Dogs are indeed our best friends. From being constant companions to proving psychiatric help, there’s no limit to what our furry buddies can do. As psychiatric service dogs, canines help one condition that plagues about 8% of all Americans – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). While this condition is usually associated with military service, the best service dog breeds for PTSD can also help private individuals.
The job of psychiatric service dogs is to detect the signs of a PTSD episode even before the person identifies it. With that, they can provide emotional and physical support if need be. But first, let’s take a look at what PTSD exactly is.
What is PTSD?
According to the American Psychiatric Association, PTSD or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a psychiatric disorder that can be caused by various factors. An individual who witnessed or experienced a traumatic event like terrorism, death, rape, natural disaster, and personal assault can suffer from PTSD. There are more possible reasons behind PTSD which can be diagnosed by a practicing psychiatrist.
During the war era, PTSD is also known as ‘combat fatigue’ and ‘shell shock’. This condition is usually associated with military service where soldiers witness extreme combat environments.
But the fact is that this condition can happen to anyone who got exposed to a traumatic event. PTSD can also develop over the years of exposure like the situation of police officers who are handling child abuse cases.
Those suffering from PTSD will have disturbing thoughts, nightmares, fearful flashbacks, and possible extreme cases of anger and sadness.
How service dogs help people with PTSD
The question here is how do dogs help people with PTSD? Dogs trained to be PTSD service canines are supposed to provide a sense of calmness and security. Knowing how to train a service dog for PTSD should be left on the hands of experts.
Also, these dogs push the person with PTSD to exercise, thus taking his or her mind away from potential triggers.
PTSD service dogs can also be trained to perform repetitive signals to remind their handler to take medication. They can also retrieve medication if need be. Also, the mere presence of a dog can help in the production of serotonin or the feel-good hormones.
Here are the major roles of PTSD service dogs:
➕Calm their handler
➕Assist in the event of depression
➕Prevent people from rushing into their handler
➕Paw, lick or nudge during a harmful behavior
Top 10 PTSD service dogs
Not all breeds can suit as PTSD service dogs. Those that will be trained should be emotionally sensitive and intelligent enough to pick up signs of a PTSD attack. Here are some of these excellent breeds:
1. Labrador Retriever
There’s a chance that you’ve seen a service Lab dog before. They are a popular choice for a number of tasks, including assisting individuals with PTSD. Labrador Retrievers are smart and affectionate dogs that suit the role of a psychiatric support canine.
Labs are excellent retrievers and their laidback temperament makes them a perfect household pet. Since they are also smart, they are easy to train. Their skills as an obedient fowl retriever can be translated into the eagerness to please their handler. Knowing how to train a service dog for PTSD will unleash Labs’ full potential.
Labradors are versatile dogs but very balanced and stable in nature. Their calm demeanor makes them the top pick for children with PTSD. They provide a friendly environment together with their already pleasant faces.
This breed is also playful and loves being outdoors. This helps their owners focus on other things away from their triggers. Another advantage with Labs is they don’t mind being touched by other people.
2. Standard Poodle
Deemed as one of the brightest in the pack, Standard Poodles know exactly how to calm a revolting mind. Since this breed is intelligent, they can be trained to detect PTSD symptoms as well as to perform tasks that will ease their handlers’ condition.
Poodles are lauded for their grace and very friendly attitude. Have you ever seen a vicious Poodle? Nope. And if they are trained properly, they can be more than the usual household pet. Poodles can retrieve medication and provide emotional and physical comfort to his or her handler.
Aside from being service dogs, Poodles are also prominent therapy dogs. This emotional stability is what makes them the best service dog breeds for PTSD.
They are also low-shedding which adds to the benefits of picking them as a service dog.
Poodles are also observed to be sensitive with their owners’ moods even if they’re not trained for it. So if given further training, they can be shaped to be in harmony with their handlers’ mind and emotions.
3. Miniature Schnauzer
This little breed can bring a massive difference to the lives of a PTSD sufferer. Miniature Schnauzers are balls of energy and they always like to play and run around. This helps their handler become physically active and in a light mood.
Although small, they are easy to train and can be people-pleasers. They suit kids who need the best service dog breeds for PTSD due to their friendly temperament and playful tendencies.
Miniature Schnauzers are typically trained to be therapy dogs. But since they are Velcro dogs with a pretty amiable demeanor, they suit as full-time service canines.
Their extroverted nature is not to be mistaken as insensitive. These doggos know how to show affection and love, especially on specific moments when it’s most needed.
The best thing about this breed is they can tolerate kids and strangers. Given proper training, Miniature Schnauzers shouldn’t be nippy or aloof of other people or dog.
This little chunk of cloud is a perfect candidate as a service dog for PTSD. They are outgoing and friendly, something that they can infect their handlers with. Havanese dogs always love cuddles and sweet kisses. This, in turn, lets their handler feel secured and loved.
