It’s standard practice for service dogs to spend their early lives in the homes of regular folks, often in loving family situations. The puppy raisers know how to teach their charges basic commands and spend time with others in special situations, like on buses, at ball games, watching fireworks, all sorts of stimulating and sometimes potentially frightening situations.

Now imagine this: puppies being raised in isolation from the outside world in a sterile environment with minimal stimulation and not that much variety of situation. Could that work to give the young dog the kind of life experience that could lead to a successful career in our noisy, busy world?

Yes, it can, and in what might seem a particularly unpromising environment, prison. The people who run a program at Auburn University that trains explosive scent-finding dogs got frustrated by family puppy raisers who “spoiled” their charges by letting them up on couches and feeding them potato chips. They found that the more rigid, focused environment of prison, with inmates as puppy raisers, actually succeeded far more often in providing the dogs with the training and discipline they need to prepare them to be successful explosive finders.

Now, the Auburn University team relies on inmates at five different prisons to raise the puppies that will go on to vital jobs protecting the public from hidden explosives.

The carefully selected puppy-raising inmates living in the Coffee Correctional Facility in Nicholls, GA, share a special dormitory. The dogs’ crates are located right up against the inmates’ bunks. The prisoners participate actively in training their dogs.

The dogs are the only successes that result from this program. So are the inmates– Warden Grady Perry says, “A lot of these guys have never been given a lot of responsibility, and this is their chance not only to be a responsible adult but a responsible citizen.”

To read more and see a slide show of the program, go to

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