Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Service Dogs Helping Veterans

Dogs have helped us with a multitude of ways and have made our lives easier for thousands of years. Their more recent feat, helping veterans get by in a non-combat world, is just another reason why dogs are truly mans best friend.
I find it amazing how the bond between dog and human can be so beneficial to both, and how a once depressed and hardly-coping person can come around with the help of a dog.
Today there are countless services that train dogs specifically for veterans and veterans with PTSD. The dogs range from fully trained service dogs who can help injured and paralyzed people perform everyday tasks, to personalized dogs trained to know specific ques from their owner and act accordingly, to the less trained therapy or companion dog who is there for moral support.
Even after training my owns dogs I am surprised by the number of things that a dog can be trained. For example, a veteran may do a specific thing when he starts getting nervous or anxious, like tap a foot or stroke a beard. A dog can be taught to recognize this cue and go lay his head on his owners lap for comfort and support. Service dogs have also been trained to listen to heart monitors so that they can wake up their owner before he starts having a 'night terror'.
Service dogs are generally trained to be able to 'block', the action of standing in front of their owner and creating a physical barrier if their owner feels the need to do so. 'Sweep', where the dog makes a round around it's house when coming home to check for intruders, along with many other daily tasks like turning on lights and opening doors. Not only does this make life for a disabled veteran easier, it also can give them a peace of mind.
Dogs allow for retired vets to open up with someone who will never judge them. It allows them to lift a huge weight off their shoulders and to function in society better than they would without a dog. Dogs allow people to let their guard down, which helps with hyper-vigilance as well as sleep.
Whether it's a shelter dog or a fully trained service dog, it's no doubt that dogs help people with every range of troubles and disabilities, both mental and physical. While any conclusive studies about the whether or not dogs help with PTSD and its symptoms are still under way, dogs have an overwhelmingly positive impact on the lives of the owner they unconditionally love.
'A dog is the only thing on Earth that loves you more than he loves himself.' -Henry Shaw
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