Dog training

Service dog training program restarts at Rochester prison

ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) — A service dog training program restarted Tuesday at the Federal Medical Center in Rochester after being suspended for more than two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Can Do Canines is a non-profit organization based in New Hope, MN. He trains service dogs for people with autism and other medical diagnoses.

It’s the Prison Puppy Program that started over 15 years ago. He pairs inmates with puppies, and the inmates help train the dogs. It’s been happening at the Federal Medical Center since 2018.

Seven puppies were released to prison staff on Monday.

Prison program manager Kaity Pollard said Can Do Canines would not be able to run without the help of inmates. She said it also gives inmates a sense of purpose.

“It gives inmates something really important to do,” she said. “It also gives inmates a chance to feel that puppy love that you don’t always get in prison.”

Inmates help with cage training, toilet training, and socialization.

The puppies do not live at the prison full time, so the program needs volunteers to house the dogs.

“They’ll be here for a full six months,” Pollard said. “So it’s a long time to just be in jail. We rely on volunteers to get them out of jail, so they can be socialized and exposed to children, other pets, cats, and get away from their litter mates and friends for a bit.

Pollard said it cost $45,000 to train a dog. Dogs are given free of charge to those in need. There is currently a waiting list to receive a dog.

Not all dogs complete their training, as some eventually become unsuitable as service dogs.

Pollard is described there as a “career change”. Dogs that are diagnosed with medical issues or have behavioral issues cannot help dogs, and the dogs end up being adopted.

Can Do Canines does not charge adoption fees, but a minimum donation of $300 is required for adoption.

If you are interested in adopting a dog, visit the Can Do Canines website.