Hi, this is Shane, Mike and Tom with Warrior Service Dogs

Warrior Service Dogs is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization started by three OEF/OIF combat veterans based in Western North Carolina. Our training is led by certified dog trainer and behavior modification specialist Shane Cox as well as certified dog trainer Chris Stewart.

We recently did a news segment talking about what we do and our goals.

Here is a commercial we did last year

Shane: President/Co-Founder

Shane served in the United States Marine Corps as an infantryman with 3rd Battalion 8th Marines Kilo Company and 8th Marine Regiment between July 2001 and July 2005. During that time, Shane was deployed four times: twice to Iraq and one tour in each Afghanistan and Haiti. Now Shane wants to provide veterans with the same assistance and support he receives from his service dog, Draven, his dog of 9 years. Shane went back to school and received full certification in Dog Training and Behavior Modification. He has trained service dogs, therapy dogs, search and rescue working dogs, and many others. Shane lives in Asheville with his fiancée, Lauren.

Mike:Co-founder and Fundraising Event Director

Mike served in the United States Marine Corps as an infantryman from September 2000 to September 2004. He was selected to be part of the 1st Fleet Anti-terrorism Security Team (FAST) for his first deployment to Iraq. Mike then returned to Iraq a second time with 1st Battalion 5th Marine Regiment Bravo Company Weapons Platoon. As co-founder of Warrior Service Dogs, Mike has seen firsthand the healing affects a service dog can have on a veteran.


Tom was a medic with the US Army’s 1/505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division. He did two tours, one in Iraq and the other in Afghanistan. Tom retired from the Army in August of 2010 and met the other members of Warrior Service Dogs.

We were asked to do this AMA because of this video which was posted recently.

So, ask us anything about what we do, our goals, and especially our dogs!

Our facebook page

Edit to add: Still taking questions, ask away! There is a lot of them, but we will try to answer every question we get.

Back from dinner and ready to answer questions as they come. I will check back on this frequently, so feel free to ask any time!

Wow, thank you so much for the donations, that is so awesome and will help out tremendously. Shane made his own account as Warriorservicedogs (first time on reddit!) so he can reply to questions easier

A redditor named Rachael "is a clinical psychology doctoral student doing research on OIF/OEF veterans and PTSD, traumatic brain injury, and lifelong trauma. I'm hoping that this research will help us learn some important information so that we can hopefully provide better care to veterans." Her survey is 20 minutes long and she asks that you take part even if you do not have any symptoms Here is the link

Comments: 871 • Responses: 89  • Date: 

starpot244 karma


Wncsnake324 karma

Thanks for the question, as it is one I love to answer. The interesting thing about PTSD is it presents differently with every veteran, and to varying degrees. For me, it is being anxious in social situations, avoidance, hypervigiliance, depression and nightmares. My dog knows intuitively when something is up, and sometimes I will space out and she brings me back by licking my hands. When I am really stressed or having a panic attack I can sit down, make a few kissing noises, and my dog knows that means I need her help. She puts her paws on my shoulders, and licks my face. I can also just have her sit between my legs and I can hug her/kiss on her, and her smell and texture help me block everything else out.
Shane has also noticed that having a larger dog helps with PTSD, as people notice and will tend to keep a wider berth, so you are in your own little bubble.
And, as a side effect, Kiowa helps me with my social anxiety since we have been doing this, as I am in groups and talk to people, with them crowding around me and asking questions. I can now do this for a relatively long time, so she has helped increase me comfort zone and made my fight or flight response lessened in that circumstance.

jtc66140 karma

I was imagining all this adorable shit in my head and it makes me want to go teach my lazyass dog to do this.

Wncsnake143 karma

You can! Dogs are only lazy because you haven't found what really motivates them. My dog did well enough with treats in training, but then I started to use a tennis ball, and it is amazing how fast she progressed. That little fuzzy ball is the best treat she can ever get. If you want any training advice there is a lot of resources online, you can usually get a dog to sit, lay down, and wave/shake in an afternoon.

jtc6626 karma

She can sit, lay, shake, but she's even stubborn about coming when she's told and just sits there and looks at you. That is primary concern because yesterday I thought I finally properally got her trained to be off the leash, she heard a popping sound, kind of like a quiet gunshot, and ran until she found another dog and stopped to say hi. Do you have any tips or webpages I can go to for that?

Also, she won't look me in the eye up close, what's up with that?

Wncsnake11 karma

I would play the name game. Have a helper with you, and start in the house. Find the favortie reward for the dag, and call her name until she comes over, and give the treat. As soon as she is done, helper call the dog, and shows the treat. Get her running back and forth and make it super positive and fun with lots of pats. Then start increasing the distance, and eventually go outside, and just keep it up until she hears her name and comes running. To you.

kvastion5 karma

This sounds weird, but try moving sideways. I've got sighthounds, and they react much more to sideways motion than towards/away motion when it comes to playful behaviour. I used their playfulness to get them to come back to me, since it removes any percieved negative things from the dogs brains :)

Wncsnake15 karma

exactly this. If you punish the dog for coming back to you because they ran off, then you just trained your dog that when they come back they are in trouble. No matter how frustrated and sweaty you are, make a huge deal of it and lots of 'good dog!' rewards help reinforce positive behavior.

halfascientist57 karma

Don't want to hijack, but just to provide an alternate perspective, according to the best research and understanding we have of PTSD, this sort of thing:

When I am really stressed or having a panic attack I can sit down, make a few kissing noises, and my dog knows that means I need her help. She puts her paws on my shoulders, and licks my face. I can also just have her sit between my legs and I can hug her/kiss on her, and her smell and texture help me block everything else out.

