Jul 19, 2015

PTSD Service Animals

Many clients suffer from PTSD. In addition to traditional counseling, exploring and developing coping methods, and learning and watching for your triggers, service animals are also indicated for an increasing number of PTSD sufferers. A companion animal can be a great aid in sleeping at night. No training required for this. It simply helps you sleep better and may very well wake you before nightmares occur.

Companion animals can't accompany you everywhere, however. So you may be interested in a service animal. With training (sometimes about a year and a half of weekly or bi-weekly training) and a lot of focus and hard work on your part, you can train a service animal and receive recognition from a trainer for your service animal. Once your animal can pass a basic access test, you will be given permission from your trainer and paperwork to back it up to take your dog on buses, public buildings, and to work. Your trainer will help train you how to deal with the public and those who are not familiar with PTSD service animals.

One such group that works to train PTSD service animals is called Service Dog Express. See http://www.servicedogexpress.com/ or call (855) 778-2364. They have daily updates on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/servicedogexpress. There are other groups but many of them work exclusively with veterans (and some at no cost for veterans such as Give Us Paws). Service dog Express works with veterans and non-veterans to coordinate training service animals for PTSD. Weekly or bi-weekly sessions can cost as little as $40 per session. (Dog training sessions are normally more like $100/session.) However, $40/session is not out of the reach of street youth who are flying a sign or working, especially once you reach the stage where you can do bi-weekly sessions.

You will want to adopt a dog that has been pre-screened by the shelter for service animals.

Your PTSD animal will eventually, perhaps even as soon as two months, begin to misbehave and alert you (nudging you, barking, whining) up to two hours before you have a PTSD "attack." The theory is that your body chemistry smells differently. Your trainer will help you train your dog and you to be alert for the dogs response. Then you and your medical team can being to experiment with appropriate responses for what to do when you know an attack may be coming. You may want to withdraw to a safe place. You may want to remove yourself from a high stress situation. There may be a prescribed drug that could preemptively help. This will be up to your medical team and not your trainer.