I bet you have seen a seeing eye dog before. I remember the first time I saw one in a super market and tried to run up to pat him. Because, hello! A DOG was in the grocery store with us, mom! I quickly got schooled on what a service dog was and that they were not to be treated like other dogs. They are special.
There are a few different types of canine companions that are helpful with those who have PTSD or other mental illnesses. There are service dogs, therapy dogs, and emotional support dogs. We are going to mainly focus on the emotional support and therapy dogs.
More and more in the news, we are hearing about people living their lives with PTSD. While the majority of it is centered around veterans, there are others who suffer from PTSD as well. Getting a companion dog that is trained specifically for PTSD sufferers is incredibly beneficial in reintegrating these individuals back into a somewhat normal life. Let’s figure out the ins and outs of PTSD and how our furry friends can help.
PTSD: An Overview
PTSD is an acronym for post-traumatic stress disorder. This is most commonly associated with veterans, but can affect a wide array of people. Psychiatry.org defines PTSD as: “Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric disorder that can occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event such as a natural disaster, a serious accident, a terrorist act, war/combat, rape or other violent personal assault.”
Now, I’m a huge dog lover. I think that people can benefit from dogs in many ways. However, those suffering from PTSD really can benefit from their companionship. Let’s see who is a good candidate for a canine companion.
Who Can Benefit from a Canine Companion?
Most people associate a service dog or canine companion with those with physical abilities. I agree, this is an excellent way to get help in your every day life! It’s one of the many things that I love about dogs. However, the emotional benefit is something that I think has been seriously downplayed.
Beyond physical disabilities, those with emotional and behavioral disorders can benefit from a canine companion as well. There are dogs specifically trained for more severe disorders but even just having a dog has been shown to benefit those with emotional and behavioral disorders.
A Multi-Faceted Approach
Between knowing pressure points, sensing increased anxiety, and more, these canine companions can alleviate so much stress and irregulation in people’s lives. A big issue with any kind of mental illness is alleviating stress. Stress can exponentially increase symptoms and exacerbate the illness.
What can a therapy or canine companion do for someone with PTSD? Let’s take a look at the different approaches and benefits below from a 2009 study.
- Providing empathetic, therapeutic responses: “In sensing their owners’ depression or other symptoms, pets could make their owners feel that someone empathized
- with their struggles. In fact, in some cases, pets were described as therapeutic,” the study states.
- Helping owners connect with other people, redeveloping necessary social support.
- Providing an expanded sense of family.
- A bolstered sense of self, including self-sufficiency and feelings of empowerment: “Pets provided a way in which patients were able to exercise control, feel that they mattered, and could make a difference in the life of another living thing.”
Life with PTSD and a Canine Companion
So, what does life look like with a canine companion or therapy dog? Well, it’s a little different for everyone. However, most recipients of this type of dog see a significant improvement in their day to day life.
Having someone to greet you with exuberant happiness in the morning is a great way to feel motivated to get out of bed. Even more so is the sense of responsibility to get your new furry friend their breakfast and take them outside. Sometimes, those with mental illnesses can struggle with even getting out of bed or their house. This is a great way to get over that barricade on a daily basis. I think that the responsibility portion of having a dog to take care of really helps keep a person motivated to move forward every day.
The other major component that helps the day to day life change is the dog’s ability to sense when you need empathy. The simple action of placing their head on your lap instantly increases dopamine levels as well as making a person feel loved and wanted.
Super Dogs to the Rescue (Again!)
There are countless reasons to own a dog. I mean, I could go on for days about it, really. However, owning a dog to help alleviate some emotional pain and mental illness takes the cake. I have always thought dogs were incredible. Their ability to sense distress in humans blows me away.
Dogs are the real super heros out there. They don’t discriminate. They don’t judge. They are just there for you. Day after day they wake up and seek you out with a wagging tail. If that’s not devotion and a reason to help you get out of bed every day, I’m not sure what is.