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Veterans with PTSD have stronger bonds with service dogs than average person, study says

By Tauren Dyson
Veterans with PTSD have stronger bonds with service dogs than average person, study says
It's so strong that veterans with PTSD, on average, are closer to their service dogs than the average person is with a house dog. Photo courtesy of The Marines/Flickr

Feb. 20 (UPI) -- New research shows that service dogs and veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder have an unusually strong connection, a new study says.

It's so strong that veterans with PTSD, on average, are closer to their service dogs than the average person is with a house dog, according to a study published in Frontiers in Veterinary Science.

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"This study brings attention to the importance of everyday interactions that occur between military veterans and their service dogs," said Megan LaFollette, a researcher in animal science at Purdue University and study author, in a news release. "Particularly, the finding that veterans using higher levels of positive reinforcement felt closer to their dogs reiterates the value of connections that form as veterans are involved in training their service dogs."

To gauge the bond between the veterans and service dogs, the researchers used the popular "Inclusion of Other in the Self-Scale" metric. On a seven-point scale, the findings show that the average bond between a veteran with PTSD and a service dog was measured at 5.8. While the relationship between a typical pet owner and their dog averages out below four.

RELATED Study: People with PTSD show distinct thought patterns

However, the better the training, the better the bond.

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Veterans who used positive reinforcements to train their service dogs had the closest bonds versus those who trained their dogs using more corrective methods.

These findings overlap with other studies that say service animals can soothe PTSD symptoms.

RELATED Study: PTSD may increase heart disease, cancer risk

"The intense bond shared between our warrior-canine pairs is something every dog lover can understand, but what we've just found is that the bond far exceeds that of a pet relationship," said Rory Diamond, K9s For Warriors CEO. "This underlines what we've said all along, that the dog and veteran rescue each other."

The severity of the PTSD experienced by the veteran didn't have any effect on the strength of the bond with the service dog.

"This important study brings us one step closer to scientifically proving that service dogs are an effective therapeutic intervention for veterans diagnosed with PTSD," said Tim Simonds, chief executive officer of Merrick Pet Care. We've witnessed the healing power of pairing rescued service dogs with veterans struggling with PTSD and are passionate about supporting this research to help increase political and financial support for this type of treatment."

RELATED Lingering mental health problems linked to head injury

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