Friday, April 19, 2024

Ptsd Service Dogs For Veterans

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How Should I Interact With Someone With A Ptsd Service Dog Or Emotional Support Dog

Service dog giving veterans hope when struggling with PTSD

Because PTSD is an invisible disorder like diabetes or hearing loss, seeing an individual with a service or emotional support dog who seems perfectly healthy on the outside might be confusing in public. For military veterans suffering from PTSD, it is often very hurtful and personal to be asked what the dog “does” for them. In order to respect the privacy of the handler, it is poor etiquette to ask personal questions about their disability.

If you see a service dog or emotional support dog working in public, be respectful and do not approach or pet the dog without permission. Many veterans with a service dog are willing to answer respectful questions about their dogs, but you should not assume that this is always the case. Those with a service or emotional support dog out in public are just going about their business like anyone else and might be too busy or unwilling to engage with everyone who approaches.

For service dogs only, the ADA states that employees of public areas may ask only two specific questions to a service dog handler:

  • “Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability?”
  • “What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?”

Staff are not allowed to ask for any documentation, ask for the service dog to demonstrate any tasks that they are trained to do, or ask about the handler’s specific disability.

What Breeds Of Dogs Do We Use

Most of our dogs are Golden Retrievers or Labrador Retrievers. Each class includes one rescue dog chosen from our WOOF Program partners at Hailes Angles. We also work with Standard Poodles and Goldendoodles. Occasionally, we try other breeds like a Bernese Mountain Dog or Portuguese Water Dog.

Golden Retrievers and Labs generally have the right size and temperament to be service dogs. A very large dog might be difficult for a veteran to take in restaurants or on planes, while a smaller dog might not be able to reach someone in a wheelchair or perform all of our commands. Other breeds like German Shepherds and shepherd mixes often become very attached to their trainer and do not transition well to a new person when it is time to place with a veteran. Rescue dogs have been successful in our program, but often have to be released because they do not pass our medical exam, which requires good eyes, elbows, and hips. Of course, there are always exceptions to these generalizations.

Research On Military Veterans & Service Dogs

Qualitative interviews and reports from veterans placed with PTSD service dogs suggest that service dogs can help with daily anxious arousal, hypervigilance , nightmares, flashbacks, and many of the struggles that those with PTSD face on a day to day basis . In addition, veterans with a PTSD service dog report feeling more safe and secure in public allowing them to do things like go to the movies with their family or to the grocery store. These reports are anecdotal, which means that they do not apply to all veterans and include only a select number of cases.

Additionally, most of what we know regarding the relationship with and benefits received from owning a PTSD service dog or emotional support dog are from studies that are relatively weak with no control comparison . Our research group at the Center for the Human Animal Bond has conducted a systematic review of the literature and found a lack of peer-reviewed, empirical studies of service dogs as a complementary treatment option for military veterans with PTSD .

There is a strong need for more research in this area to determine exactly what therapeutic effect dogs may have on the mental health and wellbeing of those with PTSD, particularly in the military population. The Veteran’s Administration does not currently provide any resources or funding for PTSD service dogs because of the lack of empirical evidence supporting their efficacy as a complementary treatment for PTSD.

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What Can Service Dogs Do For Ptsd

Specially trained PTSD service dogs are one emerging complementary treatment option for PTSD that may address the needs of the family unit and encourage treatment retention. PTSD service dogs are specifically trained to instill a sense of confidence, safety, and independence on a day-to-day basis for the veteran. For example, a PTSD service dog may be trained to assist the veteran by “watching” their back in public, serving as a physical barrier between the veteran and approaching strangers, waking them up from nightmares, and serving as a physical brace for balance. However, not all dogs are trained to use the same cues, and specific cues may vary on an individual basis. Service dogs for PTSD are mostly Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, or German Shepherds but can be a variety of different breeds, including mixed breeds and rescue animals from shelters.

Study Finds The Most Important Task For A Ptsd Service Dog For Veterans Is Disrupting Anxiety

Helping Veterans with PTSD: Support From Service Dogs

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. Science has shown that service dogs can benefit some veterans with PTSD. But the exact role service dogs play in the day-to-day lives of veterans and the helpfulness of the tasks they perform is less known.

A recent study led by Purdue Universitys College of Veterinary Medicine shows what trained tasks service dogs perform the most often and which ones are the most helpful to veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. The study found that the task of disrupting episodes of anxiety ranked among the most important and most often used.

There has been some debate on what kind of training PTSD service dogs need to be effective and how their assistance may be different than what a pet dog can provide, said Kerri Rodriguez, a human-animal interaction graduate student and a lead author on the study. This study suggests that veterans are, in fact, using and benefiting from the specific trained tasks, which sets these dogs apart from pet dogs or emotional support dogs.

Rodriguez led the work with Maggie OHaire, associate professor of human-animal interaction. Their research was published in Frontiers in Psychology. The study was done in conjunction with K9s For Warriors, with support and funding from Merrick Pet Care, and is in preparation for an ongoing large-scale clinical trial that is studying veterans with and without service dogs over an extended period of time.

