In order to be eligible for our program, the applicant must meet the following criteria:
- Be a Veteran or current Military Service Member (MSM)
- Have a diagnosis/disability of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Military Sexual Trauma (MST), and/or Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
**Qualifying diagnosis/disability does not necessarily have to be service-connected.**
The Role of Service Dogs
The physical and mental health needs of Veterans/MSMs with diagnoses/disabilities of PTSD,MST, and TBI vary greatly. Our Service Dogs are trained and matched with Veterans/MSMs on a case by case basis and tailored to each individual’s needs. However, our Service Dog Program is designed to help all participating Veterans/MSMs by improving their quality of life through canine companionship and support.
Starts with Training
Trauma-informed training methods are utilized and ensure that training mirrors the results expected. Service Dogs can help Veterans/MSMs in managing their diagnosis/disability and reducing symptomology. We pride ourselves on using Force Free training methods as well. This means that aggressive training methods (including electronic and prawn collars) are not used. Maintaining a positive training environment ensures sensitivity to the needs of the Veterans/MSMs while safeguarding the wellbeing of the Service Dogs. Correcting negative behaviors through communication are key skills the Veteran/MSM canine pairs learn.
Veterans/MSMs accepted into the program are integrally involved in the training of their canine right from the start. Personal involvement in training of a Service Dog helps Veterans/MSMs improve focus, communication skills, and develops the bond between them and their canine companion.
Canine pairs are trained to assist the Veteran/MSM with PTSD, MST and/or TBI to learn to recognize such things as elevated heart rate and quickness of breath or disturbed sleep. The canine pairs also learn how to mitigate these issues by such methods as waking their owner from a nightmare, maintaining their owner’s personal space in public settings, and offering a soothing presence that can help the owner regain composure and control.
Finding the Right Dog
Our staff works with our many partners in order to assist the matching of Veterans/MSMs with Service Dogs. The evaluation processes in our program are designed to help us get the “right” service dog matched with the “right” Veteran/MSM. In some cases, we may recommend an Emotional Support Dog rather than a Service Dog. We will assist in the locating, placing, and training of Emotional Support Dogs as well (Emotional Support Dogs often come from our puppy program).
The Support System is Key to Success
We integrate our Service Dog Program with our Peer Mentoring program which helps ensure the long-term success of the service dog placement. Family members are included as well. The overall focus is on sustained wellness.
How do I get started?
The first step to learning more about our program and beginning the application process is to click the link below and fill out the associated form. Once you have submitted the form you will receive an email confirmation that contains the date and time of our next scheduled Service Dog Program Info Session. Please note, attendance of a Service Dog Program Info Session is REQUIRED to begin the application process.
If you have a dog and are interested in obedience training, the following courses are also available through our program:
Clear Path for Veterans New England
84 Antietam St, PO Box 2073
Devens, MA 01434
Hours: 9a–4:30p M-F, 10a–2p Saturday