PTSD Program

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental disorder that can develop after exposure to a traumatic event, it is disproportionally prevalent in Australian first-responders such as firefighters, police officers and the military personnel. PTSD is characterised by severe anxiety, leading to isolation, inability to work and interact with others and the community at large.

The social benefits of providing a path back into society for these incredible people are enormous — families are able to function again, individuals are able to work or stimulate the economy through economic and social interaction and, through the power of education and storytelling, they are helping inform the community at large of this very serious condition.

PTSD Service Dog

We only place PTSD Service Dogs with police and defence force personnel living with post-traumatic stress disorder. These dogs can be trained to provide a combination of physical task-oriented and emotional support to assist their owner and help them to overcome fears.

PTSD Service Dogs undergo a unique training placement, where they are trained to work with the very individual and specific needs of their owner, in particular detecting signals of anxiety, or their owner’s ‘trigger”. Upon sensing their owner’s trigger, the dog is trained to perform a specific cue to help alleviate the symptoms of this trigger, for example, engaging in eye contact and body contact to comfort their owner and divert their attention.

A PTSD Service Dog has full public access rights

The dogs can master cues to help their owner overcome psychological trauma linked to specific situations, including but not limited to:

  • Standing in front of their owner offering a barrier and space.
  • Positioning itself behind their owner, a technique known as “posting” which helps to ease hyperawareness, the feeling of being constantly on edge
  • Entering a room before the owner and turning on the lights so they don’t have to enter a dark space.
  • Entering a room or house and sweeping it for people or intruders, alerting its owner by barking.
  • Providing physical contact if their owner suffers a nightmare.
  • Diverting their owner’s attention to the dog, a technique known as ”anchoring”, helping to bring their owner back to the present moment.
  • Providing continuous companionship and a sense of routine.

Critiera for Appling for a PTSD Service Dog

Thank you for your interest in applying for a Smart Pups Assistance Dog to help you. The process can be an emotional undertaking and can also be a little unnerving, as you will need to provide personal and sensitive details about the unique circumstances of you and your family. Please be assured we only ask for information we need to properly assess your eligibility for a Smart Pup Assistance Dog and objectively determine how, and if, a Smart Pup could help.

Smart Pups requires written confirmation from your doctor detailing your diagnosis. We also ask for a professional opinion as to how an assistance dog would assist you on a daily basis and the likely immediate and long-term benefits for you and the family as a whole. Your Smart Pup will be individually trained to master skills to help enhance quality of life and improve the level of independence for you. Your Smart Pup will also be certified for Full Public Access with your agreement to be the ‘Handler’.

As the Handler, you must be prepared to dedicate time each day to work with the dog to maintain its health and wellbeing. All dogs must be walked and exercised daily for at least 30 to 40 minutes; your Smart Pup will require the same commitment. One of our trainers will show you what to do and how to work with your Smart Pup when the dog is ready to be placed with your family.

If your application is successful, your application has demonstrated to the Smart Pups Selection Committee that you:

are able to provide your Smart Pup with a safe, secure and loving home with a healthy balance of work and play time.
are committed to reliably maintaining the quality of training throughout your Smart Pup’s working life.
agree to look after the long-term health and wellbeing of your Smart Pup.
are physically and financially able to provide your Smart Pup with regular exercise and healthy food and attend to veterinarian needs in a timely manner.


Before applying for a Smart Pup Assistance Dog, please be aware that we do not charge for our dogs but we do ask you to either donate or fundraise to help with the costs of training your assistance dog.

We ask for a minimum gift donation of $20,000. Each certified Smart Pup Assistance Dog costs around $30,000 to raise and train. Smart Pups will work to fundraise $10,000 for you.

We have a number of reasons for this:

To allow us to train and place more Assistance Dogs than any other organisation, we need help with fundraising.

We find that there are numerous opportunities for you to fundraise in your local area, compared with us saturating our local community. Local fundraising will also help your local community to understand and be aware of your Smart Pup when he/she arrives.

There are a number of organisations that will help individuals but not us as an organisation.

Reduce waiting time.

Your family will have to make some changes to accommodate your new Smart Pup. Living with a Smart Pup can be a life changing experience with many advantages, however, as with any partnership it doesn’t happen overnight. To reap the rewards there will be challenges and obstacles to overcome. An Assistance Dog is not the answer for everyone or everything, so it’s important to be realistic. As you consider the amazing advantages of having a Smart Pup to assist your child, you must also consider all aspects of owing and caring for a working Assistance Dog.

The team at Smart Pups suggests you ask yourself, and all other responsible adults in your family, the following questions before you complete the application form:

Do we appreciate that a Smart Pup is a working service dog and not a pet?

Are we ready to incorporate an Assistance Dog into our family life?

Do we have the time and energy to work with a Smart Pup?

Are we willing to exercise and care for a Smart Pup?

Are our expectations of what a Smart Pup can and can’t do realistic?

Can we plan and think ahead in order to avoid problems?

Are we prepared to take on the role of ‘leader’ with all the responsibilities that this entails?

How will having a Smart Pup affect our family and friends?

How will the other people in our lives feel about having a dog around constantly?

Do we understand that a Smart Pup can’t be left outside for long periods as it is trained and requires companionship?

Is our current home suitable and safe for a Smart Pup?

Will a Smart Pup have enough room to exercise and toilet safely?

Are we prepared to exercise a Smart Pup in wet weather?

Who is going to pick up after a Smart Pup, both at home and out on walks?

How will we deal with wounds and accidents?

Who will be responsible for bathing and grooming a Smart Pup?

Are there others who can be relied upon to help with a Smart Pup if needed?

It’s vital that the whole family is in agreement and is fully aware of the responsibilities of owning a Smart Pup. If you have any questions, please email us at here.


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