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Paws for Progress: The development and evaluation of the first prison based dog training programme in the UK

By Rebecca Jean Leonardi

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The most common type of human animal interaction (HAI) programme used in prisons involves prisoners caring for and training unwanted dogs from rescue shelters, to prepare the dogs for rehoming. Such programmes have been previously developed specifically aimed towards male young offenders, and are claimed to improve emotional, social and practical outcomes. Paws for Progress, the first prison based dog training programme in the UK, was introduced to HM YOI Polmont in 2011. By clearly communicating each step of the 5 Step approach (1. Identify the problem; 2. Review the evidence; 3. Develop a logic model; 4. Identify indicators and monitor the logic model; 5. Evaluate the logic model), it has enhanced our understanding of the development processes required for effective prison based dog training programmes. This evaluation provides the first comprehensive quantitative analysis of short, medium and long term outcomes for Scottish young offenders serving custodial sentences (N = 70) following participation. The aims of Paws for Progress are to improve behaviour, increase engagement in education, develop employability skills, and enhance well-being. Using a mixed design with two control groups and triangulating quantitative and qualitative outcomes, the evaluation assesses the efficacy of the programme in meeting these aims. Systematic analyses of semi-structured interviews pre and post participation in the programme support findings from the quantitative analyses. Analyses of institutional behaviour, measured by Disciplinary Reports, educational progress measured by written assessments and qualifications, employability skills measured by psychometric tests, and prisoner well-being all improved for participants, but such improvements were not shown by control groups. Paws for Progress positively impacts short and medium term outcomes and data on longer term outcomes also indicate the benefits are far reaching. By clearly relating programme aims to the outcomes achieved, and considering the contribution of Paws for Progress to future desistance from crime, the value and relevance of these findings are evident. The evaluation contributes to our understanding of effective methodologies in this applied context, which can be utilised to improve research practice in interventions in criminal justice and in human animal interaction.


Marcy Wilhelm-South

Purdue University

Date 2016
Pages 301
Department Psychology
Degree Doctor of Philosophy
Language English
University University of Stirling
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal-assisted activities
  2. Animal-assisted interventions
  3. Animal behavior
  4. Animal training
  5. Animal welfare
  6. Criminal justice
  7. Dogs
  8. Human-animal interactions
  9. Mammals
  10. open access
  11. prison-based animal programs
  12. United Kingdom
  1. open access