- 1 How service dogs help PTSD, depression, and anxiety sufferers
- 2 Qualities you should look for an emotional support dog
- 3 Best breeds for PTSD, anxiety, and depression
Shell shock, soldier’s heart, battle fatigue – this is how post-traumatic stress disorder was known not so long ago. It’s often associated with soldiers because of many military forces going home with the trauma of the battleground. But aside from soldiers, anyone can have PTSD after a traumatic experience like witnessing a crime, losing a loved one, or seeing disturbing events. And as an effort to give them a companion to ease the attacks, the best service dog breeds for PTSD are trained for the job.
Post-traumatic stress disorder is a serious condition that requires intensive medical attention. If the symptoms aren’t addressed, the condition can jeopardize the quality of life of the affected person. PTSD can interrupt sleep, social activities, and the day to day living of a person.
But in a condition that can be triggered by a myriad of factors, how can dogs help?
How service dogs help PTSD, depression, and anxiety sufferers
Service dogs may not help cure the condition, but they play a vital role in reducing the severity of PTSD. These dogs act both as emotional support and a tactile stimulator so those with PTSD can be reality-affirmed.
The mere presence of service dogs provides relief and sense of companionship to the person. This will then translate to the feeling of security. Still, it should go without saying that you should know how to train a service dog for PTSD. Here are more roles service dogs for PTSD have to play:
Instilling a nurturing environment. Service dogs open up possibilities for its handler to keep his or her mind off possible triggers. Be it staying active, providing companionship, and guidance, PTSD service dogs are indispensable.
Tactile stimulation. Whenever a PTSD sufferer experiences an attack, their service dog will provide tactile stimulation to ease the stress their handler is going through.
Watchdog. A service dog is trained to determine whether its handler is on the verge of a panic attack. It can alert the handler to the possible harm so they can prevent any attacks while in public.
Protector. Service dogs for PTSD can also be trained to watch over the surroundings of its owners. These doggos can also offer assistance to retrieve fallen objects.
Service dogs for anxiety, depression, and PTSD can be divided into two categories: emotional support and the service dog. Most of the time, emotional supports dogs are trained for basic obedience and to stick close to their handler. These dogs can also perform tactile stimulation like pawing, nudging, and licking during attacks.
Meanwhile, service dogs are trained for specific tasks to help their handlers cope with their condition. For example, a service dog can provide emotional support while having the ability to retrieve medication and alert the handler’s guardian.
Here’s PTSD service dog Frankie and how he’s changing the life of his owner like no other:
Qualities you should look for an emotional support dog
Not all dogs can fit for the job as the best service dog breeds for PTSD. As much as many breeds are trainable, it would be easier to look for the dog with the essential qualities of a PTSD service canine.
Here are some of the general traits you should consider:
Intelligent. A dog that has a great command recall and intelligence can be trained for any service dog task, including being an emotional service dog. Also, a sensitive and intelligent dog can respond properly to the situation without losing its concentration.
Calm and friendly. The service dog should be the image of calmness it wants to imbibe to its handler. If the pooch tends to be over-excited or aggressive, you should subject it to further training.
Sociable. A service dog for PTSD shouldn’t just be loyal and affectionate to its owners. The doggo should also exhibit positive behavior toward others.
Confident but not imposing. PTSD service dogs will give their handlers assurance, especially during panic attacks. This means that they should be confident enough to be on top of the situation.
These are just some of the good characteristics of a service dog to be assigned to those who are experiencing depression, anxiety or PTSD. A professional service dog trainer will find the dog that suits your personality and condition. Remember, the size of the dog doesn’t really matter a lot. As long as the pooch can provide emotional assurance and tasking skills, any breed will fit. Knowing how to train a service dog for PTSD is the key here.
Best breeds for PTSD, anxiety, and depression
1. German Shepherds
German Shepherds are the kings of all working dogs. They are intelligent, affectionate, cautious, and loyal which are the traits of a perfect service dog. In fact, they are fit for almost any service tasks imaginable. From being a military dog up to serving as an emotional support canine, this breed never disappoints.
The even-tempered and confident nature of German Shepherds makes them a perfect companion for people with psychological and psychiatric conditions. This breed can also detect panic attacks and self-harm which they will try to impede by pawing, nudging, or cushioning their body against their handler.
Even for first-time dog owners, German Shepherds are easy to live with. They are obedient and commonly described as having a human-like intelligence.
2. Labrador/Golden Retrievers
Make way for the sweethearts of the service dog community. Both the Labs and Goldies are loved for their heart of gold. They share the same characteristics: intelligent, calm, affectionate, loyal, and a gentle disposition. As cousin breeds, they were initially bred as waterfowl retrievers back in the days. Their entry to the service work started as guide dogs for the deaf, blind, and immobile.
Labrador and Golden Retrievers’ balanced and stable demeanor makes them a great pick, even for kids experiencing PTSD, anxiety, or depression. These best service dog breeds for PTSD are also the favorites for autism and ADD.
The only caveat of some owners is that Golden Retrievers are large dogs that shed a lot. Still, this isn’t enough to dampen these sweethearts’ contribution in giving affection and sense of security.
3. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
A yappy and royal lapdog, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is a perfect company for both adults and kids who need an emotional support and service dog. It might be small, but this lapdog has a big heart for its owners. They love cuddling, snuggling, and squirming to their handlers. In fact, it’s hard to find a Cavalier dog that hates hugs!
The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is highly devoted to their families. They are also less nippy than other breeds which is a big relief for some owners. But to achieve a service dog level of discipline, Cavalier dogs need to undergo intensive training. As you know, they love jumping and romping around which could distract them from their job.
Those who are suffering from psychological and psychiatric conditions will find an awesome buddy with Beagles. This breed likes to play, run, and be outdoors. Such traits help their handlers get off possible triggers and to see opportunities away from their panic attacks.
Beagles are easy-going, friendly to everyone, adores kids, and balls of energy. You’ll find it hard to resist their upbeat nature. As service dogs, they can be trained to sniff biochemical changes in a human’s body. Although their strong sense of smell is their usual distraction, it can be put to good use if you know how to train a service dog for PTSD.
The only gripe of Beagle owners is that this doggo loves to vocalize, especially when left alone for long. Further training should dampen this tendency.
Poodles aren’t just fancy and classy dogs. They are also lifesavers and popular service dogs among kids and elderlies. Poodles are one of the most intelligent breeds that also exhibit a laidback and loyal attitude. As a waterfowl retriever in the past, there’s no doubt that Poodles can identify and respond to physical and verbal cues.
Poodles are A-listers in obedience training, often requiring less effort as compared to other breeds. Still, training them intensively will pay off once they are assigned to work. This breed is also said to have the ability to be attuned with their handler’s feelings and moods – one reason why they are typically used as therapy dogs.
The only issue about Poodles is they hate being left alone. They will develop intense separation anxiety if not accompanied for extended periods. Still, they are one of the best service dog breeds for PTSD.
Vicious? The Therapy Dogs International has proven that Rottweilers have the perfect temperament to be an emotional support dog. This breed is intelligent and can be trained for a slew of tasks like guiding the deaf and blind, giving support during panic attacks, and even visiting hospices and hospitals as therapy dogs.
Rottweilers can be challenging to train but their accreditation as a service dog breed says a lot about their potential. They are very affectionate and friendly even to strangers. However, other dogs don’t sit well on Rottweilers.
If trained well, Rottweilers will be reliable and dependable furry buddies.
As a lapdog, Havanese dogs are lauded for their unwavering affection and loyalty to their families. In fact, they are popular among people with depression and anxiety. Their fluffy look reflects their cuddly attitude. Havanese dogs just can’t live without kisses, snuggles, and cuddles from their owners.
This breed also knows how to bring a smile to its owner’s face. Havanese dogs can be clownish, yappy, and playful which is a good sign that they are fit for the emotional support work.
Havanese isn’t just cute, they are also a smart breed that can be trained easily. Their love for kids and eagerness to please their owners make them an irresistible pet and emotional support dog.
This breed is great even for first-time owners. However, as a lapdog, Havanese doesn’t want to be left alone.
8. Miniature Schnauzer
A clownish, extroverted, intelligent, affectionate, and beautiful dog – what else can you wish for from a Schnauzer? This breed has the energy of a dog twice its size, often seen bolting and playing around. Miniature Schnauzer’s spirited disposition nurtures an uplifting environment for its owners.
As people-pleasers, Schnauzers excel in obedience training and is always alert to follow its owner’s commands. They are a perfect sidekick for kids and adults who want an active dog to keep up with their lifestyle.
Although energetic, Schnauzers can thrive on apartment living as they can tolerate being alone. Although they are independent, they can be trained to be a clingy service dog who will be the first responder during a panic attack.
9. Doberman Pinscher
They may look scary and imposing, but Doberman Pinschers are far from their stereotype villain image. The only thing that’s fierce to this breed is their loyalty and love for their families. If trained well, they are actually a Velcro dog that will follow you anywhere you go.
Dobies are perfect emotional support dogs for those who need reality affirmation like tactile stimulation. This breed can nudge, lick, and paw to keep the handler from spiraling into a full-fledged panic attack.
Dobies started their career as service dogs in the military side by side with German Shepherds. It’s the reason why they are also a top pick among veterans who have PTSD.
If you want an emotional support dog who will hang out with you, a Boxer is a great choice. Their protective nature can be shaped into a watchful and cautious attitude. This will allow them to notice their handler’s mood changes and behavioral patterns.
Due to their intelligence, Boxers can also become service dogs that can retrieve medicine and provide tactile stimulation. And with their guarding nature, they can bluff you whenever you tend to fall into a trance that can cause attacks.
Overall, Boxers are affectionate to their families, friendly with kids, and very easy to train. Beware, though, because this breed can get really heartsick if you leave it alone. If you do so, be prepared for a teenage tantrum.
The best service dog breeds for PTSD and other psychological and psychiatric conditions is based on the temperament, behavior, and intelligence of the dog. Most of all, it should match the personality of the handler.