Most of us have experienced the soothing comfort that an animal can bring. One minute we are down in the dumps, then with a quick lick to our face, a dog makes us smile. It makes sense that dogs can help ease the symptoms of PTSD, but how exactly?
A dog will always be more vigilant than a person. Canines have keen senses. With a service dog near, warriors can let their guards down. They no longer have to be on alert all the time because the dog is able to step in to assess every possible threat. Service dogs can also restore a veteran’s loss of trust. Because a service dog draws the attention of others, the warrior must learn how to communicate positively with others in public. Insomnia also is a common symptom of PTSD. Veterans often are unable to close their eyes to receive a night of plentiful rest because they are afraid of what they'll see in their dreams. Many warriors report that they are better able to sleep after acquiring a service dog because the dog can sense when the warrior is having a nightmare. Once the service dog understands what is going on, the dog may wake up the veteran from the bad dream.
Our service dogs also can perform certain tasks on command for their warriors in situations of intense anxiety. For instance, if a warrior is at an ATM and not comfortable because of the thought that someone could sneak up on them, the dog can be told to “cover.” When the dog hears this command, it will sit by the warrior, facing behind him/her. Service dogs also provide something for the warrior to focus on other than their invisible wounds of war. Having to take care of a dog is a big responsibility that requires time and energy.