Year of the NEADS Dog Month 10 – The Canine Center

kennel enrichment

Welcome to month 10 of our Year of the NEADS Dog series, in which we highlight the transition our Service Dogs in Training make during their first year with us. This month, we take a look at the role the NEADS Canine Center plays in the care of the puppies.

NEADS dogs spend time in our Princeton, MA kennel for a variety of reasons:

  • One-year evaluation: At one year of age, each dog in training returns to NEADS for one to two weeks for an evaluation. During this time, a NEADS trainer spends time with the dog on campus and in different public settings like town trips to grocery stores, the city, restaurants, pet stores, hospitals, and an assortment of other places. (See Year of the NEADS Dog Month 9)
  • Medical: Service Dogs in Training occasionally return to NEADS after they have been neutered or spayed, and occasionally for medical observations (See Year of the NEADS Dog Month 11).
  • Waiting to be matched: Service Dogs return to the NEADS Canine Center one to two weeks prior to being matched with their new partner. The medical team uses this time to be sure the dogs are up to date on their vaccinations and also complete exit wellness exams.
  • Resident: NEADS apprentice trainers hone their skills and techniques by working with a resident dog in training who lives on campus.
  • Grooming: NEADS occasionally sends some of dogs (primarily Labradoodles) to the groomer, and, depending on the schedule, the dogs may stay overnight in the Canine Center after their appointment and before returning to prison.
  • Waiting to be adopted: Like the Service Dogs prior to being matched, Furlough Favorites spend time in the NEADS Canine Center until they go home with their adoptive family.

No matter the reason, NEADS staff and volunteers make sure the dogs time in the Canine Center is as comfortable and stress-free as possible. Here are just some of what goes on:

  • Play yard – NEADS staff engages with the dogs in the outdoor play yard, throwing balls, playing with rope toys, and even some water play in the nice weather. The dogs are always supervised to make sure play is appropriate.  
  • One-on-one time – NEADS staff and volunteers spend one-on-one time with the dogs, taking them on short leash walks on campus, playing with them off-leash in an enclosed indoor area, brushing them, and just cuddling with them. This is a chance for the dogs to be dogs – their equipment is off, and they aren’t working.
  • Enrichment – Enrichment plays a large role for all NEADS dogs that stay in the kennel. It provides mental stimulation and keeps the dogs happy. Enrichment examples include snacks that might require a little work, like Kongs filled with vegetables/fruits, kibble, or peanut butter, as well interactive toys and games like the muffin tin game and interactive feeders. Non-food related enrichment examples include canine massage and music. The staff uses a variety of playlists, including soothing music and audiobooks, and canine massage. Because the kennel staff is always looking for new enrichment opportunities, they can be as fun for staff as they are for dogs.

See the whole Year of the NEADS Dog series here.