Puppies are transported to the prisons at 8-9 weeks old in groups of 3 - 4. A primary and secondary handler is then paired to work with each puppy. Puppies live in the handler’s cell and house-breaking, crate training, and basic puppy skills are started immediately. The vast majority of each pup’s day is spent outside the cell, attending classes, programs, observing recreational activities and going to meals in the chow hall along with their handlers. An America’s VetDogs instructor travels to each prison facility once a week providing instructing on how to train the dogs during a two hour class.
Handlers not only teach basic obedience but service dog tasks as well, such as retrieving dropped items, tugging doors open, pushing handicapped door buttons, and providing brace and balance on stairs.