SANTA ROSA, CA – With 4.2 million military veterans facing a combat-related disability, nonprofit Canine Companions for Independence® is increasing the depth of their services for veterans through expertly-trained assistance dogs. A successful pilot program at Canine Companions® began earlier this year for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), joining the ranks of over 6,000 service dog teams matched by the organization.
Nationwide, hundreds of veterans have benefited from the professionally trained assistance dogs provided by Canine Companions that open doors, pick up dropped items and alert to important sounds. Now, service dogs are learning commands to help mitigate PTSD symptoms such as nightmare interruption and distance retrieve.
“According to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), an average of 20 veterans per day are committing suicide,” says Canine Companions CEO Paige Mazzoni. Canine Companions participated in a VA research study on the efficacy of service dogs for veterans with PTSD and expect the results in 2019.
Canine Companions began an independent pilot program, placing their first class of service dogs for veterans with PTSD in October 2018. The highly-skilled service dogs are trained to create physical space in public for the handler, turn on lights, and interrupt flashbacks, anxiety episodes and nightmares, helping to mitigate the veterans’ PTSD symptoms. In 2019, the new program will expand to Canine Companions’ training centers in Texas and New York.
Canine Companions has also broken ground on a state-of-the-art training building at its national headquarters in Santa Rosa, California. The sensory-friendly building was designed to better serve veterans with PTSD and as supplementary training space for Canine Companions professional trainers and dogs in training.
The newest veteran teams are already seeing the life-changing effects of partnering with a Canine Companions service dog. “After receiving his new service dog, one veteran explained that he had his first restful night in over 30 years,” shares Mazzoni. “Canine Companions is committed to helping those who have sacrificed so much by matching them with service dogs trained to mitigate the effects of PTSD. With our recent program expansion, we can help more veterans across the nation.”