It is estimated that as many as 1 in 10 people develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) at some stage in their life.
There are typical treatments available such as cognitive behavioural therapy and EMDR, but research increasingly highlights the fact that dogs can be effective at supporting people with PTSD.
Unfortunately, many combat soldiers that complete their national service in the Israel Defence Force (IDF) suffer from PTSD.
The Israel Guide Dog Centre works with the Israel Ministry of Defence to support these veterans and provide them, where possible, with a fully-trained and matched PTSD Service dog.
Veterans who qualify through our programme have partnerships that they can depend on to help them recognise earlier the increasing symptoms of their difficulties. The dogs are trained to intervene with interruptive behaviours to help their veteran with emotional regulation, grounding, and to remain safe.
Research into the effectiveness of Assistance Dogs for Veterans with PTSD revealed that 82% of those partnered with an assistance dog reported a reduction in their symptoms and 40% took less medication.
Training is only with positive reinforcement. Like every other service dog, it must learn basic commands, ensuring that it knows how to behave in public.
The PTSD dog learns to sense a change in the breathing patterns and will help disrupt an episode by nudging with its nose or patting with its paws. The dog persists in nudging or patting until the person relates to the dog, thereby minimising and reducing the intensity, duration, and quality of panic attacks. The dog provides an exit strategy from stressful situations and serves to create a barrier to provide a safe and calm space.
The training from start to being partnered takes approximately 5 months.