We're excited to introduce Atlas to our IHDI community. Atlas, a 10-week-old Yellow Lab puppy, has joined the inaugural class of PAWS'abilities (Partnering Animals with Service Abilities), our Prison Puppy Raiser Program in partnership with the Wyoming Department of Correction (WDOC) Canine Training Program.
You may wonder, what is prison life like for a puppy? For the most part, the pups in training experience daily life at the side of their Master Handler – going to classes, visiting recreation spaces, attending group training, and occupying common areas. The pup remains close even at night, sleeping in a crate in the Master Handler's room.
Who are Master Handlers? Master Handlers take the lead with puppies around eight weeks old. Socialization is critical for our pups. Master Handlers expose puppies to and support them in a bevy of socialization and novel experiences by bringing their pup with them where possible. They live with, guide, and train the puppies daily in early learning and provide positive experiences to build confidence and learn manners. Over 10 to 12 months, as the pups grow and develop, the Master Handlers expose them to more challenging situations, extend their socialization, train the pups to increasingly challenging cues, and begin basic Sound Alert training.
To become a Master Handler for one of IHDI's service pups in training, an inmate must meet rigorous criteria.
1. Be actively involved in the prison's canine training program for a minimum of two years.
2. Have assumed the role of Master Handler within that program (i.e., providing training of new inmate handlers).
3. Meet specific criteria in their behavioral history criteria.
4. Be willing and able to make a 12-to-15-month commitment.
Learn more about the PAWS'abilities program and meet the teams here.