Service dogs and their veterans | Photo credits: K9 Warriors and Warrior Canine Connections

Service Dogs for Veterans


WellBeing International continues to explore the potential health benefits of the human-animal bond and return to the benefits of service dogs for veterans in this newsletter. There are now many organizations promoting and providing service dogs for veterans. WBI focuses on two organizations that provide service dogs for veterans and support research on how dogs benefit veterans.

Warrior Canine Connection

Trent & Ready | Photo credit: Warrior Canine Connection

Trent & Ready

Warrior Canine Connection, founded in 2011 and located in Boyds, Maryland, utilizes a Mission Based Trauma Recovery (MBTR) model to help recovering Warriors reconnect with life, their families, their communities, and each other.” MBTR engages service members and veterans in the therapeutic mission of training future service dogs. The organization raises and trains purpose-bred retriever puppies. In 2012, following the example of the National Zoo’s panda cam and the internet-linked cameras monitoring nesting eagles, they established a puppy cam on

Warrior Canine Connection partnered with a research group interested in approaches that might improve the mood of nurses in high-stress situations and agreed to participate in a study where exposure to the puppy cam served as the experimental intervention. Puppies are adorable and are guaranteed to elicit an “Aw” response from most people. The study measured anxiety among nurses in a 735-bed acute care teaching hospital. Viewing the puppy cam produced a statistically significant anxiety reduction compared to the no-intervention situation. While most human-animal interaction projects involve a physical interaction between humans and animals, this study indicates that even exposure to a screen view of animals (admittedly adorable retriever puppies) benefits human mood.

K9s For Warriors

Ryan & Frankie, Photo credit: K9 for Warriors

Ryan & Frankie

K9s For Warriors was founded in 2011 by an extraordinary woman, Shari Duval, who passed away on February 4, 2021. Since her passing, the organization has remained committed to its mission: ending veteran suicide by restoring and supporting veterans “to live the life they deserve.” The mission includes rescuing and training shelter dogs to become service dogs for veterans with post-traumatic disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), or military sexual trauma (MST).

On March 21, 2024, Retired Army Staff Sergeant Ryan and his service dog Frankie became the 1,000th Warrior/K9 team graduating from K9s For Warriors at the Shari Duval National Headquarters in Ponte Vedra, Florida.

“Frankie will help provide me the support I need when in high anxiety situations, to be more emotionally and mentally available for my family,” said Ryan. “He has already significantly reduced my anxiety and provides me comfort and support in what used to be high anxiety situations.”

For a second opinion, 28-year Navy Veteran Charlie was paired with service dog Slider in 2011, when K9s For Warriors first began. He talked about his experience losing his first service dog and being paired with his second service dog, Lady Cameo, in the March 2024 Class.

“If it wasn’t for Slider, I wouldn’t be here today. He not only helped me, but he helped my family; he helped me get my life back,” said Charlie. “I was paired with Lady Cameo [in March], and we immediately hit it off – she loves to give licks and kisses, but she also seems to know when I’m starting to have a trigger. I’m excited to go home and make my relationships with family better.”

K9s For Warriors supports research and advocacy to improve the lives of veterans. In 2015, the organization partnered with Purdue University to evaluate the effectiveness of service dogs as a treatment for veterans who have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). That early project conducted by Marguerite O’Haire and her team involved 141 veterans, 75 of whom were paired with trained service dogs, while 66 were waitlisted to receive a dog. The service dogs were trained to perform specific tasks, including helping avert a veteran’s panic attack, waking a veteran from a nightmare, creating comfort zones in public situations by standing in front of the veteran, and reminding veterans to take their medications. The results were very encouraging.


The positive impact of the human-animal bond is widely accepted and promoted, although not everyone accepts that the benefits of the human-animal bond have been adequately documented. Dr. Harold Herzog, author of a book examining human-animal interactions, Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat: Why It’s So Hard to Think Straight About Animals, has been critical of much of the published research on the benefits of the human-animal bond. However, he was positive regarding the Purdue study and its findings.

A recent publication by the O’Haire research group investigated the Cortisol Awakening Response (CAR) in a sample of veterans and their civilian partners. The CAR refers to the standard increase in cortisol production when an individual wakes up after a night’s sleep. Cortisol is an important hormone in the stress physiology response, and a blunted CAR indicates that an individual is suffering from stress. Veterans who have PTSD typically have a blunted (i.e., reduced) CAR. The presence of a service dog restores the CAR to close to normal in people living with PTSD but has little impact on the standard CAR of their partners.

The Veterans Administration (VA) study of the impact of service dogs on veterans who have PTSD concluded that both service dogs (dogs trained to perform specific tasks) and emotional support dogs had similar beneficial effects on the PTSD symptoms of veterans. While both groups experienced some benefits of being paired with a dog, those who received a service dog experienced a reduction in the severity of their systems (including fewer suicidal behaviors and ideations) compared to those paired with an emotional support dog.

Critically, the VA study did not include a non-dog group because, according to the report (page 44), the Executive Committee determined that having a third non-dog comparison group would be “untenable.”


K9s For Warriors and Warrior Canine Connection (along with other worthy organizations) provide service dogs for veterans and essential support services that enhance veterans’ lives. Furthermore, the commitment to research by K9s For Warriors and Warrior Canine Connection documenting the positive impact of animal-assisted therapy will likely be an important contribution to US veterans’ health and well-being.

Warrior Canine Connection (WCC) uses a Mission Based Trauma Recovery (MBTR) training model to provide service dogs to veterans. WCC is an accredited member of Assistance Dogs International. WCC is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization – EIN# 45-2981579. Home – Warrior Canine Connection

K9s For Warriors (K9FW) is committed to serving our Veterans as honorably as they served their country. Their lifelong program is provided to warriors at no cost and is designed to deliver maximum benefit with minimum administrative costs. K9FW is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization – EIN# 27-5219467. K9s For Warriors – Service Dogs for Veterans with PTSD.

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