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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7 Tips For Training Your New Pit Bull Puppy

My brother just rescued two of the cutest little Pit mix puppy siblings, more specifically Pitweiler puppies (half Pit Bull half Rottweiler). They've been spending a lot of time with Bentley and I had forgotten how much really goes in to training a puppy since Bentley is now 2 ½ years old. The constant peeing and pooping all over the place, whining and barking, ankle biting, teething... the list goes on. This brought back some memories of when Bentley was a puppy. Let me tell you though, she is a very well behaved dog now and knows a lot of tricks and commands but she was a rambunctious little thing as a puppy. I remember her chewing up everything she could get her tiny teeth on. One day I came home to a half eaten mattress and I mean this thing was literally half way chewed up. My jaw dropped and stayed like that until I spotted Bentley coming from around the back of the bed wagging her tail with a piece of mattress in her mouth. I started laughing because I couldn't believe that this small 9 week old puppy had done this. Those days of disaster are gone now though, thank heavens.

                                                       Here are the 2 little Pitweilers -Sophie and Romeo 

                                                       Here are the 2 little Pitweilers -Sophie and Romeo 


I thought that I would go ahead and compile a list of the tips that got me through puppy-hood with Bentley that may help you with your new addition to the family.


  1. Do not lose your cool.

    This is the most important tip. I can understand that it may be frustrating to come home to a house full of pee and poo or things chewed up and to get angry but do not scream and hit your puppy. He doesn't know any better, he's just doing what comes naturally. Don't worry, with time things will improve.

  2. Start training from day one.

    Teach your puppy that you are the leader. A good way is with feeding time. Before you feed your puppy hold his filled food bowl in your hand and tell him to “sit” (Puppies usually go crazy during feeding time). Once he calms down and sits, put the bowl down and say “good”. This will teach him that you are in control and the more you do this the sooner he will learn the word “sit” and a plus will be that he will be calm during feeding time in the future.

  3. Introduce your puppy to everyone and everything.

    Seriously! Take your puppy with you everywhere possibly you can. Introduce him to people, children dogs, cats, squirrels, whatever, just get him to be social. The more you do this, the better your dog will be in different situations. A well socialized dog is a better behaved dog in many circumstances. They do not get overly excited, nervous, anxious, or aggressive like dogs that are not socialized.

  4. Take your puppy on walks.

    A dog doesn't automatically know how to walk on a leash. Many older dogs still don't know. By taking your puppy on walks from day one not only are you exercising him and getting out some of that energy that might instead be spent tearing something apart, you are also teaching him how to follow your lead and get comfortable on a leash. If your puppy doesn't like the leash at first then just walk him with a collar and hold the leash in your hand. He will follow you on your walk. Keep practicing until he is comfortable going on walks with a leash on. Teach your puppy not to pull by stopping every time he does and only starting up again when he follows your lead. You may use the word “heal” when you do this.

  5. Play with your puppy.

    Just like walking your dog gets rid of build up energy, so does playing fetch for 10 minutes. Your puppy is full of energy and curiosity. You will be doing wonders playing with him and he will look forward t o play time and see it as a reward and once again you will tire him out and help stop bad behavior that stems from boredom and lack of stimulation, like destroying the couch cushions.

  6. Get some toys.

    Chew toys, ropes, squeaky stuffed animals, balls...These will hopefully keep the little one entertained for long enough so that he doesn't chew up the legs of your table while you're away at the grocery store.

  7. Enjoy the small things.

    Literally, enjoy your puppy being small because one day in the coming months he will be huge and you might not be able to carry him anymore and he might think he's a lap dog and jump on you while you're watching tv and it might hurt... a lot.


Good luck with your new puppy and please don't get mad about those shoes, they are replaceable. If you feel that a puppy might be too much work, there are many wonderful dogs that are waiting be rescued that are already trained. Don't be fooled thinking a puppy is the only way to go. Do your research and share your knowledge!






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