At a Maryland prison, dogs foster a positive atmosphere

Alfie, a 5-year old male Beagle mix, practices jumping through trainer’s arms. (Photo courtesy of the Washington Animal Rescue League)
Alfie, a 5-year-old male beagle mix, practices jumping through a trainer’s arms. (Courtesy Washington Animal Rescue League)
Miley, a 9-month old female Terrier mix, practices standing on two legs. (Photo courtesy of the Washington Animal Rescue League)
Miley, a 9-month-old female terrier mix, practices standing on two legs. (Photo courtesy of the Washington Animal Rescue League)
Alfie, a 5-year old male beagle mix, during a session with one his trainers. (Photo courtesy of the Washington Animal Rescue League)
Alfie, a 5-year old male beagle mix, during a session with one his trainers. (Courtesy Washington Animal Rescue League)
Miley, a 9-month old female terrier mix, practices sit and stay. (Photo courtesy of the Washington Animal Rescue League)
Miley, a 9-month-old female terrier mix, practices sit and stay. (Courtesy Washington Animal Rescue League)
Alfie, a 5-year old male beagle mix, graduates from his training. (Photo courtesy of the Washington Animal Rescue League)
Alfie, a 5-year-old male beagle mix, graduates from his training. (Courtesy Washington Animal Rescue League)
Miley, a 9-month-old female Terrier mix. plays around with her trainers. (Photo courtesy of the Washington Animal Rescue League)
Miley, a 9-month-old female Terrier mix, plays around with her trainers. (Courtesy Washington Animal Rescue League)
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Alfie, a 5-year old male Beagle mix, practices jumping through trainer’s arms. (Photo courtesy of the Washington Animal Rescue League)
Miley, a 9-month old female Terrier mix, practices standing on two legs. (Photo courtesy of the Washington Animal Rescue League)
Alfie, a 5-year old male beagle mix, during a session with one his trainers. (Photo courtesy of the Washington Animal Rescue League)
Miley, a 9-month old female terrier mix, practices sit and stay. (Photo courtesy of the Washington Animal Rescue League)
Alfie, a 5-year old male beagle mix, graduates from his training. (Photo courtesy of the Washington Animal Rescue League)
Miley, a 9-month-old female Terrier mix. plays around with her trainers. (Photo courtesy of the Washington Animal Rescue League)
July 24, 2024 | (WTOP's Nick Iannelli reports)

WASHINGTON — The bonds people form with their pets can be a positive force in their lives, and a prison in Maryland is trying to harness that energy to foster a more productive atmosphere behind bars.

Inside the sprawling Patuxent Institution, in Jessup, inmates are playing the roles of dog trainers.

“I think it really breeds a sense of ownership and responsibility,” says Assistant Warden James Flood. “Watching the animal grow and develop can also lead to them growing and developing along their way to rehabilitation.”

The Patuxent dog-training program launched in September.  Officials with the Washington Animal Rescue League provide the dogs and the guidance that inmates need to be successful.

“We really love it,” says Alexandra Dilley, WARL’s behavior and training director.  “It just brings so much joy to everybody involved.”

One dog is trained by a pair of inmates over the course of 10 weeks, learning basic obedience and tricks. The dog then “graduates” from the program and is ready to be adopted.

“We have been very impressed by our trainers’ love and commitment to the animals,” Dilley says. “Animal training helps develop a strong, positive relationship.”

Nick Iannelli

Nick Iannelli can be heard covering developing and breaking news stories on WTOP.

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