Trauma-Informed Service Dog Program
Eligible Military Service Members/Veterans have diagnoses of PTSD, MST and/or TBI
Many veterans return from their service with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Symptoms range from panic attacks to nightmares and can lead to feelings of depression and isolation. A variety of PTSD treatments are available, but recent studies have found service dogs can help veterans cope and work through their mental health issues.
Military sexual trauma (MST) is the term that the Department of Veterans Affairs uses to refer to sexual assault or repeated, threatening sexual harassment that occurred while the Veteran was in the military. MST is a form of trauma that can impact physical and mental health. Service dogs can help MST Veterans cope with issues in a similar manner as PTSD
The conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have resulted in increased numbers of Veterans who have experienced traumatic brain injuries (TBI). Service dogs can aid in the recovery and ability to cope with physical and mental health issues associated with TBI.
The Role of Service Dogs
The physical and mental health needs of Military Service Members/Veterans with PTSD, MST and TBI vary but have several characteristics in common. Most notably anxiety. Service Dogs help Military Service Members/Veterans heal and adjust to life with the help through canine companionship and support.
Healing through Canine Companionship and Support
Starts with Training
Trauma-informed training methods ensure that training mirrors the results expected. Force Free training methods are used. Aggressive training methods including electronic and prawn collars are not used and maintaining a positive training environment ensures sensitivity to the needs of the Veterans. Correcting negative behaviors through communication are key skills the Veteran canine pairs learn.
Military Service Member/Veterans accepted into the program are integrally involved in the training of their canine right from the start. Personal involvement in training a dog helps veterans improve focus, instills a sense of responsibility and improves communication skills.
Canine pairs are trained to assist PTSD, MST and/or TBI sufferers to learn to sense an oncoming panic or anxiety attack and 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 offer a soothing presence that can help the veteran regain control of a situation. Dogs are naturally alert and routinely get up during the night to check things out, working together the pairs gain peace of mind that allows them to rest.
Finding the Right Dog
Our dog training staff works with our many partners in the Veteran Mental Health area to assist us in matching Veterans with service dogs. The evaluation process helps us get the “right” service dog to “right” Veteran in the most time and cost-effective manner possible. In some cases, we may recommend an emotional support dog as the best fit. We will assist in locating, placing and training emotional support dogs as well. Often these dogs will 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?
Request information on how to become a participant in the Service Dog Program.
Thank you for requesting information on participation in our service dog program. Please note that the process includes (1) Initial Intake Interview by one of our staff (including a request for supporting documents such as the DD214); (2)Trauma-informed interview with clinical specialist; (3) ½ day Service dog orientation training taught by one of the staff’s dog trainers; (4) Peer Mentor Matching and ½ day orientation to expectations of working with peer specialist with a wellness focus as an integrated part of the program
To get started and request an appointment for an initial intake interview, please complete the following form. You will hear from us in 3-5 business days.
Clear Path for Veterans New England
27 Jackson Road, Suite 200, PO Box 2073
Devens, MA 01434
Hours: 9a–4:30p M-F, 10a–2p Saturday