Service Dogs Helping Veterans with PTSD

Making the decision to work with a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) service dog is a transformational event that extends into every area of a handler's life.  Because of this momentous change, it’s crucial that each of our students is teamed with a dog that best suits that person’s mobility, personality, lifestyle, and physical needs.  As each applicant is accepted to our program, we carefully match them with a dog that’s right for them, and the power of their bond makes ordinary moments extraordinary.

PTSD Service Dog Training

As you work through our application process, you’ll be providing us with the key information that will determine your ultimate success.  With a clear understanding of your goals and objectives, we’ll be able to craft a program that you’ll be excited to participate in since it relates to your specific needs.  Once the certified America's VetDogs training team understands the needs of an applicant (several months prior to the student attending class), they will build upon the foundation task and work on advanced tasks that will specifically help mitigate each student’s particular needs and how the dog can provide a calming effect and sense of security for its handler.

On-class Training

During the first week of class, students are introduced to basic commands and the four foundations of service dog tasks in preparation for receiving their new PTSD service dog.  On day two, they get acquainted with equipment and handling techniques and then are introduced to their dog.  For the remainder of the week, they work on the fundamentals of communicating and working with their new partner in various environments both on campus and in other training environments.  Training also includes basic obedience, discussions on dog care, etiquette and more. 

As the class carries over into week two, students will gain confidence in leading their dog; have a clear understanding of pack theory; basic learning theory, which will address the commands the dog already knows; and advanced learning theory that will comprise advanced commands.  Students will also learn how to work with their dogs in various settings that include country walks; mass transit situations, including train platforms, subway, or bus travel; outings to malls and other stores; and other types of real-world situations.  

Prior to the completion of class, each new handler and dog team will have to pass the Assistance Dog International Public Access Test.  The test is to determine if the dog is safe to be in public and that the handler demonstrates that he/she has control of the dog at all times.

Program Completion

Upon completion of training, the newly created human and PTSD service dog team will have begun to master all of the techniques they need to be successful—from turning on a light, performing a nightmare interruption, to being comfortable in new and different situations.  The veteran can feel confident and independent with a new companion by their side.  

Should a graduate require follow-up training, our staff will arrange to work with them on any questions or concerns they might have in a prompt and professional manner, which may include additional follow-up visits to their home to work on specific tasks or dog behavior.  Each new handler will be required to have their dog recertified one year after program completion, then every two years.  

Eligibility

If you are a veteran or first responder who is interested in applying for a PTSD service dog, please review the following information to determine if you meet our eligibility requirements.  Our service dog for PTSD program is limited to veterans with combat-related PTSD and first-responders with work-related PTSD.

  • You have served in any of the branches of the U.S. Armed Forces from any era, and have received an honorable discharge.
  • You are a first responder who has a work related disability.
  • You can participate in our two-week training program and will be committed to our training program and schedule.
  • You are dedicated to maintaining the dog’s training throughout the life of the team and can provide for the well-being of the dog, approximately $100 per month.
  • You are able to meet the physical and emotional needs of a dog, and have an appropriate support system in place to do so if/when you are unable to yourself.
  • Also eligible are professionals working with Military organizations that provide physical or mental health care to clients who will benefit from interaction with an Assistance Dog.

How much does a PTSD service dog cost?

All services are provided at no cost to clients — this includes your dog, transportation to and from our campus in Smithtown, New York, instruction, and more.   

If you have any questions about our programs, please reach out to the America's VetDogs Consumer Service office at 866-282-8047 or ConsumerServices@VetDogs.org.