Types of Dog Programs: Service Dogs and Dog Therapy

Following is a description of what service dogs can do for specific needs. Both service dogs and therapeutic dog training have been helpful. Since AAD is no longer training service dogs this is for education only.

AAD is mentoring the start of a new program where veterans train service dogs for fellow veterans. It is called VTAD or Veterans Training Assistance Dogs. Danielle Tolley is the first Dr. Bergin-trained veteran in the program. If you are interested in being part of the effort, keeping track of its progress or to include yourself on a waiting list for a professionally trained service dog, send an email with the subject line VTAD to: aadcarole@gmail.com.        

                       What is PTSD?            

According to the American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress, AAETS, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a debilitating condition that follows a terrifying  event. Often, people with PTSD have persistent frightening thoughts and  memories of their ordeal and feel emotionally numb, especially with people they  were once close to. PTSD, once referred to as shell shock or battle fatigue,  was first brought to public attention by war veterans, but it can result from  any number of traumatic incidents. These include kidnapping, serious accidents  such as car or train wrecks, natural disasters such as floods or earthquakes,  violent attacks such as a mugging, rape, or torture, or being held captive. The  event that triggers it may be something that threatened the person’s life or the life of someone close to him or her. Or it could be something witnessed,  such as mass destruction after a plane crash.

Whatever the source of the problem, some people with PTSD repeatedly relive the trauma in the form of nightmares and disturbing recollections during the day. They may also experience sleep problems, depression, feeling detached or numb, or being easily startled. They may lose interest in things they used to enjoy and have trouble feeling affectionate. They may feel irritable, more aggressive than before, or even violent. Seeing things that remind them of the incident may be very distressing, which could lead them to avoid certain places or situations that bring back those memories. Anniversaries of the event are often very difficult.   PTSD can occur at any age, including childhood. The disorder can be accompanied by depression, substance abuse or anxiety. Symptoms may be mild or severe. Individuals may become easily irritated or have violent outbursts. In severe cases they may have trouble working or socializing. In general, the symptoms seem to be worse if the event that triggered them was initiated by a person, as a rape, as opposed to a life-threatening accident. Ordinary events can serve as reminders of the trauma and trigger flashbacks or intrusive images. A flashback may make the person lose touch with reality and reenact the event for a period of seconds or hours or, very rarely, days. A person having a flashback, which can come in the form of images, sounds, smells, or feelings, usually believes that the traumatic event is happening all over again. Not every traumatized person gets full-blown PTSD, or experiences PTSD at all. PTSD is diagnosed only if the symptoms last more than a month. In those who do have PTSD, symptoms usually begin within 3 months of the trauma, and the course of the illness varies. Some people recover within 6 months, others have symptoms that last much longer. In some cases, the condition may be chronic. There are cases where the illness doesn’t show up until years after the traumatic event. http://www.aaets.org/article125.htm  

                          How Do Service Dogs Assist with PTSD?

Reclusiveness: Service dog accompanies human outside the home

Night Terrors: Service dog wakes person or provides boy contact through the night (optional: turn on light)

Startle Reaction: Service dog defines personal space perimeter, alerts to presence of others (Command examples: “Pop a corner” or “Watch my back”)

Forgetfulness: Service dog makes person aware they have not taken their medication.

Dissociative Fugue: Disrupts the dissociative moment

Hyper-vigilance: Search a room for the presence of humans (Perimeter check)

Neurochemical Imbalance: Detects and cues. Invites interaction that stimulates calming hormones

Dissociative Flashback: Tactile stimulation mediates sensory re-integration and orientation to time/place

Emotional Regulation: Service dog is a therapeutic distraction

Sensory Overload: Service dog is an alternate focus. Cues for interaction when senses it

Social Withdrawal: Service dog facilitates interpersonal interaction

Lack of Insight: Service dog alerts to emotional escalation These are just a few examples of what a strong bond and good training can do. Each service dog is trained to specific needs.


Watch me command


                    What is Autism?        

The Mayo Clinic defines Autism as one of a group of serious developmental problems called autism spectrum disorders (ASD) that appear in early childhood — usually before age 3. Though symptoms and severity vary, all autism disorders affect a child’s ability to communicate and interact with others. The number of children diagnosed with autism appears to be rising. It is not clear whether this is due to better detection and reporting of autism, a real increase in the number of cases, or both. While there is no cure for autism, intensive, early treatment can make a big difference in the lives of many children with the disorder.  http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/autism/DS00348

How Can a Service Dog Assist a Child, Teen or Adult with Autism?

Impulsive Running: Service dog retrieves individual

PICA: Service dog interrupts behavior

Self-harming Behavior: Service dog will interrupt behavior

Night Awakenings: Alerts parents by barking

Social Isolation: Dog’s interaction shifts focus to dog.

Fire Alarms: Service dog barks/alerts the individual and family to get out

Mood Swings: Service dog leans into or climbs into lap to calm individual

Streets: Service dog will stop individual from walking into the street

Sneaking Out: Service dog alerts parents by barking

Nightmares: Service dog will crawl into bed to calm individual

Medication: Reminds individual by pawing and barking

Wandering/Getting lost: Track and find individual/offer protection These are just a few examples of what your service dog can be trained to do.


         What is a Mobility Service Dog?

Mobility Service Dogs aid in the independence of people who have trouble standing, walking or need to use a wheelchair.  Mobility Service Dogs are a valuable asset to their handler because they decrease the dependence on other people. These service dogs greatly assist their handler’s gate and balance while walking. If their handler falls, the service dogs will brace them to help them stand.

Ways that Mobility Service Dogs assist their handlers:  

  • Turn lights off and on
  • Larger breeds can pull a wheelchair
  • Bring items
  • Find items
  • Retrieve dropped items
  • Help you with the laundry
  • Open Doors
  • Hit a life line button for help
  • Carry items in a dog backpack
  • Locate someone if help is needed
  • Assist with dressing and undressing

These are just a few of the items a service dog can perform.  Your service dog’s skills can be tailored to fit your needs.

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