Dogs and PTSD: How PTSD Service Dogs Can Help Veterans

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If you or a loved one are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), you’re not alone. Estimates show that one in 11 people will be diagnosed with this disorder in their lifetimes.

The intense, disturbing feelings and thoughts associated with PTSD can have a major impact on your day-to-day life. While different treatment options work better for some sufferers than others, for many, PTSD service dogs are a complete game-changer.

Not sure whether this is a good option for you? Take a look at some of the top benefits of service dogs for veterans and others suffering from PTSD.

1. Provide a Sense of Security

For many veterans who were physically or emotionally wounded during combat, even doing basic things – like shopping for groceries or walking down the street – can trigger PTSD. This is due to constantly feeling like you don’t know what may be hiding around the corner.

Veteran service dogs that are trained for PTSD act as another set of eyes for their owners. They’re able to confirm there are no hidden dangers lurking, giving the owner a sense of security that can help ward of panic attacks.

2. Keep Watch at Night

Many people who suffer from PTSD have nightmares, night terrors, or other issues with falling asleep. Service dogs for PTSD are trained to watch their owners while they’re sleeping. They know the signs of a night terror and will wake their owners when it occurs.

PTSD sufferers often report that simply knowing their dogs are in the room with them gives them the comfort they need to finally fall asleep.

3. Assist During and After an Anxiety Attack

Unfortunately, PTSD-induced panic attacks are quite common. PTSD service dogs understand how to anticipate an impending anxiety attack.

When they notice it coming, they’ll “hug” or “nest” upon their owner, helping to calm them down. Some will even use their head or paws to block their owners from hitting or otherwise harming themselves during an attack.

They can also improve awareness, which will help keep their owners safe. For example, during a panic attack, a person may not be able to hear a smoke alarm going off. In this circumstance, the dog may bark to get their attention and even gently bite onto a pant leg or sleeve to guide their owner to safety.

4. Assist with Medication

Many veterans suffering from PTSD are being treated with a combination of therapy and medication. Some PTSD therapy dogs are trained to retrieve medication and bring it to their owners. This helps ensure that they keep up with taking their medications on time.

5. Provide a Continued Sense of Leadership

Most military veterans are used to being in a leadership position. After transferring back to civilian life, this lack of authority can make it difficult to find a sense of purpose. Since service dogs are naturally obedient and loyal, simply giving your dog a command can help with the transition from the field to home.

While PTSD service dogs are specially trained to obey specific commands, they can also learn additional tricks and obedience lessons. This is often rewarding for both the dog and its owner.

6. Prevent Substance Abuse

Emotional support is critical for veterans and others who are suffering from PTSD. Those who don’t feel they have the support they need often turn to drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism. This is one of the primary reasons why there’s such a high demand for rehab for PTSD.

While humans can provide emotional support to a PTSD sufferer, the unconditional love and assistance that comes from a specially trained service dog can give them the additional support they need. In some cases, it can prevent the side into substance abuse.

7. Increase Independence

When PTSD is severe, even getting out of bed in the morning can feel like too much to handle. When an individual has a PTSD service dog by their side, they can begin to overcome these issues and live an independent life.

This can also make sufferers feel as if their illness isn’t as big of a setback as it once was. The presence of their dog can make it easier for them to participate in – and enjoy – their everyday lives.

Where to Find PTSD Service Dogs

PTSD service dogs can help people suffering from PTSD live fuller, happier lives. To obtain a service dog specially trained for PTSD treatment, you’ll want to start by visiting the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). They can provide you with documentation that shows you’ve been diagnosed with PTSD from your military service.

Then, you’ll typically need to undergo a series of phone and/or in-person interviews and a criminal background check. Once approved, you’ll also have to participate in a training course.

Some of the organizations that train and provide guide dogs for people with PTSD include:


If you think a service dog might be good for you, consider reaching out to one of these organizations to learn more.

More Treatment Options for PTSD

While PTSD service dogs are completely life-changing for many people, they’re not right for everyone. Often, those who suffer from PTSD need a different course of treatment or need treatment that complements the services their dog provides.

Dr. Paul by the Sea offers a variety of PTSD treatment options. Call us at 866-703-2543 to discuss your options. Don’t wait any longer, get the help you need today!