The veteran team consists of a professionally trained service dog and a veteran recipient of a professionally trained service dog. The two are certified as a team after both the professionally trained service dog and the veteran have completed training requirements. These dogs are specially trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a chronic disability who cannot perform the work or task independently from him or herself. Professionally trained service dogs help a person to redirect their emotions and calm a person with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack.
The canine component of a service team is a dog raised from birth with the intention of entering a service role. The dogs are selected from birth and moved to designated guardian homes as puppies to be raised by families. These families volunteer their time to foster and raise these dogs destined to become Battle Buddies. Foster families receiving a battle pup are vetted and qualified prior to receiving and raising the dogs selected to be service dogs. Once the dogs are of age to begin receiving training, they are moved to a Northwest Battle Buddy (NWBB) professional trainer for no less than 360 hours of training.
In order to be certified as a team, the dogs and veterans spend at least +70 hours training with one another in the care of certified dog handling professionals from NWBB. This is team training in addition to the +360 hours of service training the dogs receive. During this time, the veterans have the opportunity to learn more about the dogs and the dogs get to know their new caretakers. The teams, dogs and veterans, are taken through a series of potentially high-stress scenarios to ensure they are comfortable with one another in unfamiliar surroundings.
The veteran, dog “teams” navigate potentially stressful situations such as grocery shopping, visiting crowded shopping malls, navigating Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and airports, as well as utilizing public transportation. Many veterans suffering from PTSD are isolated from society and unable to complete tasks such as shopping or navigating life outside of their homes. The dogs provide support and companionship enabling the teams to venture outside of their comfort zone. Before setting the dogs and veterans free with one another, certified dog handling professionals take the teams out into the public to explore these scenarios first.
The veteran team is the bonded, comfortable pairing of a professionally trained service dog with a veteran suffering from PTSD, preventing him or her from living a full life. Some other life situations service dogs assist with are: waking their veterans from nightmares, interrupting anxiety attacks, redirecting flashbacks, alerting on adrenaline, providing a social barrier in public, performing pressure therapy, and providing a constant feeling of safety. The teams have regular check-ins with NWBB training professionals but once certified to operate together, they are free to take on life’s challenges together!