Post-traumatic stress (PTSD) can occur after someone has been through a traumatic event or after recurring trauma over years. PTSD manifests through a variety of symptoms, including but not limited to anxiety, difficulty sleeping, nightmares, fear of crowds, mood swings, nervousness when entering new environments, self-harming behavior, estrangement from others, mistrust, and panic attacks.
Our dogs are trained to minimize or completely mitigate these symptoms. The dogs partner with the person living with PTSD to not only perform specific tasks to mitigate the disability, but to provide a team approach with the dog. The dog gives the person an alternative focus for their energy, allowing them to focus on the actions of the dog and the care of the dog rather than negative or fearful thoughts.
Specific tasks may include:
- Interrupting early signs of anxiety, panic attacks, and nightmares
- Light or deep pressure for calming
- Finding a family member
- Resting their head in the person’s lap (“visit”) for calming or refocusing
- Sitting between the person’s legs (“place”) for comfort and focusing
- Assisting the person to get out of bed in the morning
- Turning on the lights before waking the person from nightmares
- Retrieving items
- Creating space in front and behind the person in public settings (initiated by the handler, not the dog)