1. This randomized controlled trial demonstrated that a dog training program significantly improved symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) compared to controls.
2. Emotional and attentional regulation was also improved in the intervention group.
Level of evidence assessment: 2 (good)
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can have a profound impact on the quality of life of those affected. Treatment often involves a combination of medication and psychotherapy. Complementary treatments, such as exercise interventions, have been shown to improve recovery from PTSD. Animal-assisted therapies have shown efficacy in other psychiatric disorders and may represent another complementary therapy to improve PTSD symptoms.
The aim of this randomized controlled trial was to assess the impact of a year-long dog training program on PTSD symptoms. The primary outcome of the trial was the clinician-administered PTSD scale DSM V review score (CAPS-CA-5). In addition, Beck Depression Inventory (BDI-II) and Auditory Sustained Attention Test (ASAT) scores were measured. Adolescents were included who had previously been exposed to trauma. The main exclusion criterion was the inability to access mental health professionals.
A total of 54 participants enrolled in the trial and were randomized to either a dog training program (n=30) or treatment as usual (n=23). After completing the dog training program, those in the treatment group showed significantly greater improvements in their PTSD symptoms and ASAT scores compared to controls. Conversely, both groups demonstrated similar improvements in BDI-II scores. However, the main limitation of the study was that no follow-up was done after the program ended. Thus, the long-term impact of dog training therapy for PTSD could not be elucidated. Nevertheless, this study was significant in suggesting that participation in dog training programs may improve PTSD symptoms in conjunction with usual care.
Click to read the study in European Journal of Psychotraumatology
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