Many of the Dogs 4 Warriors service dogs go through a training program at Belmont Correctional Institution in Eastern Ohio. There, each dog is paired with an incarcerated veteran, who has a secondary trainer to assist him. Dogs 4 Warriors places 12 dogs at a time in this program.
This system provides benefits to Dogs 4 Warriors, the inmates, the correctional institution as a whole, and most importantly to the veterans we serve . The program at Belmont enables Dogs 4 Warriors to produce and deliver trained service dogs to our veterans much faster. In no other way could we have 12 trainers with 12 secondary trainers dedicated to one on one time with our service dogs.
The environment there also helps instill some valuable service qualities in our dogs. They become accustomed to diverse types of people. They learn to tolerate and maneuver in crowds. They learn valuable house training skills and are crate trained. They become socialized to people, other dogs and uniforms. Also, they learn most of their basic obedience skills while there, such as sit, down, heel, stay and come. Depending on the situation some of them also learn many of their service skills there too.
To help the inmates accomplish Dogs 4 Warriors goals, we give them a variety of tools. The dogs are not simply dropped off there. Prison staff closely supervises them and a representative/trainer from Dogs 4 Warriors visits them weekly to conduct classes and help problem solve. They themselves are part of an apprenticeship program for dog training within the prison and conduct several group training sessions each week. We also keep them well stocked with training books and manuals, miscellaneous training materials and equipment, service vests, treats, toys, food, bedding, kennels, etc. Anything and everything that could possibly be needed for the dog or training is provided. Dogs 4 Warriors set our prison program up to succeed.
The inmates who participate in our program fall in love with it. This is a chance for them to give back to society in a meaningful way. Opportunities to do something this fulfilling are few in prison. Our in-prison trainers are veterans themselves and their motto is "Veterans helping Veterans." Also, their interactions with our service dogs provide a service to them just as it does the veteran that ultimately gets the dog. Our D4W dogs are improving the quality of life for veterans even while in training. Once a dog leaves the prison program and then completes all training at the D4W compound, then is paired with a veteran. We take the paired team to the prison to meet and thank the incarcerated veterans for helping and tell them how much it means to receive a service dog. This helps everyone involved to realize that they truly are not forgotten. This is a life changing event for all involved.
Our prison training program is a win for everybody, but is most importantly a win for our veterans who get these dogs.
Once released from the prison, any inmate that has completed one year in our program, if interested in continuing with D4W and we can find a sponsor to cover paying them a wage, they will be welcomed to D4W as a trainer. Sometimes this is the difference between creating another homeless veteran on the street.
That is what Dogs 4 Warriors is all about. Helping as many veterans that we can.