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 capability, lifestyle, mobility, personality and psychological 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 assist our instructors in matching the best suited dog for you that will determine your ultimate success.  With a clear understanding of our client goals and objectives, we’ve been able to craft a program that you’ll be excited to participate in since it relates to your personal 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 foundation tasks and introduce advanced tasks that will specifically help mitigate our student’s needs. These tasks are taught on class and 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 obedience and commands, ways to motivate and reward their dogs and service dog handling techniques in preparation for receiving their new PTSD service dog.  On day two and three they work with demonstration dogs, get acquainted with equipment and learn how to respond to dog behavior, then they are introduced to their dogs. 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 includes basic and advanced obedience, primary and secondary motivators, discussions on dog care, etiquette, canine communication and learning theory and more. 

As the class carries over into week two, students will gain confidence in leading their dog through advanced handling techniques. They will have a clear understanding of how to read their dog and anticipate their dog’s reaction to environmental changes, use of appropriate equipment to become the most effective handler and understand how to motivate and reward their dog throughout the working day. Students will also learn how to work with their dogs in various settings that include residential and country environments; outings to malls, grocery stores and other stores, transportation venues including overland rail, train platforms, airports 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. Including utilizing dog positioning to extend personal space, performing nightmare interruption, having the dog summon assistance, to being comfortable in new and different situations by utilizing their dog for calming and also to interact with the public in a personally acceptable fashion.

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, contact by phone, email or video conferencing. Each graduated will be contacted two weeks after they return to their home environment and every three months for the first year to ensure that the standards reached at graduation are maintained. Each new handler will be required to have their dog recertified one year after program completion, then every two years. 

Eligibility: How to get a service dog for PTSD

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 serves 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 free of charge 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.