Indiana Canine Assistant Network (ICAN)
Service Dog, Diabetic Alert, Autism Assistance, Facility Dog
Assistance Dogs International
The organization provides:
Raisers pay for:
ICAN at IU, the student organization in Bloomington, fundraises for themselves and purchases crates, bones, etc. for students on campus to borrow during the time they have the dog.
Supplies & Financial
Puppy raisers (8-16 weeks old) are responsible specifically for environmental exposure, house manners, crate training, and potty training. They begin working on other service dog behaviors as well (calm greetings, LLW, etc.). Recently, they have been allowed to begin training some of the basic level cues as well, specifically the puppy’s name, sit, down, touch, shake, come, and den (crate).
Longer Term Fosters - some volunteers might have a dog for a range of time (likely 2-6 months long, depending on dog’s age, skill, etc. when they enter the program and when we have the correct client match). These Fosters would train foundational cues and behaviors, and may introduce tasks.
Furlough Volunteers, who work with dogs from 6 months – 2 years old on rotation (for 3 week periods) do not train any cues, but reinforce the “Level 1” cues they already know and reinforce appropriate behavior in public settings. The goal is for them to accompany them everywhere and report back to ICAN behaviors that need adjustment in the public and home settings.
To begin volunteering, furloughers and puppy raisers both need to attend an 8 week, weekly training course for a total of 16 hours. There are various online learning modules that volunteers will complete on their own time. Upon completion of those modules, there will be multiple hands-on in-person training sessions.
For continuing education: 3 meetings per quarter and offer meetings 2-3 times per month.
Puppy Raisers actively with a puppy (8-16 weeks old) are required to attend weekly puppy classes that are 2 hours long.
All ICAN dogs are considered potential breeders from birth. Some are part of the IBC Breeding Cooperative through Assistance Dogs International, while some are ICAN-owned. The exact age of spay/neuter is dog-dependent, but is usually between 14-16 months of age. Dogs are evaluated through medical, structural, and temperament testing to determine qualified breeding candidates.
3 in 1 Harness
Comfort Trainer/Halti (short-term tool)
There are different manuals/guidebooks and reference documents available for different volunteer roles. Puppy Raisers (8-16 weeks old) have more of an instructional guide sorted by week to instruct them on what skills and cues to teach as they progress. Furlough Volunteers have a training guidebook available to them, but then will receive a report from the dog’s incarcerated trainer to instruct them on cues to use and how to work on behaviors the dog demonstrates. They attend frequent continuing education meetings as well.
ICAN considers “Formal Training” to begin at 4 months old when the dog heads to one of our three correctional facilities for the first time. At the completion of the 8 week puppy raising, a volunteer will drop off their puppy at one of these three pre-assigned facilities. If a transport is needed, there is a Volunteer Transport Team that can help with that.
There is a 4 month old Walk and Talk Evaluation, partly to provide feedback and advice to volunteers as they move forward with future puppies, partly to evaluate the puppy’s temperament and skills moving into training, and partly to celebrate all the team has accomplished together so far (so they get to “show off” all of the things their puppy has learned so far!).
The puppy raiser gets the opportunity to take the puppy back for a future furlough (usually their first or second, depending on their schedule) after 6 (or 15 weeks if they are unable to the first furlough). At the time of that furlough, the inmate trainer does write a report to the volunteer sharing what cues the dog has learned and knows, the behaviors to work on, etc. The volunteer spends 3 weeks with the dog, and then sends the dog back with a report for the handler in prison to learn more about how that furlough went.
Throughout the dog’s 2 years of training, the puppy raiser can keep track of how their puppy is doing at meetings, on social media with other volunteers, etc.
All volunteers that work with the dog are informed of their placement or release.
There is in-person graduation ceremonies for clients and volunteers/sponsors to connect with their dogs at the completion of training. These are no longer held in the prison.
Volunteers often run into clients at our fundraising events and such, and many clients do ask for contact information for volunteers who either puppy raised or have a strong furlough connection with their dog. Many times they ask the volunteers to babysit for vacations and such if the dog is not traveling with them, as everyone lives pretty local.
ICAN has a double mission in providing life skills to the inmate handlers who train them.
Volunteers only have the dogs/puppies for short periods of time, and the training is primarily all done by inmates.
Puppy Raisers start the puppies from 8-16 weeks. Furlough Volunteers take the dogs into the community for 3 weeks at a time, on average. The dogs are primarily trained in three local prisons, and are on a 6-weeks-in, 3-weeks-out rotation. We ask volunteers take at least 3 furloughs per year (9 week commitment) but many of them have dogs pretty much non-stop (turn one in, get another same day).
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