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In 2016, there were around 20.4 million veterans in the United States. Many of them suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, also known as PTSD. For years, they suffered in silence with no help. Then, a new treatment was discovered: PTSD support dogs.
How Do PTSD Support Dogs Help?
A trained support dog provides a calming, secure presence through physical contact with or protection of its charge. These dogs are tasked with very important jobs, such as assisting with medical crises and helping their handler to cope with emotional overloads.
PTSD support dog breeds vary, just as their handlers’ personalities. If you get the choice, choose a breed you’re drawn to, but remember to take into consideration the dog’s personality and breed characteristics. The dog needs to be social enough to not harm others, but it needs to be devoted to you enough to recognize when their help is needed.
How Do You Train A PTSD Support Dog?
The support training that emotional support dogs receive is specified to their owner’s needs, based on their medical condition as prescribed by a licensed therapist. There are plenty of organizations that offer support training for veterans, but victims of violence and extreme situations also need the services of support dogs. Because of this, there are several ways to train your own PTSD support dog.
It’s always best to use positive reinforcement throughout your dog’s training. Clicker training is an effective method of training any animal. Teach it good manners as a foundation, such as not jumping up on you. These manners are imperative because your dog will need to behave and listen to you in all situations.
As with all service dogs, the PTSD support training routine includes: environmental assessment, signaling behaviors, retrieving objects, and guiding away from stress.
For example, teach your dog to nudge or pat you. These signals will be helpful when you need to use them on command or when you are displaying the signals. Try to mimic them to show your dog when to use these signals.
Use methods like fetch to teach your dog to retrieve things for you, or tug of war to teach him or her how to pull you away from stressful situations. Another method for PTSD support training is to teach your dog to sit or stand in front of you to block crowds.
Tailor your PTSD support training into whatever fits your needs. Not all cases are the same, so the training shouldn’t be either. If you need help, there are several groups who train PTSD support dogs professionally.
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