Goals, Strategy, Assessing Results
Although specifics of PBB’s program have evolved over time, the organization has remained true to its core mission: training inmates to raise exceptional working dogs. We currently train service dogs for wounded war veterans and explosive-detection canines (EDCs) for law enforcement.
Our goals are to train the best working dogs available, to keep the dogs happy and healthy, to train the inmate puppy raisers in our program to be skilled dog handlers, and to maintain a high “graduation” rate, with approximately 75% of our dogs going on to lead successful and productive working lives. (Dogs that do not graduate are released for adoption.)
We train excellent working dogs by offering rigorous instruction and guidance to the inmates in our program. The dogs receive 24-hour-a-day attention from their inmate puppy raisers, from the age of 8 weeks until they leave our program between the ages of 12 and 24 months. We adapt constantly our instruction and dog training methods based on our own experience, on input from other experts, and on feedback from the veterans and law enforcement officers who are ultimately paired with our dogs. We achieve high graduation rates by carefully selecting dogs with ideal characteristics for working life, and through the flexibility that training two different types of working dogs lends our program. This allows us to switch a dog’s career path if its response to early training indicates that a change might lead to greater success. The dogs, in this sense, choose the career for which they are best suited.
PBB’s staff includes six full- and part-time instructors, who teach in seven correctional facilities. Approximately 140 inmates participate in our program as puppy raisers. Members of our instructional staff also conduct two to four “team training” sessions annually, during which veterans and first responders are paired, and learn to work with, their new Dog Tags service dogs. PBB’s finances are healthy, with a broad base of individual and foundation support allowing us to maintain our programs.
Measuring and Reporting Success
PBB measures success both quantitatively and qualitatively. Our Puppy Placement page (click here to view) tracks all the dogs we have raised, listing graduates with their careers and the year they left our program, as well as dogs released as pets for medical or behavioral reasons. The longevity of our program is another indication of its health, and the large number of inmates participating, as well as the number of prisons where we work, are clear factors in assessing our progress. We also find an indication of our program’s effectiveness in the many PBB inmate puppy raisers who apprise us of their success finding jobs in dog training, grooming, and related fields after they are paroled.
Ongoing media coverage is a qualitative gauge of our achievements. From the New York Times to the Wall Street Journal and The Oprah Winfrey Show, many news and entertainment outlets have chronicled our work and what it means to the inmates and wounded veterans who benefit from it. (click here to view press coverage of PBB.) Finally, we hear frequently from our clients, volunteers, and inmates about the impact our dogs have on their lives. PBB’s biannual newsletters relay some of these successes with profiles of Dog Tags veterans, news about our EDCs, and other updates about our work (click here to view past newsletters).