People living with PTSD program

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental disorder that can develop after exposure to a traumatic event — it is disproportionally prevalent in Australian first-responders such as firefighters, police officers and the military personnel. PTSD is characterised by severe anxiety, leading to isolation, inability to work and interact with others/the community at large.

Once placed with their new Assistance Dog, first-responders with PTSD become less anxious and begin to feel they can take on the world again! In numerous cases, Assistance Dogs have been directly attributed to suicide prevention for many of these brave men and women, something we can all be thankful for.

The social benefits of providing a path back into society for these incredible people are enormous — families are able to function again, individuals are able to work or stimulate the economy through economic and social interaction and, through the power of education and storytelling, they are helping inform the community at large of this very serious condition.

What is a PTSD Service Dog?

We are currently only placing PTSD Service Dogs with police and defence force personnel living with post-traumatic stress disorder. These dogs can be trained to provide a combination of physical task-oriented and emotional support to assist their owner and help them to overcome fears.

PTSD Service Dogs undergo a unique training placement, where they are trained to work with the very individual and specific needs of their owner, in particular detecting signals of anxiety, or their owner’s ‘trigger”. Upon sensing their owner’s trigger, the dog is trained to perform a specific cue to help alleviate the symptoms of this trigger, for example, engaging in eye contact and body contact to comfort their owner and divert their attention.

The dogs can master bespoke cues to help their owner overcome psychological trauma linked to specific situations, including but not limited to:

  • Standing in front of their owner offering a barrier and space.
  • Positioning itself behind their owner, a technique known as “posting” which helps to ease hyperawareness, the feeling of being constantly on edge.
  • Entering a room before the owner and turning on the lights so they don’t have to enter a dark space.
  • Entering a room or house and sweeping it for people or intruders, alerting its owner by barking.
  • Providing physical contact if their owner suffers a nightmare.
  • Diverting their owner’s attention to the dog, a technique known as ”anchoring”, helping to bring their owner back to the present moment.
  • Providing continuous companionship and a sense of routine.

A PTSD Service Dog has full public access rights meaning they are allowed in any public place* and on all public transport. It is illegal to refuse entry to a Service Dog*.

*The only exceptions are zoos, aquariums, sterile environments, food preparation areas and quarantine areas.

People who receive a PTSD Service Dog are provided with a photographic identity badge as proof of Service Dog status, which they must take with them in public, and a Service Dog jacket for the dog.

How can I apply for a PTSD Service Dog?

Download the expression of interest form here

Each Assistance Dog costs over $35,000 to train

This includes everything from purchasing a puppy to food, vaccinations, training and placement. Assistance Dogs are provided free of charge to people in need.

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