Dogs and PTSD

Dogs and PTSD

Hello, I'm based in the south of England near London. I've been hugely fortunate to have been funded for therapy at one of the world's leading Traumatic Stress units in London, where i have been receiving treatment for the last 18 months, and have also been seeing wonderful therapist for a few years. It's been the best experience. Anyway, I wanted to say that aside from their terrific help,and the healing properties of time, the most helpful experience has been the bond I have developed with my dog. I got her about 2 and a 1/2 years ago as an 8 week old puppy. She is the most wonderful thing in my life. She makes me laugh, she gets me out on walks, gives me an excuse to strike up conversations, and is an endless source of comfort and love. Nights are so much better with her curled up behind my knees with her head on my leg. In the US, dogs are recognised for the assistance role they can play in many situations, and PTSD dogs are gaining recognition for the work they do with war veterans. I'm not aware of similar programmes in England, and there don't seem to be any charities working to train PTSD dogs, for veterans or civilians. I take my dog everywhere with me, including to therapy twice a week, where the psychiatrists have been impressed though not surprised by the contribution she has made. I have decided to make this more formal. We are attending regular 'ordinary' training, and I have punched two books from Amazon : PTSD and Service Dogs a training guide for sufferers, by Rick and Heather Dillender, and Training your own Psychiatric Service Dog, by Katie Gonzalez. It is possible to buy service dog coats and ID cards from the internet, and it certainly alps with taking your dog with you, but I strongly believe that the dogs need to behave as well as the fully professionally trained dogs such as guide and hearing dogs. Not only for the obvious reasons of not being a public nuisance, but also so that they live up to the standards expected, and ensure that service dogs continue to be welcomed to areas they are given access to. So we have embarked on our training together. I am doing most of it. I will be seeking professional trainer advice and help as i go along, naturally I will have to bear the cost of doing so myself. Amongst the requirements of meeting the criteria of a service dog, the animal must be trained to perform at least 3 specific tasks to assist their handler. Everyone will be different, but for me, having her come to lie on me with her bodyweight when I wake from a nightmare, seeking and holding eye contact for grounding, comfort and reduction of anxiety, and standing up on her hind legs to place her paws on my waist, creating a physical barrier and increased personal space particularly in crowded places or when i feel threatened, are the things I find most beneficial. They can be taught to do other things, like turn on lights, and search the house when you come home to. They need to have high standards of behaviour, and be reliably trained not to soil in public places, modes of transport etc. And in fact they need to be taught to toilet on command. I just thought i'd raise it, as I think so many people can be helped by animals, but at the same time I believe we have a responsibility to ensure that the animals we state are service dogs, should meet the criteria and behaviour standards, even if not formally trained by a charity. The books are a great place to start. Best wishes.

2 Replies

  • Good post hollymead and I'm pleased you got the help you need with PTSD. Funding can be lacking elsewhere in the country.

    You might be interested in this article which I read recently

  • Another good book on this subject is Healing Companions by Jane Miller

    It is wonderful that you already have a great dog!

    I too have found dogs to be a big part of my healing. I foster puppies for a shelter.

    Also recently I was able to adopt a great dog that didn't pass the service dog test but is very well trained.

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