Service Animals for Substance Abuse and PTSD Recovery

Service animals can be helpful partners for those suffering from chemical dependency, symptoms of PTSD, or TBI (traumatic brain injury). The relationship you form with a service or emotional support animal is an important step in your healing process.

soldier and service dog

Our Department:

The Warriors Heart K9 Department provides our clients with the opportunity to purchase a Service or ESA K9 through the Academy program. Each Warriors Heart dog is trained to become an Emotional Support Animal or a Service Animal so that the client can travel with, house, and utilize the dog within ADA compliance.

For clients not interested in becoming a Handler, the K9 Experience program is a more therapeutic approach. Clients can learn about obedience training, participate in weekly Classroom presentations, go on Nature Hikes and simply enjoy spending time with our canine Warriors.

How We Help

Our Academy K9s are trained to have impeccable manners and obedience, to traverse an obstacle course with confidence, to trust the handler in any circumstance within reason, and to mitigate or interrupt PTS anxieties. Warriors Heart dogs are paired with a suitable handler based on disability needs, lifestyle, and activity levels. Warriors Heart Service Dogs are prepared to accompany their handler in public settings such as airports, restaurants, and shopping centers. We train the Warrior how to train, trouble shoot problems and strengthen the relationship with their dog.

Our Programs

We have two programs available:

  • Academy: This is the pathway to becoming a Service Dog Handler. Each client will learn how to handle, train, and use their dog in public and at home. Every dog is trained to mitigate its handler’s specific disability or PTS symptoms. The goal is to spend 120 hours training together, training as a Handler/K9 Team. Our kennel is open 7 days a week for training.
  • Experience: This program allows a client to interact with dogs without the emphasis on the academics. We have many dogs available to interact with, play with, care for and learn some basic handling skills with. Clients can spend up to 4 hours per day at the Kennel.

Our Facility:

Our kennel is on the North end of campus. We provide both indoor and outdoor kennels to facilitate housing based on weather. We can currently house 22 dogs and have plans for an even bigger kennel. We offer an indoor bathing area, dog yards for free time and games of fetch, dog hammocks, miles of Nature Trails, an obedience course and weekly Classroom Presentations on topics including: Service Dog Laws, Canine Wellness, Nutrition, Enrichment, Grooming and Clicker Training Basics.

How can clients get involved?

Clients can sign up for the K9 elective in the afternoons for up to 4 hours per day. The kennel is open 7 days a week and staffed 365 days a year. Clients can spend extra time in the kennels during Wellness Visits in the mornings ad evenings when all dogs are fed and exercised. We also offer Nature Hikes 3 days per week.

Where do we source our dogs?

We work closely with rescues, shelters, and private donors for all of our Warriors Heart dogs. We have even been able to add Government washout and retired K9s to our program as well! Each dog is evaluated before being brought into our program. All of our dogs are homeless and in need of a job or a new career field. If they pass rigorous temperament testing, and are suitable for Service Dog Training, they will join our team. All of our dogs are treated by a licensed veterinarian upon intake. They are spayed or neutered, on heartworm and flea preventative, microchipped and are closely monitored by our Veterinary Staff. Our dogs are fed Hills Science Diet and Purina products.

We select many breeds of dogs. The most popular breeds used for Service work are German Shepherds, Malinois and Labradors. Warriors heart utilized an assortment of breeds and sizes and pair them with the best handler. We have trained Great Danes and German Short Haired Pointers all the way down to Dachshunds and Boston Terriers.

Service Dogs for PTSD

Service dogs can be helpful partners for those suffering from symptoms of PTSD, or TBI (traumatic brain injury). Each Service dog is trained to mitigate its handler’s specific needs, meaning the warrior participates in training the dog for his or her own symptoms. For some people, having a Service Dog provides the purpose and routine needed to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Some of the Service behaviors we are training are Nightmare interruption, Low anxiety interruption (knee bouncing, hand wringing, rocking or pacing), Panic Attack mitigation, Social Anxiety mitigation. Sometimes, just having a K9 Battle Buddy helps us stay in our routine, gives us greater purpose, encourages social activities, and helps combat feelings of loneliness or depression.

As part of the healing program, warriors are allowed to partner with a service dog during treatment for chemical dependency and PTSD.

Together with a therapist, the warrior can participate in an assisted therapy session with their service dog companion. This in turn creates powerful results for the service dog and provides an ally in the battle against PTS.

If a warrior has connected with a service dog upon completion of their addiction and PTSD treatment, they’re given the option to take their battle buddy home at the end of treatment. During the long-term recovery process at home, a Service or ESA dog can provide a great amount of morale.

How do Service Dogs Help with Recovery From PTSD Or Addiction?

The dogs that we assign at Warriors Heart are specifically trained to be service dogs. They have been conditioned be attuned to their handler’s needs. As they learn the individual personality of their partner warrior in our program, they become better at providing much-needed support during the recovery process. Service Dog training continues for the life of the animal and strengthens as the team continues to work together.

Here are some ways service dogs provide support:

  • Smell oncoming episodes of anxiety. All humans give off nearly imperceptible signals when they experience stress, and the Service Dog can often begin to detect the chemical reactions going on within the body associated with anxiety. The dog can be trained to continually touch its handler at the very beginning stages of anxiety.
  • Reorient and “ground” the handler to a safe environment when struggling with PTSD episodes. Sometimes, all a PTSD victim needs is a presence to guide them back to reality. Service dogs can intervene and refocus their handlers in times of stress.
  • Remind the handler to perform her or his daily routines
  • Reduce fear associated with meeting new people or social settings
  • Assist handler in creating a safe personal space
  • Serve as a buffer to calm handler and reduce feelings of emotional distress in crowded places

What is an Emotional Support Dog?

An ESA K9 is a dog that provides comfort and companionship just by being there for its handler. They are not trained for a specific behavior to assist an individual with a disability. They are not protected by Americans with Disabilities Act as a service dog is and do not have the same rights that Service Dogs do. Warriors Heart Clinical Staff will assist our Warriors with obtaining a letter stating that their dog is an Emotional Support Animal if needed.

How The Warriors Heart Service Dog Program Works

As part of the healing program, warriors are allowed to partner with a service dog during treatment for chemical dependency and PTSD.

Together with a therapist, the warrior can participate in an assisted therapy session with their service dog companion. This in turn creates powerful results for the service dog and provides an ally in the battle against PTS.

If a warrior has connected with a service dog upon completion of their addiction and PTSD treatment, they’re given the option to take their battle buddy home at the end of treatment. During the long-term recovery process at home, a Service or ESA dog can provide a great amount of morale.

Kimber-Warriors-Heart-K9-program

Does Every Warrior Get A Chance To Work With The Service Dogs?

Does Every Warrior Get A Chance To Work With The Service Dogs?

Every warrior has the ability to work with service dogs seven days a week as part of the regular treatment program. Warriors will receive both classroom instruction as well as hands on training time. If a warrior finds that he or she really enjoys working with the canines, there is opportunity for them to take on additional kennel responsibilities.

Seek the Peace You Deserve

If you’re struggling with addiction and PTSD, you don’t have to go at it alone. We’re here to help.

Start Healing (844) 448-2567