Below are some of the most frequently asked questions about PTSD service dogs we receive from veterans and their families. If you have other questions, please contact us.
- What are the requirements for a veteran to enter This Able Veteran’s (TAV) service dog program?
The veteran must submit an application, provide a copy of their DD214. and be under the care of their therapist.
- Do veterans pay for their service dog?
No. Veterans pay nothing for the service dog or Trauma Resiliency program.
- Can the veteran’s own personal dog be trained to become their PTSD service dog?
PTSD service dogs require very special traits, temperaments and exceptional intuition to be molded into the working dogs they need to become. While we have had successes with some personal dogs, and rescues previously, we have made the decision to focus only on purpose bred dogs which we select for the program. This decision has been made because it is the most financially responsible choice on our part for the donors who support our program as well as for the veterans who are on the wait list.For veterans who do wish to train their own dogs, or to work with a professional trainer in their geographic area, we suggest researching trainers on Assistance Dogs International or the International Association of Canine Professionals.
- What do TAV-trained PTSD service dogs actually do?
Our PTSD service dogs are highly trained to detect anxiety responses displayed by the veteran in potentially challenging environments and situations. Our dogs are trained to recognize, indicate and interrupt early signs of anxiety, panic attacks and nightmares, allowing the veteran to break the cycle and regain emotional control. Our service dogs are one of three essential components in advancing the veteran’s recovery. The trained service dog and our staff at TAV work directly with the veteran during the 3-week long Trauma Resiliency portion of our program. This training process, combined with the insight and oversight of the veteran’s own therapist, helps to ensure long-term health and recovery.
- How does the dog help with flashbacks and panic attacks?
A veteran will display certain behaviors just before and during a flashback. The dog is trained to recognize the early signals of these behaviors, interrupt them and redirect the veteran.
- Do your service dogs perform tasks like watch my back, blocking (keeping people at a distance), and clearing the room (entering the room first to give the ‘all-clear’)?
No. Although these tasks might at first seem desirable, we must keep in mind that the goal of the PTSD service dog is to aid and assist in the veteran’s recovery. We often say that “the PTSD service dog is not here to convince the veteran that the world is safe. The veteran is here to convince the dog that the world is safe.” The 3-week long Trauma Resiliency program makes extensive use of the service dog’s training in dealing with the common feelings of hypervigilance, isolation, re-experiencing and emotional numbness. The skills built during the Trauma Resiliency program set the stage for extraordinary recovery opportunities with the dog thereafter.
- How is TAV different from other PTSD service dog organizations?
We are the only service dog organization utilizing our veteran-centric model of care, wherein This Able Veteran’s highly trained staff integrates the skills of the service dog with newly developed resilience and life management skills taught during the Trauma Resiliency sessions. With this three-way dynamic of care, the veteran’s rate of recovery is dramatically enhanced and the veteran’s family is also directly benefitted.
- How long is the waiting period for a veteran to receive a dog?
Once an application is approved, the wait time is approximately 1 year – 1.5 years
- Can the veteran select their own dog?
No. The appropriate matching of the dog and veteran is an art and a skill. We learn a great deal about each veteran who qualifies for our program including lifestyle, family and home environment, their range of physical, psychological and cognitive abilities and their individual personalities. Through this process, we are able to match the dog for the veteran’s unique needs.
- How long does it take to train a service dog?
The length of training is determined by the veteran’s needs and the tasks the dog is required to do. Training ranges from 8 to 18 months.
- Does a veteran have to live in Illinois to apply for the program?
- Do you train service dogs for active duty military members?
No. ADA does not apply to military bases. We serve veterans only.
- Do you offer classes for veterans to train their own service dogs?
No. Knowing how to train a service dog is not the same as putting basic obedience on a pet. Not only does the dog’s temperament need to be appropriate for this work, there are many skills which must be trained into the dog. Our professional trainers do this by working daily over 12-18 months with our service dogs.
- Do you train dogs for veterans from other countries?
No. We serve U.S. military veterans only.