Dogs Helping Veterans With PTSD

Image: Photograph by Peter Yang

Although there does not seem to be definitive clinical evidence that shows that the use of psychiatric service dogs can help people with PTSD, many people instinctively grasp that the relationship between a dog and his or her owner can be so emotionally satisfying, loving, and joyful that even without scientific proof, we believe in the potential healing power of a close dog-human relationship.

In their report, Effectiveness of Psychiatric Service Dogs in the Treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder among Veterans, Dr. James Gillett, PhD, and Rachel Weldrick, BA, from McMaster University,  divide their research into two sections, which they describe:

The first section consists of a literature review exploring evidence as it pertains to a series of emergent issues directly relevant to PSD as a treatment for veterans with PTSD; they include safety, cost-effectiveness, training accessibility training, benefits and challenges, training and the level of expertise of canines in a companion, caring or service capacity. The review will contribute to our understanding of the current state of psychiatric service dog research in the realm of mental and emotional health, and the role that these animals play in the lives of veterans.

In the second section we outline possible options for future research studies. Included in this discussion is a proposed program of research team composition, theoretical and methodological framework, and budget. The program of research will articulate a direction forward with regards to studies in Canada about the effectiveness of PSDs in the treatment of PTSD among veterans. This research will be tied to current program and policy initiatives, and provide guidance as to how best to move forward in this area of support for veterans. (See Gillett and Weldrick’s Report.)

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