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.
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.