Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine and Dogtopia Foundation conducted the study to help better prepare services dogs
A study published by Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine is providing further evidence behind the benefits of services dogs for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Led by Maggie O’Haire, PhD, associate professor of Human-animal Interaction in the College of Veterinary Medicine with support from the Dogtopia Foundation, the study investigated which dogs and human-animal reactions led to better results.
“The ultimate goal of our research is to amplify the voices of veterans and their families through science,” said O’Haire, in an organizational release.1 “We are providing quantifiable data that shows how service dogs can improve symptoms and quality of life for certain veterans with PTSD.”
According to the release, the study was launched in 2017 and lasted 3 years. It included 82 veterans suffering from PTSD and their services dogs from K9s For Warriors. Through video recordings, researchers conducted behavioral tests on the canines and asked the veterans about their mental health. The researchers also used smartphone technology to keep track of daily emotions and the time the veterans spent with their service dogs.
Some of the key findings from the study include2:
- Veterans and service dogs spend about 20 hours together per day on average, comprising about 82% of their time.
- The strongest bonds were seen with less excitable service dogs and humans who found caring for their service dogs to be easy and convenient.
- Lower PTSD symptoms and better mental health were seen among veterans with less excitable service dogs and those with a stronger human-animal bond.
- Veterans with worse depression were more likely to ask their dogs to initiate a social connection or help make a friend.
“We’ve seen first-hand the benefits of service dogs for veterans with PTSD and are proud to support [O’Haire’s] ground-breaking research,” explained Liz Meyers, executive director of the Dogtopia Foundation, “Until financial support improves for the men and women who bravely served our country, we remain committed to raising funds to train service dogs for veterans with PTSD and increasing awareness of the need through the efforts of our franchisees who are incredibly dedicated to this worthy cause.”
- New research reveals why some veterans with PTSD benefit more when using service dogs. News release. Dogtopia. July 28, 2022. Accessed July 28, 2022. https://prnmedia.prnewswire.com/news-releases/new-research-reveals-why-some-veterans-with-ptsd-benefit-more-when-using-service -dogs-301595162.html
- Jensen CL, Rodriguez KE, MacLean EL, Abdul Wahab AH, Sabbaghi A, O’Haire ME. Characterizing veteran and PTSD service dog teams: Exploring potential mechanisms of symptom change and canine predictors of efficacy. PLoS One. 2022;17(7):e0269186. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0269186