People who have experienced traumatizing ordeals such as physical abuse, military or combat encounters or an involvement in a tragic accident are at a higher risk of facing post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD is a psychiatric disorder that results to an out of control anxiety or panic attacks.
People living with PTSD usually relive the life-threatening moments they witnessed which results to panic and fear that their life or another person’s life is in a danger they cannot stop. PTSD is normally treated with prescribed medication as the affected person in most cases is advised to avoid public places that are likely to trigger an attack.
However, service dogs have over time been known to help several people living with PTSD adjust to going out in public and feeling safe in their own home which for some is a difficult transition. During a PTSD attack, most people experience a situation that seems to be out of their control hence the need for the service dogs that assist in taking charge.
Service dogs need a highly specialized training in order for them to be useful and efficient to their handlers. Both the dogs and their trainer must be equipped with certain levels of skills and knowledge that are necessary for their respective duties. Companies that train service dogs, carefully select and assess the dogs before engaging them in an intense training that enables them identify and disrupt any behavior that is linked to PTSD for instance, panic attacks, excessive anxiety, and nightmares.
Service dog trainers are professionals at their jobs and they too have undergone years of training on how to handle each unique dog they come across in their every day classes. A well trained service dog has a sensitive character that keeps them alert to any sudden change in their environment. They are also expected to be well-mannered and act on instinct as this allows them to work independently to help an individual with PTSD when facing an attack.
There is a growing demand for PTSD service dogs, especially among veterans. In 2014, The Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) launched a program that ensured veterans with certified service dogs have unrestricted access to veterinary services. Despite veterans being the most affected people with PTSD as a result of combat experience, other civilians can be victims too due to a number of reasons such as: natural catastrophes, sexual assault, tragic accidents, and experiencing acts of terrorism. Occurrences of such events often lead to fear, confusion, or anger. PTSD symptoms combined with their experiences interrupt and cause havoc in one’s life making it difficult to carry out regular day to day activities.
Several compiled reports state that owners of PTSD service dogs have admitted that their companions whom some term as their best friends have contributed more to their recovery road than compared to other relief options. Training service providers conduct a thorough evaluation of both the PTSD service dogs and their potential handlers with an aim of matching a pair effectively. When applying for receivership of a PTSD service dog, several investigations are carried out by the trainer as a routine to ensure a person affected with PTSD is able to find a suitable matching canine that will contribute majorly in helping them get better.
Service dogs are trained to perform various duties that offer support and aid in overcoming PTSD symptoms. Duties include; securing a room before the handler by patrolling and checking on doors and windows, putting the lights on in an effort to interrupt a nightmare, and also alerting their owner when a stranger is approaching them by gently nudging them.
People suffering from PTSD who have had the opportunity to acquire a service dog, eventually learn to cope with their condition and readjust their lives accordingly. Life has improved for these individuals courtesy of the PTSD service dogs’ presence in their lives. They end up gaining confidence in themselves and their environment, returning to their social day to day tasks that were previously difficult due to their condition. Some have reported that the PTSD service dogs have helped them manage their symptoms to an extent that they required less of their medication.