Researching Assistance Dogs for 'Invisible Injuries'
Evidence is emerging that demonstrates improvement in anxiety, fear, depression, and loneliness with associated physiological changes following animal-assisted interventions, which has important implications for the use of such therapy with military personnel suffering from combat stress, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other trauma-related mental health conditions.
We already know that dogs raise their owners' sense of well-being.
There is also evidence to suggest that Animal Assisted Interventions for PTSD could help reduce the alarming suicide rate among Veterans, decrease the number of hospitalisations, and lower the cost of medications and human care.
Dogs for Mental Health
We are using evidence based research, with combined practical experience, that has included input from experts in psychology, specialists in dog behaviour and training, and also from personal experience, to gain a better understanding of the ways in which partnership with an Assistance Dog dog can become a valuable adjunct to conventional therapy. Our own research includes multiple measures of symptoms associated with PTSD.
The Post Traumatic Stress Disorder checklist (PCL) indicates the severity of PTSD symptoms and is used widely to help diagnose PTSD in veterans. It is also used to measure progress over time. We are using this data measurement, along with others, to track changes in clinical depression and negative cognitions, depression, anxiety, and anger, along with increases in perceived social support and overall quality of life.
There are a number of ongoing research collaborations with UK universities that we are pleased to be associated with.
Details of research findings will be published in due course through appropriate academic channels.