Dogs have fostered symbiotic relationships with humans for thousands of years and have played important roles in every major war around the world. Their dedication and valor is now part of our history.  Soldiers know first hand how vital a trained dog is to the physical and psychological well-being and security of their handlers. That’s why Pets Loyal 2 Vets was created. To connect veterans diagnosed and treated for PTSD and TBI with trained Battle Buddies, Emotional Support and Psychiatric Service Dogs.  All of our service dogs will be individually trained (not a cookie cutter program as seen in other programs) to accommodate the specific needs of the veteran and may not include all areas that a service dog can be useful for. There is a reason why so many veterans seek out the aid of a service dog. Because they are tired of being medicated and a dog can help them in many ways that drugs and therapy cannot.

It is essential each dog knows the basics of obedience commands and possess certain characteristics if they are to be considered as an initial candidate. To equally place a trained dog with a veteran in need, we must first acquire specific dogs that are trainable. The guidelines set forth by Therapy Dogs International and Assistance Dogs International is a standard found throughout the world for placing therapy and service dogs with clients. The following categories are some of the requirements Pets Loyal 2 Vets looks for in a dog before and after training begins. 

7 essential training commands for a Battle Buddy dog
1. come – able to come when instructed
2. stay – able to stay put when instructed
3. sit – able to when instructed
4. down – able to get down when instructed
5. no – when told no, is able to stop doing something
6. okay – understands okay
7. off – able to get off when instructed
7 most important characteristics of an emotional support dog
1. friendly – shows signs of friendliness
2. patient – dog is patient in certain situations
3. confident – is confident but not so much that it disobeys 
4. gentle – is gentle especially in areas of high risk
5. ease in a variety of situations – is not uncomfortable or uneasy 
6. likes being handled – does not fight being handled
7. enjoys being petted – especially by kids or strangers
6 factors related to obedience
1. basic commands
2. interaction with strangers
3. interaction with other dogs
4. loose leash
5. reactions to medical equipment
6. reactions to infirmities
6 important health benefits of an emotional support dog on a human
1. lowering of blood pressure
2. lower levels of Epinephrine & Norepinephrine 
3. lower levels of anxiety & stress
4. increased levels of Endorphin
5. increased levels of Oxytocin
6. increased levels of contentment & social interaction

Services Pets Loyal 2 Vets will provide for Minnesota Veterans:

  1. Pets Loyal 2 Vets will be training and CGC certifying a variety of dogs for veterans all at no cost to the veteran
  2. Dogs include veteran owned and Pets Loyal 2 Vets owned dogs
  3. We will also train a veteran’s own dog once the dog is temperament-tested and screened for service suitability and is between the age of 1 1/2 years and 4 years old
  4. Depending on space availability, we may board and bring the veteran’s dog to the Minneapolis VA Medical Center for weekly visits while the veteran is in treatment/therapy for PTSD or TBI
  5. Veterans will be able to train along side their new service dog at our training center
  6. Veterans enrolled in these programs are invited back once a year (June) with their service dogs to train with our trainers for a free one-day refresher course
  7. Veterans enrolled in our programs will have the opportunity to be a part of our community outreach program to reach more veterans in need of a service dog

All dogs adopted by Pets Loyal 2 Vets directly are the property of Pets Loyal 2 Vets till they graduate with their veteran.  All costs are paid for by Pets Loyal 2 Vets.  All dogs where Pets Loyal 2 Vets pays the adoption fees but the veteran fills out the adoption agencies paperwork and adopts the dog directly, is the private property of that veteran and all costs except the adoption fees are the responsibility of that veteran.  The Battle Buddy program is an example of a direct to veteran adoption.

Here is the Americans With Disabilities Act descriptions pertaining to:

Service Dogs (SD’s) Service Dogs are defined as working dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities.

Psychiatric Service Dog (PSD) A Psychiatric Service Dog is a dog that assists its handler who has a mental (psychiatric) and polytrauma disability. (see chart on symptoms page)

Examples of mental health disabilities that may qualify a person for a Service Dog with Pets Loyal 2 Vets includes, but is not limited to: Major Depressive Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Anxiety Disorder.

Typical training times are:

Battle Buddy Dogs  –  Basic training at our facility is usually from 6-8 weeks

Emotional Support Dogs  –  Certification usually is between 6 to 9 months and must pass the AKC Canine Good Citizen certification program.

Psychiatric Service Dogs  –  Certification is quite extensive and can run from 9 to 18 months and must pass the CGC certification first before moving onto the customized training.

