Timothy Duncan house-trained Archie, a shepherd mix, and taught him how to sit. But Duncan isn’t a suburban dog owner who might be spotted taking his pet for a walk around the block.

Instead, Duncan is an inmate at the Maine Correctional Center, and Archie is a participant in the Paws in Stripes program that places puppies and kittens with inmates for rehabilitation. Six months after being launched in Maine, the program is getting high marks.

As he talked about the dog in his charge, Duncan seemed relaxed and happy. Archie’s tail never stopped wagging when Duncan was nearby.

“It takes the jail out of jail,” said Duncan, who is serving a seven-year sentence for burglary.

Paws in Stripes is a partnership between the Animal Refuge League and the Maine Correctional Center, with prisoners playing a major role in socializing kittens and puppies from the shelter.

Susan Britt, director of the animal shelter, said she expected there would be tricky details to work out when the program started in October, but that the concept seems to be working well for both the inmates and the animals.

“It’s a structured life here, and dogs do well with structure,” she said. “This is the best they’ve ever known it. They don’t know this is prison. This is their home. They’re just getting incredible time and attention. No one’s leaving for work eight hours a day.”

The animals are placed with medium-security prisoners, said Penny Bailey, who oversees security and programs in the medium-security unit.

The only inmates who may participate in the program are those who follow the rules, don’t have discipline problems, have a positive attitude and are involved in other correctional programs.

Most animals stay a little more than a month until the shelter has space or finds them permanent homes.

Similar programs are being applauded around the country as good for the animals and the inmates.

“It gives them a living entity to interact with that cares for them. Perhaps they haven’t had that in their lives,” said David Frie of Delta Society, a national group that supports the therapeutic use of animals. “We know instinctively that when you interact with a dog or cat, you feel better. It changes the energy in the room.”

A difficult time comes when the animals are separated from their caregivers. Christopher Webber, who is in prison for probation revocation, said he knows it will be hard to say goodbye to Carmen, a beagle he is paired with.

He finds comfort knowing that Carmen, who wouldn’t even wag her tail when they met, now knows what it means to be loved. He knows the feeling as well.

“She takes care of me more than I take care of her,” he said.