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.

Program requirements include regular travel to NEADS campus in Princeton, MA for the first year of the program. Applicants must live within a 3-hour drive of the NEADS campus.

Covid-19 and our application process

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, we are not starting the application process for the TAD program at this time.

If you feel that you meet the initial criteria for the TAD program listed below, we ask that you reach back out to us in late fall 2021 for an update on the application process. You can also research other programs through the following website:  www.assistancedogsinternational.org.

Initial criteria for the TAD program include:

  • In individual therapy at least 2 times a month for the past 6 months with a licensed mental health provider
  • At least 12 months sober if in sobriety
  • No recent major life changes that include, a new marriage; a new child; a new pet; a major move;  change in jobs, etc. We ask that you have 12 months’ time of stability after a major life change
  • If you have had a recent suicide attempt, we ask that you be 12 months from the attempt before applying
  • Can manage any anger management-related challenges
  • Live within a 3-hour drive of Princeton, MA

 

How does a NEADS Service Dog help a veteran with PTSD?

Highly Trained Service Dog

The NEADS Service Dog:

  • Doesn’t react to loud noises
  • Is naturally attuned to people
  • Is steady and confident in public

Task Work

Through specific task work, the NEADS Service Dog can help a veteran:

  • Overcome fear of public places
  • Cope with anxiety triggers
  • Cope with flashbacks

Highly Trained Dog + Task Work

The combination of being in the presence of this steady, confident dog and specific task work can help a veteran with:

  • Reintegrating into a civilian setting
  • Learning to trust again
  • Sleep issues
  • Feelings of being safe

What tasks does a NEADS Service Dog perform to help a veteran with PTSD?

Here are three examples:

Visit

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.

Turn/Down Stay

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.

Nudge

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

What to look for in a Service Dogs for Veterans with PTSD Program

NEADS is one of the first Service Dog organizations to develop a program for veterans with PTSD. Our program 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.

This checklist highlight the key features of a successful Service Dogs for Veterans with PTSD program.

Track Record

Track record of helping veterans by providing highly trained Service Dogs for Veterans

NEADS has:

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 more than 50 years of combined experience in the Service Dog industry and who have been involved with the program since it began

Fully Trained Service Dog

Fully trained Service Dog that meets an individual's needs

NEADS Dogs:

Purpose bred for specific temperament, health, and personality traits

Trained for 14-18 months in obedience and 50-60 tasks to support veterans with PTSD

Trained by senior trainers involved from puppyhood through advanced training

Exemplify proper Service Dog behavior in public: walks on a leash without pulling; ignores distractions; is quiet and unobtrusive unless performing specific task work

Professional Assessment and Matching

Assessment and matching by professional team that fully understands military culture

NEADS:

Veteran-to-veteran screening

Intake interview conducted by LICSW; 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

Veteran Training & Support

On-campus training + support for the life of the Service Dog

NEADS Program includes:

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