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How Research on Service Dogs is Changing PTSD Treatment Models

New Life K9s service dog, Max.

Within any reputable field, one of the most powerful tools you can have is strong, consistent research-based evidence. Demonstrating the value of service dog use in treatment models for PTSD is no different. Within worldwide medical communities, research is the language of progress, change, and the foundation of educational methodology for future years or even generations to come. Therefore, research studies that carefully evaluate the benefits of service dog relationships with veterans and numerous other populations are a key component in creating more successful PTSD treatment outcomes and evolving how medical communities approach trauma rehabilitation. 

Looking at the Big Picture 

Whether seeking help for mental health concerns or physical pain, a common challenge is being faced with a narrow lens of understanding of problems that are broadly spanning and impact multiple aspects of one’s body. Hence, phrases such as ‘the mind-body connection’ or ‘holistic care’ were coined, some of which were created as early as in the times of Hippocrates. The fact that we are still learning how to understand and integrate physical and mental treatments is a testament to the vast complexity of the human body. However, this does not diminish the fact that gaps or holes in care are a frustrating struggle, foremost for the patients themselves as well as for practitioners attempting to build interdisciplinary support systems that work effectively.

How Research with Service Dogs Changes How We View Health

Something that scientists have identified but are still trying to understand is how: tasks both physical and mental, routine structures, and social dynamics or relationships impact our general well-being and happiness. Service dog partnerships, unlike some support systems for things such as PTSD, are highly integrated into an individual’s all-encompassing lifestyle and redirect an individual’s focus towards caring for and receiving care from their working canine companion. Because of how integrated these support structures are, the research being conducted on individuals working with service animals also can reflect broad spanning aspects of well-being vs a smaller window of an individual’s life.

The Psychosocial Model and Military Team Dynamics 

While things like research on medication and exercise can be important and effective in identifying how to improve an individual’s health quality, research on service dog bonds can reflect different social components. This is because of how much a service dog can impact an individual’s social behavior and the facilitation of new relationships. What is being found is that psychosocial models with evidence-based research, or research with the inclusion of social context regarding health and happiness, can really be a keystone piece when understanding what recovering military populations need and are often missing in their existing support systems. It goes to say that because military personnel and first responders exist in a unique and highly integrated social network, they also benefit from unique social support when recovering from trauma.

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New Life K9s places service dogs with veterans and first responders with PTSD at no cost to the veterans and first responders.


  1. Sheely, Z. (2015). Face of defense: Service dog helps soldier move on. (). Washington: Federal Information & News Dispatch, LLC. Retrieved from Health Research Premium Collection Retrieved from 
  2. Steven McDonald, . (2015, Nov 12). VCU health working to support service dogs, veterans. University Wire Retrieved from
  3. The body-mind connection. (2014). University of California, Berkeley, Wellness Letter, 30(12), 5. Retrieved from

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