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How A Dog Becomes A NEADS Service Dog

Western Massachusetts-based NEADS, also known as National Education for Assistance Dog Services, is nationally known for its remarkable success training dogs to be service dogs for deaf and disabled Americans.

In the first of a series, Here & Now‘s Robin Young takes a look at how a dog becomes a NEADS service dog. The NEADS dogs are trained for about a year, on weekends by volunteer

“foster parents,” and during the week, they go to a prison where they live with and are trained by a a select group of qualifying inmates.

It’s a rigorous program at various prisons, including the Northeastern Correctional Facilities, a minimum security prison on a farm in Concord, Massachusetts. Robin speaks with two dog handlers, Bernard and Ryan, as they train their dogs Bailey and Griffin before the dogs head to a “forever family” several months down the road.

Reporter

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Ryan working with Griffin the black lab at the minimum-security Northeast Correctional Center in Concord, Massachusetts. (Karyn Miller-Medzon)
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Ryan working with Griffin the black lab at the minimum-security Northeast Correctional Center in Concord, Massachusetts. (Karyn Miller-Medzon)
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Griffin learning to open a refrigerator. (Karyn Miller-Medzon)
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Griffin learning to open a refrigerator. (Karyn Miller-Medzon)
After learning to open the fridge, Griffin's next step is learning to grab items inside. (Karyn Miller-Medzon)
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After learning to open the fridge, Griffin's next step is learning to grab items inside. (Karyn Miller-Medzon)
(Karyn Miller-Medzon)
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(Karyn Miller-Medzon)
The service dogs also learn to do tasks like turning on light switches. Griffin the lab turns on the light while Ryan looks on. (Karyn Miller-Medzon)
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The service dogs also learn to do tasks like turning on light switches. Griffin the lab turns on the light while Ryan looks on. (Karyn Miller-Medzon)
After opening the fridge and picking up an item inside, Bailey returns the item to Bernard, the inmate he is working with at the Northeast Correctional Center in Concord, Massachusetts. (Karyn Miller-Medzon)
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After opening the fridge and picking up an item inside, Bailey returns the item to Bernard, the inmate he is working with at the Northeast Correctional Center in Concord, Massachusetts. (Karyn Miller-Medzon)
Bernard gives Bailey a treat after he successfully completes a task. (Karyn Miller-Medzon)
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Bernard gives Bailey a treat after he successfully completes a task. (Karyn Miller-Medzon)
Bailey learns to open a fridge by pulling on a rope. (Karyn Miller-Medzon)
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Bailey learns to open a fridge by pulling on a rope. (Karyn Miller-Medzon)
Bailey the yellow lab is also in training to become a NEADS service dog. (Karyn Miller-Medzon)
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Bailey the yellow lab is also in training to become a NEADS service dog. (Karyn Miller-Medzon)
Bernard works with Bailey on his ability to pick things up for individuals in wheelchairs. (Karyn Miller-Medzon)
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Bernard works with Bailey on his ability to pick things up for individuals in wheelchairs. (Karyn Miller-Medzon)
Bailey pulls on a rope as Bernard sits in a wheelchair, practicing picking things up for people in wheelchairs. (Karyn Miller-Medzon)
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Bailey pulls on a rope as Bernard sits in a wheelchair, practicing picking things up for people in wheelchairs. (Karyn Miller-Medzon)
Bernard pets Bailey after he successfully completes his task. (Karyn Miller-Medzon)
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Bernard pets Bailey after he successfully completes his task. (Karyn Miller-Medzon)