Monday, January 4, 2010

Puppy Field Trips to New Prisons!

It’s time for Smoke’s Pup Crew to see new sights, sounds and people! Yes, starting this week the Pup Crew will begin a continual rotation from Plainfield Correctional Facility (PCF) to other correctional facilities.

This is a good thing for the puppies for several reasons.
1) Imagine having to live with your brothers and sisters day in and day out. Since birth, that’s what the pups have been doing. Now is the time for the pups to “cut the cord”, to grow up a bit, and get out there and meet new dogs that sound and look different than the rest of the Pup Crew.
2) Similarly, within any prison location, the sights and sounds and routines can become very predictable, with new learning experiences harder to come by. However, by switching prison facilities, the puppies are introduced to a new base of people, buildings, sounds, and experiences. Being introduced to new things is a fantastic learning opportunity for a puppy. It helps socialize the puppy and make him or her more accepting of new situations when they occur in the future (and that’s what ICAN needs a service dog to be – flexible and adaptable).
3) The puppies are used to the trainers that have worked with them for the past four months. But, we want to make sure the dogs are able and willing to work for anyone and everyone. By rotating the dogs to different facilities, the dogs are introduced to new trainers with different appearances, voices, and routines than the men at PCF.
4) Lastly, rotating facilities is beneficial to the puppies because each person who trains for ICAN has different training strengths and opportunities for improvement. When a puppy rotates between trainers, that puppy benefits from having access to each trainer’s strengths. (And, each trainer benefits from having a new dog to train because a certain dog can help a trainer turn an opportunity for improvement into a new strength.)

Having the pups rotate prisons is also good for the offenders at Plainfield Correctional Facility (PCF), although it’s difficult for the trainers to let go – even temporarily - of the little fur ball they’ve helped along in life. Why is this a good thing for the trainers?

1) Moving the puppies to a different location helps the trainers begin to understand and process the fact that there will come a day when the dogs have to leave – permanently. It’s a reminder that the puppy is not “theirs” but instead is a dog in training that will eventually leave them permanently and go to live with and work with a person in need. At ICAN, we have learned that small separations between a trainer and a puppy now go a long way toward making that final goodbye easier.
2) When a puppy from Smoke’s Pup Crew leaves the PCF facility for another, it means the trainer gets a well-deserved rest. For four straight months, these men have worked day in and day out with their puppy. Sometimes taking a small rest from training gives the trainer a chance to revitalize and renew their commitment to the ICAN program.
3) PCF trainers now have the time to work with other dogs in the ICAN program and learn how to train more mature dogs who are working on advanced behaviors. Replacing a puppy with an older dog means the men at PCF hone their training skills even more, making them better all-around trainers.

What does location rotation of the puppies of Smoke’s Pup Crew mean for this blog? Nothing will change here. We’ll still have photos of the puppies and updates from the people who are training the puppies.

To everyone, Happy New Year!