Format

Send to

Choose Destination
Psychiatr Rehabil J. 2018 Jun;41(2):118-124. doi: 10.1037/prj0000294. Epub 2018 Apr 26.

Benefits and challenges of using service dogs for veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder.

Author information

1
Kaiser Permanente Northwest Center for Health Research.
2
School of Public Health, Georgia State University.

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

Veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are increasingly seeking service dogs to help them manage trauma-related symptoms, yet literature describing service dog use in this population is scant. The goal of this study was to document the benefits and challenges experienced by veterans with service dogs trained to assist with PTSD-related needs.

METHOD:

Participants were veterans (N = 41) with service dogs, and their caregivers (n = 8), recruited through community-based service dog training agencies. We conducted in-depth interviews and observed training sessions as part of a larger study, and used thematic analysis to characterize data.

RESULTS:

Veterans reported that service dogs reduced hypervigilance by alerting and creating boundaries, and disrupted nightmares, improving sleep quality and duration. Dogs also helped veterans turn their attention away from invasive trauma-related thoughts. Additional reported benefits included improved emotional connections with others, increased community participation and physical activity, and reduced suicidal impulses and medication use. Demands of training, adjustment to life with a service dog, and delayed benefits were challenging for many veterans and caregivers.

CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE:

Veterans report that service dogs help reduce PTSD symptoms and facilitate recovery and realization of meaningful goals. Service dogs may be a reasonable option for veterans who are reluctant to pursue or persist with traditional evidence-based treatments. Additional rigorous research on the effectiveness of service dogs for this population is warranted. (PsycINFO Database Record

PMID:
29698000
DOI:
10.1037/prj0000294
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for American Psychological Association
Loading ...
Support Center