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Warriors Helping Warriors

 In Canine-Assisted Warrior Therapy, General, PPH San Diego, Service Dog Training, Service Dogs, Training

Outside of providing Service Dogs for Warriors facing mobility challenges or trauma-related conditions, Paws for Purple Hearts is also the pioneer of our unique canine-assisted therapeutic programs. Referred to as Canine Assisted Warrior Therapy®, or CAWT®, the concept is quite simple; ease a Warrior’s symptom severity and help them regain a sense of purpose by helping train a lifelong service companion for other comrades in need.

In December of 2022, I was able to attend one such session with two of PPH San Diego’s trainers, Kaitlyn Sacco and Selah Marting. Also in attendance were Service Dogs-in-training Reid, Kerry, and Michael. Consisting of groups with four to eight Veterans, the session starts with a dog-grooming process to promote bonding and trust with the dogs. Dog training concepts will also be discussed as trainers demonstrate hands-on commands that our Warriors will be working with.

One base command that our trainers focus on during these sessions is “wait.” Acting as a fundamental building block in practicing impulse control, this command is extremely integral to mastering any future commands that incorporate it. In the video below, you can see our trainers and Veterans working with our four-month-old Service Dog-in-training, Michael, by instructing him to “wait” at a doorway.

In the next video, notice the considerable progression as the two-year-old Reid demonstrates that same “wait” command. This time, however, they are able to walk out of Reid’s eyesight as he holds the same position.

Another command that incorporates this – and would be used in a very real scenario – is “go to bed.” In the video below, our Veterans practiced this command with Michael.

While Michael is just a puppy and is still working on his commands, he will eventually end up mastering this skill. A great example of this significant improvement is by watching our one-and-a-half-year-old Service Dog-in-training, Kerry.

After hands-on training practice, it’s also extremely important for our Warriors to get some much-needed therapeutic and relaxation time with our dogs. This can be anything from hanging out and just petting the dogs as they would during any social therapy session, or getting involved and playing tug-of-war!

There are many benefits to CAWT® sessions like these for both our Warriors and dogs-in-training. As mentioned earlier, it’s a great opportunity for our Warriors to renew their sense of purpose in achieving a new mission to help train a Service Dog for a Veteran in need. Previous studies have been conducted by our president and CEO Dr. Bonita Bergin showing that these sessions lead to improved sleep, a decreased dependence on pain medication, and greater sociability. This creates a more positive outlook on life in general and can translate to their at-home family life as well.

Since 2016, Paws for Purple Hearts has completed over 15,000 hours of Canine Assisted Warrior Therapy® and served around 800 unique individuals. From these types of sessions to our overall goal of Service Dog placement, everything could not have been done without the extreme generosity of others. If you would like to support our future CAWT® sessions and help us improve the lives of our Warriors that have already given this country so much, you can do so by volunteering, participating in our events, or visiting our donation page.

Looking to help our cause? We couldn’t do what we do without our supporters! Please consider helping us spread the word about our mission to your community. Your support allows us to continue to fulfill our mission in helping Veterans and Active Duty Service Members. By simply helping us get the word out there, you are helping us to continue to fulfill our mission. Please also consider a monetary donation or donating from our Amazon Wishlist to help our cause.

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