The Rules of Engagement around PTSD Assistance Dogs & Guardians

One of the beautiful things about PTSD Assistance Dogs is that they allow their Guardians a new lease of life. Often the veterans we help at Service Dogs UK, have for years, been isolated; dreading to go out of their home, to be faced with strangers on the street. However with a PTSD Assistance Dog at their side this becomes easier, it’s that 24hr support that makes many outings tolerable and often slowly adding to the confidence that allows veterans to face the world again.

Most of our veterans who suffer daily with PTSD struggle with social interactions; they can cause real panic and anxiety. The PTSD Assistance Dogs are trained for this and either offer a distraction or help the veteran finding the nearest exit or place of “safety”. Assistance Dogs are working dogs – they have an important job to do, they watch and make sure they stop the veteran getting too panicked or flustered – feelings which could trigger a flashback; the fewer distractions for both of them the better.

There is much the general public can do to help both the veteran (Guardian) and their PTSD Assistance Dog; to make life even easier – these are the 8 easy “Rules of Engagement” around Assistance Dogs and their Guardians.

  1. If anything make it as EASY for the Assistance Dog and Guardian to go about their business and don’t be offended if they do not want to engage with you, we all sometimes are simply not in the mood or up to it. Being out and about can be extremely challenging anyway!
  2. If you decide to approach, speak to the Guardian first, they will tell you whether petting or coming close to the PTSD Assistance Dog is OK or wanted.
  3. Give the Guardian and the PTSD Assistance Dog space, e.g. help them by letting them go first out of an exit.
  4. Don’t ask personal questions about the Guardian’s disability, instead, compliment the dog – everyone likes that!
  5. Don’t offer the Assistance dog food or treats. Assistance dogs are trained to ignore any food or to beg; offering something can cause distraction. Also you don’t know if the dog is on a special diet or has allergies.
  6. Always ask the Guardian IF they need assistance before touching the dog or taking a lead or harness.
  7. If you have children teach them not to run up to (any) dogs and explain what Assistance Dogs are, that they have a job to do and shouldn’t be distracted from doing so.
  8. If something were to happen to the Guardian do not take away the PTSD Assistance Dog.


More information

Service Dogs UK is open for Application from Veterans/Members of the Armed Forces and Emergency Services, with a clinical PTSD diagnosis in West Sussex, Surrey and East & North Hampshire – click here to find out more.

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