Bad dog? Canines get behavior fix in prison

prison dogs
Offenders training dogs at the Arrowhead Correctional Center in Cañon City / Ray Harless -- FOX21 News

CAÑON CITY, Colo. — “I’ve been locked up for 22 years. I got a second-degree murder,” said Donald Roderick, the lead dog trainer at Arrowhead Correctional Center.

Roderick is getting a second chance with the help of a few dogs.

“I grow attached to every one of them you know. I’ve done almost a little over 100 dogs including service dogs and stuff and I’ve been attached to them all,” Roderick said.

Roderick has been training dogs in prison for 10 years, and while he doesn’t get to keep the dogs he worked with, he and other handlers pretend these dogs are theirs for four weeks.

“The program does basic obedience training with the dogs that we have in the program, some of our master trainers have even gone so far as to do foundation service dog training for organizations like Freedom Service Dogs,” said Debi Stevens, supervisor and founder of the Prison Trained K9 Companion program.

The Department of Corrections says it’s a privilege for offenders to be in the program – requiring at least 6 months of no write-ups, an interview, and then you’re on the waitlist.

“Everybody wants to do it. There’s only 12 spots and 500 people,” Roderick said.

More than 11,000 dogs have come through the program since it was started back in 2002.

For some dogs it their last chance at having a home. In total, more than 3,000 dogs have been rescued.

It has now been turned into a pilot program for the whole nation and for all canine programs.

Training begins the moment the dogs are brought in, and it never stops.

“Anytime they’re inside, you’re teaching them house manners, place, how to behave quietly in the house and not chew things and what not, so it’s all the time,” Roderick said.

The dogs aren’t the only ones working to improve their manners.

“You got a lot of people that come in, got a lot of the gang mentality and all this stuff. So, I try to help them get rid of that kind of stuff and be responsible and do your chores. We’re with these guys 24/7 so, you’re always working with them and you take pride in what you do,” Roderick said.

It’s a feeling that is sometimes hard to come by when you’re locked up.

“To know that they saved a dog’s life or a happy home, is a huge reward for them,” said Stevens said.

“I’ve had dogs I trained for Wounded Warriors for Camp Paws through Freedom Service in Denver. That was really rewarding to me,” Roderick said.

These dogs are on their way back to their families and hopefully not the dog house with a new set of skills, just like Roderick.

“It’s not very often you get somebody as much experience as me, coming out there looking for work. You can teach an old dog new tricks, that’s for sure,” Roderick said.

If you’d like to make an appointment, call 719-269-4650.

>> For more information click here.


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