Is likely to provide a temporary benefit, but not help or even worsen the problem in the long-term. Anxiety is maintained by a process called "avoidance," which is what it sounds like--a person avoiding the anxious thoughts, sensations, or situations. Most people end up habituating to avoidance (just like we habituate to alcohol and need more of it to get drunk) and go on to need more avoidance. Thus, they end up "painting themselves into a corner" and are able to live much less of a life. When a person is having an acute episode of anxiety, and they do anything to make themselves feel better, they're avoiding. Sometimes there are moments when we all have to do that, but for individuals with serious anxiety problems (like PTSD), we have to get them to stop. A large part of our most effective therapies involves getting them to cease avoidance behavior, and not do anything to calm themselves down or make themselves feel safe when anxious.

To a large extent, when people with nearly any disorder begin to recognize the things they're doing to make themselves feel safe or better when anxious, and begin to stop doing those things, then they begin to get better. Nearly a century of converging animal modeling, experimental, treatment component, and treatment outcome research allows us to state that with a very substantial degree of certainty.

All kinds of preemptive safety behavior also need to be drawn down. Anecdotally, we see therapy dogs actually doing things to reinforce and maintain that safety behavior and hypervigilance, such as the OP says here:

Shane has also noticed that having a larger dog helps with PTSD, as people notice and will tend to keep a wider berth, so you are in your own little bubble.

For the anxiety to go away in the long-term, unfortunately, that's the exact opposite kind of thing we'd want to be doing. I need people go begin to get out of the bubble--to pop the damn bubble. That's what we can do in a few weeks to months of fairly tough but doable therapy. I know that people really do like the idea of therapy dogs, especially for PTSD, and I frequently get shouted down by people who don't like this perspective. However, I've got to say: much of what we see therapy dogs doing is very much the opposite of our best scientific, evidence-based practices for the psychological treatment of anxiety disorders (practices, by the way, which are generally 1. either as effective or more effective than meds in the short-term, 2. more effective than meds in the long-term).

To throw therapy dogs a bone (puns, really?) I do think that there might be some use for individuals for whom co-occurring depressive symptoms are prominent. Our best treatments for depression involve increasing activity level, to put it shortly. A dog can often provide a strong incentive to get out of the house in an at least minimal way. In an idea situation, for a person with a moderate level of symptoms, a dog's whine to go walk or play pressures a person to behave in some other way than sitting in the house, helping establish some behavioral momentum and encouraging more activity. Unfortunately, we don't usually hear of it happening that way with therapy dogs for PTSD, which seem to be frequently utilized as an avoidance tool, which feels great immediately, but is greatly counterproductive in the long-term.

Sometimes, the dose of safety provided by the dog can also be what is needed to help people approach situations they would not have ordinarily approached, just like, for instance, a Xanax might help a person get on a plane they otherwise wouldn't have. And in a sense, that's good--as a clinician, I want people to get in those situations; I want them to get on that plane. As the OP said:

Kiowa helps me with my social anxiety since we have been doing this, as I am in groups and talk to people, with them crowding around me and asking questions. I can now do this for a relatively long time, so she has helped increase me comfort zone

Again, unfortunately, what we usually see is that the effect plateaus. Nearly all forms of avoidance eventually succumb to habituation, and the chosen mechanism can no longer provide a high enough dose of it to maintain the same behavior. Safety devices of any kind (they can be anything--people, dogs; sometimes we see people using what we call "talismans," like empty bottles of pills!) reinforce the anxiety beliefs even as they provide temporary assistance, and end up maintaining the larger patterns of the disorder.

Source: clinical psych PhD student with some specialty in anxiety disorders and PTSD; work with veterans in a VA setting; work on a national DoD-funded PTSD treatment outcome study

EDIT: If for some reason you want more information about what I'm saying, or another set of links, I explained basically the same concept and answered a few questions about it on this thread in the /r/Anxiety subreddit, in response to a guy who developed an Android game to distract people during panic attacks

Wncsnake64 karma

Thank you for your perspective, and I hope you really put your heart into your work at the VA, as we DESPERATELY need good people to work on our mental health issues. I will admit that I am rushing a bit to answer all the questions, but I would love the opportunity to learn more when it calms down a bit.

halfascientist42 karma

Certainly--thanks so much for your open-minded perspective towards what would seem to be a sharp disagreement with what you're doing; that's a great credit to you, not to mention notably unusual on reddit!

Wncsnake73 karma

I have a STEM background, and I love true debate. I am always ready to defend my opinion, but if someone makes a logical argument, then I will rethink my position, weigh the facts, and make a decision from there. Pride has no place in a setting like this, you have a cogent argument that is thought provoking, and I look forward to reading it over again soon

sayleanenlarge4 karma

That makes so much sense because that spaced outness is dissociation, wher you're somewhere other than reality in your head. To deal with dissociation you need grounding, which is bringing you back to the here and now. That's what your dogs doing. Amazing.

Wncsnake6 karma

it really is. And she just starts bumping me, nudging me, licking me, and trying to get into my face, and it has helped me more than I can count.

Wncsnake189 karma

After reading back through your question, I realized I did not answer your first question. I am not sure what PTSD looks like to a dog, but I picture it as this: A dog, unless trained by humans, loves everyone regardless of race, gender, whatever. When you bring the dog into your home, they form a bond with you and your family, and providing it is a happy home that is not stressful for a dog, they still love everyone. When you begin to train the dog, you become more than an object of affection, you become this beacon in their world, because when they do the things you ask, they get rewards (we believe in ONLY positive reinforcement, never be rough with your dogs no matter how frustrated you can get. It betrays their trust and violates their contract with you) so the dog now focuses on pleasing you, to get rewards. When the dog is asked to become a service dog for PTSD, they are trained to recognize the symptoms and bring you back to the present and center you. You are their beacon, and when your light starts to fade, they have a little torch in their mouth to rekindle you. After a while, it becomes less about the treats and pets and more about taking care of you, because that is what they do. You are their life.
This isn't based out of any science, just observations, and my love for my dogs.