About Purdue University

About K9s For Warriors

Writer: Abbey Nickel,

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Results Of Va Study On Ptsd And Service Dogs

See also: VA study team responses to National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine review: Monograph 1, Monograph 2

As authorized by Congress, VA completed a study to determine if service dogs can help Veterans with PTSD. The first of two monographs describing the study and reporting its overall results was posted here in 2021. The second monograph , focused on health economics and cost-effectiveness findings from the study, is now publicly available as well.

Evaluating different treatment options for Veterans coping with PTSD and other mental health issues is a top priority for VA. The study team and affected clinical program offices, which include VA’s Office of Research and Development, Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, and Rehabilitation and Prosthetic Services, are undertaking a thorough review of the findings and their interpretation. VA is working to refine conclusions and recommendations and fully understand policy implications of the results.

As required by Section 1077 of P.L. 111-84, Monographs 1 and 2 were reviewed by the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine .

To learn more about VAs Service Dog Veterinary Health Benefit, visit Read more about VA research on PTSD at

What Is Ptsd Anyway

More than 8 million US adults get affected by PTSD, including a large number of military veterans. PTSD can occur at any stage in life, even in childhood. Women are more susceptible to have PTSD than men.

The American Psychiatric Association defines PTSD as a psychiatric disorder that develops when a person experiences or witnesses traumatic event such as a natural disaster, a serious accident, a terrorist act, war/combat, rape or other violent personal assault.

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Apply For A Pave Service Dog

Are you ready to regain your independence?

Our team is ready to support you through the PAVE process from application to training camp with your new companion and service dog. Dedicated to facilitating your new and better life, we provide tailored training and lifelong support with access to professional advice from our specialist dog trainers. There is no charge for your service dog, training, or ongoing support.

Start your journey with PAVE by completing the simple contact form.

We look forward to speaking with you.

How Do Service Dogs Help Veterans

Legislation to provide service dogs for veterans with PTSD

Service dogs are trained to perform tasks that directly mitigate a persons disabilities, says OBrien. This is in accordance with the Americans With Disabilities Act . And these disabilities include any physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity.

Veterans with PTSD suffer from a number of conditions including hypervigilance, depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and night terrors. Turning on a light switch when entering a dark room, pulling the covers off of a bed or nudging the bed to wake them during night terrors, standing in front or back of them to give them space in busy settings, and shaking hands with strangers to help them socialize are all tasks that service dogs can perform, says OBrien. These tasks help them feel better and get them back out into the world.

Additionally, those with TBI can suffer from physical disabilities that service dogs can assist with including balance issues, mobility issues, and everyday tasks like opening doors, retrieving items, and pressing an emergency button to call for help. Service dogs can also alert veterans to increased anxiety before the handler is aware and place their chin on a veterans leg, lap, or chest to ground them, says Carolyn Barney CNWI, CPDT-KA Training Director at Operation Delta Dog.

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We Train Service Dogs For Veterans That Help Individuals Overcome Service

Over 2,400 Hoosier veterans are impacted by challenges specific to PTSD, traumatic brain injury , and military sexual trauma . With an emergent need to provide well-trained service dogs to more veterans, ICAN has partnered with the VA Hospital to increase access to service dogs for these brave Americans.


The Ohaire Lab’s Research With Military Veterans & Service Dogs

The goal of our research at the OHAIRE lab is to empirically evaluate the effects of service dogs on the mental health and wellness of military members diagnosed with PTSD and their families. In particular, we are interested in determining if military members with PTSD who have been placed with a service dog will show changes in PTSD symptom severity, physiological activation, and social connectedness compared to those receiving usual treatment services while on the waitlist to receive a PTSD service dog.

We are also interested in the spouse’s perspective from the service dog placement. Do spouses of military veterans experience any effects from the service dog being inside the home? To answer this question, we are also measuring spousal stress, caregiver burden, relationship satisfaction, and overall family functioning from the spouse’s point of view. Future research will plan to incorporate children and other family members.

Our research is conducted in collaboration with K9s for Warriors, an Assistance Dogs International accredited organization providing service dogs for veterans with PTSD, traumatic brain injury , military sexual trauma , and mobility issues.

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Will We Train Your Dog/will We Train A Specific Dog For You

No. We do not certify personal dogs. While we encourage all honorably discharged veterans to fill out our application, we do not train specific dogs for specific veterans. Veterans cannot request a breed or gender when they are placed with a dog.

Each dog we train has its strengths and personality, so we make matches based on how the dog fits with each veterans lifestyle and needs. If we were to take any eight-week-old puppy and train it for a certain veteran, it is unlikely the dog would grow up to fit that veterans needs. We dont make promises we cant keep and we dont force dogs to do what makes them uncomfortable.

