Support dogs trained to recognize PTSD symptoms

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

EDWARDSVILLE, IL (KPLR) – They’re trained to recognize the warning signs of stress and anxiety and lend a helping paw.

“Which means when the veterans start to get anxious, we’ve trained each dog to pick up their own telling signal to anxiety,” says Nicole Lanahan, founder of Got Your Six Support Dogs. “Some people chew on their nails, some people scratch, and some people tap their foot. And each dog, according to their application, has been trained to that marker.”

On Friday afternoon, six veterans and first responders and their new PTSD support dogs participated in a week-long boot camp with their barkers.

“As an adult, it would be a security blank or at least for me. She’ll let me know when I’m having an issue and that’s something I can work on right then instead of dealing with it on my own,” says U.S. Army veteran Kevin Johnson.

The local non-profit Got Your Six Support Dogs pays between $15,000 and $20,000 to train each dog for a year before a pup is paired with its new partner.

For many veterans returning to civilian life, this might just be what the doctor ordered.

“I’ve lost my ability to empathize with humans and stuff over the years and this dog is a super-cuddler,' says U.S. Army veteran Tracy Varwig. “I’m hoping this dog can help me get those feelings back again you know.”

“PTSD is something I never originally thought would impact me, but it wasn’t until 10 years after I came home that it started,” says firefighter Naithan McKinney. “We’re getting the training we need to work with our new partners and they’re going to help us get through whatever problem each person specifically has.”