Dog Ownership and Training Reduces Post-Traumatic Stress Symptoms and Increases Self-Compassion Among Veterans: Results of a Longitudinal Control Study

Dessa K Bergen-Cico, Yvonne N Smith, Karen Wolford, Collin Gooley, Kathleen Hannon, Ryan Woodruff, Melissa Spicer, Brooks B Gump

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

Objectives: The aims of this study were to measure the potential impact of a therapeutic dog ownership and training program for Veterans with symptoms of post-traumatic stress. Design: The study used a quasi-experimental design with two cohorts of Veterans - a dog owner-trainer intervention and a wait list control group. Participants completed baseline and 12-month follow-up assessments. Setting: Clear Path for Veterans, a nonclinical, open recreation facility whose mission is to support Veterans and their families in the reintegration process after military service. Subjects: Participants (n = 48) were either enrolled in the veterans therapeutic dog owner-trainer program (Dogs2Vets) or were placed in the wait list control group. Intervention: Veterans were enrolled in the Dogs2Vets program, a 12-month structured dog owner-trainer program that engages veterans in the training and care of a dog that they ultimately adopt. The Dogs2Vets Program focuses on the healing aspects of the human-animal bond. Outcome measures: PTSD Checklist, Military Version (PCL-M), perceived stress scale, self-compassion scale (SCS) composite, and SCS subscales for isolation and self-judgment. Results: Veterans participating in the Dogs2Vets owner-trainer program experienced significant reductions in symptoms of post-traumatic stress, perceived stress, isolation, and self-judgment accompanied by significant increases in self-compassion. In contrast there were no significant improvements in these measures among veterans in the wait list control group. Qualitative data reinforced the statistical findings with themes of decreased isolation, unconditional acceptance and companionship, and a renewed sense of safety and purpose from their relationships with their dogs. Conclusion: Veterans benefit significantly from dog ownership in combination with a structured dog training program. Not only do they experience significant decreases in stress and post-traumatic stress symptoms but also they experience less isolation and self-judgment while also experiencing significant improvements in self-compassion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1166-1175
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine
Volume24
Issue number12
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1 2018

Fingerprint

Ownership
Veterans
Longitudinal Studies
Dogs
Control Groups
Education
Recreation
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders
Checklist
Research Design
Outcome Assessment (Health Care)
Safety
Therapeutics

Keywords

  • animal assisted interventions
  • dog therapy
  • post-traumatic stress disorder
  • self-compassion
  • stress
  • veterans

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Complementary and alternative medicine

Cite this

Dog Ownership and Training Reduces Post-Traumatic Stress Symptoms and Increases Self-Compassion Among Veterans : Results of a Longitudinal Control Study. / Bergen-Cico, Dessa K; Smith, Yvonne N; Wolford, Karen; Gooley, Collin; Hannon, Kathleen; Woodruff, Ryan; Spicer, Melissa; Gump, Brooks B.

In: Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, Vol. 24, No. 12, 01.12.2018, p. 1166-1175.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

@article{bbc9dc619ca5485c90da5a2094ad7765,
title = "Dog Ownership and Training Reduces Post-Traumatic Stress Symptoms and Increases Self-Compassion Among Veterans: Results of a Longitudinal Control Study",
abstract = "Objectives: The aims of this study were to measure the potential impact of a therapeutic dog ownership and training program for Veterans with symptoms of post-traumatic stress. Design: The study used a quasi-experimental design with two cohorts of Veterans - a dog owner-trainer intervention and a wait list control group. Participants completed baseline and 12-month follow-up assessments. Setting: Clear Path for Veterans, a nonclinical, open recreation facility whose mission is to support Veterans and their families in the reintegration process after military service. Subjects: Participants (n = 48) were either enrolled in the veterans therapeutic dog owner-trainer program (Dogs2Vets) or were placed in the wait list control group. Intervention: Veterans were enrolled in the Dogs2Vets program, a 12-month structured dog owner-trainer program that engages veterans in the training and care of a dog that they ultimately adopt. The Dogs2Vets Program focuses on the healing aspects of the human-animal bond. Outcome measures: PTSD Checklist, Military Version (PCL-M), perceived stress scale, self-compassion scale (SCS) composite, and SCS subscales for isolation and self-judgment. Results: Veterans participating in the Dogs2Vets owner-trainer program experienced significant reductions in symptoms of post-traumatic stress, perceived stress, isolation, and self-judgment accompanied by significant increases in self-compassion. In contrast there were no significant improvements in these measures among veterans in the wait list control group. Qualitative data reinforced the statistical findings with themes of decreased isolation, unconditional acceptance and companionship, and a renewed sense of safety and purpose from their relationships with their dogs. Conclusion: Veterans benefit significantly from dog ownership in combination with a structured dog training program. Not only do they experience significant decreases in stress and post-traumatic stress symptoms but also they experience less isolation and self-judgment while also experiencing significant improvements in self-compassion.",
keywords = "animal assisted interventions, dog therapy, post-traumatic stress disorder, self-compassion, stress, veterans",
author = "Bergen-Cico, {Dessa K} and Smith, {Yvonne N} and Karen Wolford and Collin Gooley and Kathleen Hannon and Ryan Woodruff and Melissa Spicer and Gump, {Brooks B}",
year = "2018",
month = "12",
day = "1",
doi = "10.1089/acm.2018.0179",
language = "English (US)",
volume = "24",
pages = "1166--1175",
journal = "Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine",
issn = "1075-5535",
publisher = "Mary Ann Liebert Inc.",
number = "12",

