Assistance dogs

Last updated: 
15 January 2020

There is clear evidence for the effectiveness of assistance dogs for people with sensory impairments such as hearing loss, loss of sight or mobility impairments. DVA provides mobility and hearing dogs to veterans with a medically assessed need for the dog due to their war-caused injury/accepted condition.

The Department also provides psychiatric assistance dogs to eligible veterans as an adjunct to the treatment and management of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Psychiatric assistance dogs are specially trained to perform tasks that contribute to the clinical recovery goals of their handler. This could include detecting signs of distress in their handler and performing specific tasks to help alleviate those symptoms. For example, waking a veteran experiencing a night terror, or nuzzling their handler to distract them from emotionally disabling symptoms.

DVA does not provide companion or emotional support dogs. A psychiatric assistance dog must be individually trained to perform work or tasks directly related to the veteran’s disability, while a companion or emotional support dog simply provides comfort and coping assistance to an individual.

Training programs for a psychiatric assistance dog can take time (sometimes up to 12-18 months) due to the time required to breed and train the dog.

There is a waiting list. Veterans, if suitable, will be placed on a waiting list while they are matched to a dog.

For information on eligibility and how to apply see Psychiatric Assistance Dogs.