Five Va Facilities Chosen To Start Service Dog Program For Veterans With Ptsd

Service Dog Helps Wounded Veteran Cope With PTSD

The Department of Veterans Affairsreleased its plan Tuesday to launch a canine training pilot program for eligible veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Five VA medical centers have been chosen across the country to offer the pilot program over the next five years, including the Anchorage VA Medical Center in Alaska, the Charles George Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Asheville, N.C., the Palo Alto VA Medical Center in California, the Audie L. Murphy Memorial Veterans’ Hospital in San Antonio and the West Palm Beach VA Medical Center in Florida.

“There are many effective treatments for PTSD and we’re looking at service dog training as an adjunct to those options to ensure Veterans have access to resources that may improve their well-being and help them thrive,” VA Secretary Denis McDonough said in a press release announcing the chosen pilot locations.

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Advocates have long put pressure on lawmakers to finance service dog training for veterans as an option to deal with mental-health challenges. The program they hope will “raise awareness for this treatment option as a proven method for mitigating debilitating symptoms of PTSD and suicidal ideations,” Rory Diamond, CEO of the nonprofit K9s For Warriors, said in a press release last year that coincided with the passage of a law creating the pilot program.

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Service Dogs And The Va

PTSD is a psychological response to extreme trauma that involves long-term, persistent changes in mood , behavior , and experience . The VA uses a variety of treatment methods to help veterans deal with PTSD, much of it focused on forms of cognitive behavioral therapy , in conjunction with antidepressants, group therapy, psychodynamic therapy, and family therapy . In recent years, however, veteran advocacy organizations, service dog organizations, and mental health advocates have come out strongly in favor of using service dogs not only to provide veterans with companionship in facing the daily challenges of their postmilitary lives, but also to aid in their ongoing recovery from the traumatizing consequences of battle . The VA itself alludes to the benefits for veterans dealing with PTSD of having a pet dog, noting that dogs may help a cautious veteran to interact better with strangers or deal with crowded public spaces while providing him or her an opportunity to experience and express love and to oversee an animals training . But when it comes to service dogs, the VA does not necessarily endorse their use, and the reasoning for this lies within the legal framework guiding veteran rehabilitation via service animals.

A Battle Worth Fighting

Roughly 20 veterans die by suicide every day, and K9s For Warriors is determined to change that. K9s For Warriors exists because of a fierce dedication to saving the lives of both veterans and rescue dogs. This program is backed by scientific research and empowers veterans who fought for our freedom to live a life of dignity and independence. Graduates of the program are able to live a life that they previously did not think was possible. Many have reunited with their families, gone back to school, found renewed enjoyment in life, and significantly reduced their medications.

What Drives Us

K9s For Warriors remains commited to ending veteran suicide, raising awareness for invisible disabilities, and creating policy level reform. We do this through our best-in-class support & service, expert training program, and cutting-edge research.

The Proof

Our Mission

Determined to end veteran suicide, K9s For Warriors provides highly-trained Service Dogs to military veterans suffering from PTSD, traumatic brain injury and/or military sexual trauma.

Learn More About Us

Worlds Largest Shelter to Service Program

Before it was widely accepted, K9s For Warriors believed in the power of Service Dogs to treat veterans service-connected traumas. Independent research, along with our own, validates the effectiveness of a K9 companion in preventing veteran suicide.

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Our Basic Criteria For A Service Dog

  • Became disabled while serving our country .
  • Have a clinical diagnosis of PTSD, MST, TBI, or need for certain physical help.
  • Currently in treatment with a supportive provider.
  • Can attend our training camp in the Portland Metro, Oregon, and provide for your own transportation and accommodation during that time.
  • Can meet the physical, mental, and emotional needs of a dog.
  • Have been honorably discharged.

Please note that PAVE does not place service dogs for legally blind, hearing impaired, or medical alert dogs . Please see ADI for organizations that specialize in these areas.

Veterans With Ptsd Could Get Service Dogs From Va Under New Law

Service dogs like Pepper help veterans with PTSD

President Joe Biden on Wednesday signed a bill into law that will allow some veterans with mental health conditions to receive service dogs.

The new law orders the Department of Veterans Affairs secretary to develop and launch a five-year pilot program that provides service dog training to benefit veterans diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. Previously, the VA only covered some costs of service dogs for veterans with certain physical disabilities, such as blindness, hearing impairment and mobility issues but not mental health conditions.

Biden signed the bill in the Oval Office. Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Mich., who led the legislation through Congress, attended the ceremony.

Ive had the chance to visit with veterans and their service dogs in my district, and it couldnt be clearer how service dogs make life better for our veterans, Slotkin said in a statement Wednesday. From waking them from PTSD-related nightmares, helping them open doors, or finding an exit in a crowded space, it can be transformational.

The Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers for Veterans Therapy Act, or PAWS Act, requires the VA to start the pilot program in early 2022, and it must be carried out by at least five VA medical centers. The facilities will partner with accredited service dog organizations to perform the training.

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