up arrow The dogs of war suffer from PTSD


If you’re a fan of the Dog Whisperer, you’ve probably seen the case of ATF Gavin, a service dog Cesar treated for PTSD. It’s a powerful episode, and Gavin’s story consumes the entire hour of the show eluding to the difficulty of the case.

Dogs, like soldiers, suffer from PTSD
Dogs, like soldiers, suffer from PTSD

Gavin’s story was filmed in 2007, and as more dogs are used in combat, the cases have increased. The Times covered canine PTSD this week, and the methods used to help suffering dogs are like those used by Cesar. The Times explains, “More serious cases will receive what Dr. Burghardt calls ‘desensitization counterconditioning,’ which entails exposing the dog at a safe distance to a sight or sound that might set off a reaction — a gunshot, a loud bang or a vehicle, for instance. If the dog does not react, it is rewarded, and the trigger — ‘the spider in a glass box,’ Dr. Burghardt calls it — is moved progressively closer.”

Dogs suffering from PTSD can become clingy and timid like Gavin or aggressive and hyper-vigilant. The article points out that the military veterinarians at Daniel E. Holland Military Working Dog Hospital at Lackland Air Force Base have had some success in treating the disorder, which is so new its existence is being debated. Dogs who can’t be rehabilitated in 3 months time are moved to other duties or retired.

Last year, the Times wrote a series of articles on Gina, a four-year-old German Shepherd military working dog who suffered from PTSD. The Air Force blog reports that Gina is back on duty after months of additional training to build her confidence.

Sources: [ATF Gavin | NY Times | AF]