Dog training alleviates PTSD symptomatology by emotional and attentional regulation

Inon Maoz, Salman Zubedat, Talya Dolev, Shlomit Aga-Mizrachi, Boaz Bloch, Yuval Michaeli, Yuval Eshed, Dan Grinstein, Avi Avital

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms include re-experiencing, avoidance, hyperarousal, and cognitive deficits, reflecting both emotional and cognitive dysregulation. In recent years, non-pharmacological approaches and specifically animal-assisted therapy have been shown to be beneficial for a variety of disorders such as Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, Autism Spectrum Disorder, and PTSD. However, little is mentioned in the literature about the reciprocal effects of the animal–human interaction. Objective: To evaluate the effects of a one-year dog training programme on PTSD symptomatology in youngsters with PTSD and on dogs’ behaviour. Methods: Fifty-three adolescents, previously exposed to interpersonal trauma, were clinically diagnosed with PTSD and assigned to a dog-training programme group (n = 30) and a control group (n = 23) that engaged in other training programmes (e.g. cooking, hairstyling, etc.). Both groups were evaluated at baseline and following 12-months by The Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale for DSM-5 in Children and Adolescents (CAPS-CA-5) and Beck-Depression Inventory (BDI). Additionally, we physiologically measured both emotional and attention dysregulation. Results: Post-12-months training, a significant alleviation of PTSD symptomatology accompanied by lower depression severity was observed in the dog-training group, compared with a insignificant recovery in the control group. Furthermore, improved emotional and attentional regulation was observed in the dog-training group. Measuring the dogs’ behaviour revealed increased anxiety and decreased selective attention performance, which was inversely correlated with the beneficial effects observed in the dog-training programme group. Conclusions: Our findings emphasize the role of emotional and attentional regulations on the dog–handler interface, as evidence-based support for the beneficial effects of the dog-training programme, as either a non-pharmacological intervention or as complementary to anti-depressants treatment of PTSD. Though pharmacological treatments increase the patients’ well-being by treating certain PTSD symptoms, our suggested dog-training programme seems to influence the PTSD diagnostic status, thus may be implemented in civilians and veterans with PTSD.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1995264
JournalEuropean Journal of Psychotraumatology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • PTSD
  • animal-assisted therapy
  • attentional dysregulation
  • dog therapy
  • emotional dysregulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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