the Social Sciences

Not many people get excited about research design and methodology. My own mother cites her hatred of research methods courses as the primary reason she never ended up pursuing a PhD. I can’t say that I’m a massive fan of them either, but that has more to do with having had to have taken 10+ of them throughout my academic career. Now I teach them. That’s life. But research in the social sciences is our raison de’être. Properly conducted research it the life blood of the social sciences and too much of the research being conducted out there is poison to this blood. We don’t want to be a zombie field.

I’ve taken this metaphor too far, so I’m going leave it be and get to the point.

Today, LSE Review of Books published my latest book review: Gorard’s Research Design.

Book Review: Research Design: Creating Robust Approaches for the Social Sciences.

Book Review: Our Violent World: Terrorism in Society

One of my many research interests is terrorism and its surrounding subcategories: prevention, development, societal reactions, etc. I think it’s vital that we understand the broader history and cultural mechanisms that underly terrorism, which tends to the surface-level manifestations of much deeper cultural and individual struggles.

On that note….back in July, I reviewed Kevin McDonald’s Our Violent World: Terrorism in Society for the LSE Review of Books. Check it out below.

Book Review: Our Violent World: Terrorism in Society.

New Beginnings

An exploration of crime, offending, and research. That’s the tagline of this blog and that’s what I hope to use this blog as a platform for.

What is crime? Why do people offend? Do prisons work? What is the relationship between research and policy? Just a handful of the questions I hope to engage with, an understanding of each query affects to our lives as citizens. Policies are made based on an understanding of these questions. Our actions and beliefs are governed by an understanding of these questions. People’s lives are affected by someone else’s understanding of these questions. But how did these understandings come about? Are based in fact are these understandings? Is it even possible for these understandings to be based in fact?

I firmly believe that one of the most powerful tools that a criminologist has is their voice. This is true for many fields and professions, but I’m a criminologist, so we’re going to stick with criminology here. I loved to talk to people about my field and my research, just as I love to hear and learn from others. Consequently, it is my hope that this blog can be a platform for challenging each other. Many of my colleagues have expressed that one of the most important callings they’ve felt as a criminologist is to engage with the public. It is important that we listen to people’s concerns and experiences. It is also important that we address any misconceptions and share what we know about crime, offending, and research. This is one reason the field of public criminology (Loader and Sparks) developed.

Having spent the last two days at the Social Media Knowledge Exchange (SMKE) conference at held at CRASSH here in Cambridge, I feel a bit more prepared to jump into this mad world of blogging. There’s a lot to learn, but I’m excited to take on the challenge and dive in head first. Fortunately, I feel like I’ve been given some floaties by some much more experienced folk. I owe a massive thank you to Puffles, Helen Webster, Mark Murphy, and the crew at the SMKE conference for their wisdom and encouragement.

Oh, and Happy 4th of July!