Service dog Apollo performs "Deep Pressure Therapy" and "Self Harm Interruption" tasks to calm his handler during an anxiety attack.
Golden Opportunities For Independence In Walpole is a 501c3 nonprofit organization
"She gives me a purpose because she brings my focus from "me" to "the team" and as all good Marines know, you never want to let the team down. "
-Marine Veteran recipient of a PTSD Service Dog
Golden Opportunities for Independence is proud to serve our veterans and retired law enforcement. Look for us at upcoming events!
- Veterans' Service Officers Training October 24 - 27th, Leominster, MA
- Veterans Fair in Needham Town Hall, Oct 29th
- Hire a Vet & Friends Conference and Job Fair, Salem, MA November 2nd
- First Responders Interaction Day, Nov 4, Norwood, Ma
- Veterans Day Fair, Cambridge, Ma Nov 11
- Veterans resources For Working Dogs, Ipswich MA YMCA, Feb 16th, 2017
If you would like GOFI dogs to appear at an event for your school or organization, please contact us!
About PTSD, Depression and Anxiety Dogs
PTSD and Anxiety Management
Golden Opportunities for Independence works to help individuals with PTSD and anxiety, live more active, healthy lives. So how can a service dog help you?
PTSD and anxiety are managed by a service dog when they react to, predict, and prevent, oncoming episodes of dissociation, self-harm, anger, nightmares, and any behavior associated or caused by PTSD and anxiety. Service dogs react to these conditions with specific tasks trained for each individual. These can include:
Grounding with positive pressure/grounding through touch
Dogs are trained to lay across the handler's chest or legs to calm them. This works in the same way that swaddling a baby does. The handler is taught to stroke the dog in sets of 10, focusing on the feel of the dog's fur, listening to it breathe and feeling its body heat. The handler is taught to remember the dog was not there in times of active duty, that they did not feel the dog's fur there, they are not there, and that they are safe.
Waking from nightmares through gentle touch or barking
Dogs are trained to nudge their handler and lick the handler's face or hands to wake them from nightmares. If the veteran tends to become confused and may hurt the dog upon waking, the dog will be taught to get off the bed and bark to wake the handler from a safe distance. Once awake, the handler can cue the dog to start grounding.
Anger intervention through grounding and touch
If the veteran expresses nonviolent anger during anxiety, the dog can intervene with nudging, bringing the veteran something to hold, or distraction with licking. The cue for this is usually raised voice, pacing, sighing or fidgeting.
Body blocks/create space in a crowd
The dog is trained to stand behind their handler in line to create space. The dog can be taught to circle handler off leash in a crowd to create a safe bubble.
Knocking hands apart during self-harm
If the veteran has habits of self-harm during anxiety, the dog can be taught to target their hands and stop the habit. The dog can be taught to bark at the sight of firearms if the veteran has concerns of severe self-harm.
Alerting to approaching people “Watch my six”
The dog can nudge the handler if someone is approaching them from behind. This can be used at store counters, ATMs, parking lots, or anywhere the handler may be distracted from what’s behind them.
Stepping between approaching people
The dog can be taught to step between the handler and an approaching person to stop contact.
Backing people away
The dog will step backward toward the person to cause them to back up. If a dog walks forward towards someone they will most likely pet the dog, but people tend to move if the dog is going to back into them. This creates space for the handler without them having to tell someone to back away.
Creating diversion in triggering situation
A simple and discreet hand signal or noise will tell the dog to refuse to lay down/pace/scratch the floor and appear they need to go outside. This gives the handler a simple reason to excuse them from the triggering situation.
Finding exits or safe corner in dissociative episodes
If the veteran is experiencing dissociation in public spaces, the dog can be taught to find an exit or a corner away from windows where they can comfort the veteran.