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Category: Dog Training Courses | Author: admin 23.01.2014
Inmate Jamilyah Nelson, and her dog Brutus, at the Denver Women's Correctional Facility train dogs that are in the Prison Trained K-9 Companion Program (PTKCP) on February 24, 2010. Inmate Terrina Flora-Alexander with dog Ari, in Terrina's cell at the Denver Women's Correctional Facility.
Then time is up, and Archuleta and the other dog trainers head back to their cells at Buena Vista Minimum Center. The prison hosts one of eight dog-training teams in the Colorado Correctional Industries Prison Trained K-9 Companion Program, which provides the outside community with trained dogs. Of the more than 7000 dogs that have graduated from the prison dog program, over 3000 were rescued from being euthanized at animal shelters. Stevens, who has been training dogs since she was 17 years old, started the prison dog program in October 2002 after a student in an obedience class approached her after class and asked if she’d be interested in starting a dog training program at a women’s prison in Canon City, CO. Five dogs in the pilot program have grown to 140 dogs at any given time in the Colorado prison system.
At the dog wing at Buena Vista Minimum Center—the dog trainers live in a separate part of the prison so other offenders don’t complain about things like barking—the members of the Prison Trained K-9 Companion Program express gratitude for the opportunity, and a love of dogs. Richard Ratajczwk runs through advanced tricks with Frankie, a friendly Airedale Terrier mix, like crab crawling, leaping onto two legs or praying (“We’re done praying for the Rockies since they’re not making the playoffs; now we’re praying for the Broncos”), lavishing the dog with praise after each trick. Ratajczwk proudly shows a stack of certifications from dog training accumulated by around 10,000 hours of “leash time,” and says dog training is in his future.
Offender Randy Wisdom said the bonding between the dogs and trainers gives everyone a second chance.
He says he worked in the kitchens when he first came to prison and saw the bond of the dog handlers and was intrigued. Helping a formerly abused or neglected dog overcome fearful behaviour, such as submissive defecating or urinating, and learn to play is often one of the most rewarding aspects of the program for offenders. Offender Seth Reed has trained dogs with the program for one-and-a-half years, and enjoys rehabilitating the hard luck cases. He says it can be hard to say goodbye to dogs, but it helps that they get a new dog the same day.

Kenneth Feilen, an offender training an energetic Boxer mix named Courtney, says for many offenders, training dogs that will enhance the lives of their owners is the first chance they’ve had to contribute to society. Prison dogs not only are trained to be family pets, but sometimes receive specialized training to be police dogs, skilled companions, or service dogs for people like veterans with PTSD. Stevens works closely with the Stink Bug Project, which provides companion dogs to children diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses, and Freedom Service Dogs, a nonprofit that rescues dogs and trains them for people with disabilities. Colorado resident Laura Edwards recently started volunteering with the Prison Trained K-9 Companion Program’s new “Skilled Companions for Children on the Spectrum” because her experiences with the prison dog program have been so positive. Disco then transferred to the Denver Women’s Correctional Facility for specialized training to be Ian’s companion. Edwards says Disco sounds like a completely different dog than the ones offenders say they met when he first came to the program—shy, fearful, and with low muscle tone from having been kenneled too much. Edwards says her mother decided to send Asia, her six-year-old Shih Tzu, to the prison in-boarding for training after meeting Disco and seeing how well trained he is.
Edwards says she hopes other people will adopt dogs from prison programs like the Colorado Correctional Industries Prison Trained K-9 Companion Program.
Filmmaker Andrew Wright of Wright Brothers Films is documenting the transformation of dogs and offenders involved in the Colorado Correctional Industries Prison Trained K-9 Companion Program in a documentary series called “Castaways.” In the first segment, an abused chocolate Lab named Esther is brought to Stevens by the National Mill Dog Rescue, cowering and peeing from fear as she is lifted into a van.
It wasn't easy persuading officials that Vogt should speak with Zach directly instead of just relaying messages across a visiting room."I get it," Vogt said recently in the visiting room of Trinidad Correctional Facility, a minimum-security prison to which he has been transferred since meeting Zach.
On a grassy field, 16 men run through basic obedience drills with their leashed dogs—sit, stay, come, heel—then practice more specialized tricks. Dogs live with “offenders” 24 hours a day, being socialized and taught obedience skills to help them be adopted—or keep their homes. The program is paid for by adoption fees as well as by the owners of the other 4000-plus dogs, who send their dogs to prison for a month of “boarding-in training” to correct behaviour issues. Animal shelter employees frequently suggest Stevens take their toughest cases into the prison dog program.
His trainer, Lori McLuckie, asked Edwards to film Ian when he was having a “meltdown” and used it in Disco’s training.

When she left for a four-week stint in the prison dog program, Asia was a “diva” who soiled the house, barked, couldn’t walk on a leash, and even refused to sit on command.
One participant, Conrad Archuleta, extends his forearm, and his mixed breed dog Carrie puts her front paws on it and closes her eyes as if in prayer.
The standard adoption fee is $550 (there are “individualized” fees for hunting dogs or assistance dogs, but this is for regular family dogs), while boarding-in training is $600 for the first four weeks (four weeks is the minimum), and $100 for every week after.
He also shows kindness without direction, such as offering a dog chew or a pair of sweatpants to Ian when he’s crying. They were just desperate enough to explore inmate Christopher Vogt's hunch that he could help their son emerge from his shell.In prison, Vogt learned to train service dogs for disabled people, and over the course of a decade he has trained scores of dogs that have lived, one at a time, in a cage in his cell.
He later read books about autism and eventually won permission from prison officials to try to train dogs for kids. The experiment has been a shining success, said Debi Stevens, director of the Prison Trained K-9 Companion Program.
Earlier this month at Trinidad, inmates wearing green uniforms and brown coats, with their inmate numbers stamped on their backs, jogged around an outdoor track while Vogt, often kneeling on the cold ground, trained his latest dog. Since Tucker took Clyde home, Vogt and other inmates taught by Vogt have trained another 20 dogs to serve autistic children around the state.
Staffers from prisons across the country have visited Colorado prisons in part to learn Vogt's techniques, in which he acts like an autistic child to teach dogs to respond, Stevens said.Vogt has since written and illustrated two children's books about how dogs can help autistic kids. Christopher Vogt, an inmate at Trinidad Correctional Facility, trains a dog named Kato to sleep in Vogt's cell. The Tuckers paid $450 for Clyde and gave Colorado Correctional Industries, which runs the rehabilitation program, $300 for six months of training.

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