}

TY - JOUR

T1 - Dog Ownership and Training Reduces Post-Traumatic Stress Symptoms and Increases Self-Compassion Among Veterans

T2 - Results of a Longitudinal Control Study

AU - Bergen-Cico, Dessa K

AU - Smith, Yvonne N

AU - Wolford, Karen

AU - Gooley, Collin

AU - Hannon, Kathleen

AU - Woodruff, Ryan

AU - Spicer, Melissa

AU - Gump, Brooks B

PY - 2018/12/1

Y1 - 2018/12/1

N2 - Objectives: The aims of this study were to measure the potential impact of a therapeutic dog ownership and training program for Veterans with symptoms of post-traumatic stress. Design: The study used a quasi-experimental design with two cohorts of Veterans - a dog owner-trainer intervention and a wait list control group. Participants completed baseline and 12-month follow-up assessments. Setting: Clear Path for Veterans, a nonclinical, open recreation facility whose mission is to support Veterans and their families in the reintegration process after military service. Subjects: Participants (n = 48) were either enrolled in the veterans therapeutic dog owner-trainer program (Dogs2Vets) or were placed in the wait list control group. Intervention: Veterans were enrolled in the Dogs2Vets program, a 12-month structured dog owner-trainer program that engages veterans in the training and care of a dog that they ultimately adopt. The Dogs2Vets Program focuses on the healing aspects of the human-animal bond. Outcome measures: PTSD Checklist, Military Version (PCL-M), perceived stress scale, self-compassion scale (SCS) composite, and SCS subscales for isolation and self-judgment. Results: Veterans participating in the Dogs2Vets owner-trainer program experienced significant reductions in symptoms of post-traumatic stress, perceived stress, isolation, and self-judgment accompanied by significant increases in self-compassion. In contrast there were no significant improvements in these measures among veterans in the wait list control group. Qualitative data reinforced the statistical findings with themes of decreased isolation, unconditional acceptance and companionship, and a renewed sense of safety and purpose from their relationships with their dogs. Conclusion: Veterans benefit significantly from dog ownership in combination with a structured dog training program. Not only do they experience significant decreases in stress and post-traumatic stress symptoms but also they experience less isolation and self-judgment while also experiencing significant improvements in self-compassion.

AB - Objectives: The aims of this study were to measure the potential impact of a therapeutic dog ownership and training program for Veterans with symptoms of post-traumatic stress. Design: The study used a quasi-experimental design with two cohorts of Veterans - a dog owner-trainer intervention and a wait list control group. Participants completed baseline and 12-month follow-up assessments. Setting: Clear Path for Veterans, a nonclinical, open recreation facility whose mission is to support Veterans and their families in the reintegration process after military service. Subjects: Participants (n = 48) were either enrolled in the veterans therapeutic dog owner-trainer program (Dogs2Vets) or were placed in the wait list control group. Intervention: Veterans were enrolled in the Dogs2Vets program, a 12-month structured dog owner-trainer program that engages veterans in the training and care of a dog that they ultimately adopt. The Dogs2Vets Program focuses on the healing aspects of the human-animal bond. Outcome measures: PTSD Checklist, Military Version (PCL-M), perceived stress scale, self-compassion scale (SCS) composite, and SCS subscales for isolation and self-judgment. Results: Veterans participating in the Dogs2Vets owner-trainer program experienced significant reductions in symptoms of post-traumatic stress, perceived stress, isolation, and self-judgment accompanied by significant increases in self-compassion. In contrast there were no significant improvements in these measures among veterans in the wait list control group. Qualitative data reinforced the statistical findings with themes of decreased isolation, unconditional acceptance and companionship, and a renewed sense of safety and purpose from their relationships with their dogs. Conclusion: Veterans benefit significantly from dog ownership in combination with a structured dog training program. Not only do they experience significant decreases in stress and post-traumatic stress symptoms but also they experience less isolation and self-judgment while also experiencing significant improvements in self-compassion.

KW - animal assisted interventions

KW - dog therapy

KW - post-traumatic stress disorder

KW - self-compassion

KW - stress

KW - veterans

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=85058843615&partnerID=8YFLogxK

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/citedby.url?scp=85058843615&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.1089/acm.2018.0179

DO - 10.1089/acm.2018.0179

M3 - Article

AN - SCOPUS:85058843615

VL - 24

SP - 1166

EP - 1175

JO - Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine

JF - Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine

SN - 1075-5535

IS - 12

ER -