Gothmaug14 karma

That was fucking beautiful. Thank you for that.

Wncsnake14 karma

Thanks, I teared up a bit writing that. I am glad that my love for dogs can come through the keyboard.

Wncsnake9 karma

I have a previous post about what it looks like to a dog (in my opinion). Dogs can recognize when something is wrong instinctively, and we train them further to give the veterans cues to help bring them back into the present. Smell is attached to memory, and I do not have any memoires of combat that smelled like dog breath. She can pull me out of a funk so quickly, because she puts her paws up onto my shoulders and licks my face and I am forced to pay attention to her and not what is triggering my over reaction to mundane events.

Buzz8522123 karma

How does a veteran go about getting a trained dog for themselves? Do they call and ask? Or is there an application, wait list, etc.?

Wncsnake156 karma

REally just talk to us, we try to keep it as easy as possible for the veteran, and we will walk you through the entire process to make it as successful as possible

loveadedoda23486 karma


Wncsnake62 karma

Hi Eric, There is no consideration process, you are a veteran that has a need, and we will do everything we can to get you a dog. We would love to help you, as you are exactly the veteran that we are looking for. I really sympathize with your situation as it is similar to mine, and expect an email shortly.

Carti3r29 karma

I hope they can help you out.

I'm not sure what kind of treatment you are going through, but I am having a good bit of success with EMDR therapy.

The nightmares, fear, anxiety, sleeplessness, guilt, and recurring memories have subsided quite a bit after starting this therapy.

Good luck mate.

loveadedoda23431 karma

I recently *this week. Finally decided that I needed to go on meds. I've resisted that for 2 years now. I had a bad experience with antidepressants that made me MORE suicidal. But thankfully, I haven't had a drink in over a year, and I'm no longer considering harming myself. Ever. I am dealing with sleep paralysis, something that feels like roid rage, anxiety, insomnia, night terros and migranes.

The great thing about all these things is that they're all in my head.

I have a chance at making a full recovery. And that motivates me.

Hopefully my new meds help. I'm also getting great care from the VA. I always have someone to talk to if I need it. 24/7

Wncsnake13 karma

Awesome! It is the first step, and each step gets easier and easier. I would suggest group therapy in conjunction with one on one if it is possible at your VA, it is so much more effective than just one on one. It is a bit tough at first, but honestly, you went through harder things on a daily basis. You will get through it and will be stronger than you were before, and make amazing friends in the process.

Citisol10 karma

I don't have seizures but I am with you on the nightmares. They've become more frequent, especially as iraq has been emerging in the news again.

loveadedoda2347 karma

Yeah, I know what you mean. I can't stand that the news insists on broadcasting helmet cam footage and these terrorist propaganda footage. I'm not saying they shouldnt air it. I know it's not their fault that I have a hard time for the rest of the day after I see some.

Wncsnake5 karma

I agree. I get pretty upset, to the point that i just don't watch the news anymore.

Packvet10 karma

As an active duty military veterinarian currently studying the human-animal bond at a civilian institution (in order to start/oversee AAI programs for active duty wounded Soldiers), I just want a throw a big old thank you out there to you gentlemen. This field has been overlooked for far too long!

Wncsnake6 karma

Thank you! Your research sounds awesome and I would love to learn more about it.

KyleSilva105 karma

Hey guys. I am a former marine who lives now in WNC (Asheville) and I deployed twice in support of OIF (in 2006 and 2008).

I consider myself very fortunate to have had a job that kept me mostly in the rear in a support role, and as a result have no lingering issues. I am so thankful for the protections you provided and the hardships you endured for the entire Corps.

So my question as a Vet in WNC is not "How can you help me?" but instead "How can I help you?" Is there anything I can do to help or support your awesome cause? It would be the least I could do for my brothers.

I'm a high school teacher now, so summers are prime volunteering time. Let me know if I can help you in any way and I'll do what I can to make it happen.

Wncsnake33 karma

Hi there, sorry I missed your comment earlier. Thanks! We can always find a use for volunteers, or just more people to hang out with. We have directions to the park we train at, feel free to stop by any time and chat

marcelinevqn91 karma

I used to work with wounded, ill, and injured marines and I remember when someone was getting a dog they would be so relieved. I think what you all are doing is incredible. One individual would shake so violently at night from PTSD their dog would sit on them to keep them from falling out of bed. So keeping that in mind, what the most amazing thing you've trained a dog to do?

Wncsnake88 karma

I think the coolest thing I have seen is the indirect mobility training Draven has received. Shane has balance issues, and if you look at the leash Shane carries, it goes around his chest, so when he starts to teeter it pulls against Draven, and since he is a 100+ pound dog, Shane doesn't fall. Their partnership is so cool to watch.

10thMountain12 karma

I would love to see a video of that!

What can veterans who already have a dog, and who consider them their best friend in the world, do to train them to help?

Personally I think even an untrained dog does wonders for PTSD, I was a wreck when the Army discharged me and I had no purpose anymore. A month later I adopted a dog and started doing much better quickly. Little things like having something you are responsible for, something that gets you off your ass and out the door walking or hiking, someone to talk to when you're alone.

My dog was a rescue dog and after a couple months a close friend gave me a magnet of a paw print that says "who rescued who?" and it was very appropriate.

