START A PETITION 27,000,000 members: the world's largest community for good

Can Dogs Replace Drugs to Help Veterans Overcome PTSD?

Any dog lover can tell you how much their dog lifts their spirits and provides emotional support. Research even shows that having a dog can increase your happiness. But, new research is starting to show that training a dog using positive reinforcement is just as beneficial for the 2-leggeds doing the training as the 4-leggeds receiving it.

The pilot program Paws for Purple Hearts, veterans helping veterans, was created in 2008 at the VA in Palo Alto, California. PPH helps returning Veterans heal by teaching those with psychological scars, including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), to train service dogs for other vets with combat-related injuries.

While Paws for Purple Hearts is touted as “veterans helping veterans,” the connecting thread is the canine helper — eager-to-please retrievers who lessen anxiety and depression in PTSD patients as they learn to become service-dog companions.

“Psychiatrists are using the dogs at the VA in Palo Alto to help the veterans do what drugs and traditional therapy can’t always do as quickly.” Dr. Michael Jaffe, Psychiatrist-PTSD Therapist, says, “If someone is getting down on themselves, and they give a command to a dog and the dog does it, positive reinforcement comes and gives you a big hug and a lick instantly.”


Marine from Freedom Dogs with his Service Dog

As a huge supporter of humane, science-based, positive-reinforcement dog training, I can see how positive reinforcement would return so quickly to the other end of the leash. Patience and positive reinforcement are so crucial to successful dog training, and they are also the greatest obstacles PTSD veterans need to overcome.

Veteran – US Army, David Jamieson, no longer sits in an apartment alone all day and rides an emotional roller coaster. He has become a professional dog trainer, and his mission is to train service dogs for other Veterans with physical needs that a dog can help.

After watching six Veterans take their own lives, Chris Hill, Veteran – US Marines, washed out of his first PTSD therapy. But, he has finally found something that could help him cope with his anger, sleeplessness and isolation. It just happened to walk in the door with four legs and fur.

What do you think of dogs replacing drugs in helping Veterans with PTSD? Thanks for sharing your thoughts in a comment below.

Center Photo: Courtesy of Freedom Dogs

Delivering Calm, four paws at a time!

Receive a FREE DOWNLOAD from the Calm your Canine Companion music series when you sign up for the Through a Dog’s Ear newsletter and/or Lisa’s Blog. Simply click here, enter your email address and a link to the free download will be delivered to your inbox for you and your canine household to enjoy!

Read more: Anxiety, Behavior & Communication, Depression, Dogs, Drugs, Health, Humor & Inspiration, Mental Wellness, Pets, Stress, Videos, Videos, , , , , ,

have you shared this story yet?

go ahead, give it a little love

Lisa Spector

Lisa Spector is a concert pianist, Juilliard graduate, and canine music expert. She is co-founder of Through a Dog's Ear, the first music clinically demonstrated to calm the canine nervous system. Their new high-tech pet gadget, iCalmDog, is the portable solution to canine anxiety. Lisa shares her home and her heart with her two "career change" Labrador Retrievers from Guide Dogs for the Blind, Sanchez and Gina. Follow Lisa's blog here.


+ add your own
11:00PM PDT on Jul 17, 2014

I think any kind of animal is a better form of therapy than any kind of medication or therapist.

2:11PM PDT on Jun 30, 2014

There is proven facts that animals do help people I have 11 cats and 1 dog.

12:37PM PDT on Jun 16, 2014

Leave animals alone. Don't want PTSD? Then stay off the fu*n battlefield!

4:24PM PDT on Jun 8, 2014

What a great program. I still believe dogs are magic in fur coats. They can help heal people; even those who don't yet know they need healing.

11:09AM PDT on Jun 1, 2014

GREAT program.

The next big step by the Army would be to stop using dogs in the battle front. This IS animal abuse.

1:16AM PDT on Jun 1, 2014

Thanks for the article.

3:06PM PDT on May 31, 2014


12:41PM PDT on May 31, 2014

Grazie per l'articolo.

6:40AM PDT on May 31, 2014

Dogs sure do raise your emotions & spirits. I really do miss my girl. You are never ready to say goodbye; especially after 15 1/2 years of life together. I will miss her forever.

6:36AM PDT on May 31, 2014

Noted thanks.

add your comment

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

people are talking

I forgot to add one word at the end of my last comment: Sheeeesh!!!

I DO live in a drought area so this is a great article for me. Thank you. Hmmm...baking soda in my…

Lots of good info. Yay for California! :)


Select names from your address book   |   Help

We hate spam. We do not sell or share the email addresses you provide.

site feedback


Problem on this page? Briefly let us know what isn't working for you and we'll try to make it right!