Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Questions about our program

What does Project POOCH do?

We provide opportunities for youth in corrections to develop the personal and vocational skills they will need to become responsible, productive members of the community. The program accomplishes this by teaching youth to care for and train shelter dogs for adoption.

More specifically, Project POOCH brings together selected youth at MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility in Woodburn, Oregon, to work with, care for, groom, socialize, love, and train homeless shelter dogs so the dogs can be adopted into their forever homes. The youth must train each dog, preparing them for Canine Good Citizen test before the dog can be adopted.

Since 1993, we have successfully paired these two at-risk groups. The dogs leave the program ready to be great pets, while their trainers re-enter the community with new job and personal skills and increased compassion and respect for all life. Project POOCH, Inc. is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Our Tax ID # is 93-1252054.

How long has Project POOCH been around?

Project POOCH was started by Joan Dalton in 1993, when she was vice principal at Lord High School at MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility.

Originally, Project POOCH was managed by the Oregon Youth Authority at MacLaren. We became a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in 1999. At that time, we established our Outreach Office in Lake Oswego to house our administrative staff and offer a place where people could easily connect and interact with POOCH staff and volunteers.

What is MacLaren exactly?

MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility is a correctional facility located at 2630 N Pacific Highway in Woodburn, Oregon, under the jurisdiction of the Oregon Youth Authority (OYA). It was originally built in 1926 and houses youth offenders ages 12-25.

Is Project POOCH in any other correctional facilities?
No, we operate only out of MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility. Joan Dalton, founder, has consulted with many people through the years who were interested in setting up similar programs in other prisons around the country. Learn more about Joan and setting up a consultation with her.
How many youths participate in your program?
The number of youths in the program at any given time changes. Due to OYA regulations, we must maintain a ratio of no more than 10 youths with a corrections staff person. Typically, anywhere from seven to ten youths are involved with the program at any given time.
What else do the youths learn at Project POOCH?

The youth participate in the running of our kennel and program at all levels, from working with the dogs, to their daily care, to facility maintenance, to interacting with potential adopters. The key values the youths learn through their work with the dogs at Project POOCH are:

  • Patience
  • Responsibility
  • Compassion
  • Trust

The youths may also choose to study for and take certification tests by the International Boarding and Pet Services Association (IBPSA).

In addition, professionals volunteer their time to give talks and demonstrations to teach the youths other skills such as:

  • Grooming
  • Flyball
  • Agility
  • Pet First Aid
  • Dog health and nutrition
  • Search and Rescue
  • Customer Service
  • Business planning
  • Resume writing
  • Interview skills
  • Marketing
  • Light construction

Questions about the dogs

How many dogs do you have?
Project POOCH started out with one youth and one dog. Today, our kennel can house up to 15 dogs.
Where do your dogs come from?

All our dogs come from shelters throughout the greater Portland metro area. We’ve also accepted dogs from shelters on the Oregon Coast and in the Columbia Gorge.

They are often dogs who have been in the shelter for some time, and are having a difficult time being placed whether it is because they are shutting down, extremely hyper, need training and/or socialization, or the shelter is overcrowded. We accept dogs who we think will benefit from and succeed in our unique program.

We don’t take dogs from private individuals because we are trying to teach the youths that dogs are a lifetime commitment regardless of situational changes. Many of the youths in our program have broken relationships with their families, so accepting a dog that has been given up by his or her human is very difficult for them

I see a dog I'm interested in meeting. How do I arrange that?

Our kennel is open daily from 8:30 am to 2:30 pm with a lunch break from 11-12:00. ALL visits are by appointment only. Since it is a correctional facility, all visitors must be on the guest list at the MacLaren gatehouse. To make an appointment, you need to call our kennel at (503) 981-2570. Please note, you are only allowed to bring in your keys and ID when you enter MacLaren. All other belongings – phone, wallet, cash, etc., are not allowed. MacLaren enforces a clothing standard that must be followed in order to enter the facility:

What types of dogs do you take in and what ages?

Project POOCH dogs represent a variety of breeds, personality types, and ages. We want the youths to learn how to adjust and adapt to varying conditions and challenges. By bringing in all types of dogs, the youths have to learn patience and modify their training to meet each dog’s needs and learning styles. Young puppies are not accepted into the program given the barriers to socialization in a correctional facility.