Good luck with your organization, you're doing a great thing.

Wncsnake7 karma

Thank you very much! It really is so true with the whole 'Who Rescued Who?'

nikomo71 karma

Have you considered taking in donations with Dogecoin?

Perfect fit.

Wncsnake36 karma

Haha that is absolutely perfect! I do not know much about that whole process, but I will look into getting that available ASAP

ActivateHeroShield13 karma

Actually, we did something for service dogs in the past! http://doge4kids.org/

Wncsnake10 karma

That is absolutely awesome! Such a great cause, too.

tuff_gong64 karma

My son (2 tours in Iraq, had a vehicle blown out from under him) has been trying to get a service dog, and he told us it would take $5000 to get him one. Accurate? How can we help him get one?

Wncsnake23 karma

We do not charge for the dog, we focus on the veteran and training. What kind of service dog does he need?

tuff_gong8 karma

He's got real anxiety problems. Rarely leaves his garage/smoking room.

Wncsnake17 karma

It sounds like he could benefit form one. Please have him email us and we can get the ball rolling

downvotethiscontent56 karma


Wncsnake52 karma

We haven't! Thank you very much for the info, we will get on there as fast as possible.

TheGarlicRogue30 karma

Hi there guys thanks for doing this AMA.

So could you give me/us a little insight on the training of the dogs and of the requirement a dog needs besides playfulness (just my guess) and if there is a preference for a specific breed?

And also if someone is interested on doing something alike what would be the best to to get into it?

Wncsnake47 karma

To answer your last question, I would suggest go to a local shelter and volunteer! If you have any experience in training dogs, work with them (the humans) for a bit and see if they could use any help with training. Or you could just do a bit when you take them for walks. Every shelter dog needs tons of love and nice long walks, and there is desperate need for people to get there and hang out with the pups.
As far as training the service dog, it requires 180 hours of working with our trainers, Shane and Chris, and the training really depends on the end goal. A mobility dog's training will be totally different from a seeing eye dog and that would be totally different from a dog for a Vet with PTSD.
We also allow the veteran the choice to use their own dog or we will select one from a shelter for them. Hope that helps, I will get Shane to do a more involved answer when he is on here soon

TheGarlicRogue5 karma

Sorry for the late response something came up but thanks a lot for this answer. I especially like the idea that you guy let the choice up to the vets whether or not they wanna use their own dog or not.

And would be nice to have Shane here for a detailed answer tho yours was insightful as well.

Thanks again for the answer.

Wncsnake4 karma

Thanks! Shane is currently taking a break, but I will try to get him to answer your question asap

Red_Dog188016 karma

Maybe it doesn't answer all your questions, but there is a fantastic documentary (Shelter Me) on Netflix about how they train guide dogs.


The part with the veterans at the end is fantastic to see how these dogs have helped them cope.

Wncsnake3 karma

Well that is on the que, it looks awesome

yellowlabsam26 karma

I am a CPA with 17 years experience working with small to mid sized non-profits. I am also a huge dog person and understand the benefits that dogs can bring to victims of PTSD. Does your organization need any assistance with the annual filings? Very willing to volunteer my time in support.

Wncsnake7 karma

OH wow thank you very much. Can you email us through our website so we can keep in touch?

r_edditor23 karma

My roommate is currently fostering a dog and we feel the dog would fit perfectly in a program like this! We were actually talking about it the other day! Is there anyway we can "sign up" a dog?

Wncsnake31 karma

If you are in Western North Carolina, you can always come by and get training, and when we find a veteran for your foster, he/she will be ready to go!

r_edditor13 karma

We're in Texas D: but what you guys are doing are very awesome! We wish we could help!

Wncsnake20 karma

You can! Talk with your veterans, listen to their stories, and adopt dogs from your local shelter! If you can't adopt, you can foster them.

Eternally6522 karma


Wncsnake63 karma

Nope! Any and all breeds are just dogs. Of course some breeds are more suited to certain aspects of service. For example, a Chihuahua would not be suited as a mobility dog as they are there to be leaned against or to help their veteran stand back up if they fall, but a smaller breed can be great in other aspects, especially as a companion dog because their smaller size lets them fly under the radar. However, Shane and I have pit bulls, and the breed has really gotten into our hearts, I think because they form such a strong, loving relationship with their veteran that really helps us out when we need to lean on them for emotional support. I know my girl has helped me during panic attacks, I am feeling like I am about to explode and she is my little pibble rock, ready wrap her paws around my shoulders and lick my face at a moments notice.

name_is_arbitrary34 karma

Pibbles are actually amazing service dogs! Because of their compact size but strength for that size, they are perfect for helping people in wheelchairs, for example. They can drag things up and down stairs with no problem, and are small enough to maneuver easily around the chair.

Thank you for saving pitties!

Wncsnake27 karma

Kiowa is my first pibble, and I couldn't imagine a better dog. We have actually worked with Draven on pulling a wheelchair and how to move with it, which was kind of difficult because we work so hard on not pulling with every dog. But he figured it out pretty quick and now we have a training regimen if we ever have to train a dog for such a purpose.

lacrimaeveneris13 karma

For a dog that needs to primarily pull, Burnese Mountain Dogs were trained to pull carts and will haul anything if you ask. Also very smart, lovable critters.

dabisnit7 karma

I feel dirty advertising my sub I made a few months ago /r/weightpull for the sport of weight pull for dogs.

Wncsnake3 karma

Those were some fun videos to watch, the dogs look so excited to be pulling big stuff!

Spacelumps10 karma

Have you guys ever encountered any problems with using Pit Bulls as service dogs? I know there's a lot of bad perceptions and bull shit legislation flying around the world at the moment.

