Valley State Prison has launched the Very Special Puppy Training Program in partnership with the Madera Animal Shelter and other organizations.

Valley State Prison has launched the Very Special Puppy Training Program in partnership with the Madera Animal Shelter and other organizations.

‘Very Special Puppies’ training program leaps into prison

Valley State Prison (VSP), Yosemite Bark Pet Training, the Friends of Madera Animal Shelter, and the Madera County Animal Shelter have created a unique partnership.

For the first time in the Madera area and the central valley, this cooperative effort will take homeless animals from the Madera County Animal Shelter to the Valley State Prison for 10 weeks of intense training.

The expected result will be highly adoptable dogs, usable skills for inmate trainees, and canine good citizen status for the dogs.

Numerous prisons in California and across the nation have implemented successful dog training programs. VSP will be the first prison in the central valley to develop and establish its own dog training program. This Dog Training Program has been dubbed the Valley State Prison Very Special Puppies (VSPVSP).

Warden Ray Fisher Jr. was excited about the project and the positive impact it would have on everyone involved. Warden Fisher instructed his staff to expedite the project and the first five dogs were delivered Aug. 3.

During the 10 weeks of training, the dogs learn accepting a friendly stranger, sitting politely for petting, appearance and grooming, walking on a loose leash, walking through a crowd, to sit and lay down on command, staying in place, coming when called, polite reaction to other dogs, confidence when distracted, and supervised separation (maintaining good manners and training with another person).

After completion, the dog will receive its Canine Good Citizen Diploma.

Over 200 inmates applied for the opportunity to participate in the program.  The selected inmates will learn basic obedience training skills, pet care, dog grooming and other vocational skills.

The inmates will also increase their sense of responsibility, gain pride in their accomplishments, and provide an invaluable service to the dogs and the community, according to those with the program.

Over 4,000 dogs are in the Madera County Animal Shelter every year. Many are strays no one claimed, many are dropped off by their owners because they can no longer care for them or the dogs are exhibiting negative behaviors.

Most of the homeless dogs are between the ages of 6 months and 1-and-a-half years old and have little or no training. The VSPVSP Program will ensure more dogs get adopted to responsible and loving homes.

Dogs are trained under the supervision of Ali Imel of Yosemite Bark Pet Services who, on a volunteer basis, teach the inmates how to train the dogs three days a week for 10 weeks.

All crates, leashes, food and other supplies and services related to the dogs are donated by the Friends of Madera Animal Shelter, and the dogs are selected and monitored by Madera County Animal Services.

There are no costs to the prison or taxpayers for the program.

For additional information on the program,  how to submit an application as an adopter, or donate to the program, submit your request or donation to the Friends of Madera Animal Shelter at P.O. Box 923, Madera, CA 93639.