‘A New Leash on Life’

Published 10:12 am Thursday, January 18, 2018

Program offers obedience training

for dogs while providing inmates

with important workplace skills

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Entering its second year, Barkburn: A New Leash on Life, is a dog training program in Jessamine County offering education for the dog and viable work skills for inmates at the Blackburn Correctional Complex.

Designed to help shelter dogs get ready to be a life-long pet, the program consists of an eight-week training process where dogs chosen for the program live with their trainers in a dormitory-style work camp.

“Friends of Jessamine County Animals was contacted when Blackburn was looking to start a new dog program,” Amia Kurs, trainer with the Barkburn program, said. “Friends partnered with JCACC to work together to help homeless, less adoptable dogs in Jessamine County.”

During the first week of the program, inmates are asked to care for the dog, she said. Feeding walking and playing with them are encouraged, but not training.  She said this is because every dog is different and needs to be worked with in a different way.

During the program, the dogs will be crate trained, house trained and learn basic obedience. Upon completion, they will be expected to sit, stay, recall, down, heel and respond to no and leave it. Dogs who go through the program will also be leash trained. When they graduate the program, dogs will receive a certificate validating their achievement.

Kurs said she got involved after assisting a fellow trainer with a Canine Good Citizen Class.

“I  got involved to help Lori with group training,” Kurs said. “Chris started out working with the inmates on enrichment activities for the dogs, as well as keeping track of the dog’s activities and behavior outside of regular basic obedience training. After the first session, Chris and I started working together on all aspects of dog training at Blackburn.”

Kurs said she believes it is important to have a dog enter the program because a trained animal is safer since it is taught to trust its owner’s judgment. After she discovered that her first dog, Nugget, was fearful when she first got her, training gave her the confidence to trust and helped make her calmer in new places and with new people.

“Training helps a dog learn good habits and unlearn bad habits. When my dog sees something on the ground during a walk she is interested in seeing what it is. Since she’s trained, I can tell her to ‘leave it,’ and the object, which may be dangerous for her, is left ignored,” Kurs said.

Kurs said, through positive reinforcement, trainers praise and reward good behavior and correct bad behavior in the animals involved in the program. Trainers take the time to figure out what will work for each individual dog. For instance, one dog may be treat motivated while another is excited about playing with a toy, she said.

“The program has been very successful, the inmates are doing such a good job with the animals they have assigned to them. The transformation in these dogs is amazing. Blackburn Correctional is very supportive of the efforts of everyone.”

The program is always in need of donations. Among the items listed are gently-used crates, treats, leashes, collars, sturdy toys, paper towels and canine waste bags. Those who wish to donate can do so by contacting or bringing donations to Jessamine County Animal Care and Control, 120 Fairground Way, Nicholasville, KY 40356.

To fill out an application for adoption, visit http\://www.adoptapet.com/jcacc/adoption-application/