Therapy dogs are used for all kinds of forms of therapy and situations. One way therapy dogs are used is for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD. You've probably heard that war heroes are among the many who encounter PTSD after coming home from war. But did you know there are also many who suffer from PTSD who have never been to war? They are survivors of a different sort. Survivors of childhood abuse or traumatic events which they endure most likely silently and alone.
One of the main symptoms or causes of PTSD is reliving past events as if they are really happening in the here and now. Now image your worst nightmare or horror flick and not being able to turn it off. EVER. It is constantly running in your head and terrifying you so much you can not function anymore. This is what is like living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
So how does a therapy dog play into PTSD?
A therapy dog is the "stop" or at least the "pause" button. The dog gently shocks the survivors system back into the present usually through some form of touch or sound. A paw on the knee, a soft bark or whimper, a look, a nuzzle may all help bring the survivor back to the present and regain his/her consciousness (in a matter of speaking.) It is this compassion that dogs are known for and the understand that something isn't right in that moment that they reach out a paw to hold on to their friend.
Most dogs are trained by professional trainers in this field and I haven't a clue how they do it. Since everyone experience and reactions are so different, it would take a very compassionate dog to understand humans, because there are no signals that are given or used, the dog must "see" for that person and guide him safely back to the present reality.
You'll have to forgive my lack of scientific knowledge of how and why it works. I only know that from my own personal experience it does. While none of my dogs have been professionally trained or certified, I do believe they were designed for me to be my personal therapy dogs. And I'm so blessed.
In the next few weeks I'll share my experience with PTSD and My Therapy Dogs and how they have helped to guide me back to the present.
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