service dog

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental illness that occurs in people who experience one or more traumatic events.  These events may be sexual assault, vehicular accidents, warfare, or other types of traumatizing events.  Both adults and children can suffer from PTSD and it is unknown who PTSD will effect.  Traumatic events do not cause PTSD in everyone.

Living through a tramatic event can cause issues such as sleeplessnes, irritability, and nightmares.  These issues subside with time, but when they don’t it’s time to seek professional help.

There are 4 types of PTSD symptoms according to the National Center for PTSD.   They are reliving the event.    Reliving the event can cause nightmares and/or panic attacks, causing the same terrorfying feelings as when the event took place.  Triggers can cause these issues which could include odor, hearing, or seeing something.    Avoid situations that remind you of the event.  These events could include large crowds that can make you feel that you are in danger, July 4th celebrations for wartime sufferers, and driving if you were involved in serious vehicular accident.  PTSD can cause relationship issues (lack of feeling love), basically negative feeling about the whole world.  You trust no one.  Some PTSD sufferers have hyperarousal, feeling all keyed up.  Symptoms can also be hyperactivity, jitteriness, trouble concentrating, and being easily startled.

Sypmtoms can start soon after the event or years later.  Sypmtoms may come and go so it’s best to keep notes on your sypmtoms and talk to someone you trust about them.  If you know someone who suffers from PTSD they should seek treatment.

Treatment options inlcude counseling and cognitive processing therapy which has been shown to be the best type of couseling.  There has been a lot of talk about dogs and PTSD.    As of this writing there is not enough empirical evidence that dogs are effective in treating PTSD or its symptoms.

Dogs are known to reduce stress, bring out feelings of love, take orders when well trained, and help with getting people outdoors and into social settings.   According to Psychology Today dogs may have an impact on people with PTSD because the dog is vigilant.  Any dog owner that has had a nightmare and awakened confused can look at their dog for information.  The dog will tell you if there was a noise or if you were just expeiencing a bad dream.  The dog has your 6.   Dogs are naturally protective,  so you feel safe.  I have always said dogs are a good judge of charater.   My dog loves everyone but once in a while someone comes along he does not like.   Dogs responds well to authority which coincides with service men and women who are used to giving orders.   Loved ones don’t want to be ordered around and can cause relationship issues but dogs love authority and rules.

Dogs love unconditionally so they don’t care if you are having a bad day, yell, are grumpy, or break things. If  you don’t want to talk and just sit there and stare out the window all day long, they will lay next to you all day.  I had the flu and was bed ridden for two days.  My dog was in bed with me for two days.  Dogs don’t care what you do they just want to be with you.  As I write this blog my dogs are lying on the floor next to me. Dogs are so cool.

For those intersested in a dog to help cope with PTSD there are some things you should know.  The dog should be extrememly balanced and well trained.  Dogs can be stressful if they are reactive towards other dogs or aggressvie towards strangers.  A PTSD dog should not cause stress in your life.    Breed specific is not a must but German Shepherd, Dutch Shepherds and Beglian Malinios should be avoided.  These dogs are naturally protective and can be difficult to handle.  My recommendation is a happy go lucky lab.  A mutt can do the job but they have to be well balanced and well behaved.

We train dogs in a variety of environments and want the dog to perform in public; stores, restaurants, escalators, stairs, elevators, and so on.  How cool would that be for your dog to be comfortable to go anywhere with you?   Some of famlies I have worked with have that level of contol, it just takes work and time.

According to the American Disabilities Act a service dog is required to do a job or task for the owner; open doors, pick up items, alert low blood sugar,  guide blind and so on.  Veterans with PTSD dogs also are included as a service dog as long as the dog is trained to calm the sufferer when stressed.  Businesses open to the public are required to permit people with service dogs into their businesses.

What service dogs are not.  They are not therapy dogs or pets.  The dog must perform a task and you as the handler must have a disability prescribed by the American Disabilities Act.  Personal protection dogs are not service dogs.   It is a misdemeanor to falsely represent that you are in possession of a service dog and the penalties are 90 days in jail, $500 fine and/or 30 days of community service.

Most service dogs are identified by wearing a vests.  If you see a service dog do not pet or talk to the dog.  The dog is working and you should not distract it.  Admire the dog’s calm demeanor and work ethic from a distance.  Dogs are cool.



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