Effects of a dog-assisted intervention for soldiers with PTSD

With the increase in deployment to countries in crisis or war, more German soldiers develop a posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and require psychotherapeutic treatment.

In the present study, 30 soldiers diagnosed with PTSD undergoing inpatient trauma-therapy participated in a dog-assisted intervention, taking place once a week for 3 hours in the morning for four weeks. Each patient interacted with a military working dog-team of the Bundeswehr School of Dog Handling, tested specifically for the suitability for this task. Interactions included walks, play, and taking care of the dog and took place under the supervision of a familiar health care professional.

Data on PTSD symptoms, current problems, and therapeutic relationship to psychotherapist were collected. Before and the day after each session current wellbeing, symptoms and the relationship to the dog-handler were assessed. The analyses show that the dog-assisted intervention holds the potential to increase the patient’s wellbeing and ability to trust other persons again.

Authors: Andrea Beetz, Ira Schöfmann, Roger Braas, Franziska von Freymann, Christiane Ernst