Fallen Soldiers March®

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Fallen Soldiers March®

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Fallen Soldiers March®

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A 501 (c) (3) Non-Profit Dedicated to
Providing Biblical Counseling,
Service Dogs, and Veteran Advocacy

What Does a PTSD Service Dog Perform

What Does a PTSD Service Dog Perform

Changes lives.

When any Service Dog is assigned, not only does it assist the handler, it affects their relationship with everyone around them; the immediate family unit, coworkers, friends and even extended family. The handler’s perception of life may slowly change as they become more comfortable going about their daily life and gaining new independence.

What is PTSD?

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a disorder that can occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event such as a natural disaster, a serious accident, a terrorist act, war/combat, rape or other violent personal assault.
In the past, PTSD has been known by many names, such as “shell shock” during the years of World War I and “Combat Fatigue” after World War II. PTSD does not just happen to Combat Veterans. PTSD can occur in all people, regardless of ethnicity, nationality or culture, at any age. PTSD affects approximately 3.5 percent of U.S. adults and it is estimated one in eleven people will experience PTSD in their lifetime.

People with PTSD continue to have intense, disturbing thoughts and feelings related to an experience lasting long after the traumatic event has ceased. The event may be relived via flashbacks or nightmares; generating sadness, fear, anger detachment and estrangement from other people. People with PTSD may avoid situations or people that prompt reminders of a traumatic event, often displaying strong negative reactions to something as ordinary as a loud noise or an accidental touch.

In most cases, the person with PTSD becomes more withdrawn, goes out less frequently and tries to avoid any exposures that may trigger an event. This usually impacts their work performance, marriage and social interactions.

How Does the Dog Help?

A service dog trained for PTSD is trained to be ware and receptive to the handler’s state-of-mind. The dog becomes fine-tuned to the handler’s feelings. Many dogs and other pets, will detect these feelings, prompting advanced training to develop early alert systems to absorb undesirable behaviors to prompt the execution of intentionally cultivated, intrinsically interactive skill-sets that produce awareness, reassurance and comfort to change the handler’s undesirable behaviors. Much like a screaming baby pulls at everyone in earshot to ‘do something’. These dogs follow a similar path. When they sense a handler’s anxiety rising, the dog will start ‘blocking’, creating a safe-space around the handler, keeping itself between the handler and others, often leaning on the handler for physical contact. If the situation does not change, the dog may lead the handler away from the area to help him defuse. If the condition escalates or evolves into a flashback, the dog tries to “change-the-channel” by physically bumping or laying on the handler to refocus his attention. The dog literally bumps the person back into reality. Which may become a safety issue if you enter a flashback while crossing the road or find yourself in an unsafe situation.

One of the best tactics aids involves deploying the dog to sleep at the handler’s feet. Many with severe PTSD can only sleep for an hour at a time, experiencing waking dreams or act-out. By keeping contact with the handler, the dog is able to exude a sense of safety allowing many to gain more hours of rest until they finally start having a normal sleep pattern. The dog instinctively acts as a Night Sentry, awaking quickly if needed to offer a sense of protection while sleeping. This interdependent behavioral relationship between humans and dogs has existed since man began domesticating the canines. Within days of receiving a Service Dog, many handlers report their sleep has improved as a direct result. It should be noted, these dogs are not Guard Dogs and do not provide ‘trained protection’, as aggressive behaviors are not desired.

In cases characterized by paranoia or hallucinations, additional training may include conducting clearing rooms ahead of the handler, signaling behaviors to interrupt repetitive or injurious behaviors, reminding the handler to take medications, retrieving objects and guiding the handler from stressful situations.

When the handler-dog team venture out into the public domain, the dog projects a bubble around the handler, keeping others at a distance. However, the dog may also serve as an attraction towards the handler, drawing attention or even small crowds to approach the bubble, encouraging and nurturing positive encounters to assist treating withdrawn personalities who need or desire to become more engaging and interactive in work and social settings.

Ken Lyons

Exec Director – Service Dogs of Florida

 

This entry was posted on Tuesday, October 2nd, 2018 at 9:58 am and is filed under Newsletter. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.



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