The Warrior Canine Connection

by Meg Daley Olmert, Director of Research                                                                                                                                                                                                                           Warrior Canine Connection, Inc. 

Screen Shot 2014-06-21 at 11.39.19 AMThe Warrior Canine Connection (WCC) employs the positive, nurturing social interactions of training service dogs to reduce the symptoms of PTS(D) in active-duty Service Members (SMs) in treatment at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC), Fort Belvoir, and SMs and Veterans with PTS(D) at the Palo Alto VA.  Our dogs are trained by these Warrior-trainers to be skilled mobility service dogs that will be placed–at no cost–with Veterans in need.

This safe, natural, and highly effective complementary intervention was developed by social worker Rick Yount and clinically based on his decades of experience working with traumatized children the West Virginia foster care program.  I am attaching an article we published about the program in the Army Medical Journal (AMEDD).  You will see that our emphasis is to treat not just SMs & Veterans, but their whole families that suffer secondary PTS.

The beauty of the program design is that the Warrior Ethos inspires even those who have resisted treatment to engage in this vital mission of creating a service dog for a fellow wounded Warrior.

The actual shaping of the behavior of young dogs requires the same commitment, focus, and positive leadership skills that are the basis of good parenting.This provides a non-threatening experiential learning opportunity to:

–improve parenting and family communication that can save at-risk marriages

–stop the intergenerational transfer of PTSD to children of wounded Warriors

— keep military families together and provide the social support essential to recovery of our wounded Warriors.

There is so much more good this program does.  Since our Warrior-trainers are active-duty or Vets who are not able at this time to have a service dog, this therapy provides them with the opportunity to create a high quality, healing relationship with a dog when they otherwise would not be able to. They also learn the most important lessons of how to create a respectful and potent bond with a dog, should they want a pet or service dog at some future point.

Based on clinical observations, we were awarded DoD funding to study the efficacy of the WCC program to reduce the symptoms of PTS(D) in volunteer out-patients at WRNMMC. We will also be investigating how 2-weeks of program participation can effect physiological and biological responses that are dysregulated in PTS(D). This study, which commences in 2 weeks, will provide the first objective measures of efficacy of an Animal-Assisted Therapy on the symptoms of combat PTS(D).

We are following up this pilot study with three others that will look at the effects of WCC-training on sleep and social behavior. We are also collaborating with the Dr. Norman Epstein at University of Maryland’s School of Public Health to look at WCC’s effect on parenting and family health.

To learn more, click here or visit the WCC website for a deeper understanding of the healing power of the Warrior Canine Connection.

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