The Love Of A Good Dog: Service Dogs for PTSD

Those of us who love our pets and for whom that four-legged roommate is a member of the family know that sitting with that friend after a bad day at work can be incredibly soothing.  After all, if you’ve been yelled at, fought your way through traffic or been shoehorned into a subway car, with your back aching and your feet screaming, coming home to that wagging tail and bright eyes or that purring little cat makes it all a little less stressful.  If you have ever seen a child hugging their dog and telling her their heartaches, then you also understand the deep comfort that just stroking a dog or scratching a cat under the chin can give.

During deployment, many of us rely on our pets and those of us who don’t have children at home rely on them for companionship.  Now imagine you have the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress (PTS), the anxiety, the stress, the inability to sleep. [PTS and PTSD are the same, but the people in the community are now calling it PTS as they dislike being told they are "disordered."] I spoke with a veteran who told me that the only way he could sleep was if his dog was on the bed with him, that the only time he feels safe is when his dog is with him.

According to American Women Veterans:

Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs, Inc. has recently partnered with the federal government to provide highly trained service dogs to the Veteran’s Administration (VA) for a multi-year scientific study examining the impacts that service dogs have on veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

They aren’t alone either.  A program at Walter Reed – Paws for Purple Hearts – trained dogs for wounded warriors in wheelchairs. The trainers were service-members diagnosed with PTS, according to a story in the Washington Post.

The Paws for Purple Hearts program, which began two years ago, has drawn the interest of a cluster of scientists who think that the human-dog relationship may have measurable clinical impact on the health and well-being of patients, including veterans with PTSD.

The Dog Bless You charity provides therapy dogs to veterans with post traumatic stress. Their Facebook page recently held a promotion; for every 5,000 “likes,” they donated a service dog to a PTS-afflicted veteran.  According to their web page, 18 dogs were donated from this promotion.

Veterans Moving Forward brings dogs in as therapy animals to Walter Reed and Bethesda Medical Centers, to give some comfort and accompany a veteran to an appointment, and psychologists claim that some veterans are more comfortable discussing their symptoms with a dog sitting next to them.

There are approximately 300,000 service-members coming back with PTS, and some have other injuries as well.  Since service dogs have been helping the disabled to be independent, this is a logical step.

The Guardian Angels study, which is being conducted by the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital of Tampa, Florida, is designed to quantify exactly what it is that veterans with PTS can gain from having a service dog.  200 veterans who are being treated for PTS are going to become partners with service dogs who have been trained especially for them.

The results of this study, if successful, could mean that other veterans may receive a service dog.  Veterans who are in treatment for PTS and who want information should call Carol at Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs at 352-425-1981.

Related Stories:

PTSD Awareness Day and a Soldier’s Story

PTSD Awareness Day

How Dogs Help Veterans Cope With PTSD


Photo credit: pmarkham via flickr


Virginia Tucker
.3 years ago

This is a wonderful article. Thanks for sharing. Service dogs are phenomenal animals and should be loved and respected. I'm currently advocating to get the negative stigma toward using pit bulls as service dogs in my state of West Virginia changed to a more positive light like these amazing creatures deserve. Please check out my cause and share it will others who feel the same admiration for these loving, dependable service dogs.

Christinaalex Nicki
.3 years ago

thank you for sharing

Wendy Walinski
Wendy Walinski3 years ago

the unconditional love of dogs is so pure and remarkable. if only humans could be so selfless

Duane B.
.3 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

A. Marina Fournier

Mary Ann S., you are spot on. That's what Freedom Paws of (somewhere around Gilroy CA) does. The vets train the dogs, who are paired issue to issue. Does so much good.

Mary ann S.
mary ann s.3 years ago

Use animals from shelters they can be screened. What better way for a dog to have a good home and the person to have a friend.

Robynne W.
Robynne W.3 years ago


John R.
John Royal3 years ago

Continued, They fear I "might" commit suicide. Yes it was a bad solution I considered a very long time ago. Who of us wouldn't with what I have had to live with. I have maintained 33 years of sobriety by my own choice and efforts. I don't abuse drugs. Yet I'm treated as if I was a user by default. I have had many dogs over the years that today would, all be considered service dogs by todays standards. Having my service dog makes my life somewhat normal. With her I don't have as many anxiety attacks when I need to go some where. Where there are triggers to my PTSD symptoms. She allows me to be able to go into a store, cafe or restaurant. She helps me remain independent of having to acquire a human escort. Of which most certainly inhibits my cultivating any possible relationship when I have a body guard looming over me. Service dogs save HHS and the medical system money. And they save lives.

John R.
John Royal3 years ago

First Good Job Kirby. Now lets get this straight I am a Civilian with severe PTSD aquired as a child from six years of terror and 30 years of being stalked by a pedophile with the aid of the mislead and misinformed communities I lived in along with Medical professionals and law enforcement. All wanting me silent. If you think War is hell I got news for you being a survivor of sexual abuse and attempted murder is just as real. I'm still here and I fought hard for three years to have and keep my PTSD service dog Una whom I trained myself. I fought with the determination to set a precedence for all victims. I rallied against the best attempts of Mental health services and their liability fears fueled by paranoid lawyers and insurance representives and Pill pushers trying to sell their wares. The mental health system that wholly fails victims of sexual and domestic violence by victimizing them further. A system more interested in selling pharmacology to profit only the corporations that poison most of us shortening our lives with the side effects of their experimental use. Pharmacology that only buries victims in a haze without allowing them to be able to live a human life. When knowing a service dog will serve us better and more faithfully then any of the humans that have their own interests, agendas and not the victims surviving violence at heart. As it is I live as if under house arrest though I have No criminal history being monitored every few days. They fear I "might" c

Walter G.
Walter G.3 years ago

My name is “Kirby.” My master just signed a petition for "Dutch," a brother service dog who bit a woman assaulting him. In my role as service dog, I killed an armed robber by ripping out part of his carotid artery. The potential corpse flopped around on the ground firing the pistol repeatedly at nothing in particular. I grabbed the gun hand, broke that, and threw the gun over 10 feet away. Three people were shot in the legs and feet. The purp stopped moving and was sheet-white in his puddle of blood. I sat on the gun with my teeth bared and growled till the police arrived. The cop asked me to give him the gun, so I got up and walked to my master. The cops were concerned because I was covered with blood, but none of it was mine. One of them noted that my service jacket carries the badge of a deceased Police hero who asked that I wear his badge when on his death bed. I am my master's keeper and his only companion wandering the dark jungle of PTSD. My message is “Mess with my master and you'll think Texas is a school play-ground!