War Veterans Interact with Dogs to Cope with PTSD
COLUMBIA - Research shows that war veterans who interact with animals, especially dogs, show improvements in their behavior and post traumatic stress disorder or PTSD.
MU's Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction is conducting a study targeted to help veterans from the Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom wars. The research studies veterans who interact with shelter dogs from the Central Missouri Humane Society in three different environments.
In order to participate in the study, the veterans help with a dog obedience training program each week. The veterans meet every Wednesday night at the Columbia Canine Sport Center off of Interstate 70 Drive. Upon arrival they are paired with a shelter dog that they will be with for an hour and help train the dogs basic obedience cues and actions. The interaction that the veterans have with dogs is a great way for them to feel attention, love and accomplishment. A major part of this interaction comes from the obedience training. The veterans must befriend the dog in order for the dog to obey and learn obedience commands.
The second phase of the program is the adoption mentoring program. The veterans can be a contact for a newly adopted dog owner and can help with simple obedience training as well as an outlet for the veterans to get more time and interaction with a dog.
The final phase of the case study is the training of a veteran service dog. The veterans have the opportunity to adopt their own four-legged friend and then train them obedience and later use the dog as a service dog. By having a service dog it will enable the veteran to feel more comfortable in social situations because he or she will have their dog with them as an aid.
Jason Conner, a Navy and Army veteran, just joined the program last week. In his first day of training Jason discussed how having the dog will be of help to him in all environments, but especially socially. Conner spoke about the difference in mentality when arriving back from war and having a hard time in social settings.
Being new to the program, Conner hopes to not only meet more veterans, but he hopes he will meet a "special dog" that he can adopt and take with him everywhere while in the process of healing and fixing the damage the war caused.
Director of the program, Rebecca Johnson, tells people the program is another opportunity for the veterans to become more comfortable in their living environment.
Assistant director, Charlotte McKenney also said the soldiers do not have to have PTSD in order to join the program.
"Veterans just need to have comradery sometimes and dog training and dog interaction is a good way. Not only do they get to play with dogs they also get the comradery of other veterans. The veterans do not need to have PTSD in order to be a part of the study, they just need to be willing to play with dogs and must have served in the OEF and OIF wars," McKenney said.
For more information on the case study and MU's research center for human-animal interaction visit rechai.missouri.edu.