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Dogs are important in the lives of man since ages ago. They have been used in the past for a myriad of functions, ranging from offering companionship for man and hunting purposes. There are many benefits obtained from owning a dog from the provision of security to alleviating moods. Even though there lacks comprehensive research on the positive psychological effects of the dogs on patients with mental disorders, veterans who have had service dogs have been found to have numerous progress in handling PTSD.
There are many military personnel who are deployed in the war-torn zones. Out of 2 million, approximately 20% of these have suffered from PTSD. When they come back from war 50% of those with depression cannot access proper healthcare, while those who can access it have a lower probability of improvements (Marston, & Kopicki, 2015). Failure of psychological intervention is caused by stigmatization from the society as well as a lack of confidence in the health care providers and the drugs available. It is for those reasons that the service dogs have come to compliment the psychological interventions to hasten the process as well as help the veterans cope with the problems of disability.
We can do it today.
Training of the dogs
The US Veteran Affairs has come up with a variety of ways to help treat veterans who are undergoing PTSD. Initially, the intervention methods have focused on Cognitive Behavioral Therapies, family therapy, antidepressant medication, group therapy (Marston, & Kopicki, 2015). Due to the low effectiveness of the methods, the adoption of Animal Assisted Therapy is becoming prevalent. The service dogs are given to the veterans by charity organizations, service dog organizations and veteran advocacy associations. Service dogs are trained to perform tasks that disabled or veterans with PTSD cannot perform. The dogs are trained to ensure the security of a room through making rounds across the place to ensure that the place is safe for the veteran (Marston, & Kopicki, 2015). Service dogs are also trained to turn on lights that are out of reach and particularly to interrupt nightmares that the veterans may be having. Service dogs also remind the veterans to take their medications on a timely basis. The service dogs are trained to offer support to the veterans and help them cope with symptoms such as nightmares, fear, flight responses and loss of memory. As part of the training, the dogs also trained to be obedient and to master good behaviors such as nuisance barking and aggressive tendencies. They are also trained not to sniff and intrude into other people’s space.
How service dogs affect veteran psychologically
According to past studies, it has been found out that service dogs help address biological, psychological and the social aspects of PTSD (Marston, & Kopicki, 2015). When the veterans interact with the dogs, their stress levels are likely to fall due to reduced cardiac reactivity. When the stress level is reduced, then it is possible to reduce social isolation, sleep disturbances and hyperarousal (Marston, & Kopicki, 2015). According to the evolution theory, human beings have been found to obtain comfort from animals because they provide support. Reduction of cortisol occurs when people interact with animals and thus facilitate the production of oxytocin and dopamine which lighten the mood (Marston, & Kopicki, 2015). Increased levels of oxytocin help reduce the interpersonal conflicts and negative attitudes which are common with people suffering from PTSD.
Psychologically, the dogs form strong bonds with human beings and this help buffer the stressors. According to the attachment theory, the service dogs, in this case, ensure that the veteran has a secure base feeling. Patients who are suffering from PTSD are likely to feel insecure and thus alienate themselves from others. That is why it has been found out that most of the veterans isolate themselves from the rest of the people and result to withdraw. The presence of the service dogs helps mend that attachment and brings the veteran back to the normal world of interaction thus improve the quality of life. Dogs have the ability to stimulate nurturing responses from the people thus reduce the feeling of loneliness and gives the veterans something to do (Marston, & Kopicki, 2015). The service dogs help the veterans gain a sense of self-worth and nurturance.
Service dogs have been found to have both direct and indirect effects in the management of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder among veterans. In our essay, we have found that some of the direct effects include improvement of health through the reduction of stress, anxiety and blood pressure. Indirect benefits of the animals include the participation with the animals in social activities which promote health in the end. Due to the complex nature of the PTSD service dogs have been found to have better positive effects on the mental health on the veterans than even psychologists.
- Marston, H., & Kopicki, A. (2015). The impact of service dogs on posttraumatic stress disorder in the veteran population. http://www.apadivisions.org. Retrieved 22 March 2017, from http://www.apadivisions.org/division-19/publications/newsletters/military/2015/04/service-dogs.aspx
- O’Haire, M., Guérin, N., & Kirkham, A. (2015). Animal-Assisted Intervention for trauma: a systematic literature review. Frontiers In Psychology, 6. http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01121