There are over 80 million pet dogs in America. Unfortunately, there's no database on how many of them have symptoms of post-traumatic stress. There is, however, a database on how many military dogs do. In fact, The New York Times reports that “more than 5 percent of the approximately 650 military dogs in combat zones have developed some form of canine PTSD.” Granted, in military dogs, the symptoms are usually much more severe than what see in pet dogs. But the problem still exists in pet dogs, and in much larger numbers. After all, military dogs are selected and trained for their ability to meet and overcome all sorts of obstacles and traumatic events.
Meanwhile, the percentage of people in America who've experienced a traumatic event is roughly 70%, yet only 8% of them go on to develop symptoms of PTSD.
Could we apply the same percentages to our pet dogs?
I think that given the number of pet dogs abandoned or placed in shelters, injured in fights with other dogs, and the number who’ve been mistreated by their owners, or mishandled by their trainers, groomers or vet techs, not to mention those who’ve been hit by a car, gotten lost, were fought over during a divorce, etc., I'd be very surprised if the number of dogs who’ve experienced some type of trauma wasn’t at least 70%. And I’d also be surprised if the number of dogs who’ve developed PTSD, as a result, wasn’t very close to the figure of 8% found in human beings. In fact, I think you could easily double or even triple that!
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There are 4 levels of emotional trauma in dogs which I would liken to bruises, wounds, injuries, and damage.
Bruises usually heal on their own, wounds sometimes heal on their own but usually need some form of treatment, injuries require more time and treatment, while damage to the psyche is very difficult if not impossible to undo.
Yet despite what most experts believe, many cases of PTSD can not only be treated but, given time and proper treatment, they can be totally cured.
It's not easy, and it can take a long time. But it can be done, and it can be done without the use of Prozac or other drugs. All that's needed is an understanding of how stress affects a dog's behavior and how play is the most successful means of managing and eliminating stress.
For more, visit my Canine PTSD blog or contact me.
According to science, there are only three successful options for treating PTSD in humans: Prozac, EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing), and video games. Since dogs aren't capable of practicing EMDR or playing video games, the only option seems to be Prozac. But is that true?
Not exactly. While dogs with PTSD aren't able to use the control console of a video game or understand the action on the screen, they can play fetch and tug, both of which can have a lasting restorative effect on their emotions. The trouble is, most dogs with PTSD don't like to play tug and fetch.
Fortunately, there's help in the form of The 5 Core Exercises of Natural Dog Training, created by Kevin Behan.
Pushing for Food
Collecting the Dog's Energy Onto His Haunches
Speaking on Command
Deep Tissue Massage of the Shoulders and Haunches
Playing Tug and Fetch