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, Companion, Therapy 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 PetsLoyal2Vets looks for in a dog before and after training begins.7 essential training commands for a companion/therapy 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 a companion/therapy 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 a therapy 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:
- Pets Loyal 2 Vets will be training and CGC certifying a variety of dogs for veterans all at no cost to the veteran
- 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
- 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
- Veterans will be able to train along side their new service dog at our training center
- 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
- 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
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:
Companion Service Dogs – Certification usually is completed from 6-8 weeks and must pass the AKC canine good citizen (CGC) program.
Therapy Service Dogs – Certification usually is completed in 6 to 9 months and must pass the Assistance Dogs International certification program.
Psychiatric Service Dogs – Certification is quite extensive and is usually completed in 12 to 18 months and must pass the Assistance Dogs International (ADI) certification program.
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 but also have polytrauma 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 a therapy dog but will be trained to deal with polytrauma. 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 help with service connected conditions such as:
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
- Polytrauma injuries
- Severe Depression
- Panic Attacks
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 12 to 18 months or longer of intensive training and must be certified before adopted to the veteran. 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.
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
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 the TDI certification program as a therapy dog team
- 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 typically 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. It should be noted that Pets Loyal 2 Vets is working towards obtaining its accreditation set by Assistance Dogs International and is working towards meeting those standards. Working to meet those standards does not imply we are accredited by ADI, it only shows we are working towards meeting those standards prior to applying for accreditation.
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.