Did you ever wonder how many hands held the leash of a Can Do Canine before they met their forever person? Every service dog's journey is unique, but there are always many hands helping them along their way!
Litters born through our breeding program are whelped in a volunteer’s home. There they begin their assistance dog training from day one! Even before their eyes open, our puppies are exposed to a variety of sensations, from scented candles to tiny capes.
At five weeks of age, mom and puppies travel to one of our two weaning prisons. The prisons complete the weaning process and tackle important behaviors like crate and potty training. When the puppies reach ten weeks of age, they come to our facility and are picked up by Puppy Program volunteers who will help raise them.
Raisers provide a home and lots of love to a dog for anywhere from seven days up to two years. They teach the puppy good house manners, basic obedience, and foundation assistance dog skills while exposing the puppy to as many social situations as possible.
Some of our puppies will move from their Raiser's home, where they have focused on house manners and exposure experiences, into one of our five prison-raising programs.
This unique program and partnership has proven to be beneficial for all involved. The dogs are well cared for and receive around-the-clock attention and training. The carefully selected inmate handlers learn new skills and develop traits such as confidence, dedication, and patience.
Prison-raised puppies also get “prison breaks” or furloughs with dog host volunteers. Prisons are a contained, artificial environment, so we want to ensure our dogs are also comfortable and able to perform their important skills in different kinds of settings.
Following their stay in prison, the dogs will return to a home environment and resume exposure training with a volunteer Raiser. At this time, around 15 months of age, we will verify the health and physical condition of the dogs through a variety of health clearances.
When the dogs reach approximately 2 years of age, they return to the Can Do Canines facility for final training. They are assessed by our trainers to find out what they’re best at (e.g., smelling low blood sugar, alerting to sounds) and then those skills are further refined.
When the dog is deemed ready, he or she is partnered with a client, and the two begin to train together to ensure they are a good match. Once they have completed training, teams are celebrated in a Graduation Ceremony. At Graduation, the leash is passed for a final time, completing the journey!