Because life is better with a dog

Anyone who’s experienced that unique bond with a canine friend will tell you that life is better with a dog. But for some, a dog is more than a companion ­ it’s a lifeline.

Launched in 2015, Service Dogs UK is a young charity working with Combat Stress to partner rescue dogs with veterans who are struggling with Post­Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Their goal is to improve the lives of military and emergency services veterans and the rescue dogs they’re partnered with.

In their dog, veterans gain a supportive friend who helps build trust and reduce fear; in their human, rescue dogs get a second chance and a loving new forever home.

How does it work?

Service Dogs UK coaches veterans and their dogs through an intensive training programme that brings the dogs up to full assistance dog standards. Crucially, the veterans themselves are heavily involved in the process of training their dog, which in itself has been found to bring therapeutic benefits.

The dogs come mainly from the Dogs Trust, while their human companions have a background in the Armed Forces or in emergency and rescue services, such as the fire service, coastguard and RNLI. When training is complete, the partnership continues as veteran and dog embark on their new life together.

The results of Service Dog UK’s carefully considered approach are already showing the incredible role dogs can play in lessening the debilitating symptoms of PTSD, helping veterans get back to a normal life. Dogs help reduce social isolation by enabling veterans to face everyday situations without fear, and have even been shown to enable a better night’s sleep by reducing ‘night terrors’, which in turn reduces stress. What’s more, research shows that the simple act of being around an animal increases levels of oxytocin, a hormone that reduces stress and anxiety and helps build trust.

How we’re helping

At the Petplan Charitable Trust, we’re delighted to have pledged £25,000 over the next four years to support this life­changing work ­ that’s enough to fund five new veteran and dog partnerships. Service Dogs UK will use the grant to cover dog trainer costs, transport, veterinary costs, insurance, equipment and training venues.

 

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