The Impact of Service Dogs on Combat Veterans with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

Christine R. Hansen, Walden University


Combat veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) related symptoms often require the use of complementary therapeutic aids, such as service dogs, to assist them in their recovery in addition to traditional evidence-based therapy. Anecdotal literature was available on the use of service dogs, but quantitative research has not been conducted to answer the question of what the impact was of the use of service dogs on reducing symptoms of PTSD among combat and non-combat veterans. Attachment theory was one of the most common theoretical frameworks for exploring the use of service dogs for treating combat PTSD. The theoretical framework for this study was derived from Bowlby's theory on attachment and the work done with Ainsworth to review the possible correlations between secure and insecure attachment styles and the impact of using service dogs. Three surveys were selected to measure PTSD related symptoms, service dog tasks, and attachment styles of the 64 participants to be able to look at PTSD-related symptoms and attachment theory in relation to service dog tasks. This study did not show a difference between combat veterans and non-combat veterans who use service dogs in the reduction of PTSD-related symptoms, but the study did show that there was a positive relationship between PTSD-related symptoms and the use of service dogs. Participants' answers supported anecdotal reports of the positive effect of the use of service dogs. The results of the current research provide implications for positive social change by providing important information in relation to service dogs could improve the quality of life and more manageable psychological symptoms, and that attachment styles should be considered as a mitigating factor which was missing in previous research.