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Veterans With PTSD and Anxiety Need Service Dogs to Cope

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By Erika John - - 5 Mins Read
Close up image of a black poodle service dog, specially trained to help and elderly caucasian man with disability.
Senior with a service dog | Shutterstock

JAMA Network Open recently published a study that evaluated how service dogs benefit veterans with PTSD.

The researchers examined the impact of service dogs on PTSD symptoms, mental health, anxiety, and depression among veterans.

In the study, they compared veterans with a trained service dog to those who didn't have one but were on a waiting list.

The study focused on veterans over 18 years old who had served in the military after September 11, 2001, and had requested a service dog to help with PTSD.

These veterans also had an honorable service record and no history of harming animals.

Most of the service dogs were mixed breeds, and they received up to 60 hours of training to learn special skills and comply with instructions.

The outcome revealed that service dogs for veterans helped veterans who had PTSD symptoms feel better.

Veterans with service dogs had fewer PTSD symptoms and were more emotionally stable than those who had no dogs.

The dogs underwent professional training and successfully passed tests to ensure they were well-prepared to provide valuable assistance to their veteran partners.

Ultimately, service dogs have a positive impact on the mental well-being of veterans.

Veterans, alongside their service dogs, attended classes together for three weeks to be taught about training, caring for, and associating with dogs.

They were tested to see that they could manage the dogs publicly. Few Veterans got normal care with no changes.

Four dogs held together on a leash

Photo | Matt Newlson/Unsplash

The veterans and dogs underwent evaluations at the start and again three months later.

Assessments were carried out to measure PTSD, anxiety, and depression levels using a variety of tests. Additionally, the well-being and progress of the veterans were also examined.

How Service Dogs Benefit Mental Health According to Research:

The veterans who had the training with their dogs were found to have fewer PTSD symptoms, less anxiety, and less depression after three months. They also did well in life overall. The tests revealed their progress.


The researchers checked on 200 veterans to see if they could be involved in the study.

They discovered that 170 of them could be involved. 81 had a service dog, while 75 waited. After some time, 143 veterans and 135 dogs concluded the follow-up tests.


Those who got service dogs experienced less depression, anxiety, sadness, and worry later on. Associating with others made them feel better and not lonely. But they moved out less than the others.


People who had service dogs experienced a better life overall. When facing tough times, they had little grievances and were more satisfied, and stronger. They had good mental health and happiness. 


Research has revealed that Service dogs benefit mental health. Veterans who had a service dog experienced little issues with things like feeling sad or anxious, and they revealed that their life was better overall. However, it's crucial to understand that this research only examined veterans who already wanted a service dog, so we can't conclude it works for everyone. Furthermore, since only one organization trained the dogs, the results may differ depending on where the dogs come from.