Like all other types of service dogs, a Psychiatric Service Dog helps the veteran mitigate his or her disability through trained work and physical tasks, including, but not limited to:

* picking up/retrieving objects or aiding with mobility when the veteran has psychosomatic (physical) symptoms (i.e. pain, leaden paralysis, severe lethargy, etc.)
* waking the veteran up if the veteran sleeps through alarms or cannot get themselves out of bed
* alerting to and/or responding to episodes (i.e. mood changes, panic attacks, oncoming anxiety, etc.)
* reminding the veteran to take medication if they cannot remember on their own or with the use of an alarm
* alerting to and/or distracting the veteran from repetitive and obsessive thoughts or behaviors (such as those brought on by Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder)
* as well as many other tasks directly related to the specific veteran’s disability.

Psychiatric Service Dogs (PSDs) are breeds such as Labrador’s and Retrievers which are best suited for public work. Some Psychiatric Service Dog handlers may choose to refer to their dogs as Alert or Medical Response Dogs, depending on what the dog does for them but in the end, they are service dogs trained to do specific tasks.

In the USA, owners of PSDs are entitled to the same rights and protections afforded to owners of other types of service dogs, such as Guide Dogs, Hearing Dogs, and Mobility Dogs, under Federal Laws. Like all other types of Service Dogs (SDs), Psychiatric Service Dogs are individually trained to do specific work or perform specific tasks for the benefit of the disabled person and are trained to meet the needs of that person. They have also been trained to act discretely in public places, such as laying quietly under the table in a restaurant, keeping tightly to the veteran’s side and not sniffing anything on the shelves of grocery stores, including ignoring other people and animals.

What Are Psychiatric Service Dogs

Psychiatric Service Dogs are specially trained dogs that assist disabled veterans diagnosed and treated for Psychiatric or mental health problems related to PTSD and TBI injuries. A Psychiatric Service Dog can help the veteran manage anxiety and panic attacks and help reduce or relieve the symptoms through physical contact much like an emotional support dog but will be trained to deal with tougher challenges. Psychiatric Service Dogs can alert an individual with obsessive-compulsive behaviors by “pawing” and distracting them from the unfavorable behavior.

Psychiatric Service Dogs in our programs may help with service connected conditions such as:

  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Anxiety
  • Severe Depression
  • Panic Attacks
  • Nightmares

What Can a Well Trained Psychiatric Service Dog Help With

  • May be helpful with maintaining a veteran’s Serotonin levels
  • Have been known to help lower blood pressure
  • Work well in Calming their handler in a variety of stressful situations
  • Will intervene with episodes of severe anxiety or depression
  • Definitely provides one on one companionship
  • Will stand between when people crowd around or approach the veteran

Psychiatric Service Dog Training
Like all certified service dogs, a Psychiatric Service Dog is individually trained to meet the needs of the veteran and to do work or perform tasks that mitigate the veteran’s disability. Training to mitigate a psychiatric disability may include an environmental assessment (in such cases as paranoia or hallucinations), signaling behaviors such as interrupting repetitive or injurious behaviors), reminding the handler to take scheduled medications, retrieving special objects, guiding the veteran away from stressful situations, or acting as a brace if the veteran becomes dizzy. Training can vary but generally runs 9 to 18 months or longer of intensive training and must be CGC certified before graduating to a PSD. All PSD’s will be individually trained to accommodate the specific needs of the veteran which may not include all areas that a PSD can be useful for. As a result, the actual training time may be less or more.

Psychiatric Dogs Are Also Trained To:

  • Assistance in a medical crisis interventions
  • Provide treatment related to the veteran’s needs
  • Assistance in coping with emotional overload
  • Perform security enhancement tasks by clearing a dark room

All PSD’s must:

  • Complete a minimum of two months of documented, ‘professionally-supervised’ basic obedience instruction.
  • Complete the requirements for The American Kennel Club (AKC) Canine Good Citizen.
  • Complete extensive socialization w/people & dogs, sit, stay, down, come, heel, up, off, leave-it, back, human steps-over the dog, tail tuck (low distraction, high distraction, verbal commands, hand signals, on/off leash).
  • Complete at least six months of public access training that incorporates the principles described in the PSDS Public Access Standard.
  • Pass the PSDS Public Access Test, administered by our professional dog trainers. 
  • Complete disability-related assistance training.

The process of training your new Psychiatric Service Dog can take one to two years or more so please understand the time it takes to properly train and the time frame for when a dog will be needed. PSD’s are not pets. They are working dogs that fulfill specific duties and tasks and have the same public access rights as other service dogs.

If you are a veteran who can benefit from a program such as this, please fill out our dog application form and we will contact you. Leave us a reply below on how your experiences have been with your therapy or service dog. 

13 Comments On “Training”

  1. We would like to donate Bubba as a candidate for Battle Buddy. He has High Separation Anxiety. His Bio is below: Please let me know if you are interested.

