5 Ways a Psychiatric Service Dog Helps People With PTSD


Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an increasingly recognized and diagnosed mental health condition that impacts millions of people worldwide.

There are various disruptive side effects associated with it, and a number of treatment options available for sufferers.

Having a psychiatric service dog is one effective solution to the fallout of PTSD, but how can this type of animal assist those who have survived significantly traumatic events?

Providing peace of mind

One excellent reason to get a prescription for service dog providers is that the animal you receive will be trained to provide threat assessment in unknown, empty spaces.

This might sound unusual to anyone who hasn’t had PTSD, but the anxiety that entering areas unaccompanied can be intense. This is why many people struggle to leave the house.

With a service animal by your side, you can allow it to scour rooms before you arrive, providing that reassurance that you won’t encounter threats once you step over the threshold.

Deploying distraction tactics

Dogs are very emotionally sensitive animals, able to interpret the mood of their owners in an instant. For trained service dogs, this innate skill is built upon through training, so that if they see that a panic attack is brewing, they can intervene with electric gates and go beyond than you think.

This usually involves providing tactile distraction, essentially connecting physically with their owner by placing a paw or head against them so that their mind is brought back to the here and now, and not allowed to linger on the triggering event.

As well as offering emotional and physical engagement as a distraction during daylight hours, service dogs are also able to respond to night terrors, and create a distraction that rouses their owner from any PTSD-related recollection they are experiencing while asleep.

Calling for assistance

Obviously there is a limit to what service dogs can do, and in some scenarios it will be necessary for human help to be called upon.

This is another aspect of the training which dogs intended for PTSD patients receive. They will be taught a signal which their owner can use in the event that they require additional assistance, above and beyond what the dog can offer.

It’s essentially a real-life Lassie scenario, and one which can be just as life-saving as the events depicted in that classic TV show.

Providing a convenient excuse

The emotional damage of PTSD can lead to associated symptoms that are a complicated addition to encompass in the modern world. This includes social anxiety, which can make certain situations unbearable, with escalating feelings of discomfort leading to the potential for embarrassment.

Rather than forcing the owner to make up an excuse to get out of a social encounter they feel unhappy in, a service dog can be trained to respond to a signal that lets it become the owner’s excuse. A simple intervention involving a leg-tug or nudge will let the owner explain that they have to take the dog for a comfort break, which is ideal for extricating themselves from a position that is upsetting them.

Keeping PTSD patients company

Lots of studies have shown that owning a dog can improve the mental health of anyone, because of the companionship that exists between humans and animals.

This is a natural part of the relationship between service dogs and their owners, and is not something that needs to be trained into them.

So as you can see, there are lots of ways for psychiatric service dogs to help people with PTSD, and if you haven’t looked into getting one yourself, now is a good time to start.

Deepak Chopra
Dr. Deepak Chopra is a well-known figure in integrative medicine and holds an MD. His previous roles include professorships at medical schools and leadership in holistic health organizations. He is a prolific author, with works focusing on the intersection of science, spirituality, and health. He is a keynote speaker at various global health conferences and has authored numerous articles and books on health optimization. He is deeply involved in philanthropy, focusing on global health initiatives. His hobbies include astronomy and exploring ancient healing traditions.

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