The frequency of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in the United States and the World changes constantly. There are no set percentages for the number of people who suffer from PTSD. Symptoms may occur for a short period of time or a lifetime.
PTSD is not limited to battle-worn soldiers. Terrorist attacks, abuse, assaults, and more can lead to PTSD. Many people with PTSD never seek help.
The good news is that there is treatment for PTSD. Service dogs can be one of the most effective treatments. Keep reading to find out about the best dog breeds for ptsd service dogs.
What is PTSD?
PTSD refers to a severe anxiety disorder. This may result from one traumatic event or by several or ongoing events. This disorder can prove debilitating and greatly affects a person’s quality of life.
Symptoms of PTSD include:
- Intrusive thoughts–flashbacks, nightmares, involuntary memories
- Avoiding reminders–staying away from people, places, and situations that bring back bad memories
- Negative thoughts and feelings–distorted beliefs about oneself or others, fear, anger, shame, guilt
- arousal and reactive symptoms–irritability, angry outbursts, reckless behavior, concentration, and sleep problems
Many individuals who witness or are involved in frightening events experience severe anxiety when it’s over. For many people, a few weeks or months allows them to recover. They begin to get a good night’s sleep, feel safer, and return to daily routines.
For those who can’t reach this recovery, they may develop PTSD. At this point, they need to seek help to get better.
How Do Dogs Help With PTSD?
For individuals coping with PTSD, service dogs have become more common as an effective treatment. They can perform many tasks that help decrease the handler’s anxiety.
The best dogs for ptsd have learned how to help their handlers improve responses to fear and anxiety. They learn to provide a physical barrier between the handler and the public. These dogs can apply pressure on parts of the body that will help decrease the handler’s stress.
They also offer a social bridge to conversations. When a person has a dog with them, most people are drawn to the dog.
They often start talking about the dog. The dog provides a safe, non-personal subject to discuss.
They increase serotonin levels and lower blood pressure as well. More specific tasks that PTSD dogs have learned include the following tasks:
This represents one of the primary tasks for the PTSD service dog. The dog will alert the handler or another person according to the handler’s needs. They alert for things such as:
- time to take medication
- approaching person or car
- increased dangerous chemical levels in the handler such as blood pressure or cortisol
- alert to a panic attack
The dog may also alert a family member or bystander if his handler is in distress and needs help.
The dog learns to cause a distraction to help the handler in certain circumstances. For example, if the handler is having:
- a flashback
- panic attack
- harm to other
- freezing out of fear
- repetitive behaviors
The dog interrupts by licking the handler’s face or hands, lying on the handler’s chest, nuzzling, or starting playful activities by bringing a toy or other item to the handler.
PTSD can trigger fear in crowded places or when approached from behind. Fear can also occur when entering a place that is unfamiliar.
The service dog circles the handler in crowded places to create a barrier between the handler and the crowd. The dog may sit or stand facing outward by the handler and rise to block the handler if someone approaches.
Service dogs can also learn to cover the handler’s back to ensure no one approaches. When entering an unknown place, the dog can check the perimeter. This provides reassurance to the handler that everything is safe.
The service dog can guide the handler out of a stressful situation or away from a crowded place during a panic attack. They may also guide the handler away from stressful triggers such as sirens.
They can guide the handler to the exit or even home if needed.
Service dogs are able to call 911, suicide hotlines, a therapist, or a support person. They have numbers pre-programmed on a dog-friendly phone. Most know how to dial 911 or a suicide hotline from any dog-friendly phone.
These dogs provide security and companionship. This can be life-changing for a person with PTSD.
The Best Dog Breeds for PTSD
So, what are the best dog breeds for training as PTSD dogs? Any dog can become an emotional support animal. The main characteristics of a good PTSD dog are calmness, confidence, intelligence, and sociability.
The best dog breeds for PTSD service dogs include:
- Labrador Retrievers
- German Shepherds
- Yorkshire Terriers
- Cavalier King Charles Spaniels
- Brussels Griffon
- Great Danes
- Golden Retriever
- Doberman Pincher
- Standard Poodle
This list does not include every eligible dog. The most important part is finding a dog that meets the characteristics described. It may be a rescue from a shelter.
PTSD Service Dogs Training
Service dog training involves learning to work with PTSD handlers. This requires specialized knowledge and skill of both the trainer and the dog. These dogs must have:
- a perceptive nature
- compliant temperament
- an intuitive spirit
These qualities allow them to perform their duties independently when their handler has a crisis.
The dog must meet certain training standards. He/she must also learn additional customized standards for their individual handler.
The trainers work with the dog and the handler to teach them to work as a team. They also help to increase physical, emotional, and social self-sufficiency.
PTSD service dogs are not intended to replace therapeutic or medication treatment plans. They are a tool to help with daily living.
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