"Nudging Them Back to Reality": Toward a Growing Public Acceptance of the Role Dogs Fulfill in Ameliorating Contemporary Veterans' PTSD Symptoms

Anthrozoos A Multidisciplinary Journal of The Interactions of People & Animals (Impact Factor: 0.7). 12/2013; 26(4). DOI: 10.2752/175303713X13795775535896


There is a long history of service dog usage to assist people with physical disabilities (e.g., dogs for the blind, deaf and disabled). In comparison, however, relatively little empirical research has been conducted into the use of service or emotional support dogs for people with psychiatric disabilities (e.g., PTSD, Bi-polar Disorder, Anxiety Disorder and Schizophrenia). Given this research shortfall, the present study sought to provide insights into the post-war dog ownership experiences of contemporary veterans from the Iraq & Afghanistan fields of engagement, particularly in relation to the differences adopted dogs have made to the veterans’ readjustment back into society. In this regard, reporters’ media accounts of the experiences of veterans with PTSD and the general public’s social media response comments were subjected to a triangulated three phase content analysis to explore the role dogs seemingly play in helping contemporary veterans to readjust to civilian life. The core theme to emerge from the study was one of: ‘Nudging them back to reality’: Towards a growing public acceptance of the role dogs fulfil in ameliorating contemporary veterans’ PTSD symptoms. In light of the difficulties of interpreting the accounts of veterans through the filter of media coverage and social commentary, this core finding may prove to provide insights into how contemporary veterans diagnosed with PTSD utilize the assistance of dogs to help deal with their fundamental human needs for safety, affiliation and succourance. Finally, the difficulties associated with dogs as therapeutic agents are discussed.

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    ABSTRACT: It is conservatively estimated that 12% of all American soldiers who served in the Iraq and Afghanistan fields of engagement have returned home with psychological problems. Research that investigates the psychological underpinnings of these problems is pertinent to meeting the mental health needs of serving and returned soldiers. This study was used to investigate the psychological needs of combat soldiers who adopted strays dog while on deployment, and the impact that ending that bonded relationship had on their actions as they neared the end of their deployments. A triangulated three-phase content analysis was conducted to study the narratives of 22 dog adopting soldiers whose experiences were reported in the popular media, the comments of 24 journalists reporting these stories, and 83 social media responses to the journalists’ reports. The soldiers’ dog adopting-related behaviors reflected needs for nurturance, normalcy, recognition, esteem, and control during the periods of their deployments.
    Society and Animals 05/2015; Efirst(4). DOI:10.1163/15685306-12341366 · 0.70 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: HABRI Central Briefs are peer-reviewed summaries of particular applications and issues within the field of human-animal interaction. Each Brief presents an overview of the subject matter, assesses the current state of research, then highlights unresolved questions or issues. Key resources are identified for further reading. These Briefs are compiled as a service to the community by the staff of HABRI Central (, the online hub for scholarly information related to the study of human-animal interaction, reviewed by its editorial board ( management-oversight/editorialboard), and funded through the generous support of the HABRI Foundation (

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