How Can Service Animals Change the Life of Veterans with PTSD

On November 11, our country honored the men and women of the United States Military who serve our country as part of Vetereran's Day. Many of those veterans are now dealing with the affects of PTSD after being wounded in combat or witnessing the horrors that take place on the battlefield. It’s estimated that anywhere from 11-20 percent of combat veterans returning from wars in Afghanistan and Iraq suffer from PTSD.

Companionship is among the treatments that can help those who suffer from PTSD, particularly the companionship of a service animal trained to support those who suffer from the condition. PTSD Service dogs can change the life of a veteran or someone who suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. A service dog is specially trained to do work or perform tasks that pertain to their handler’s disability.

Can a veteran’s own personal dog be trained to become their PTSD service dogs? This raises many issues. Training a service dog by a professional trainer takes 12-15 months and can cost between $20,000-$30,000. Specific breeds are used to be service dogs. They include the Standard Poodle, German Shepard, Collie, Golden Retrievers, Golden Labradors and Burmese Mountain Dogs. These dogs are trained to open and shut doors, retrieve mail, turn on lights, provide emotional support and pull a wheelchair. Psychiatric service dogs need to establish a bond with the veteran. These dogs make it possible for the dog to learn to recognize and respond to the emotional state of their owner.

All service dogs go through vigorous trainings, which include learning how to get on and off of public transportation, walk among crowds in stores, restaurants and public events. In addition service dogs have benchmarks they must pass to continue training. They include passing the Good Canine Citizen Class, socializing and learning specific skills. Training a service dog is estimated to cost $5000-$8000. Some dogs that go through all this training do not pass the final test. These dogs may not pass the final test but they are wonderful companion animals for a family.

Service dogs also need to have annual exams at their vets, pay fees to a professional trainer, pay fees to get insurance on their dogs and register their dog to become a service dog and purchase the vest. No matter how well someone trains your dog it is essential that the handler learn and is able to maintain training. This brings us back to our question, Can a veteran’s own personal dog be trained to become their PTSD service dogs? Most veterans who return from war do not have the expendable income to train their dog.

Another option that veterans should consider is calling Love on A Leash or Pet Partners. These organizations have volunteers who have trained therapy dogs that love to pay visits to our veterans. Therapy dogs provide emotional support, assisted therapy and enjoy making social visits. These dogs have gone through the training and are registered and licensed. Most therapy dogs pay visits to the VA once a week. For more information on whether you believe your dog can become a service animal here are 2 websites you can visit.

Foundation for Service Dog Support and www.surfdogicochet.com

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