What kind of training do you use with the dogs?

The youths are trained by professional trainers using reward-based training methods. Treats, pets, praise, toys, and clickers are used to reward the dogs for good/desired behavior. Through daily interaction and work with the dogs, the youths forge bonds and build trust enabling them and their dog to be successful.

Every dog adopted through Project POOCH is ready to take their Canine Good Citizen test. 

What is the Canine Good Citizen Test?

Started in 1989 by the American Kennel Club (AKC), the Canine Good Citizen Program (CGC Program) is designed to reward dogs who have good manners at home and in the community. The Canine Good Citizen Program is a two-part program that stresses responsible pet ownership for owners and basic good manners for dogs. All dogs who pass the 10-step CGC test may receive a certificate from the American Kennel Club.

Many dog owners choose Canine Good Citizen training as the first step in training their dogs. The Canine Good Citizen Program lays the foundation for other AKC activities such as obedience, agility, tracking, and performance events. As one works with their dog to teach the CGC skills, they discover the many benefits and joys of training their dog. Training enhances the bond between human and dog. Dogs who have a solid obedience education are a joy to live with-they respond well to household routines, have good manners in the presence of people and other dogs, and they fully enjoy the company of the person who took the time to provide training, intellectual stimulation, and a high quality life. 

The training and test were developed to demonstrate that a dog will:

  1. Accept a friendly stranger – The dog will allow a friendly stranger to approach it and speak to the handler.
  2. Sit politely for petting – The dog will allow a friendly stranger to pet it while it is out with its handler.
  3. Allow handling – The dog will permit someone to check its ears and front feet, as a groomer or veterinarian would do.
  4. Walk on a loose lead – Following the evaluator’s instructions, the dog will walk on a loose lead (with the handler/owner).
  5. Walk through a crowd – This test demonstrates that the dog can move about politely in pedestrian traffic and is under control in public places. The dog and handler walk around and pass close to several people (at least three).
  6. Sit, Stay and Down on command – The dog must do sit AND down on command, then the owner chooses the position for leaving the dog in the stay.
  7. Come when called – This test demonstrates that the dog will come when called by the handler (from 10 feet on a leash).
  8. Be polite when encountering another dog – This test demonstrates that the dog can behave politely around other dogs. Two handlers and their dogs approach each other from a distance of about 20 feet, stop, shake hands and exchange pleasantries.
  9. Stay focused in the face of distractions – The evaluator will select and present two distractions such as dropping a chair, etc.
  10. Remain calm when left with a trusted person – This test demonstrates that a dog can be left with a trusted person. The evaluator will hold the dog’s leash while the other person walks away.

Learn more about what earning the CGC stands for.

I Want To Help

I'd like to contribute. How can I make a donation?

Thank YOU! We accept monetary donations as well as in-kind donations. We accept cash, check, credit card, or you can make a secure donation online through PayPal (you don’t need a PayPal account). Donations may also be mailed to our Outreach Office at Project POOCH, PO Box 305, Lake Oswego, OR 97034.

If you have in-kind items you’d like to donate, click here to learn where and when you can drop off items. Learn more about other ways you can support our work.

I have items I'd like to donate. Where do I bring them?

Thank you for caring! Our Community Outreach Office is located in Lake Oswego, halfway between Portland and Woodburn. Our physical address is 15800 Boones Ferry Rd, Ste A2, Lake Oswego, OR 97035. We are open Monday – Friday, from 10 am to 4 pm. If you have items you would like to drop off, please call ahead to schedule a time. Our Outreach Office phone # is 503-697-0623.

I'm interested in volunteering. What opportunities do you have?
  • We are thrilled you’re interested in volunteering your time to help the youth and dogs in our program. Because we are located inside a correctional facility, our hands-on opportunities to work with dogs are very limited. The Oregon Youth Authority (OYA) requires volunteers to be at least 18 years of age, complete their volunteer application, attend an orientation, and have a criminal background check.

    Our biggest need is for volunteers who are interested in helping spread the word about the work we do in the community. This could include staffing an information table/booth or distributing event or dog flyers to area businesses.

    Learn more about our volunteer opportunities.