Research shows that when people focus on petting a dog, it can increase oxytocin, a chemical that quiets the brain’s fear response. Caring for a pet also helps people become more secure and self-sufficient, according to Hal Herzog, a psychology professor at Western Carolina University.
Training service dogs can also be a form of therapy, according to Rick Yount, founder ofWarrior Canine Connection, an organization that has PTSD patients train service dogs. After completing a 2008 training program at a veteran’s hospital, many participants reported lower stress levels, decreased depression, better impulse control and improved sleep.
Yount says that it might be most effective for veterans with PTSD to train a service dog before receiving one themselves.