    Past Rescue Dog (Divorce with children) He is a Neutered Male 11-month Chocolate Lab. He is long and tall with very High Energy and High Separation Anxiety. Very Intelligent, Very Trainable, Very Personable: Enjoys cuddling, playing …. Responds to verbal commands Stop, Sit, Wait, Back, Up and Go. Responds to Mouthed Whistles (1 Peep) = Stop looks at you (what do you want me to do?); (2 Peeps) = Come back or give him a visual hand/arm signal Go Left-Right or a Wave Back to your side. When running in fields or dog park after 200 feet he will run back to check-in with you. Bubba Needs re-training in basic obedience, kenneling and separation anxiety. All Medical Shots Up-to-date as of January 2018. Note: Bubba’s, response to harsh yelling at him or being tapped on his nose or head is to Nip at your hand but not bite.
    Bubba is Partially trained as a hunting dog for pheasant. He points well, flushes rabbits, pheasant, turkey’s in an adjoining field daily. Needs to run daily 2x so he is a tired dog (). Enjoys Empire Dakota County Dog Park, running playing with other dogs, people and children.
    Housebroken He is an indoor dog who loves the outdoors. Blankets, Beanbag, or worn couch with blankets is his favorite place to sleep. Kennels/Crates not so much he understands them for traveling but will whine, bark … breakout of them due to high separation anxiety. He likes classical MPR 99.5 and Rock n Roll Kool 108. When traveling he needs to be kenneled or he will quickly move between driver, passenger and back seats due to high anxiety.
    Bubba’s highly intelligent, in your home he will open your refrigerator, cupboards, other doors with nose, teeth and paws. You will need young child protector locks including those for a gas or electric stove.
    Bubba is an awesome lab, once his separation anxiety is corrected he will make an awesome hunting and family partner.

  2. Hi Tim

    Sorry for the late response. Are you winthin the Twin Cities area? If so, email me at jeff@pl2vets .org

  3. Good morning, I have an almost 3yo German shepherd/mastiff that I would like to train to be a therapy dog for myself. I am working with my va mental health providers, but I need to know what requirements are needed. I.e., paperwork, etc. My dog knows the basic commands, doesn’t chase after other animals, interacts very well with other dogs and humans, even very small children.

    Thank you.

  4. Unfortunately, we do not have any puppy training groups at this time.

  5. Yes, but it will have to be evaluated just like all the other dogs to see if it is compatible for training as a SD.

  6. Hi, I am 60% disabled vet and pending an increase, I have severe anxiety and mood swings, still in ptsd evaluation and counseling for determination. I have continuous nightmares at night, lost interest of doing things, I use to own 3 dogs that kept me busy, but now I am recently recieving a 9 week old puppy, wondering if it would be possible to train her. I currently live with my mother due to my father passing away so she is encouraging me to looking into a service dog due to that fact that she sees my problems. Thank you for taking your time and doing what you guys are doing for veterans, even if I don’t get qualified for a service dog thank you for your service for our vets! God Bless!!

  7. Percy V. Griffin

    I am a disable veteran with a 70% disability rating. I have major depression disorder, severe anxiety disorder, nightmare disorder and alcohol in remission. I also have the following ailments; diabetes, high blood pressure and recently been diagnose grade 2 diastolic dysfunction. I have a Canine male that’s about 2 1/2 yrs. old who is somewhat trained to my commands. My question is, can I use my own dog as My PSD if we qualify for this program? I am a resident of Louisiana.

  8. Hi Michael

    I would like to talk with you further if you could call my office at 612-396-3369

    Jeff LeBaron
    Executive Director

  9. I am a 100% diabled veteran. I am missing my right leg but have a prosthetic leg and have ptsd, anxiety, depression, and nightmares which included grinding my teeth. I go out but get pretty anxious in crowds and I get very lonely. I am also hyper vigilant. I love dogs and have had many dogs over the years. I live in a small town, Milaca mn and like to travel and camp. My land lord has no problem with an adult dog that is trained. He is also a great friend and attorney. Would I qualify? I would be eternally grateful to have a buddy. A battle buddy that I can take care of and can take care of me. Thank you for your work! Weither I qualify or not I think what you are doing is awesome! Sincerely, Mike Danger p.s. I am 55

  10. Caleb: You should first review your lease agreement as that will most likely explain your pet options. There are certain laws that protect disabled citizens especially if you are using a certified service dog. Therapy and emotional support dogs do not have the same access rights or living arrangement rights as service dogs do.

  11. Who is forbidding someone from owning a service dog. Never heard of such a thing.

  12. It is against the law to forbid you from having a trained service dog to assist you. Check out the ADA web site for additional information. r

  13. I have parinoid schizophrenia and live alone were dogs are not allowed in a big apartment I see and hear things and the voices become overwhelming tearing me apart at night I find myself going to sleep early I also make up scenarios were people are trying to do bad things to me and I can’t get out of look and feel strange around people outside but when I am engaged in a conversation I talk then then think about it for an hour I smoke outside and I chew nicotine gum inside and I have heard I can get a service dog no matter what my landlord says thank you

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