When heroes come home, sometimes they need a hero of their own. In canine form, that is. Service dogs are invaluable to veterans and civilians alike. These loving, four-legged friends provide emotional support, understanding and protection, and they deserve much more credit than we give them. That said, getting a service dog is about building a partnership. Veterans coping with PTS need a dog that matches their personality and needs, so choose your service dog carefully. Ideally, a service dog to support someone with PTS should be:
- Calm under pressure
- Driven to learn
- And emotionally intelligent
All service dogs are trained, but psychiatric dog breeds are particularly good at assisting those with depression, anxiety and other mental health conditions. These 8 breeds are some of the best options out there. Take your pick!
1. Standard Poodle
Stop laughing! We’re not kidding. The standard poodle really is an excellent choice for those with PTS. Poodles are one of the top therapy breeds. Highly intelligent and diligent, poodles can learn complex skills, and they possess an innately strong sense of emotional intelligence. They are wonderful at comforting owners and love hugs- and who wouldn’t want to hug a fluffy poodle? Poodles are also a great choice for households with allergy-sufferers because they shed very little and are considered hypoallergenic.
The lab is easy-going and extremely versatile. Combined, their intelligence and loyalty allow them to learn how to handle the ups and downs of PTS. A lab’s well-balanced personality allows them to keep a level head and, in turn, be a steadfast partner for their owners. They always try to see the best in themselves and find a way to please their owner. Dating back to the days when they were trained as game dogs, they live for approval. Their determination to please is perfect for someone who needs a dog they can rely on.
3. Golden Retrievers
Golden Retrievers are a classic choice. They’re loyal, playful and have a naturally sunny disposition. Their tail will be wagging while they comfort you with a nudge and a hug. The Golden Retriever is also adept at reading quick shifts in their owner’s emotions, responding to subtle changes at the drop of a hat. Retrievers are the perfect choice for veterans with kids in the house since they’re very patient and more tolerant of rough handling than most breeds.
4. Border Collie
If it’s one thing a Border Collie has plenty of, it’s intuition. Border Collies have a long history of leading and retrieving. Because of this, they’re highly tuned in to their handler’s signals, forming a deep emotional bond with their owners. In fact, when Border Collies don’t have a job to do, they tend to get a little antsy. They’re most comfortable when they’re serving others, so Border Collies are well-suited to providing physical comfort during traumatic episodes. Not only will Collies comfort you, but they’ll motivate you to get up and be active each day. It’s hard to say no to a collie that wants to go for a walk!
5. Pit Bull
Pit Bulls are one of the most misunderstood breeds on the planet. Despite their vicious reputation, Pit bBulls are dedicated to their owner’s needs and show compassion in stressful moments. With proper training, Pit Bulls can be obedient, help manage their owner’s condition and hold a powerful emotional presence to deliver much-needed comfort. Pit Bulls are low maintenance in terms of grooming, which is a plus for vets with physical limitations. The only downside? Pit Bulls have been stereotyped as being aggressive, so some airlines may not accept them as support dogs.
Pomeranians might be a surprising choice for a PTS specialty breed, but this pint-sized doggy has more to offer than meets the eye. Personality-wise, these tiny creatures are filled with energy and love. Their intelligence and high energy levels allow them to partake in intensive training and learn quickly in comparison to other breeds. Pomeranians are compact, travel-friendly and family-friendly, which is great for owners who are short on space or don’t have time for long walks. The only thing to watch out for is the grooming requirements for these puffballs- much like their long, luscious fur, the brushing and bathing duties are pretty intense.
7. German Shepherd
There’s a reason German Shepherds are one of the most common military working dog breeds, and they’re an absolutely perfect choice for PTS. The German Shepherd is fully equipped to spring back quickly from stressful situations with their owners. With the right training, they can learn to detect episodes and panic attacks before they even happen and diffuse the situation. Their signature move is pawing at the owner to alert them of triggers and divert their attention from a potential flare-up. German Shepherds are also some of the most loyal, obedient and dependable dogs you can own. They’re very gentle and sweet toward their favorite humans, but they’re also highly protective. If you’d like a service dog that can double as a guard dog, a well-trained German Shepherd is probably your best bet.
8. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
This majestic breed little breed is typically seen as a standard lap dog, but it has immense potential for those with PTS. In fact, one of the Spaniel’s most valuable characteristics is its ability to form an intense bond with its owner. That’s why spaniels are often called “velcro dogs!” Unlike many other small dog breeds, Spaniels are quiet and collected. They handle high-pressure situations well in comparison. They need proper training like any service dog, but they can become wonderful emotional support pets with the right education.