Our toolkit for Service Dog Organizations informs service dog trainers about recovery from substance use problems and the important role of peer support and connection for the wellness of their Veteran dog handlers diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This toolkit includes:
This project initiated in 2016 as a research partnership between the University of Saskatchewan and a service dog organization in Canada. The project team includes over 30 individuals from universities across Canada, the veteran community, service dog organizations and trainers, and guidance from Indigenous Elders and working alongside service dogs.
BACKGROUND: St. John Ambulance Therapy Dog teams have been providing comfort and support to individuals they visit for over 15 years in Saskatchewan, and since 1992 starting in Peterborough, Ontario. There are numerous other therapy dog organizations in Canada.
The human and dog volunteer teams visit at a range of places where individuals do not typically have access to a pet, such as hospitals, airports, and university campuses. This is called an animal assisted activity. Extensive vetting and testing is typically involved in becoming a therapy dog team, but limited education is provided to handlers to increase their awareness and skills in areas that would support their visits.
AIM: To help fill this gap, a free, 8-hour online course has been designed for therapy dog handlers to:
This course is open to therapy dog handlers as well as anyone wishing to improve inclusive communication with others, the well-being of themselves, and/or better understand their dog’s behaviour.