Service Dogs

Studying The Health Benefits Of Service Dogs For Military Veterans

An NAVC VetEdge Article

Military service dog

We’re honored to feature service dog research and resources that support soldiers who have served our country.

Two major U.S. government studies are investigating the ways that trained service dogs may help soldiers with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

The first study was announced in late June by the U.S. Department of Defense. According to an article in the Military Times, “The unconditional love of a canine companion heals the soul, reaching into the heart to cross canyons of loneliness and despair. Military researchers now are trying to learn if there’s real science behind that semimystical link — and if so, whether it can help treat the signature wounds of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.”

  • The $5 million study — approved as part of the government’s amended “H.R. 2397 – The Fiscal Year 2014 Defense Appropriations Act” — is underway at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, MD. The article reported, “participating troops are paired with puppies that they will raise for two years to serve as assistance dogs for other injured veterans. 
  • The researchers’ mission is to quantify and confirm “a handful of studies have suggested that working with dogs releases oxytocin, the feel-good hormone that promotes bonding.” It’s the first Department of Defense study examining the benefits of dogs on soldiers recovering from TBI or PTSD and more than 40 veterans are participating in this study.

The second study is being conducted by the U.S. Veterans Affairs (VA) Department and will take several years to complete, according to the VA. Its focus is to determine if “there are things a dog can do for a Veteran with PTSD that would qualify the animal as a Service Dog for PTSD.” The research project is spotlighted in the article, “Training Dogs for Service: Helping Veterans Cope With Stress.”

In addition, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs offers a public information website on “Dogs and PTSD,” with helpful insights for veterans, families and friends as well as the general public, including a section on service dogs and emotional support dogs. 

Other resources: information on the tremendous value of dogs in supporting soldiers with TBI or PTSD is available on many other websites and blogs, and we’re happy to share a few of them with you. 

  • America’s VetDogs® and The Veteran's K-9 Corps® is a not-for-profit organization serving the needs of disabled veterans from all eras as well as active duty personnel. Its mission is, “To help those who have served our country honorably live with dignity and independence.”
  • Warrior Canine Connection assists veterans through peer-to-peer support “Where Service Members and Veterans with combat stress take on the critical mission of training service dogs for fellow wounded warriors.” 
  • Soldier’s Best Friend is a nonprofit organization that helps to provide U.S. military veterans living with combat-related PTSD or TBI with Service or Therapeutic Companion Dogs, “most of which are rescued from local shelters.” Their website explains, “The veteran and dog train together to build a trusting relationship that saves two lives at once and inspires countless others.”

We’re honored to feature these valuable canine therapy resources supporting soldiers who have served our country.

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