How can I get a service dog for PTSD? This is becoming a persistent question from people who suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or any other mental disorder. The answer is not a simple one.
This is because a service dog is typically reserved for physical handicaps such as blindness, seizures or visual disorientation. The animal in this equation is trained to exacting standards to follow orders. Also, the pooch is equipped to assist in case of emergencies such as a fall or a heart seizure.
And so the big divide at the moment lies in regards to dog training. A service dog is ill-equipped to handle emotional situations. Such tasks are better handled by a comfort dog.
However, comfort canines do not receive any rigorous training for providing emotional support. This is because by nature, the canine species is already loving and hence will only do what comes naturally. There is some sort of training for comfort dogs, but generally speaking, it is never as rigorous as a service dog’s.
So the long and short of it is that if emotional support comes naturally for a dog, then a service dog would suffice for the additional task. An organization in Canada called Pawsology agrees. However, the Veterans Association of America urges caution towards embarking on this path. The association argues that there is no hard evidence to back the claim that canines can actually assist with PTSD.
The association also says that it has launched a long-term study regarding the matter, and will not weigh in until the research is finished. The organization doesn’t deny that pets assist a great deal in supporting the emotional needs of mental patients. However, there is a huge gap in the treatment plan for PTSD and how our canine friends may be of actual assistance, rather than an actual hindrance.
For example, a step in the treatment plan indicates that the patient needs to get more in contact with the outside world. However, if the dog turns out to be too protective or wary of other people, having a pooch around may actually cause some problems. PTSD is a psychological malady that involves experiencing something tragic or traumatic and the corresponding inability to recover from such an experience.
Following this line of reasoning, there is no assurance that the PTSD subject will not end up harming the dog. For example, what happens when the individual is haunted by his or her experience to the point where it’s not recognizable if the said experience is real or just a recollection?
Also, persistent guilt is a signature trait of PTSD. Accordingly, what if the patient gets tempted to take it out on the animal, and worse, when nobody else is watching? In this equation, there could potentially be animal abuse.
At the same time, the mental condition in question depends on a lot of ifs, and’s and buts. No two patients are the same. So relying on the findings of a recent study looks like the best way to go.
Meanwhile, Canada already welcomes requests for canine intervention in PTSD, despite the absence of any long-term studies. As a result, Pawsology is backed up on requests. So what is the final answer when it comes to the question, how can I get a service dog for PTSD?
The answer is, it might take a while under present conditions. Based on the American veteran’s association warnings, it’s probably better to wait, anyway. So the Canadian backlog might actually be a blessing in disguise.
This early, however, it’s easy to imagine a service dog getting overwhelmed by simultaneous tasks of service and emotional support. It could well be the most overworked working animal there is. If only from this point of view, working a dog to death does not seem feasible.
And so perhaps, this is where there is a great need to draw the line. PTSD treatment relies heavily on well-established procedures of psychiatric counseling and medication. Hence, there is a need to systematically reimagine the role of a pooch in the existing dispensation.
For what if, canine intervention ultimately leads into more harm than benefit? These are ethical questions that need to be resolved in order to satisfy PTSD recovery standards. When push comes to shove, it won’t be impossible at this time to get a pooch to assist with someone’s mental needs. The deeper question is whether it will work for the common good or lead to better patient recovery over the long term. Dogs are already being used in Canada as a kind of support mechanism for bipolar disorder. Still, this is not comparing apples to apples and oranges to oranges.
If you are looking for more information on the costs involved with training a service dog, look here.