Wncsnake23 karma

Never. Pitbulls are known as nanny dogs for a reason. They bond very strongly with their people, and are some of the most affectionate dogs that really strive to please their people. It is people who make dogs behave badly, and I have nothing but absolute disdain for people who train their pits to fight. However, even fighting dogs can be rehabbed given enough time and love, but it would require someone with a lot of patience, love and experience. Kind of like veterans.

Marty_ShortForMartin14 karma

Just my two cents, but please be careful with Pitts. I love the breed, am active with Bully Rescue, and my dogs and I are very active members of our cities "dog community"... so I say this as an avid dog lover. If there are ANY incidents with a Pitt, you will be on a quick road to being shut down, a very quick road.

Pitts are great with family and children but can be dog aggressive and if another dog instigates something out and about in public, the Pitt isn't the breed to back down. Even in defense, they will be targeted as the aggressor or that the Pitt wouldn't release after instigation... it happens ALL THE TIME across the country, regardless of fault. They also need frequent exercise to maintain proper obedience and dominance scales. Most people just assume they can be a lazy dog, but they are a very energetic breed that needs stimulation. Having them with vets that may not be active or can't give the dogs the 1-2 hours of exercise they need daily can lead to behavioral issues. The last thing I'll mention is that they are a slow maturing breed, no Pitt should be used as a assistance animal until they are at least 4 years old.

Oddly enough, what has been a problem in the recovery of the Pitts image is over-generalizing the image of a sweetheart. It has lead to them being put into bad situations where the fault is not the fault of the Pitt. I love what you are doing!!!! Just be careful!!!

Wncsnake10 karma

Thank you very much, it is easy to espouse the breed and forget what you mentioned. I agree that it is something that needs to be looked into on our end, but we really work hard on socializing our dogs when they are at the park to prevent those situations from happening.

happypirate3322 karma

I have a friend, an Army vet (a couple tours in Iraq), who I have been worried about lately. As long as I've known him he always been a little down, but more so lately, shutting out his friends and such for the past couple months. I finally saw him and talked to him, and he mentioned life not worth living more than usual, although I guess he is now attending AA. Although I got the feeling that AA is his true bottom (admitting and accepting he needs help) and is even more depressing to him. I became concerned after this conversation, so I pushed for more. He is seeing a University counselor who specializes in Veterans affairs at school, which gives me a little more hope. From this info is he a good candidate for one of your dogs? Any tips on how to talk to him about getting one? Or any advice in general in how to help him?

Wncsnake22 karma

Listen to your friends, and if they get a bit choked up, don't brush it off. Let them know you care about them and their feelings, and you are willing to take part of their burden if they will share it with you. Do not judge, remember that you will never understand what they went through, and if they want to sit in silence, it is ok. I copied that form a previous post, but it applies here so well. PTSD is a monster that unfortunately many veterans think they have to fight alone, soldiering on in the dark. What we always forget is that it is completely contrary to Army doctrine. Our fighting positions do not fire forwards, they fire at angles left and right. You protect your buddies. He needs help, especially if he has suicidal ideations. It is a tragedy when any person takes their life, and veterans have such a higher percentage of suicides vs. the national average. http://veteranscrisisline.net/ is a great resource if he is at rock bottom and does not see an out, and inpatient help at the VA can be very helpful as well. He needs to go to the VA, and see a therapist. There is nothing wrong with it, and his quality of life will improve once he starts. But not so much because of the counselors, but because he will develop a group of veteran friends that are also seeing therapists, and by sharing those stories in a group setting with people that have been there, all of a sudden you have your squad back. I am so thankful for my group therapy, because Shane, Mike and Chris are my support structure, friends, and brothers, even though I never knew them before the VA.

themaya15 karma

Do you reach out to pet stores for help with supplies or food for the service dogs? This might help spread the word.

Wncsnake16 karma

We have had a couple of the big box stores help, but it has really been the smaller dog centered businesses that have put so much work into helping us get our names out there.

Radium_Coyote5 karma

I know dog groomers. They're way into things like this, not because it makes them look good, but because it's something they strongly understand and believe in.

Wncsnake5 karma

Exactly. It is amazing the compassion total strangers can show sometimes. Very humbling, and really motivates us.

Daegoba15 karma

If you don't know about Richard's Coffee Shop, you should.

How can we be more involved?

Wncsnake14 karma

Oh wow, that is awesome! I really like the museum, I will be sure to stop by when I am in the area. I will let Shane know about your shop, I am sure he can stop by soon! Honestly, anything helps. We are trying to get the word out about our work, so maybe we could drop off some flyers or something linking us on your website? Again, thanks for providing such an amazing venue. I am looking forward to stopping by.

Daegoba5 karma

Please do. Every Thursday is Veterans day, and we have "pickin' and grinnin'" on Saturday mornings. We'd love to have you.

Wncsnake6 karma

I am sure Shane has seen this, but we will be there soon.

BlankTrack15 karma

How do you guys get the puppies? Do you have a breeding center, or contract?

Wncsnake47 karma

We try to get dogs as rescues. We have one breeder who is interested in helping us, but we really like the ability to find a dog in a shelter and not only find them a home, but the ability to help someone who desperately needs them. edit for my sausage fingers

kiki198325 karma

This solidified my decision to make a donation, thank you. There is something very beautiful about rescuing a dog and then training them to help rescue a soldier. Too many animals are put down in shelters every year, and too many vets don't get the care they need. This is a win win.

Wncsnake26 karma

I agree. I have teared up several times writing responses to people, because this is something I really love and feel strongly about. Veterans need help, and what is better that a 4 legged therapist that is on call 24/7?

