Canine CellMates Training Philosophy
The goal of Canine CellMates is to guide individuals to become good canine and human citizens and reduce recidivism. While about 10% of the 3.9 million dogs in American shelters are relinquished because of behavioral issues, about 70-80% of the some 50,000 incarcerated persons return to Georgia jails within three years of release. Despite these devastating numbers, our lead trainer believes that behavior modification is as simple as A-B-C: Antecedent, Behavior, Consequence.
By managing the environment before the behavior, or the antecedent, learners can set themselves up for success to offer expected behaviors and receive positive consequences. If every learner is taught how to break down behaviors into simple digestible, do-able steps the expected behavior is not only easy to achieve, but fun and rewarding to perform and repeat.
In order to achieve these results, Canine CellMates believes in using positive reinforcement techniques. In the recidivistic world of corrections, which include negative reinforcement, punishment and aggression, introducing our methods that are free of the use of fear, force, coercion, bribery, or violence to achieve results can be a refreshing new perspective for many individuals in the program. Clicker training is the most efficient and effective way to communicate with animals (and sometimes humans!) and the men in our program thrive with their new found skills. While our trainer knows it, many of our men could advocate that aggression leads to more aggression, and that wielding force, fear, coercion, impulsive tendencies and other aversive behaviors is what yielded this negative consequence. Uncovering another way to achieve enthusiastic compliance is often as rewarding to the teacher as it is to the learner.
In addition to clicker training the basics, Canine CellMates advocates the rehabilitation of the entire individual: spiritually, mentally, and physically. Our dogs are challenged with mental games, physical contests, and sensory encounters every day; meanwhile, our men are encouraged to journal, open their minds to our outside speakers, and engage with our diverse group of program coordinators on a daily basis. Each week of our program has a special theme from focus and impulse control to patience, our curriculum spans all aspects of canine and human wellbeing to address as many issues as possible. In this way, Canine CellMates hopes to help rehabilitate the repeat offender as well as the returned shelter dog.
However, our work does not stop there. Behavior modification with years of reinforcement history usually does not happen overnight. Our aftercare teams continue the positive changes long after our men and dogs leave the Fulton County Jail walls. Aftercare trainers help transition the pups into their new homes, while aftercare mentors help men find jobs and stay on the positive path. Change is not always easy, but it is fun and rewarding with Canine CellMates.
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