Veterans with PTSD finding hope in training their own service dogs

Posted at 6:30 PM, May 31, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-31 18:30:24-04

On Wednesday, the country's Secretary of Veterans Affairs delivered his first "State of the VA" where he addressed veteran suicides and the need for help. 

Dr. David Shulkin, appointed to his role in February announced he will launch a new initiative this summer 'Getting to Zero' to help end Veteran suicides as his top clinical priority. 

Here in the Bay area, one local non-profit is trying to bring hope to veterans by ending the war on suicides and fighting PTSD by teaching veterans how to train their own service dogs. 

Founder of K9 Partners for Patriots found a unique way to help veterans control their road to recovery by teaching them how to train a canine through commands and how to deal with interactions in public. 

Since the program started, nearly 300 veterans have come for help, most by referral through those who went through the training. However right now there are more veterans seeking help than their are dogs. 

Founder, Mary Peter, said it takes time to pair a dog with a veteran -- and most times the animals are rescue dogs. 

Along with helping the veterans learn to help, Peter teaches those dealing with anxiety how to interact with the public --- most times people wanting to touch a working service dog.

You will see that dogs that have underwent proper training will have some sort of marking that will say 'service dog working.' 

"What we tell the veterans is to assume the general public knows nothing," said Peter, "assume when they go to pet your dog, they aren't trying to be antagonistic, they just don't understand."

Peter teaches the veterans how to explain to strangers that you can't pet a working service dog or try to give them treats because it takes the focus of their handler, most times struggling with anxiety. 

This program based in Brooksville is free, but veterans must qualify.

To see if you qualify for the K9 Partners for Patriots program, click here