This is a paper that I did for the Anthrozoology Program at Canisius College. It’s a review of available literature on the effectiveness of dog training programs in US prisons.
Despite their wide implementation in the United States, there has been very little substantive research done on prison dog programs (PDPs). Many of the existent studies suffer from inherent flaws in scope and methodology, but do consistently demonstrate that the programs aid participating inmates in developing and improving communications and social skills resulting from interactions with the dogs in their care. The available studies also indicate that participants show improvement in personal qualities such as empathy, self-esteem and a sense of responsibility. These benefits are apparently related to a lower rate of recidivism for prison inmates who are directly involved in PDPs. The effectiveness of prison based programs in training and socializing dogs is not well documented, although service animal organizations report much higher than normal acceptance rates from prison programs. Recommendations are provided for further research that might serve to identify best practices and training approaches for both inmates and dogs.