Benefits of a Service Dog for Veterans by David Wilcox
When veterans return home from active duty and combat, they often face several challenges. Some may have physical disabilities, some may have psychological issues, and some may have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). One resource that helps veterans in these situations is a service dog. Service dogs are available to aid veterans in multiple ways, and there are several organizations located throughout the country that offer training programs, financial assistance, and other help to ensure that veterans in need of a service dog can get one.
- Helping Fellow Veterans
Some programs like Warrior Canine Connection work with veterans who struggle with psychological issues to train service dogs for fellow veterans. These wounded warriors focus on teaching dogs that the world is safe, which helps them understand the concept at the same time. In training a service dog, wounded veterans are able to focus on the animals and their mission of helping fellow vets, which in turn helps them focus less on their own trauma. Participating in training service dogs for fellow veterans also helps wounded warriors socialize and interact with others, gives them a purpose, and allows them to feel pride and other positive emotions. They then carry these lessons and emotions back home to improve their family life.
- Health Benefits of Having a Service Dog
Studies have shown that owning a pet benefits a person’s health in a number of ways. While service dogs are very different from traditional pets, owning one still carries the same health benefits. For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and National Institute of Health (NIH) have found that people who own pets have decreased blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels, which can minimize pet owners’ risk of having a heart attack. For people who already have had heart attacks, owning a pet often leads to better recovery rates.
Of course, dogs need plenty of exercise, and service dogs are no different. Walking a dog is a great way to exercise and ease stress, but veterans can also participate in agility training and hiking with their service dogs. However, if veterans cannot walk their service dogs, there are freelance dog walkers who can do so for them.
- Coping with PTSD
Veterans who have service dogs are more likely to cope with PTSD in healthy ways than those who do not have them. Veterans who deal with anxiety, depression, and substance abuse as a result of post-traumatic stress disorder find that service dogs help them deal with their emotions and psychological challenges and disorders. Veterans who feel emotionally numb due to PTSD find that they connect with their service dogs and learn how to praise them and appreciate them; as a result, the veterans are better able to communicate, be assertive without being aggressive, and overcome emotional numbness. Some veterans with PTSD also find that having a service dog helps them to sleep better at night because they know their dog is on guard so they can relax and rest more easily.
- Improving Mobility
Some veterans return from combat with physical limitations and disabilities. For these veterans, service dogs improve their mobility, help them with daily tasks, and make it easier for them to be in public without relying on family members and friends. Service dogs help veterans who suffer from mobility impairment, traumatic brain injury, and other physical challenges. Specifically, service dogs can assist veterans in getting up from wheelchairs, retrieving items, pushing buttons and knobs, opening doors, and so on. Wounded veterans gain more independence and confidence when they have a service dog.
There are so many benefits of a service dog for veterans that they are too numerous to list here. If you are a veteran who would benefit from a service dog, or if you are the loved one of a veteran, find a service dog organization near you and begin the process of getting a companion who can improve civilian life. Just don’t forget to make the necessary changes to your home to accommodate your new furry friend.
Image via Pixabay by skeeze