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The Science Behind Dogs & PTSD Symptom Relief

A young veteran kneels down to yellow lab as the dog gives "paw".
Veteran kneels down to yellow lab as the dog gives "paw".

The bond between humans and dogs is a profound one, often bringing immense joy and comfort to people's lives. But beyond the emotional connection, there's a growing body of scientific evidence that highlights the significant mental health benefits of having a dog. Let's explore the science behind why dogs are often referred to as man's best friend.

Stress Reduction and Lowered Anxiety

Interacting with dogs can lead to a reduction in stress and anxiety levels. Studies have shown that petting a dog can increase the production of oxytocin, a hormone associated with bonding and affection, while simultaneously lowering cortisol, the body's primary stress hormone. This hormonal shift can create a calming effect, helping individuals feel more relaxed and at ease.

Enhanced Social Connections

Dogs can also act as social catalysts. Walking a dog often leads to increased social interactions with other dog owners and strangers alike. This can be particularly beneficial for individuals who suffer from social anxiety or depression, as these interactions can foster a sense of community and belonging. Moreover, the unconditional love and companionship offered by dogs can help combat feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Improved Physical Health and Mental Well-being

Regular physical activity is crucial for maintaining mental health, and dog owners often get more exercise than non-dog owners. Daily walks and playtime with a dog encourage physical activity, which in turn releases endorphins, the body's natural mood lifters. This regular exercise can help alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety, contributing to overall well-being.

Support for Mental Health Conditions

Service dogs are specially trained to assist individuals with mental health conditions such as PTSD, anxiety disorders, and depression. These dogs can perform tasks like waking someone from a nightmare, providing deep pressure therapy during anxiety attacks, and creating a buffer in crowded spaces. The consistent support and presence of a service dog can significantly improve the quality of life for those with mental health challenges. Don't own a dog, but want to reap the benefits? If you are a veteran, first responder or youth who have experienced trauma, Circle of Change might be a good option. The organization provides dog training and handling classes specifically to address the symptoms of PTSD.

The science behind dogs and mental health is clear: the presence of a dog can reduce stress, enhance social interactions, promote physical activity, and provide invaluable support for mental health conditions. Whether through a wagging tail or a comforting nuzzle, dogs truly have a remarkable ability to improve our mental well-being.


At Circle of Change, under the supervision of professional dog trainers, veterans from all wars suffering the effects of PTSD & traumatic brain injuries learn dog handling skills.  Many of the participating dogs exhibit some of the same symptoms as veterans with anxiety issues, traumatic brain injury and/or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Over time, participants see a pathway to their own recovery by helping dogs overcome behavioral challenges. Circle of Change Dog Programs is a 501(c)3 and has been in operation since 2005.

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