Research shows service dogs effectively help people with PTSD
People with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) benefit from having a specially trained service dog. Up until now, scientific evidence was lacking, but researchers at the Police Academy and Radboud University can now substantiate the added value of an assistance dog, also known as a buddy dog, with concrete data.
Patients with the disorder have long said that a service dog has helped them in their lives. The police, therefore, asked scientists to investigate the evidence behind this. They saw that a service dog gives the person with PTSD peace and security, and increases confidence. "A buddy dog significantly normalizes the life of someone with PTSD," says one of the researchers Annika Smit.
The study compared three groups: people with PTSD and a buddy dog, people with PTSD and a family dog, and people without PTSD and a family dog. During testing, the researchers registered the brain activity of everyone. The brain values of someone with PTSD shifted more towards the values of people without PTSD if they had a service dog with them. A family dog did not have the same effect.
"A buddy dog wakes someone up when they are experiencing nightmares, for example," says Smit. "In addition, the buddy dog can literally block contact in situations where tension is rising. Simply by standing between the conversation partners." Incidentally, a family dog can also help, mainly by providing comfort and warmth.
The police had been running a trial for some time, in which around sixty police employees and former employees with PTSD were given an assistance dog. Following the investigation, the police will make the use of a buddy dog into a policy.
Certified assistance dogs are scarce, according to the police. Only people who have completed the trauma treatment and who still experience severe residual damage are offered the animal. That is why the employer is also having further research conducted into the possibility of limited training of family dogs.
Reporting by ANP