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Service Dogs for Veterans and Others

By Brandi Goodman

Service Dogs for Veterans and Others

Service dogs are helpful companions for veterans, people with disabilities, and first responders. These dogs are not only pets you come to love, but helpers with tough tasks and responsibilities. They are just one of many ways you can help improve your well-being and maintain your independence.

Who Benefits From Service Animals?

Service animals are often raised by people who need extra assistance or a loyal companion to help them through anxious feelings. These dogs work with their owners or professional trainers to learn how to handle certain tasks that will help their owners most. For veterans, this may mean simply being there to keep them calm when moments of PTSD surface. For a person with a disability, the dog may be trained to handle tasks they cannot, such as retrieving medication during a medical event or alerting someone for help. They may even open doors or assist with turning on lights. Some are even used as guide dogs for those with vision impairments. The benefits of service dogs abound.

How Popular Are Service Dogs?

The popularity of service dogs has risen over the years, with more and more people relying on their canine companions for assistance. They are especially sought-after for their ability to improve mental health. Simply having a pet can help decrease feelings of anxiety and depression, but dogs trained to be of service increase this advantage exponentially.

The Use of Service Dogs for Veterans

When it comes to veterans specifically, dogs are often trained to help with symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder or an anxiety attack. They can safely wake their owners from nightmares, keep people away to ensure personal space, and even shake hands in their owners’ place. Other dogs are trained to handle seizures, while some assist with other necessary tasks the veteran requires. Dogs for veterans are particularly useful in helping improve emotional wellness, reducing symptoms of depression, reducing isolation, and ensuring exercise.

Which Breeds Are Used Most Often?

Though any dog can be a service animal if it receives proper training and passes appropriate tests, there are 10 common breeds that tend to be used most often. These include the German shepherd, Labrador and golden retrievers, great dane, collie, Bernese mountain dog, American Staffordshire terrier, boxer, poodle, and Pomeranian.

While most dogs on the list have their size in common, poodles and Pomeranians are much shorter in stature. Despite their small size, these dogs often show fierce unconditional love to their owners and are able to handle tasks that don’t require as much strength. They may not suffice for all owners, but will work well for those who simply need comfort and minor assistance.

How Are Service Dogs Trained?

There are certain service dog requirements a canine must meet in order to qualify. To begin, trained service animals must exhibit basic obedience and exemplary behavior. The Americans With Disabilities Act does not actually require a professional to train such dogs, and allows owners to handle the training themselves. However, the work or task they are needed for must be demonstrated.

A training program is recommended to ensure the dog has the demeanor and skills necessary to help you stay safe. After all, that’s what they’re there for. Many prefer to enroll their dogs in the Canine Good Citizen course. It tests dogs on 10 different skills, including:

  • Being friendly with a stranger
  • Sitting politely and accepting pets
  • Sitting politely for grooming
  • Walking on a leash with the owner in control
  • Walking through a crowd with comfort
  • Responding to instructions to sit
  • Responding to instructions to come
  • Behaving politely around other dogs
  • Handling distractions confidently
  • Maintaining good manners without the owner present

All service dogs should also be trained on how to behave when exiting a vehicle, entering and walking through a building, sitting in a restaurant or public place, handling noise, and being off leash.

What Is K9s For Warriors?

The K9s For Warriors program provides veterans with service dogs. Veterans who apply and get approved are matched with a canine companion who is best suited to their needs. The program helps the owner and their dog through a 21-day training regimen to ensure they can earn certification. Though certification is not required, it is ideal to have because it is nationally recognized.

To qualify, veterans must have a verifiable diagnosis of PTSD, MST, or TBI that occurred due to their time in the service. They must also have had an honorable discharge or still be in the service. There should be no history of substance abuse or felony conviction. A stable living environment within the United States is also required, along with the financial ability to handle all of the dog’s needs. There should also be no more than three dogs in the home, including the K9 that will be added to the family upon completion of the program. If there is, the veteran must be willing to rehome one or more of them to meet these requirements.

The Joint Chiropractic is one company that has partnered with K9s For Warriors to place a service dog with a veteran, a match that took place in the summer of 2023. The Joint also offers a year-round Military Appreciation Program to ensure low chiropractic costs for all veterans.

Are There Other Programs Available?

Other programs exist beyond K9s for Warriors that can help those who require a service dog. People with disabilities may apply for assistance through Service Dogs for America or Assistance Dogs International. Mobility assistance dogs can be found for applicants 12 years of age or older. A PTSD service dog may be given to someone 21 years of age or older, as long as they have been in therapy for at least one year. Training must also be completed at the North Dakota location, which means travel obligations must also be met in order to qualify.

Any dog can be of service. You do not need to apply for any of the aforementioned programs if you do not wish to do so, or cannot meet the qualifications. Instead, you can adopt your own dog and ensure he or she receives proper training to assist you and is registered.

Maintain Your Well-Being Any Way Possible

The overall goal is always to do what you can to maintain your well-being. For some, that means having a service dog at your side that can alert others should a medical situation arise.

For everyone, adding in healthy habits such as eating nutritious meals and getting more exercise and movement can improve wellness plans. Add in a visit to The Joint Chiropractic for an adjustment and you’ll be well on your way toward maintaining your health and keeping in good spirits. And that’s something to wag your tail about.

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