Wncsnake15 karma

We get all of them (so far) as rescues. It pays it forward, since there are so many dogs that need a home and a chance, that it just makes sense. That being said we have had some interest from breeders, but nothing is set in stone yet.

Ramblingpirate4 karma

First off I'd like to say Semper Fidelis. What you guys do for vets, and what the service dogs provide is an invaluable tool to someone that's seen things that they can't forget. I can't begin to thank you enough for both your service in the military and what you're doing now.

Secondly, a selfish question: as a former Marine who was medically separated, and who suffers from PTSD, especially with hypervigilance, and who doesn't live close to any training facility or non profit organization like yours, is there any training material you'd suggest for training my own service dog? I've been researching a lot, and a service animal looks like it would be a good fit for me.

I think training my own would be the best route for me as my job keeps me tied down distance wise, and I've read that most trainers have the handler there for training for bond development anyways. What avenues would you suggest?

Wncsnake3 karma

Tha tis a tough one, I would defer to Shane on that one. I will try to make sure he replies, and if he doesn't catch you, send us an email through our website or get in touch through facebook and we will see how we can help

TisteSimeon15 karma

Do you guys accept strays? Are there any dogs you have had to turn away or give up on?

Wncsnake30 karma

We do not take strays directly, but they are always our first choice in service dogs, so we have a strong relationship with the local shelters. We haven't turned any dogs away yet, because they can always find a job, whether it is as a service dog or a pet.
We are trying to raise the funds to find a building near the VA that will allow us boarding facilities, because we have to keep the dogs in our homes or the veterans home. It will also allow us to keep the dog near the veteran when they go into surgery, and bring the dog over after they are in a room. Certain parts of the hospital are closed off for service dogs, and rightfully so, but it is stressful to have to leave your service dog at home for any period of time, so we are trying to keep them closer together. It will also allow us to train independent of weather, and at night.

Sandman513313 karma

What is the total cost of training? Is it enough to warrant a fundraising campaign like other service animal organizations require? Is any financial assistance necessary.

-btw I'm a disabled USMC vet with a TBI and Hearing Loss, would love to speak with you guys.

Wncsnake11 karma

The cost of training is pretty low right now, because we utilize teaching the veteran him/herself how to train the dog, and use a free park for training. Our big goal right now is to have a facility so we can train no matter the weather and have more dogs in a training program that do not have a veteran yet, but the logistics aren't there yet.

meatwad7589212 karma

Is canine PTSD a thing? I'm sure there are plenty of military dogs that have probably seen too much as well. Can they get "service humans"?

Wncsnake6 karma

Absolutely they can. My oldest dog has ptsd symptoms from a fender bender a few years ago (loud bang, nothing serious) and would shake when she was in the car, and will duck when going under and overpass. So we have to really comfort her and help her through it, which she has been making gains lately.

coothless_cthulhu12 karma


Wncsnake12 karma

You can come by any VA and try to talk to some of the doctors there. I don't think there is a particular organization nationwide, but there could be one in your area. Or you can be the driving force to start one. There is usually an end of life center, and some of the veterans have not had a visitor in years. It takes a bit of work to get your dog allowed in there, and a certificate, but it is so worth it, because you really brighten up their day.
Listen to your friends, and if they get a bit choked up, don't brush it off. Let them know you care about them and their feelings, and you are willing to take part of their burden if they will share it with you. Do not judge, remember that you will never understand what they went through, and if they want to sit in silence, it is ok.

Chimes6112 karma

Have you worked with pit bull rescues to find dogs to train? I support many and can say they are always looking to work with service groups to place Pits in good hands and homes, one would be Tenn. Death Row Dogs.

Wncsnake22 karma

We don't currently, but would be more than interested in the future, especially to help de-stigmatize such an amazing breed of dog.

SomewhatProSpy12 karma

How many dogs which start the training actually finish?

Wncsnake19 karma

It is solely up to the veteran's dedication. We have a 100% completion rate for our dogs, but we rely on the veteran to come out and stick with all 180 hours of training, which is a lot to ask for on their part. We are working on a training facility that we can keep dogs and work every day, rain or shine, and really get the process rolling into high gear

suburbanwolf11 karma

How many dogs are in your care or living with veterans, currently?

Wncsnake25 karma

I have two, Shane has two, Mike has 1 currently, and Chris has a small training area at his house, which varies from two to eight dogs if I remember correctly. The veterans keep their dogs at their house, and come out to the park we train at daily, so upwards of 20-30 dogs

butt_sludge10 karma

Marine grunt OEF veteran here. Interested in what breeds of dogs are used as service dogs. I've got a couple buddies who are in some sort of program that uses dogs to treat their PTSD in some way and I think they all have Labs.

My question is, can Pugs be used in a similar way or does it only work with breeds that have certain qualities? Like, if I get just a huge herd of Pugs running around the house, could they be trained as service dogs or therapy dogs?

Wncsnake16 karma

I would like to see them sled trained so you can go around with a huge herd of pugs with bright orange vests pulling you on a skateboard, but that is just me. There is no breed restriction, but some dogs are better suited to certain tasks than others. The dog's temperment is more important than breed.

KnightKrawler4 karma

I've got a pibble/greyhound that I trained to pull me on my Rollerblades. He takes me to the store and over to my Dads. All I have to do is say the word "skate" and he instantly loses his shit.

Wncsnake3 karma

oh that sounds so awesome! Do you have any pictures? Sounds like a very interesting mix.

brucejoel9910 karma

This is such a nice thing you do!!! Where did you get the idea?

