Role of Service Dogs on People Suffering from PTSD

In the United States, about 40,000 troops return every year from service who have been physically wounded and a huge number of them suffer from various psychological problems as a result of their harsh experiences of situations they have faced while commissioned overseas. So, to help these soldiers, there were various studies and surveys conducted to see what can assist them in coping with post-traumatic stress disorders in particular and was seen that the use of therapy dogs had very good results on their mental health.

Therapy dogs have been used since the late 18th century to help patients in mental facilities. Research shows that there are various benefits of canine-assisted therapy including patients experiencing lower blood pressure and heart rates, reduced anxiety and stress levels, decrease in use of prescription medications, the feelings of loneliness, empathy and self-worth have improved and patients have even felt a more engaging sense of purpose and well-being.

While dogs can be just as great pets as any other domestic animal, they can offer some additional benefits for people who are suffering from some kind of mental illness including PTSD. The dogs can help to bring out the feeling of love, purpose, well-being in people. They are very good companions and make you feel safe and secure. They can be trained easily to understand your commands and be comfortable around you. They can help to reduce stress and can be very fun and engaging to be around. They also become a good reason for you to go out of the house, spend time outdoors and meet new people too.

Recovering from PTSD is not an easy thing and a very long process which requires time and help. When suffering from PTSD, people often avoid situations like standing close to a stranger, going to some place like a restaurant or any other building without scanning it for danger first. People are often given evidence-based treatments which help them to do the things and undergo situations which they have been avoiding. Dogs can be a great help if someone is going through evidence-based treatments and help to undergo situations too.

There are customized training centers which offer training programs for dogs, particularly for PTSD Patients. They are trained to assist their owner if they are going through any medical crisis, they can provide treatment-related assistance as well as assistance to cope with the emotional overload the PTSD patient goes through. They can also be trained to perform certain security enhancement tasks too. A specially trained dog will provide various benefits to a PTSD patient. They can help the patient to feel a sense of security and provide calming effects and help in physical exercise that will make a very positive difference in the life of the patient. Like other service dogs, the special PTSD trained dog is also trained to do specific tasks. The training includes environmental assessment training for cases of hallucinations and paranoia, signaling behaviors that can remind the patient to take medication, retrieval of medicine or other objects to help the patient get out of a stressful situation. They also help to prevent people from crowding if the PTSD Sufferer is having a panic attack in public too.  The PTSD trained dogs have a number of health benefits too. These benefits include that the PTSD trained dogs can help to adjust the serotonin levels in their patients. They also help to lower the patient’s heart rate and blood pressure. They provide good assistance and immediate help during episodes of depression. They not only give good companionship to the PTSD sufferer but also have a very positive and calming impact on their lives. There have been some cases in which a patient was having severe nightmares due to PTSD and their dogs helped them to wake up from sleep too.

Therapy Dogs and Service Dogs

Therapy Dogs and Service Dogs are dogs that are specially trained. A service dog can be a guide dog or a signal dog who can be trained to do some specific tasks including getting alerted to specific sounds like that of a telephone, an alarm clock, smoke alarm or the cry of a child. They are also trained to help and assist human’s with disabilities and can be trained to pull wheelchairs and help a blind human to cross a road. Service dogs should also have the characteristics which a therapy dog has but also a few other characteristics too. There are certain breeds of dogs which are particularly selected for specific services.

            Types

In the United States, about seventy percent of the dogs which are working as guide dogs for the blind people are Labrador retrievers. The next popular breed is German shepherds and Golden retrievers. These dogs are chosen because of their size, versatility, intelligence, availability, and temperament. The service dogs need to be very hard workers and large enough so that they can be able to guide people even they are put in a harness by their owners. They should also be small enough so that they can be easy to handle in public places, travel in public transport and fit in under the tables and in transport too.

            Well Trained

These service dogs are trained specially by certain programs which foster them since they are puppies. Some people also offer train to their own service dogs. In the U.S, the owner training of one’s dog becomes more common. The owners can choose themselves which breed of dog they want to train. The Federal law does not restrict the type of dog breed which could become a service animal so the owner can get any dog they want and train them as they want to fulfill certain special needs.

            Good Temperament

A therapy dog’s most important characteristic is his temperament. Therapy dogs are trained in such a way that they must enjoy human contact and excessive petting and be comfortable in hospitals and around healthcare equipment. They are best known for bringing comfort to people who are facing health issues or living in an old home or special home. These dogs are patient, gentle, friendly and at ease with the strangers.

            Emotional Support

The therapy dogs are also known as emotional support dogs because they bring comfort and support in various forms for the people with their affection and companionship. If there is someone who is suffering from a severe mental or emotional condition these dogs could help him feel better. They can assist people with depression, bipolar disorder, mood disorder, panic attacks, anxiety, fear, phobia and other psychological and emotional conditions. These therapy dogs are different from the service dogs in a way that the therapy dogs are not required to perform any specific task for a disability or any other condition.

            Psychological Support

Various mental and physical benefits have been observed by the visits of therapy dogs to hospitals, old homes, and rehab centers. They help to decrease anxiety and stress including that from post-traumatic stress disorder. They help to decrease depression, loneliness, and feelings of isolation. They also help in decreasing aggressive behavior. They can be a great help to increase the mental stimulation, attention skills, and verbal interactions too. They also increase spirit, self-esteem, and feeling of acceptance and enable a patient to further take part in other mental or physical therapies, get involved in group activities and to accept emotional support.

            Physical Support

The physical benefits of therapy dog visits include a decrease in blood pressure, heart rate, and stress hormone cortisol of patients. The increase in hormones associated with the feeling of well-being which includes oxytocin, prolactin, serotonin, dopamine and others has also been recorded. In addition to this, the increase in the level of fitness and improvement of fine motor skills, standing balance, wheelchair and other physical skills has also been recorded. A patient may even need less medication after therapy dog visits.