Havanese pooches tend to have the ability to sense negative emotions. When they feel that you’re down, they will squirm their way to your lap to brighten up your day.
These doggos might be small, but they have large minds to house some tricks and tasks. They can be trained to retrieve medication and to block the harmful behavior of their handler.
Since Havanese have a playful attitude, they will open a new avenue for their handler to get out of their PTSD zone. There’s never a dull moment with these cute fluff ball. If you know to how to train a service dog for PTSD, Havanese puppers can be a furry buddy to kids with autism and psychiatric problems.
5. German Shepherd
If there’s one dog born to be a service dog, it would be the German Shepherd. This dog is tough but calm, alert but not aggressive, firm but loving. Their temperament is the right blend of cautiousness and being loveable. German Shepherds are also very intelligent and easy to train. This is the reason why they are a common sight in military drills and sniffing jobs.
German Shepherds are even-tempered and they have an endless pursuit to please their handlers. Since they have a high sensitivity to moods and body language, they can detect signs of panic attacks and even PTSD episodes.
In the event of a harmful behavior, a German Shepherd can be trained to paw in order to distract its handler. They are also deemed to be natural psychiatric dogs due to their emotional connection to humans.
This breed is also a good example of grace under pressure. They stay calm and in control even during massive PTSD attacks.
6. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
This adorable doggo isn’t just known for its looks, it’s also an excellent service dog for people with psychiatric conditions. And indeed, big surprises come in small packages. This little breed is a total sweetheart, much-loved for their good nature and affectionate ways.
They bond with their owner strongly and they need constant hugs and kisses to survive.
Aside from romping around, their favorite past time is snuggling with their hooman while being petted.
Beware because the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is a Velcro dog. They won’t leave your side even if that means you’ll have an audience while you do your bathroom routine. Another great thing about these little royals is that they aren’t nippy with strangers. They can be brought anywhere without being aggressive. However, these puppers need intense training to learn discipline and to become one of the best service dog breeds for PTSD.
The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel doesn’t mind being at your side 24/7. Also, they can thrive even in small apartments and rooms.
7. Doberman Pinscher
They may look like tough cookies, but Doberman Pinschers are actually cinnamon rolls. Sure thing, they can be trained to be guard dogs, but they always have a soft spot as a service dog for PTSD. Dobies, as to how they are fondly called, bond strongly with their handlers. And this may come as a surprise, but Dobies can actually become Velcro pooches. It’s just a matter of knowing how to train a service dog for PTSD.
This breed is best for PTSD sufferers who require tactile and reality affirmation. Doberman Pinschers will do it through licking, pawing, and nudging. This physical stimulation keeps the handler in touch with reality, thus preventing the PTSD episode from escalating.
The commanding and imposing presence of Dobies can be used to help their handlers get past a PTSD attack. It might intimidate the people around, but the Dobermans provide a sense of security which is excellent in preventing people from crowding around its handler.
These cute doggos might look like a toughie, but it only needs a short training to unleash their mellow and affectionate side. Boxers are naturally protective and, through training, this can be channeled into protecting you. This breed has so much promise as a PTSD service dog.
Boxers can be trained to bluff on cue to discourage strangers from getting near. They can also retrieve medication and provide tactile stimulation in the event of harmful behavior.
Since boxers have the natural instinct to stand on their feet and to paw, this will come as second nature when the need arises.
This breed also has a low tendency to wander and bark. This makes them easier to train than other dogs. Boxers also thrive in small apartments and the presence of strangers. And since they are playful and physically active, these doggos will surely help their handlers keep their minds off the triggers.
9. Lhasa Apso
This pooch is originally a Tibetan dog that alerts the monks whenever a stranger arrives. Lhasa Apsos are very fluffy doggos that are a bit wary of strangers. But if they are trained properly, their charm and loving nature can be channeled into intuitiveness and emotional support.
Trained Lhasa Apsos help people with bipolar disorder and other psychiatric conditions like PTSD. Since they are cheerful and always in the move, a PTSD sufferer will surely have a smile on his or her face.
Since they have a background as monk dogs, these pooches aren’t surprisingly sensitive with their owners’ moods and reactions. They will nudge and paw you to put you back in control.
10. Border Collie
Border Collies are popular for being smart, enduring, and physically strong canines. But train them well and they will be a charming and affectionate service dog for psychiatric conditions. Since they have a history of being herding dogs, their skills can be channeled into keeping you right on track with your thoughts and actions.
Collies are lively dogs and they will motivate you to get up and to get going. They also have clownish ways that will lighten up the mood of their handlers.
When you’re down, they will snuggle and bug you to pay addition. This helps a PTSD sufferer from succumbing to an episode. These doggos won’t stop until you pet and play with them.
Take note that Collies need intense training to dampen their aggressiveness and overly active nature.
The best service dog breeds for PTSD are the image of certainty, affection, and cheerfulness. These doggos should detect signs of a PTSD episode and employ ways to stall the attack.