Wncsnake9 karma

It started with us hanging out one night. Shane has had Draven for years, and it started with us talking about how awesome Draven is (he knows) and then it just evolved from there.

ewwwwww98710 karma

Are all your dogs taught the same things or are they taught differently depending on the person they're going home with?

Wncsnake9 karma

Our training is absolutely tailored to the individual, but there is a lot of similar training that goes into the basic foundation. We get them all well trained, and then specialize from there

jaundicedplatypus9 karma

I have a friend who runs One Warrior Won, a similar organization (and a marine). How do your dogs help veterans?

Wncsnake6 karma

In a multitude of ways, depending on the need. We train each dog according to what is required by the veteran. I am so glad to see that your friend is helping to fill this need, I am sure we will be in touch. Thank your friend for his service and the awesome work he does. Also, his website is awesome.

jaundicedplatypus3 karma

I'll pass that along, he was in Charlotte not too long ago to provide some vets with dogs. I love seeing other vets start up these organizations. Have you ever seen Veteran's Expeditions?

Wncsnake3 karma

Not that one specifically, but we have all done Outward Bound down in Florida. That looks pretty awesome

jakulik8 karma

so you provide dogs with vets and vets with dogs???

Wncsnake13 karma

We sure do! Sometimes a veteran does not want a service dog, so we help find a dog at the shelter, provide training at the park daily, and they can come out whenever they want and work with their new best friend

Vamaranthus7 karma


Wncsnake7 karma

Usually when a dog is with their person they build a strong relationship quickly, and the dog instinctively knows when something is amiss. Licking the hand, pushing their head into your hand, those are all natural things a dog does. We take it a step further and also train the dog to lick the face and really get the veterans attention. Really any dog can be trained to do this providing they are the right temperment

fukkoffbits6 karma

What is the best type of dog food? Brand?

Wncsnake9 karma

It depends on the dog. I keep Kiowa on Blue Buffalo Grain Free because she is sensitive to grains, and my other dog is on a special mix from the vet that helps with joints (she tore her ACL last summer jumping off a deck chasing a squirrel)

Look at your dog food ingredients, and try to pick one that fits your budget and does not have grain as the first ingredient. I also try to pick up meat from the grocer that is about to expire for a reduced price and feed that as the budget allows. Keep an eye on tartar buildup, and do not let your dogs chew on long, flat bones, as they can crack teeth.

Veyron1096 karma

I keep telling people that owning a dog is extremely therapeutic. Are there any plans to move into Maryland or anything because of the large amounts of vets here? I would be more than willing to volunteer or anything to help really if so!

What you guys are doing is awesome (also for the dogs, taking from shelters instead of breeders makes you guys that much cooler).

Wncsnake5 karma

Thanks! We are hoping that we can get enough traction that we can start to increase our working radius, and eventually, either through partnering with other similar non profits or just us, go nationwide so we can help the most.


question--- how much salary do you pay your self from donations? what % of donations the dogs? How much do you allow yourself for office space travel ect (from donations)?

501c3 is a scam

Wncsnake15 karma

100% of our money goes to the dogs. We do not get paid, as we are all lucky enough to support ourselves outside of the organization. We go to the park after work and stay until it is dark every day, and it is not because we have to, but because we love dogs and veterans

zethrowtf5 karma

Hey guys I recently got a German Shepard from a shelter I live near. I was wondering if you guys do anything in South Central Pa? I'd love to sign her up for one of these programs I'm just having problems finding anything close. Is there anything I can do from home to start getting the dog ready for this type of training?

Wncsnake5 karma

You can do behavior training at petsmart or the like. We are not in PA, but it is only a drive away. A German Shepard responds very well to training, and they are intelligent, loving dogs. You can contact us through our website or facebook (it is hard to sort the reddit inbox right now) and we can talk more about what you need and what would be best for the dog.

MarbleFox5 karma

So how does it work? You adopt a suitable dog and try to match it with a needy veteran? How do you find the veteran?

Wncsnake11 karma

Right now the veteran comes to us, the VA does not contact us because of HIPAA guidelines, but they can point veterans our way. A lot of veterans also use their own dog for the training. We are small right now, but once we get a facility we will be able to adopt more dogs and have a small pool on hand that is already trained and ready to go, and be able to immediately match the veteran with a certified dog.

cynical-therapist5 karma

I love the idea of service dogs, and have seen amazing transformations over time for veterans who have been fortunate to have them.

Two big questions though: 1. do you have a plan for the Veteran at the end of the dogs' service? (Like if the dogs dies in 5 to 10 years, will the Vet have to get another one? Or will they be better enough to not need one? And do you ha ve plans to be in service for that long and longer?) And 2. What situations do you see where a veteran wants a service dog, but it's inappropriate or just a bad idea to have one?

Wncsnake3 karma

There is always a chance that the dog can pass suddenly or from age related issues, and if the veteran would like to build a relationship with a new dog, we will do so.
As far as your second question, there is only one case were a veteran had a pack of dogs with no discipline, and it would have been nearly impossible to keep a dog trained at our level in that chaotic situation. However, if he could get all his dogs on the same page, then we would move forward in a heartbeat, and all it would require is that he brings his pack to the park and they get the training they all need as well as his future service dog.

UWhatMate5 karma

Is there something like this in Canada, that you know of?

Wncsnake9 karma

Not that I know of, unfortunately. We haven't worked with anyone in other countries yet, but if you are a veteran, no matter the country, you deserve to be taken care of, no matter if it is the government or your brothers. If you need a dog, we can help make it happen, even it is doing research to find something in your area or bringing the dog to you.

UWhatMate5 karma

I myself am not a veteran, but one of my friends is suffering from PTSD after being discharged.

