Beyond Pit Bulls & Parolees: How Prison Pup Training Programs Are Changing Lives

by Amber Kingsley


Often convicted inmates get a bad reputation for being bad people, instead of someone who could have simply made a mistake, compared to a career criminal. Pit bulls have also been given an undeserved negative reaction from some people due to the behaviors of a few, poorly trained dogs. Similar to the television show, Pit Bulls and Parolees,” people are working together to change this stigma for the better and using training programs similar to that as showcased on the Animal Planet series mentioned above, this is rewarding to people and pets.


Training a service animal is very rewarding, but it is also a time consuming and expensive process. In an innovative twist, rehabilitation programs similar to the reality show as highlighted above are beneficial for everyone involved. The inmates are not only teaching young canines, it is also training these prisoners to possibly become dog trainers, groomers or animals technicians after their release from incarceration.


Volunteers and staff members provide inmates with training classes every week, along with weekend sessions throughout the month that show inmates the proper way to train puppies.


Women and Children First

The California Institution for Women in Chino, became the first prison in the state of California to have a Service Dog Training Program back in 2002. Since then, The Prison Pup Program has grown into training more than twenty dogs with fifty handlers at this institution. The women inmates are given responsibility for a dog at eighteen months of age and they remain together for up to six months for training.


After the success of the Chino’s Prison Pup Program, in 2008, the Southwest Juvenile Hall in Riverside County began a vision of assisting at-risk youths with life skills through a similar program. In this case, two young men are tasked with a twelve to sixteen week dog training program. The juveniles learn basic obedience using positive reinforcement techniques along with health care and grooming skills.


Benefits Abound

The canine graduates of these programs go on to become a vital tool for their disabled clients, forming a loving bond that is beneficially emotionally, physically and mentally. It is clearly a win-win situation for everyone involved from the inmate trainers, the dogs and the disabled clients they go on to assist as invaluable service dogs.


For their inmate handlers and trainers, the benefits are plentiful as these types of programs give them a sense of purpose and a way to give back to society. These trainers also learn the importance of bonding with these animals and ultimately will gain valuable work experience through their training and education. This will aid many of these inmates in finding gainful employment once they are released and returned to society rather than the possibility of returning to a life of crime.

Expanding to Men

Both the Prison Pups and the Southwest Juvenile Hall programs have been so successful that Canine Support Teams have expanded their programs to include the California Institute for Men in the summer of 2015. This expansion could use your help, so if you’d like to donate, please visit our Kindful donation page. If you’d like to find out information on volunteering and other ways to help, you can learn more at our CST support site.




About the Author

Travel junkie, Amber Kingsley, is a freelance writer living in Santa Monica, CA. Her art history background helps her hone in on topics that are of interest to readers. She is a dog enthusiast and loves spending time with her Pomeranian, Agatha.

Reasons Why Having A Trained Dog Is Awesome


Training your dog may seem like plain common sense to some dog owners but there are far more untrained dogs than there are trained dogs. Whatever the case may be, whether it is a time commitment issue or just not knowing where to start, there is always a compromise that can be made in your schedule where you can start the training process. Being a responsible owner means teaching your dog at least the basic obedience commands. It is necessary to have a well behaved dog when going out into public areas for many reasons. A trained dog will not chase after cats or run into the street, he will not bark at strange dogs or human, he will be calm and not pull on his leash. Imagine being out in public with a wild child that doesn't listen and causes commotion. The same way you would raise your children to mind their manners, should you raise your dog to mind his.


Puppyhood is of course the best time to start training but if you have an older dog don't think that all hope is lost. The saying “You can't teach an old dog new tricks” is not true. I believe that saying stemmed from a person who lacked patience and commitment. If you understand how to train a dog and use the skills you have gained correctly, you should have no problem implemented a plan and seeing results. Even if your dog learns more slowly than you would wish, he is still learning.

why having a trained dog is awesome

Now Do you really need any more reasons? Start training that dog ASAP and trust me, you will never regret it!



If you need help with the basics check out these articles for some tips:

My Basic Training Techniques

7 Tips for Training Your Pit Bull Puppy


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Hula Hoop Jump in 3 easy steps

Hello All!


I get asked all the time about Bentley's tricks and how she learned to do them so I thought I would share with you this very easy and fun trick. Once your dog knows his basic commands, this trick should come with ease. However remember to be patient with your dog as you should be with every new command or trick you introduce him to. Do not get angry or frustrated and work with your dog. This should be a fun activity for both you and your dog.


Step 1.

Go out and buy a hula hoop! I got mine from Target for about six dollars but I know Walmart, Toys R Us, or any sporting goods store carry them as well.

Note: Your dog might be scared of the hula hoop at first especially since it might be a new object for many dogs. Bentley was a little put off by it, but that's nothing some encouraging words and enticing treats can't cure. If your dog does have issues with the hula hoop do your best to reassure him that it isn't a threat and instead associate it with fun and playtime. Put it on the floor and play with your dog and his favorite toy. Let him investigate and smell the hula hoop. When he gets close to it, praise him and show him it's not something that should frighten him. Start lifting the hula hoop up and praising your dog continuing to reassure him that this object is a good thing. Keep playing with his favorite toy while holding the hula hoop. Let the hula hoop touch him and continue with playtime until you feel he is 100% comfortable around it.


Step 2.

Once your dog is comfortable around the hula hoop you're ready. You may wish to stand up or remain sitting, whichever position is more comfortable for you, I prefer standing. Now extend your arm and hold the hula hoop out to your side with it touching the ground and have your dog sit in front of it. With your opposite hand, hold a treat out on the other side of the hula hoop and encourage your dog to walk through it. Do this a few times and reward your dog.


Step 3.

