The Benefits of Therapy Dogs and Their Effect on Victims of Trauma

Therapy dogs have been used for decades (since WWII, to be exact), providing comfort, support, and companionship to us humans. Many of us are familiar with service dogs who help those with disabilities by giving around-the-clock help and care — however, our four-legged friends can also work to help victims of trauma.

It’s essential to shed light on the positive effects therapy, and emotional support dogs can provide those dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Many could benefit from their therapeutic aid.

Life After Trauma

Veteran Dealing With PTSD

It’s no secret that many veterans often struggle to adjust to civilian life. Military service is a demanding career that can leave many feeling isolated when they return to everyday life. It’s incredibly challenging for those who were exposed to traumatic situations over their time in the military.

Anything from the sound of fireworks to the sight of a trash bag on the side of the road can evoke overwhelming memories and emotions. Dealing with the effects of PTSD is not only mentally and physically exhausting. Still, it can interfere with job-seeking efforts and relationships and even lead to thoughts of self-harm or suicide.

Therapy dogs are one solution to helping veterans transition from military to civilian life, assisting them through severe PTSD episodes. According to experts at Psychology Today, dogs can help individuals with PTSD in a number of ways.

Young Man With Support Dog Sitting In A Field

Experts Say Dogs Are:

  • Vigilant.
  • Protective.
  • Responding well to authoritative relationships. 
  • Full of unconditional love.
  • Helpful in relearning trust. 
  • Helpful to remember feelings of love.

These factors are vital as they all provide a sense of companionship and help those who have PTSD feel less alone. Moreover, dogs can help ground individuals in the present, rather than their traumatizing past. Dogs naturally provide a lot of therapeutic benefits. Still, they can also be trained to professionally handle symptoms and warning signs of PTSD by waking owners up from nightmares, retrieving medications, and interrupting panic attacks.

Of course, transitioning veterans also greatly benefit from military social workers and other adjustment programs. Still, therapy dogs can help with long-term recovery and provide crucial day-to-day assistance and interaction.

It’s also important to note that it’s not only veterans of war who have PTSD. Victims of abuse, natural disasters, assault, and even folks who are dealing with loosing a loved one can have PTSD. Trauma can affect anyone. It also means that dogs can comfort and support a lot of people.

Depending on the trauma level, it’s certainly worth considering a therapy dog to help those dealing with trauma. Trained therapy dogs can get expensive (they’re worth it), but luckily, many programs like 4 Paws For Ability work with families to help cover the costs.

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, the services therapy dogs provide to trauma victims are invaluable. These dogs can help individuals begin the road to healing and change their lives for the better, and it all starts with a simple wag of their tail.

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