Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental illness associated with people who have witnessed or experienced life-threatening events such as war, natural disasters, near-death accidents, and other such circumstances that trigger extreme responses of the brain. This disorder causes the person to feel frightened of the trauma even long after the triggering event happened, resulting in high levels of stress on the patient.
Treatment for PTSD is already available in the form of psychotherapy—both cognitive processing and prolonged exposure—which focuses on processing the memory of the traumatic event. Also, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is also available, which in turn focuses on the sounds and movements associated with the event. Another way of treating PTSD is animal therapy.
There are more to our dogs than just cute little house pets. They can do wonders in assisting PTSD patients on their way to recovery given their inherent traits of being intuitive and easily sensing the emotions of their owners, especially when they are stressed, overwhelmed, or scared. According to Chalotte Glintborg Ph.D. and co-author, “A severe mental illness like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is known to have psychosocial consequences that can lead to a decreased quality of life. Research in Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT) has revealed that the presence of a dog can have a positive effect on health, e.g., increase quality of life and lessen depression and anxiety.”
Here are five characteristics of PTSD service dogs which allow them to do the fantastic job of assisting you through your recovery:
Dogs Are Protective Of Their Pack
It is in a dog’s inherent nature that they are protective of their kind, and when they get familiar with you as their owner, they treat you as a member of their pack already. PTSD service dogs were trained to focus their attention on their owners round the clock, so you are assured that they will drop everything should they hear you in need. They are also trained to call for help immediately, should any panic attack occur. “Dogs have an uncanny ability to sense danger or “threats” before they present themselves. There have been documented cases of dogs becoming activated before a natural disaster strikes, such as an earthquake or bad storm,” wrote.
Dogs Make You Feel Relaxed
Wonderfully, dogs provide amazing tons of emotional support for you as owner by making you feel good and lifting your mood. The look on their eyes, the tap from their hands, and the cuddling from their heads and neck all have an effect of increasing a PTSD patient’s happy hormones, building trust, and easing paranoia. In many instances, the presence of service dogs has proven to allow patients to get better sleep at night.
Dogs Are Accepting Creatures
What makes service dogs good companions is that unlike humans, they aren’t judgmental at all. They wouldn’t mind if you are disabled, stressed, with PTSD, or regularly anxious—they would be there with you.
They would keep you company day in, day out. As they remain their eye and focus on you, you can feel more secure knowing that some “buddy” cares for you, without any grudges, full-time.
Dogs Interact More Proactively
The remarkable thing about PTSD service dogs, or any dog, is that they have this way of drawing you out from isolation even if you try to resist them at the start. They keep bugging you and showing you affection until your heart melts down in empathy. This show of affection is particularly helpful for PTSD patients to overcome emotional weakness or numbness and eventually be able to process traumatic events accordingly.
Dogs Push You To Stay Outdoors
Dogs surely love running outside under the heat of the morning sun, picking up the Frisbee you threw and going back to you with full excitement, or just swimming around the pool in the cool of the day. As they do these things they usually love to do, they encourage you to go out in the process—prompting you to enjoy the world as it is and appreciate what nature has to offer, outside of your comfort zone.
More and more people are benefiting from canine-assisted therapy for PTSD. “Our pets can be an additional source of support when we are struggling with emotional problems,” Tracy Asamoah M.D. says. Interacting with dogs even just once a week enables a patient to reduce anxiety and stress levels, as well as the need for sleep medication, by half. Indeed, dogs are worth more than what we can ever think of about them. We can only thank them for doing farther than what normal human companions can ever do.