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PTSD Part II - Utilizing Your Canine


“K9 Kavalry seeks out Veterans with wartime PTSD and helps them address their service-connected disabilities by giving them the ability to train their dog to provide the custom support they need most.”


 

Our story isn’t just about the dogs or the Veterans, it's about the unity that comes with a shared understanding, a common focus, and the camaraderie of the pack. It’s so easy to get lost in the PTSD, the chaos, the flashbacks, and the isolation. Building the connection between Veteran, dog, and pack is the foundation to what we do here at K9K.


Now, I could bore you with all the research data and statistics out there, things like in 2018, Purdue University released a statement from a preliminary study that says “overall symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder are lower among war veterans with service dogs” or we could get into the weeds about the work the VA has done on researching the cost benefit of service dogs versus emotional support dogs for Veterans with PTSD. But the statistics and examples we like the most are the ones that come from the pack itself.


Anecdotally, all the members of the K9 Kavalry pack can share stories about the insurmountable impacts that their canines have had on their lives. One pack member shared with me that their canine quickly picked up on alerting them when something was off in their body and they needed to take their medications, I have heard pack members express in great detail how their canine helps bring them back into the present when they are having flashbacks, and I have witnessed the ease in anxiety when our Veterans are in large crowds with their canine’s among the pack. Y’all don’t need me to tell you the world changing impact that the bond between a Veteran and their canine can have in their world. The question really is, how do you get there? How do you get the support you need out of your canine?


The short answer - ALWAYS find the win!

The long answer - time and consistency are going to be a necessity in building a relationship with your canine. Without training, it is possible, pending the dog's temperament and innate disposition, to get some of your needs met. However, we at K9K do not recommend this approach. We find that to be harmful in the long run for both you and your dog.


We start by building a routing. A daily routine is twofold for you and your canine. Predictability can work to eliminate or minimize your potential PTSD triggers while providing a baseline for your canine. Allowing both you and your canine to regulate and train together.


Start training – but wait, “I am training all day. Everyday we're going on two walks”. That my friends, we call passive dog training or training in the moment as you’re dealing with your dog's behavior in real time. Which is important but we’re specifically talking about specific and intentional training. Training that we call PROACTIVE dog training: setting a goal, setting up obstacles, and helping to guide the dog to the reward.


Proactively train for 5 minutes, 3 times daily. It won’t be perfect so always find the win! Work to eliminate your emotions while communicating with your canine during training. This might not always be easy, especially if you’re finding yourself triggered, especially if your dog isn’t listening, or if you’re just having a shit day. Refocus, be in the moment with your dog, adjust. Or, find something the dog is already doing that you like and reward that. We call that taking the low hanging fruit. Training can look a lot of different ways, sometimes it is less about the specific training you’re doing and more about being in the moment building rapport and relationship with your canine. Always find the win.


Make sure you’re accounting for minimum daily exercise, for your dog, and for you. We don’t shame here, you do what you can do and use your canine for encouragement and purpose. At the bare minimum, just make sure you’re meeting their daily exercise needs or you will find yourself dealing with unwanted behaviors from your canine. With dogs, you can’t train the brain until you tap the body.


After reading all of this you could be saying to yourself, “But Taryn, I want to know how I can get my canine to build space around me while in the store or prevent anyone from approaching my 6”. I would tell you that we can’t run until we can walk (when it comes to actually doing the training, I'm not the top dog in the pack. But I do have her phone number🙂). It takes time to create a canine that is more than just your dog, it will also require you to train yourself in the ways of the canine. And that is what we do here at K9 Kavalry. We’re building a pack - a community of Veterans, their canines, and a revolving door of support. Training is custom designed for each team. A solid foundation needs to be established first before moving into a more complex training routine. Our certified and expert trainers are here to help you in the basics and the more advanced.


If you’re already a member of the pack - HURRAH! Keep up the good work.


If you’re new here and have questions - feel free to reach out to info@k9kavalry.org or call (360)967-9567.


Links to the 2 mentioned studies: Purdue Study LINK & VA Study LINK

 

Quick list for building a daily routine:


TRAINING ROUTINE:

  • Start with physical exercise (length of time explained below)

  • Proactively train for 5 minutes, 3 times daily.

  • Always find the win

TRAINING PRACTICES:

  • Eliminate emotions from your communication.

  • Be in the moment with your dog.

  • Talk to your dog like a human, but treat them like a dog.

  • Watch for signs of stress (yawning, disengagement, etc)

EXERCISE: Daily exercise minimums

  • 8 weeks to 6 months: Limit exercise to 15 minute increments 3 times daily.

  • 6 months to 6 years: 1-2 chuggies daily.

  • 6 years and above: Light exercise once daily at the dog’s pace, but not beyond their ability.

HANDLING:

  • No longer than 4 hours in a crate without a break.

  • NEVER HIT YOUR DOG.

  • Strive to control with your voice, not your arm.

  • Always maintain communication with your dog while handling.

SHOTS:

  • Always maintain current shot records.

  • Do not allow shots to expire.

  • For puppies, no floor contact outside of the home until the day after the 4th / final round of shots.

MEALS:

  • Avoid grain-free foods

  • Avoid free-feeding

  • Make your dog sit/stay until you release them to eat


 

About the writer:


Taryn is an avid supporter of K9 Kavalry and the K9K mission. Taryn brings a civilian perspective into the mix, utilizing their education and passion to build K9K’s monthly newsletters and informative blogs to the pack. Taryn understands the impact that PTSD can have on someone’s life and the amazing healing powers of a pack's camaraderie. Taryn brings a sense of humility and is always trying to bring the voice of the Veterans front and center. Taryn is open to feedback and happy to receive emails sharing ideas for newsletters or the next blog topic. email taryn@k9kavalry.org


 

Taryn is not a licensed practitioner and therefore information on this blog should be taken as a potential starting point for reaching out to a therapist, doctor, or for help. The information provided here is not an exhaustive list and not designed to diagnose anyone. This blog is for providing information, resources, and sharing stories.


 


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