NEADS Service Dogs for Veterans with PTSD Program
The Trauma Assistance Dog program* (TAD) is designed for veterans with diagnosed service-related PTSD from trauma that occurred during active duty.
How does a NEADS Service Dog help a veteran with PTSD?
The NEADS Service Dog:
- Doesn’t react to loud noises
- Is naturally attuned to people
- Is steady and confident in public
Through specific task work, the NEADS Service Dog can help a veteran:
- Overcome fear of public places
- Cope with anxiety triggers
- Cope with flashbacks
The combination of being in the presence of this steady, confident dog and specific task work can help a veteran
- Reintegrate into a civilian setting
- to trust again
- sleep issues
- feelings of being safe
*Program requirements include regular travel to NEADS campus in Princeton, MA for the first year of the program. Applicants should live within a 3-hour drive of the NEADS campus.
What are the tasks that a NEADS Service Dog performs to help a veteran with PTSD? Here are just three:
On command, the Service Dog rests his head on the veteran’s lap. Combined with breathing exercises for the veteran, this can
- help calm the veteran
- help him or her cope with anxiety
- This tactical exercise also provides therapeutic support
On command, the Service Dog will lie down facing the opposite direction of the veteran. This can help the veteran overcome a fear of public places.
On command, the Service Dog flips on a light switch. This can:
- mitigate a veteran’s fear of entering a dark room
- help him or her cope with flashbacks
Veteran PTSD Service Dog Program Checklist
NEADS is one of the first Service Dog organizations to develop a program for veterans with PTSD. This checklist highlights the key features of the program, which was developed in conjunction with Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and leading experts in trauma. As a charter member of ADI (Assistance Dog International), NEADS is recognized as an approved Service Dog program by the VA.
- Over 12 years providing Service Dogs for Veterans
- Service Dogs provided to veterans at no charge to the veteran
- 10 years of providing highly trained Service Dogs to veterans with PTSD
- Over 50 Service Dogs placed with veterans with PTSD
- Training overseen by Senior Trainers with 48 years of combined experience in the Service Dog industry and who have been involved with the program since it began
- Bred for specific temperament, health, and personality traits
- Trained for 14-18 months in obedience and 50-60 tasks to support veterans with PTSD
- Senior trainers involved from puppyhood through advanced training
- Exemplifies proper Service Dog behavior in public: walks on a leash without pulling; ignores distractions; is quiet and unobtrusive unless performing specific task work
- Veteran-to-veteran screening
- Intake interview conducted by LISW; respected psychologist in field of PTSD; veterans; and Senior Training staff
- Senior Trainers have firsthand knowledge of dog's temperament and abilities to allow for best match between Service Dog and client
- 2-week on campus training conducted by Senior Trainers
- Veterans trained together to promote peer-to-peer interaction and support
- Instruction on task work, care, and health of the dog, and public access rights
- Community trips under guidance of Senior Trainers
- Assistance in obtaining pet insurance
- Veteran/Service Dog team is certified by Assistance Dogs International (VA required)
- 1 year of in-person follow-up meetings and ongoing support
- Staff support and follow-up assistance for the life of the Service Dog
If you are a veteran with PTSD from your military service and live within a 3-hour drive of Princeton, MA, the first step in the application and evaluation process is completing this form. Our NEADS Program Development Administrator, Kevin Lambert, US Army veteran, will be in touch in a timely manner.