Puppies training to be service dogs 'graduate' kindergarten

A group of puppies are one step closer to becoming service dogs after they've spent their past several weeks training in an unconventional place.

For a litter of puppies at Can Do Canines Monday, it’s graduation day from canine kindergarten. Instead of a diploma, they will be getting a new foster family for the next couple of months.

For the last five weeks, seven Labrador-golden retriever mix puppies have been training with inmates at the federal correctional facility in Duluth.

Now Yanni, Yale, Yeti, Yuki, Yasmin, O'Hara and Blarney will move in with volunteers, so they can get good at more than just teething and wagging their tails.

"Really what they work on is good house manners,” said Sarah Lennander of Can Do Canines. “Being good puppies, being out in public, meeting lots of people. They are really good at this age. They are like a sponge."

In about 18 months, this pack of pups will become service dogs for people with disabilities. Can Do Canines will match them with new owners where they will help with tasks like opening doors and drawers or detecting seizures.

"It’s new beginnings,” said Lennander. “We see these cute puppies. It’s amazing. They are going to grow up and change someone's life. It’s always an emotional day. It’s why I'm here."

For Jodi Elkins and her daughters, Yasmin will be the newest member of the family. Elkins says helping her through the next stage of doggie development is a real treat.

"It’s very rewarding and it’s good for our kids to see they are part of something good as well for the dogs," said Elkins.

Since Can Do Canines started doing the program in the late ‘80s, the organization has trained 660 puppies. They have all been placed in homes in Minnesota and Wisconsin.