A study conducted at Purdue University and supported by Dogtopia Foundation confirms benefit of service dogs for veterans with PTSD and will aid in identifying interactions which are most beneficial. The research is expected to improve training for service dogs.
The 3-year research was headed by associate professor of human-animal interaction, Dr. Maggie O'Haire, at the university’s College of Veterinary Medicine and with Dogtopia Foundation, the charitable arm of pet services company, Dogtopia. Dogs in the study were from K9s For Warriors and were paired with veterans with PTSD (82 pairs). Interactions were recorded via video, time spent with animals daily, and reported emotions were tracked daily via smartphone.
"The ultimate goal of our research is to amplify the voices of veterans and their families through science," said O'Haire. "We are providing quantifiable data that shows how service dogs can improve symptoms and quality of life for certain veterans with PTSD."
Study results pointed to the benefit of service dogs for different uses: those paired with veterans with low PTSD and high anxiety were likely to be asked to signal when someone approached from behind; strong bonds were noted when service dogs were not particularly excitable and were easy to interact with; veterans with significant depression were more likely to ask to create a social interaction.
Most importantly, dogs were asked to help lessen anxiety. The study pointed to improved mental health and reduced PTSD symptoms when veterans were paired with dogs who were not very excitable.
"We've seen first-hand the benefits of service dogs for veterans with PTSD and are proud to support Dr. O'Haire's ground-breaking research," said Liz Meyers, executive director of the Dogtopia Foundation. "Until financial support improves for the men and women who bravely served our country, we remain committed to raising funds to train service dogs for veterans with PTSD and increasing awareness of the need through the efforts of our franchisees who are incredibly dedicated to this worthy cause."