Pawsitive Change is a progressive and intensive rehabilitation program which matches death row dogs with inmates inside California State Prisons. Our goal is to reduce inmate recidivism by providing them a viable skill, while at the same time savingdogs lives. The program is guided by 4of our experienced trainers over 14 weeks, during which the inmates work towards vocational accreditation and the dogs towards their Canine Good Citizen Certification. Both man and mutt will use the skills gained in this program to better their lives and stay out of prisons and/or shelters--respectively.

We live inside a place where we can't show our emotion--it's considered a weakness. But with this program, we can feel--give and received affection. We become cold in here, much more cold then when we entered. But these dogs give us a chance to be human.


Providing a safe emotional space and respectful environment allows us to build relationships and therefore effectively communicate the tenets of dog psychology and energy recognition. By focusing on respect and emotional honesty, our program has forged outstanding dog trainers and revealed tremendous emotional breakthrough. Deep relationships are nurtured between inmate, dog and staff, thus laying the groundwork for Pawsitive Change in all of us.

I have laughed more in the last three months then I have in the last 13 years I've been incarcerated.

-Inmate Graduate, Cycle I

Taught by MMDR’s Head Trainer Lisa Porter & MMDR Trainer Lia Marques, the Pawsitive Change Program aids in the rehabilitation of both man and canine. The first 6 weeks are focused on dog psychology and rehabilitation, while the last 7 weeks are centered around completion of the American Kennel Club Canine Good Citizen test. The AKC's Canine Good Citizen program is recognized as the gold standard for dog behavior and we are proud to say ALL our graduated Pawsitive Change dogs have earned this title.

We measure our program success by the following metrics:


  • Increased willingness and ability to cooperate and engage positively in team-settings
  • Increased ability to tolerate and experience emotional discomfort in a constructive manner
  • Increased ability to express emotional discomfort in a constructive manner
  • Increased awareness of the needs and emotions of self and others, and appropriate responses
  • Increased reported sense of self-esteem and social value
  • Increased willingness and ability to engage in honest self-reflection
  • Increased understanding of canine behavior and how canine-handling principles can be applied to interpersonal relationships in and out of incarceration
  • Procurement of canine-handling skills for professional application after incarceration


  • Completion of Canine Good Citizen Certification
  • Increased signs of trust and respect with handlers and other humans
  • Decreased symptoms of nervousness, insecurity, and fear
  • Decreased tendencies toward possessiveness and territoriality
  • Increased balanced social behavior toward other dogs
  • Increased obedience to handlers

Lieutenant’s Testimony

Inmate’s Testimony

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