Stress-defusing therapy dog assists in the fight against PTSD

therapy dog
Image credit: Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service

Something for the weekend: Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service has recruited a stress-defusing therapy dog.

The canine species’ reputation as man’s best friend has been further enhanced by the appointment of Digby, a four-month old Australian labradoodle, by Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service to assist in the fight against post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Digby will be available to the service for critical incident defusing alongside his handler, Matt Goodman, when he is assisting crew who have returned from a traumatic incident.

Digby is on trial with the service at present, and is the responsibility of Goodman, operational licence and training delivery manager, on a day-to-day basis.

The fire crew will have the option for Digby to attend the defusing sessions, which are designed to protect firefighters from harm and cut days lost to sickness by reducing the risk of PTSD.

“The use of therapy dogs has been scientifically proven to help people who have been exposed to traumatic situations or who are dealing with very challenging situations in their lives such as ill health or learning ability,” said Goodman.

Digby is currently busy completing his socialisation training. When he reaches eight months old and has been fully assessed by Pets as Therapy (PAT) he will become a Therapy K9.

As part of his training, Digby attended his first defusing session in July following a serious road traffic collision on the A35 near Honiton.

Goodman said: “The crews immediately responded to Digby when he arrived at the fire station, which provided a positive focus both before and during the defusing session. The value he added was tangible.”

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Unlike other members of the service, Digby doesn’t wear a uniform, but he’s well dressed for the job: Australian labradoodles are specifically bred for their hypoallergenic fleece, which is very soft and less likely to cause an allergic reaction.

Here at Employee Benefits, this story has given us paws for thought. In the battle against PTSD, we are certain that Digby can take the lead.