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The Program:

Dogs for Better Lives is working with correctional institutions in Ohio to help raise puppies for our program. In this unique program, incarcerated handlers raise and train puppies who will one day work as Service Dogs. Our staff teaches the handlers to work with the dogs using positive reinforcement training techniques and general obedience skills that lay the foundation for future Service Dog training at one of DBL’s training campuses.

How it Works:

  • To be selected as puppy handlers, individuals must undergo a rigorous screening process through the prison. All candidates must have an acceptable behavioral record, and a committee must approve their eligibility, this is in addition to other standards that must be met. 
  • Puppies are transported to the correctional institutions at eight to 9 weeks of age. A primary and secondary handler is then paired to work with each puppy. The puppies stay with their handlers throughout the day and evening – sharing the same quarters and developing a strong bond and a solid training relationship.  
  • A Dogs for Better Lives staff member travels to each prison to instruct the handlers on training and handling the puppies. On weekends puppies go to volunteer raisers outside of the prison for socialization. Our weekend puppy raisers teach house manners, expose them to car rides, traffic noise, stores, restaurants, and people. 
  • When puppies reach 14 to 16 months of age, the puppies then return to a Dogs for Better Lives campus for assessment, final training, and client matching.

Benefits to Handlers:

Our program aims to provide incarcerated individuals with an opportunity to develop skills while engaging physically, mentally, and emotionally. Correctional centers with puppy programs have reported an enhancement in morale throughout the institution. As a result, they found the facility to be a calmer environment. Puppy raisers in our program will gain skills in dog training and pet care, as well as patience, problem-solving, adaptability, and communication skills, which are all essential skills in the workforce.  

In addition to marketable skills and the companionship of a dog, puppy raisers will experience the satisfaction of giving back by raising a future Service Dog who will go on to change the life of someone with disabilities.  

The Prison Puppy Raising Program is an innovative approach to enhancing the lives of both dogs and people, and we are excited to see the positive impact it will have.  

Get Involved with the Prison Puppy Raising Program

  • Donate to support financial costs associated with the Prison Puppy Raising Program. 
  • Apply to become a Weekend Puppy Raiser, co-raising a puppy and reinforcing training techniques on the weekends in your community. 

Contact Ashley at ashley@dogsforbetterlives.org if you represent an institution and would like to learn more about the program.  

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