Sometimes people think that because their dog brings them comfort and emotional support it automatically qualifies as a “service dog,” but that isn’t true. Service dogs allow people with disabilities to be more independent because they are trained to do specific tasks, such as picking up things that have fallen, or helping someone with balance problems to climb stairs.
Dogs used for protection, emotional support or companionship do not qualify as service dogs. That does not make them any less valuable or important to their owners; it just means they can’t wear the official label of service animal.
Dogs, whether service animals or not, provide us with companionship and emotional support. They can encourage mobility, interpersonal contact and improve chances for socialization. Dogs can help veterans feel accepted, ease stress and lower blood pressure.
While the VA does not currently recognize the use of service dogs for treating physical or mental health conditions, they are currently conducting research as to the things service dogs can do to help veterans with PTSD. Having witnessed several veterans with PTSD begin their healing with the help of a companion dog, I can attest to the value of using pets to help cope.