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Outcomes of Participation in a Service Dog Training Program for Veterans with PTSD

In: Society & Animals
Authors:
Diane Scotland-Coogan School of Education and Social Services Saint Leo, FL USA

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James D. Whitworth School of Social Work, College of Health Professions and Sciences, University of Central Florida Orlando, FL USA

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Tracy Wharton School of Social Work, College of Health Professions and Sciences, University of Central Florida Orlando, FL USA

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Abstract

Canine-assisted interventions have emerged as an increasingly popular means to engage and assist veterans coping with military-associated trauma responses. The present study evaluates the use of a 14-week service dog training program for these trauma-impacted veterans. The service dog program guides veterans in small group cohorts on how to train their own dog to be their personal service animal. All 71 veterans participating in this investigation had been diagnosed with PTSD. Fifty-five veterans (77%) finished the entire 14-week program and took all pretests and posttests. Compared to pretest scores, participants reported significant decreases in self-disturbance, posttraumatic stress, externalization, and somatization after completing the program. Participants experienced significant reductions in a broad scope of psychological impacts associated with their PTSD including interpersonal difficulties and suicidality. Findings provide evidence that service dog training programs may be an effective therapeutic alternative to traditional approaches that PTSD-impacted veterans are willing to utilize.

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