For the last eight years, Paws Assisting Veterans has been training service dogs for veterans.
On Monday and Tuesday, the organization hosted an intensive workshop for its handlers and their dogs, teaching them a new skill that could help those battling PTSD.
“Dogs are very empathetic. Veterans can sometimes share with the dog what they can't share with people,” Michelle Nelson, director and founder of PAVE said.
The nonprofit is now bringing in new research into its training, to equip its dogs with “scent detection tools." If successful, it could help veterans cope with PTSD.
“The human body gives off a particular scent while it's having a nightmare. The dog smells it, the dog reacts to that scent,” Dr. Robert Hewings, scent detection specialist said.
The dogs are trained to perform a certain behavior when they smell their handler is in trouble.
“We've had veterans that had to leave their families because their behavior wasn't controlled. They were having violent nightmares,” Hewings adds.
This method of treatment has never been used, according to Hewings, but it takes at least two to three months for the service dogs to learn the new skill.
Due to the resources and time, it takes to train each service dog, PAVE is only able to place five to seven dogs with veterans each year.
They also rely on community support and help from veterans who’ve graduated from their program and return to volunteer.
“If they graduate, our vets, if they graduate they are welcome to come back and help other vets. They’re vets that's what they do," said Hewings.
For more information on Paws Assisting Veterans, visit www.paveusa.org
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