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PPH Service Dogs Help Warriors with Post-Traumatic Stress

 In National, PPH Blog, Service Dogs, Training

June is PTSD Awareness Month – a month dedicated to raising awareness about the signs, symptoms and causes of post traumatic stress (PTS) as well as treatment options. At Paws for Purple Hearts, we specialize in training service dogs and providing canine-assisted therapeutic programs for Warriors facing trauma related conditions, like those related to post traumatic stress.

You may be wondering, how can dogs help people with anxiety, night terrors, panic attacks and other symptoms that result from trauma? First, we need to unpack and understand PTS as it relates to the military community.

What is Post Traumatic Stress?

PTSD stands for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ National Center for PTSD, it is a “mental health condition that some people develop after experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening event, like combat, a natural disaster, a car accident, or sexual assault.”

Reagan, Andi, and Melik spread awareness about PTSD
Reagan, Andi, and Melik spread awareness about PTSD

For the Veterans and Service members we serve, PTS can come from a variety of circumstances and activate many different symptoms depending upon the person. It is important to understand that no two instances of trauma will result in the same reaction, and all Warriors have a unique story. From exposure to war and combat, to the loss of identity as a result of the transition back into civilian life, there are countless experiences that may result in trauma within this community.

Symptoms of PTSD may include, but are not limited to isolation, nightmares, flashbacks, self-destructive behavior, heightened startle reaction, negative thoughts and irritability.

So how can a PPH service dog help?

Service Dog Annie with her Warrior Companion
Service Dog Annie with her Warrior Companion

PPH service dogs are trained to recognize and mitigate symptoms commonly found in Warriors facing PTSD. They can interrupt intrusive thoughts and behaviors, intervene during night terrors, and provide comfort to their Warrior companion.

Many commands and tasks performed by PPH service dogs are grounding techniques meant to shift the Warriors focus back to the present time during dissociative episodes and flashbacks. One example of such a task is “Nudge.” During training, our dogs learn to notice stress queues such as shaking, fidgeting, and burying one’s head in their hands. Using their nose, our dedicated four-legged friends continuously nudge their trainer when they see these behaviors until the trainer stops what he or she is doing and begins acknowledging the dog instead. PPH trainers then tailor this method to meet the specific symptoms of each Warrior once they are paired with a PPH service dog.

PPH Drew demonstrates Snuggle command
PPH Drew demonstrates Snuggle command

Another way that service dogs help those with PTSD is by providing a social bridge between a Warrior and his or her peers. Some commands that our dogs learn are very intriguing and exciting to the public. Having the dog perform service tasks like “Shake,” “Get Your Leash,” or “Roll” can provide a natural segue for the Warrior to begin communicating with his or her peers.

Begin building a true partnership with a PPH service dog

It is important to remember that a service dog is not meant to replace a Warriors therapeutic treatment plan, but rather act as a tool to advance their therapy and mitigate symptoms. There are many kinds of service dogs who serve different types of patients and conditions. If you think a PTSD service dog is right for you or someone you know, request an application today.

Together we can serve those who served

It is only through the support of our generous donors that we are able to provide all of our service dogs free to qualified Warriors. Your contribution will help transform the lives of America’s heroes. Please consider making a contribution today!

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