Military Veterans and their PTSD Service Dogs: Associations between Training Methods, PTSD Severity, Dog Behavior, and the Human-Animal Bond

Short Synopsis: 111 veterans with PTSD service dogs were asked about how they trained and interacted with their service dogs. The training was divided into five categories: “positive reinforcement (e.g. physical praise), negative punishment (e.g. ignoring the dog), positive punishment (e.g. verbal correction), dominance (e.g. alpha roll), and bond-based (e.g. co-sleeping).”

More positive punishment correlated with less closeness, more fear, less eye contact, and less “trainability.”

More frequent use of positive reinforcement was associated with more closeness to the service dog, perceived increase in attachment behavior, and increased playfulness. More frequent usage of bond-based methods correlated with higher closeness with the dog.

PTSD wasn’t affected by which training method was employed. Service dog training organization should keep these results in mind when recommending training methods.

Authors: Megan R. LaFollette, Kerri E. Rodriguez, Niwako Ogata, and Marguerite E. O’Haire

Publication: Frontiers in Veterinary Science

Publication Date: Accepted January 2019, not yet published

Applies To: Service dogs

Sample Size: 111

Limitations/Drawbacks: Full text not available at the time of writing to look into definitions of “closeness,” “attachment behavior,” or “trainability.


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