Service dogs for veterans help ease PTSD, according to new study

Smiling veteran lying on couch with his dog
(Image credit: Getty Images)

While we most often think of dogs as simply being companion animals, many pups out there also have jobs. 

Police dogs, search and rescue dogs, and seeing-eye dogs are just three of the types of working dogs you might come across – these dogs don’t need the best dog treats to carry out their duties!

But what about service dogs? According to a recent study, these clever canines can help veterans with PTSD.

Researchers at the University of Arizona College of Veterinary Medicine followed 156 veterans over the course of three months for the study, funded partly by the National Institutes of Health. They found that veterans with dogs – who were provided by the non-profit K9s for Warriors — reported lower severity of PTSD symptoms, anxiety, and depression, and higher psychosocial functioning — it looks as though having a pup from one of the best service dog breeds can be a real help. 

According to the researchers, nearly 20 veterans die by suicide every day, while over a million veterans live with PTSD, traumatic brain injury, or military sexual trauma. 

Maggie O’Haire, one of the study’s co-authors, explained, per USA Today, "We know veterans are struggling. They have much higher rates of depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts [than the general population]."

She also said, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs, “This research reinforces what we have been studying for almost a decade — that service dogs are linked to significant benefits for many veterans suffering from PTSD and other invisible wounds of war.

“Service dogs are more than pets — they can be essential partners in helping veterans readjust and thrive after they return from service.”

The majority of the dogs with K9s for Warriors, the largest provider of trained service dogs for veterans in the US, are rescues. They get an average of six months of training, and are then paired with veterans who are living with poor mental health and are at greater risk of suicide at no cost to them. 

Kevin Steele, chief program officer at K9s for Warriors, said, per U.S. News & World Report, “Having paired more than 1,000 service dogs with veterans, our work has clearly demonstrated that these dogs are lifesaving and life-transforming. These dogs have enabled our Warriors to better connect with family, friends, and their community and to begin living the life they previously didn't think was possible.

The results of this study further prove what we do here at K9s works, and we continue to have the research to back up the success of our programs.”

The boost that dogs, and other pets, can give to human mental health isn’t unique to veterans, however. Here are 32 ways having a pet can lower your stress levels – so, whether you’re frustrated with work or you’re trying to fit some time in for physical exercise, your pup might be able to help!

Adam England
Freelance Writer

Adam is a freelance journalist covering pets, lifestyle, health and culture, and he has six years' experience in journalism. He was senior editor at, and has written for The Independent, GoodToKnow and Healthline

He's also spent the last few years studying towards undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in journalism. While a cat person at heart, he's often visiting his parents' golden retriever, and when he's not writing about everything pets he's probably drinking coffee, visiting a cat cafe, or listening to live music.