Posts Tagged ‘PTSD’

Service Dogs Helping People Cope with PTSD

Written by Zoe Santoro on . Posted in Blog

There are a growing number of organizations dedicated to training service dogs to help those suffering from PTSD, particularly veterans. In fact, dogs have been proven so effective at helping combat anxiety, stress, and depression, the government provides funding to these groups.



K9s For Warriors is a little different. The program was founded by Shari Duval, the mother of former K9 police officer and Iraqi combat veteran Brett Simon, who returned from two tours of duty with PTSD. They accept no government funding, relying instead on the generosity of donors, and there are no out-of-pocket costs for participants for the 21-day program or for their service animal. In their first year, they wanted to help a dozen service members a year—now with expanded facilities, they serve nearly 200.

Matt Masingill is the Lead Warrior Trainer for K9s For Warriors. He came to the group first as a participant, and with a bit of hesitation.

“I was skeptical, but my wife thought it was a good idea, so I came,” Masingill says.

“It is a life-altering experience. The dog is just there for you; there’s no judgment, no negative feedback.”

Before Warriors, Masingill says daily life was difficult.

“Like so many other vets, I went to the VA and they thought drugs were the option,” Masingill explains. “It wasn’t helping or mitigating my symptoms, it was just masking them. I didn’t leave my house—I just suffered from a lot of anger and paranoia.”

But all that changed less than a year after being paired with his service dog, Dozer.

“In the first 270 days, I had 248 violent nightmares,” Masingill recalls. “Dozer woke me from 228 of them, which allowed me to get out of the miserable sleep pattern I was in, and get off the sleep and depression medications.”

Now, he’s helping other warriors. The organization rescues dogs they think will be good service animals, most of them with no time left at the shelter, and trains the dogs to recognize the signs of a panic attack, helping calm their veteran and get them on the road to recovery.

“Rescue a dog to save a vet, that’s how I see it,” Masingill says.

For Masingill, the job has become another form of treatment.

“I still fight [the anger] everyday, but K9s is perpetual therapy,” he explains. “We just want to spread the word.”

K9s For Warriors also helps people with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). They do have a waiting list but encourage anyone who needs help to inquire and apply online.

Getting a Service or Therapy Dog

Written by Zoe Santoro on . Posted in Blog

Colleen Demling partnered with the San Diego Armed Services YMCA to help develop and maintain their Therapy Dog Program and has consulted with numerous private clients on their Service and Emotional Support Dog training needs. She says people might be surprised to learn not all organizations that provide service dogs are created equal.

“There is really no clearing house to start your search for a service dog,” Demling explains. “There are a lot of organizations popping up, trying to take a bit of the government money available for programs geared towards wounded warriors or civilians who have PTSD.”

Two sites where people can get educated and start the search on options comparing organizations:

Two organizations Demling particularly recommends are Canine Companions for Independence and Guide Dogs of America.

“I recommend calling one of these organizations and asking for guidance,” Demling says. “They are well-respected organizations so they are probably going to know other well-respected organizations that are training dogs for PTSD and other disabilities.”

Dealing says don’t be afraid to look into a service animal or think you won’t quality.

“The only requirement for a dog to become a service dog is for a person to have a disability as defined by the ADA and the dog has a skill that is taught that directly assists that disability,” Demling explains.

If you have a minor disability, you may be able to train the dog yourself but most people will seek help of larger organizations, which makes it important to check first with the two groups mentioned above. Any organization you work with should provide extensive training of at least a week with the dog either at your home or the group’s site.

“It allows the organization to give you the skill set to work with the dog and to make sure there is a personality match,” Demling explains. “They should help you problem-solve any difficulties you might have as they transfer the dog to you—they are hands-on, eyes-on to fix it.”

The cost of being paired with a service dog should be nominal or nonexistent.

“The larger non-profit organizations are funded independently through grants and fundraisers,” Demling says. “With a for-profit group, they will give you a service dog but will charge you $6,000. There are organizations that are chasing the money first and trying to help the person second.”