"Nudging them back to reality": Toward a growing public acceptance of the role dogs fulfill in ameliorating contemporary veterans' PTSD symptoms
Faculty of Health, Engineering and Science
School of Psychology and Social Science/Social Justice Research Centre
There is a long history of service dog usage to assist people with physical disabilities (e. g., dogs for the blind, deaf, and disabled). In comparison, however, relatively little empirical research has been conducted into the use of service or emotional support dogs for people with psychiatric disabilities (e. g., PTSD, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder and schizophrenia). Given this research shortfall, the present study sought to provide insights into the post-war dog ownership experiences of contemporary veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan fields of engagement, particularly in relation to the differences adopted dogs have made to the veterans' readjustment back into society. In this regard, reporters' media accounts of the experiences of veterans with PTSD and the general public's social media response comments were subjected to a triangulated three-phase content analysis to explore the role dogs seemingly play in helping contemporary veterans to readjust to civilian life. The core theme to emerge from the study was one of: "'Nudging them back to reality': Toward a growing public acceptance of the role dogs fulfill in ameliorating contemporary veterans' PTSD symptoms." In light of the difficulties of interpreting the accounts of veterans through the filter of media coverage and social commentary, this core finding may prove to provide insights into how contemporary veterans diagnosed with PTSD utilize the assistance of dogs to help deal with their fundamental human needs for safety, affiliation, and succourance. Finally, the difficulties associated with dogs as therapeutic agents are discussed.