First psychiatric assistance dogs meet their new owners

The program is available to eligible veterans as an adjunct to the treatment and management of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and an important step in helping veterans better manage their mental health and wellbeing.

The program has received more than 140 requests from veterans interested in adding an assistance dog to their mental health treatment plan for PTSD since its announcement in September 2019.

Psychiatric assistance dogs are specially trained to perform tasks that contribute to the clinical recovery goals of their handler (veteran), including detecting signs of distress and performing specific tasks to help alleviate those symptoms.”

The first two dogs handed over begin their next phase of training as part of the veteran’s PTSD management plan with training of the dog and veteran in their own environment.

Participating veterans are encouraged to be involved in an evaluation process designed to understand the individual benefits experienced by veterans living with complex mental health conditions allowing the program to evolve to meet the changing needs of the veteran community.

Andrew, who received Leon, said the DVA and SmartPups process had been ‘really easy to understand, straight forward, and with a person such as myself suffering from PTSD I’ve had no problems at all, it’s been great.

‘So from this point, having Leon as a part of my life is going to give me first and foremost companionship. It’s going to ease my anxiety and my depression a lot having him around. And it already has!’

For information about DVA's psychiatric assistance dogs program visit the DVA website.

If you are struggling during this time or need someone to talk to, contact our 24/7 Open Arms – Veterans & Families Counselling service on 1800 011 046.