PTSD Assistance Dogs
Obsessive Compulsive Disorders
These dogs are trained to:
Other Possible Tasks
Administration July 7, 2010
Audit of Guide and Service Dog Program
Symptoms of PTSD Include:
How do Psychiatric Service Dogs Help Veterans with PTSD?
Many people ask this question, including the psychiatrists who treat these patients before they are willing to write a prescription for this specially trained type of dog.
Specifically, behavioral goals are set by the veteran and dog trainer who is helping the vet learn how to use the dog. This is where the certifying organizations come in such as, Golden Kimba Service Dogs or NEADS, both mentioned above.
After the dogs receive their training at Puppies Behind Bars or elsewhere, they are shipped to the certifying organizations such as Golden Kimba Service Dogs, etc, where they meet their new trainer who completes what was started in training. The dog is exposed to public places as much as possible to prepare them for life in the outside world with the veteran.
One or two weeks later, the veteran arrives and meets his or her dog. From then onward, they work with the trainer to learn everything that is needed to form a powerful bond between dog and veteran and to live in the outside world. Depending on the behavioral goals of the veteran, and that depends on the nature of the symptoms, the veteran learns to use his dog to help him function with a minimum of interference from those symptoms.
One of the challenges faced by the veteran is helping his family understand that the dog is not their pet but is his ally and helper in the world. That is why family is encouraged to accompany the veteran in this part of the training. For example, no one in the family is to walk and feed the dog. Also, the dog is Never to be left at home for any reason. Even when visiting the doctor and the psychiatrist the dog is to accompany the veteran. All of this is easier for family to understand and accept if they are present at training, can ask questions and learn about both the dog and PTSD. While I cannot report any scientific studies done to measure the effectiveness of these dogs in reducing PTSD for veterans I am able to state that Golden Kimba Service Dogs has seen these people make remarkable gains in the way they live their lives after they return home with their dog.
Psychiatric service dogs help veterans over come their social isolation in the following way:
Because the service dog needs to be walked several times per day, the veteran is forced to be outside and in public. The dog must wear an identifying cape with the training company logo on it and the vet wears a picture of ID of himself and the dog. While the purpose of the cape and ID are not designed to attract public attention, this attention happens to the benefit of the vet who is forced to answer questions of well meaning people who want to learn about the dog. In working with the trainer and the dog, in public, the veteran learns how to answer questions and deal with a curious public.
Many veterans with these dogs have reported that their anxieties and fears have been greatly reduced as a result of having the dog with them at all times. In fact, several of them reported that when they suddenly awaken at night due to a having a nightmare or hearing a noise in the house, feel relieved and calm when they realize their dog is perfectly calm and quiet. After all, if the nightmare were real, or if there were an intruder in the house, the dog would be barking and agitated.