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Updated: Apr 25

Service dog Josie and Army Veteran Mario

A service dog’s main role in their working gloves is to help people. But do you know to what extent? Service animals are specially trained to mitigate the symptoms of a disability to do specific work and tasks. But how exactly do these highly trained animals do that? And how exactly do they help ease people’s trauma and anxiety in people suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder? 


What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder? 

According to the American Psychiatric Association, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD, is a “psychiatric disorder that may occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event, series of events or set of circumstances.” These traumatic events may affect a person in a mental, social, or even physical way. Perhaps the most widely recognized people who suffer from PTSD are veterans. Although this is very much true, PTSD can occur in any individual. 

What are some common symptoms of PTSD?


In order to understand how service animals aid those who suffer from PTSD, we must look at some of the most common symptoms of PTSD.

Some of the most common symptoms of PTSD include:

  • Reliving the event 

  • Flashbacks

  • Nightmares

  • Trauma reminders

  • Avoidance (avoiding any scenario that might trigger the event)

  • Hyperarousal (feeling keyed up or on edge) 

  • Intrusive thoughts

  • Physical sensations (pain, nausea, dizziness)

  • Loss of interest in activities

  • Consistent negative emotions (shame, anger, fear, guilt) 

  • Irritability

  • Trouble sleeping

  • Engaging in reckless/risky behavior


Now that we know some of the more common symptoms of PTSD, let’s look at how service animals help mitigate PTSD symptoms, caused by their trauma. 

Here are some of the most common ways service animals help mitigate the symptoms of PTSD:



Dogs in general help boost moods by simply just their awesome doggy selves. Their unconditional love and bright attitudes help reduce negative thoughts, depression and anxiety in people with PTSD. Service animals also give the handler a reason to get out of bed and exercise.



Service dogs are trained to disrupt anxiety behaviors in people with PTSD. They do this by first recognizing the symptoms of  anxiety and then executing their training. One example of a trained task is when service dog will lick, nudge or paw their handler to redirect their focus when anxiety is triggered. Service animals can also use their bodies to apply pressure on their handlers to alleviate the symptoms of anxiety.  


People suffering from PTSD sometimes need help remembering to take vital medication. Service animals are trained to retrieve these medications for their handlers and can even remind them when it is time to take that medication.



One major symptom of PTSD is the reliving of trauma. Service animals help with this trauma response by being trained to interrupt the reliving of the event. They can turn on lights during a night terror and lick their handler until they wake. During a flashback, a service dog is trained to nudge, lick, paw or apply pressure to interrupt it. 



New Life K9s is a nonprofit 301(c) organization that is dedicated to help our first responders and veterans who suffer from PTSD. To learn more about how New Life K9s saves lives, please visit our Our Mission page.


Service dogs are amazing animals and workers. They are nonjudgmental companions for people with PTSD. Not only can these dogs help mitigate the symptoms associated with PTSD, but they can make it possible for sufferers to live more independently, be more self-sufficient, and improve their quality of life. This post covers just a few ways a service dog can help people with PTSD. But there are many more tasks service dogs can perform which depend on each handler and their unique situation.


If you, or someone you know, is a veteran or first-responder who suffers from PTSD? Are you Interested in applying for a service dog? Please visit New Life K9’s application page here.

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