Indiana Canine Assistant Network has a unique program that prepares its clients after a match is made. When a client is partnered with a dog an ICAN Team Training takes place in the Indiana Women’s Prison in Indianapolis, Ten days prior to graduation, the clients enter the correctional facility. The handlers, who have trained the dogs for the previous six to eight months, some longer, anxiously greet the individuals upon their arrival.
For the next 10 days, the ICAN handlers will show clients the proper way to care for their new dog (grooming, good hygiene), teach them the cues/commands to successfully “speak dog”, and problem solves with the dog the many different ways the dog will improve their daily lives. The handlers all work together to provide different scenarios, obstacles, and distractions so the individuals are given multiple opportunities to practice prior to being “released” with their new dog. Games are incorporated in the training process to keep things fun and entertaining, and training is done in both group and one-on-one sessions while inside the correctional facility.
The second week of Team Training includes “field trips” to several different public locations. ICAN staff and volunteers accompany the clients on these trips. Some of the locations include restaurants, grocery stores, malls, and public parks.
With each passing day, the handlers see their bond with the dog lessen, and be transferred to and strengthened with the individual receiving the dog.
Throughout Team Training, the prison’s culinary program prepares lunches and provides snacks/beverages throughout the day.
Entering a prison for the first time can be intimidating and nervous for some clients. ICAN staff and their handlers strive to provide our clients with a safe and comfortable environment so that they can receive the maximum benefit of the training in the limited time that we have with them.
Photos by Liz Kaye