It is an unfortunate fact that at some point throughout our lives, all of us will experience some form of trauma that will have a negative impact on our state of mind. Thankfully, for most of us, this will be a short-lived experience from which we will recover with the passing of time and good self-care. However, some people, particularly those exposed to an incredibly significant traumatic event or repeatedly exposed to traumatic events, struggle to recover fully and may develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
According to the Mayo Clinic, those who have PTSD can have a range of different symptoms, broadly grouped into four categories: intrusive memories, avoidance behaviors, changes in thinking and mood, and changes to the way that they react both physically and emotionally to everyday situations.
For those who have PTSD, one of the things that can sometimes help with recovery is being paired with a trained PTSD assistance dog. Assistance dogs provide help by providing a sense of calmness and security for their handler. They can also be trained to help by doing things such as reminding their handler to take their medication, recognizing signs of distress and intervening with physical contact and touch, helping their handler physically position themselves and gain space in crowded places, or even waking their handler during a nightmare.
Not all dog breeds are suited to working as a PTSD assistance dog, but those that are tend to be emotionally sensitive and intelligent. Here are the top 10 dog breeds most suited to working as a PTSD assistance dog.
1. Labrador Retriever
Without a doubt, the most popular and well-suited PTSD assistance dog breed is the Labrador Retriever. There is little that these lovable and highly intelligent dogs can’t do, and with a long history of assistance dog work, it is little wonder that they are so good at this role.
Labradors are smart and exceptionally easy to train, which together with their laidback, loving, obedient, and eager-to-please personalities makes them an ideal dog for this type of work. The Labrador is also quite an active breed, a trait that can be particularly helpful because it gives many people living with PTSD a reason to get out and about, which can help focus their mind on other things.
2. German Shepherd
The German Shepherd is another working dog that can seemingly do everything, so it’s not surprising that they are also often employed as PTSD assistance dogs. Highly intelligent, dependable, and easy to train, German Shepherds can pick up all the training required for the role and can be counted on to follow their training.
To be a good PTSD assistance breed, dogs need to be capable of more than just sticking to their training, and here, the German Shepherd does well. Despite their reputation for being tough and highly protective, they are also calm and loving and typically form a strong bond with their handlers.
Of course, when it comes to being out and about, the protective instincts of a German Shepherd and their size can also help the handler feel safe and in doing so, provide their handler with the comfort and confidence that they can face the world.
3. Standard Poodle
The Standard Poodle probably isn’t a breed that most people would think of when considering a service dog, but the fact is that they are well suited to being PTSD assistance dogs.
Considered to be one of the most intelligent dog breeds, the Standard Poodle has no trouble at all with the training required for the role, and their calm, friendly, and emotionally stable nature makes them ideal candidates to assist those with PTSD. Poodles can also be particularly useful in a situation when the handler needs specific help with a task, as the breed can be trained to do things like find and retrieve their handler’s medication or even prompt their handler to take their medication at a certain time of the day.
4. Border Collie
Widely considered to be the smartest of all dog breeds, it isn’t surprising that the Border Collie makes this list of breeds most suitable for work as a PTSD assistance dog. These dogs excel at almost any task that they are trained to do and they are exceptionally friendly, calm, and emotionally stable. Due to their boundless amounts of energy, they are great dogs for handlers who live a highly active lifestyle. A Border Collie loves to run, play, and exercise and will have no trouble keeping up with any handler who uses exercise as part of their PTSD therapy.
5. Miniature Schnauzer
The Miniature Schnauzer is another dog that probably doesn’t spring to most people’s minds when they think about suitable PTSD assistance dogs. Still, these people-pleasing balls of energy are incredibly good at the job.
The Miniature Schnauzer can help their handler become or remain highly active, and as they can be a bit of a clown, they also tend to keep the mood light and jovial. The Miniature Schnauzer is also known to be a bit of a Velcro dog, always wanting to stick to the side of their handler. This desire for closeness is a great trait in a PTSD assistance dog, as is the almost constant affection that this breed will give to their handler.
6. Golden Retriever
The Golden Retriever is one of the most popular dog breeds in the world and for a good reason. They are intelligent, loving, loyal, calm natured, and extremely attentive, which are all traits that make them great pets and excellent PTSD assistance dogs.
Golden Retrievers are suitable for a wide range of situations and can be paired with almost any handler, as they will easily adapt to the lifestyle choices of that person. They are more than happy to spend all day out and about and will enjoy time in the park or going out for a run, but they will also happily curl up inside for the day if their handler needs time away from the hustle and bustle of the outside world.
7. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is another breed with an excellent temperament to take on the role of a PTSD assistance dog. They have a long history of working with mental health patients and are particularly good with those patients who want a dog that is always happy to stay with them.
Much like the Miniature Schnauzer, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is an intelligent Velcro dog, and this close and affectionate bond is sometimes just what people with PTSD need. But don’t be fooled; these little dogs are more than living and breeding teddy bears. They can be trained to do supporting tasks, like retrieve small items or wake their handler if they are having a nightmare.
8. Doberman Pinscher
These big, tough-looking dogs are big softies at heart. While the Doberman can be trained to be a guard dog, the breed is so much more than that, and they are actually loving, loyal, and affectionate dogs that will stick to the side of their handler at all times. Where the Doberman comes into their own as a PTSD assistance dog is with a handler who needs tactile affirmation. Dobermans are naturally big on liking, nudging, and pawing behavior. For some people living with PTSD, this constant touch and physical stimulation is just what they need to maintain focus on reality, particularly during a PTSD episode.
9. Lhasa Apsos
Originally from Tibet, the small and cheerful Lhasa Apsos is often used as a mental health therapy dog and can be trained to be an excellent PTSD assistance dog. Naturally wary of strangers, the breed was traditionally used by Tibetan monks to warn them when people approached their monitories. But with the correct training, the Lhasa Apsos can be a warm, loving, and intuitive support dog. Capable of sensing when their handler is struggling, they will respond with a tactile nudge or lick of the hand to help their handler again focus on reality.
Despite their “tough” appearance, the Boxer is a big softy at heart, and over recent years, the breed has shown considerable promise as a PTSD assistance dog. Naturally protective, loving, and intelligent, capable of living in an apartment, and having no fear of being out in public around people, the Boxer has many traits that make them suitable for the role.
Though not traditionally used as a therapy dog, the Boxer has an instinct to stand on the feet of people they are close to and to paw, which makes them particularly good dogs for people with PTSD who require tactile affirmation. A playful and active breed, the Boxer is also great for those who need a reason to get outside and engage in activities that can keep their mind busy and away from thoughts that can trigger a PTSD episode.
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