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

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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.

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