Now that your dog can comfortably walk through it's time to raise the hula hoop off the ground a little and encourage your dog to walk through in the same way as before. Start raising up the hula hoop more and more so that he has to jump now instead of walk through it. Keep practicing until he no longer needs treats as motivation. You can raise up the hula hoop as high as your dog can manage.



Once your dog has this trick down you can incorporate it into his playtime as it is a great form of exercise.


It doesn't get easier than that. Now go out and buy that hula hoop!



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My Basic Training Techniques

I get asked all the time for advice and training tips when people see how well behaved Bentley is and how many tricks she knows. The truth is that Pit Bulls are great dogs to train due to their strong desire to please humans. This is why everyone that owns a Pit, or any breed for that matter, should train them and if you do not know how hopefully these simple basic training tips I've put together will help. These are the methods I use in early training.

I got Bentley when she was a puppy so of course I started training her right away but let me tell you she went through the whole puppy chewing phase, that is inevitable, and yes, I left things unattended and returned to find them destroyed. The quicker you learn that a puppy is just like a child and wants to get into everything it's not supposed to, the better off you will be. With that being said, rule number one, of course, don't leave anything valuable lying around and rule number two invest in a number of chew toys so when your pup is bored with one, there will be another one to get his attention instead of your brand new pair of shoes that cost an arm and a leg.

As soon as you bring your dog home, no matter how old he is, you must start the training process. The first things you should teach your dog are his name and “no”. These are the easiest things to teach any dog, even kids can teach their dogs these two things. Treats work best when training your dog so I advise that you use a treat when starting off. When your dog starts getting into things he's not supposed to, say “no” sternly but don't yell. You want to get his attention and respect but not to have him scared of you. Soon enough your dog will know the meaning of “no”.

Teaching your dog to sit is simple and should be the first trick your dog learns. To teach your dog, simply call him to you and tell him to “sit”, your dog won't understand but will eventually get tired of standing and will sit. As soon as this happens, praise your dog and give him the treat. Practice this until your dog can sit on command.

“Lie down” is the next easiest command and is basically taught the same way as the sit command. If your dog is not wanting to lie down you can always use treats as motivation. Try placing the treat close to the ground and your dog's head should follow. Repeat the “lie down” command as you push the treat closer to his chest. This will cause him to lie down to get into a more comfortable position to eat the treat. After he is laying down, praise him and give him the treat. Repeat this until you no longer have to coax him down. You may use a hand signal when you are teaching your dog so he will reference the word and hand signal with the action you want him to make. I point my finger to the ground and snap but you may use whatever signal you are more comfortable with.

The next command I recommend that you teach your dog is “stay”. This one takes more patience but is a very valuable command for your dog to know, especially in public. You can teach your dog stay when he is in a sit or lie position as it will be easier. Slowly start walking away and saying the word “stay”, using a hand gesture if you want. The signal I use for stay is my arm out in front of me with my hand pointed straight up, just like a traffic signal officer would do. If your dog follows you say no and have him either sit or lie down again. Once you are able to walk a short distance with your dog in the stay command, stop and praise him. Keep repeating this with your dog until you are able to go further and further away. With Bentley, I am able to go into different rooms and even outside while she stays. I do this with treats right in front of her too and she won't touch them until I give her the release command. When I have made her stay as long as I want I give her a release command of “okay”. You may use any release command you please. The release command will come in handy for future tricks.

After these three easy commands have been taught you can start basing new tricks and commands off of them such as rolling over, shaking hands, going in a circle, sitting pretty, jumping through hoops and much more. Once you have the basic three you can expand and there's no limit to what you can teach your dog with lots of patience and understanding.

I suggest that you buy a clicker when you want to move on to more advanced training techniques. I have trained both with and without the clicker and have gotten positive results both ways but I feel that the clicker works very well. As soon as your dog hears the click, he knows he has done the trick correctly. When you start clicker training, you can start with old tricks and click when the command has been acted out and then give him a treat. This way he will associate the click with a treat and will know when the trick has been properly completed. Always click and give a treat. When your dog knows the commands well you won't need the clicker anymore.

As with anything, practice makes perfect. Don't give up or get frustrated because your dog may not be learning at the speed you would like. Instead have patience and keep at it. Remember, even as humans, we have been trained and conditioned from birth with patience from our parents so have some empathy for your learning pooch.


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6 Leash Pulling Tips

Leash pulling is a common problem and can make a walk with your dog very unpleasant. Have you ever decided you would rather not walk your dog just because he pulls too much and you don't feel like being dragged? Don't give up just yet. Walks are an excellent way to exercise your dog and yourself. If you work on these following tips, you will be able to enjoy your dog walks.

1. Most dog gets very excited when they hear the word “walk” or see their leash. When this happens some dogs might even start shaking. Let your dog calm down a bit before even putting on his leash.

2. Once you notice your dog has calmed down and is in a sitting position, put the leash on. If your dog cannot sit still then you need to go back to basic training commands and teach him to sit and stay.

3. If you are having a really hard time calming your dog down you can try wearing him out a little before the walk. Throw a ball around to tire him out a bit.

4. Once out the door, if your dog starts pulling just stop walking. When your dog stops pulling and sits, you may start walking again. Every time your dog pulls, just stop and wait, then resume after he has stopped. This step is time consuming and requires patience but it will condition your dog. Even if your walk consists of you stopping every ten seconds, keep doing it. Your dog will learn that he doesn't command the walks, you do, and you will only go when you want to.

5. If you have problems getting your dog to stop you can use treats to get his attention. His focus must be on you, you are in charge.

6. Last but not least, praise your dog to reassure good behavior.

Now get out there and enjoy some fresh air with your pooch.

Happy walking!

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