Zen the PTSI Assistance Dog
In January the RNZRSA funded a programme for an assistance dog certification course in Australia for a NZDF veteran suffering from PTSI.
The dog (Zen) at the time was too young to put through the course now is ready to start his training. This is a 6 month intensive course for the dog and owner.
From June 19th, Zen will wear a learners vest so the Veteran can take him out in public places. After 6 months he will be fully qualified and will require recertification every 3 years.
Assistance Dogs for PTSI are trained to work with the veteran and specific needs of their owner, in particular detecting signals of anxiety, or their owner’s ‘trigger”. Upon sensing their owner’s trigger, the dog is trained to perform a specific cue to help alleviate the symptoms of this trigger, for example, engaging in eye contact and body contact to comfort their owner and divert their attention.
The dogs can master bespoke cues to help their owner overcome psychological trauma linked to specific situations.
What sets an assistance dog apart from a pet/companion dog
- Positioning themselves in front/behind their owner, a technique known as “posting” which helps to ease hyperawareness, the feeling of being constantly on edge.
- Entering a room before the owner and turning on the lights so they don’t have to enter a dark space.
- Entering a room or house and sweeping it for people or intruders, alerting its owner by barking.
- Alerting an owner to take medication
- Bringing medication to an owner
- Providing physical contact or waking up an owner that suffers from nightmares.
- Diverting their owner's attention to the dog, a technique known as ''anchoring'', helping to bring their owner back to the present moment.
- Dogs sense when owners have panic attacks and will push, paw bark to alert and then will often lie on the owner for deep pressure therapy
A PTSI Assistance Dog has full public access rights meaning they are allowed in any public place* and on all public transport. It is illegal to refuse entry to a Service/Assistance Dog*.
*The only exceptions are zoos, aquariums, sterile environments, food preparation areas and quarantine areas.
PTSI Assistance Dogs are provided with a photographic identity badge as proof of Assistance Dog status, which they must take with them in public, and an Assistance Dog jacket for the dog.