I think it would be great to start this in Canada, you are providing a wonderful service.

Wncsnake7 karma

Thank you. I did not realize I had PTSD for years, even though I new I did. If that makes any sense. I would suggest being a soundboard. The more have told some stories about things that have happened, the less power they have over me, and now I can tell most of them without breaking down. Talking helps, and getting out and doing stuff that doesn't involve drugs or alcohol helps tremendously.

TrueBlonde4 karma

Are there any resources available for someone who has PTSD - but isn't a veteran - if they want their own dog? Any guidance on how to go about training a dog for themselves? Of course it wouldn't be as rigorous as the training you guys would do, but I honestly have no idea how to go about training a dog to recognize PTSD symptoms.

Wncsnake3 karma

It would be very similar to what we do. PTSD has similar symptoms no matter the source, and it is a serious issue that dogs can help with. I would talk to a psychiatrist and they can write you a prescription for your dog, which is all you need to get one. From there you just need to find an organization that will be able to help. Send us an email on our website and we can try to help

captbringdown4 karma

I don't mean to sound harsh but would you like to see, or maybe be in favor of, service dogs wearing a certified vest that with one glance would prove that they are legitimate service animals? I ask because of the woman who was kicked out of a major coffee place because the barista doubted the legitimacy of her dog. I know you aren't supposed to ask for proof according to the ADA, but I wonder if it would help.

Wncsnake10 karma

I am a bit torn on it, on one hand I would like to see an official vest from the ADA that isn't available from the public, but I would prefer to see more people educated on what a service dog is and not only blind people need help. Also, don't just walk up to us and say 'What's wrong with you?' more of a personal pet peeve, it gets old after a while.

captbringdown4 karma

Thank you for the answer! But now I have another in regards to your last statement. My son often sees people in wheelchairs or with service dogs and he'll ask me why, I respond to him that I don't know specifically why. Is that offensive when overheard? Or do you mind explaining to children?

Wncsnake7 karma

Oh no! I love talking to kids, and I love to show them how to tell Kiowa how to sit, lay down, and then have her give them a kiss. I think the more experiences a kid is exposed to the better, and I know I loved to learn as a kid, so I will happily talk to kids, and their bluntness can be so funny sometimes.

Jfortner4 karma

Hey Dudes!! Joey from Soldier's Heart here, stoked to see y'all here on the front page. When we gonna shave your beard and hair off for more fundraising????? Y'all keep up the good work.

Wncsnake5 karma

Oh wow! How are you doing brother?

FarashaSilver3 karma

My husband was also a medic in the Army. His dog, Koda, is trained to assist with his left-sided hearing loss and anxiety. I'm interested in possibly starting some kind of program like this out where I am. When you're looking for potential service animals, what kind of temperament do you look for in a shelter dog?

Wncsnake3 karma

If you can, shoot us an email so we can talk more. We would love to see more people start up similar organizations to provide veterans with service dogs.
As far as temperament, I would look for a mature or near mature dog that is pretty laid back, receptive to training, and doesn't have too many issues that would be difficult to train out.

i_also_wear_shoes3 karma

I would love to help. My old school had an organization that hooked up volunteers with dogs to "dog sit" for a few hours, so the pups got exposure to different people and situations. Do you have any volunteering program?

Wncsnake4 karma

We do! We love having volunteers, and anything you can do helps! Even coming out to the park with us and learning how to train dogs (education is important) or running water bowls to the fountain to keep our pups hydrated is important. Thanks for your volunteer work!

kthxdots3 karma

Thanks for doing this AMA! I'm an OIF and OEF vet who tried unsuccessfully for two years to get a service dog through the VA and they wouldn't budge. What options do I have?

Wncsnake4 karma

Give us a call! We would be more than happy to work with you and see what your options are.

hotdogoctopus3 karma

Do you have any corgies?

Wncsnake6 karma

Not at this time, but my wife absolutely LOVES corgies.

lawrnk2 karma

How do you deal with fake service animals?

Wncsnake2 karma

It is a really delicate situation, but we try to educate the person and help them if we can

OutsideKelly2 karma

I have a husband who has PTSD, and I myself am an amateur dog trainer. We are across the country from you. He has a dog right now, who he has an amazing bond with. Young, 2.5 years old. How do I train his dog to help him (in public, or just to comfort him at home and make him relax)? Getting him a trained service dog would be too much for him, getting used to a whole new dog. But if his own dog could help him, that would be wonderful.

Wncsnake4 karma

and that is exactly what we like to do, have the veteran use the dog they already have a good relationship with. Look up the ADA requirements, or contact us through our website and we will get in touch with you on how to make it happen

scrimmy2 karma

Hey guys, just wanted to thank you for all you do, and your service to your fellow veterans. My dog Odin was a huge help after I came home (Active Army Vet OEF IV 04-05). It was like he knew before I knew that something was off. He knew when I was wound up and would come and snuggle me, try to climb on my lap, and make a general pain in the ass of himself until all of my attention was on him. He never woke me up from a dream though. Anyhow, my question is, do you find any breed of dog that excels at therapy work?

Wncsnake3 karma

I don't think there is a specific breed, it really comes down to the individual dog, and how that dog interacts with their human.

quackers22 karma

First, do you have any pictures of your cute pibbles? I just looked at the facebook page and saw Shane's--what a cutie! And second, if you guys ever want to branch out into NYS, I'd love to volunteer. I think what you guys are doing is so important, both for vets and for abandoned dogs.

Wncsnake2 karma

Thanks! We are still serving the Western North Carolina area mostly, but we will travel when needed. We would love to be able to broaden our area and help as many veterans as possible

MorXpe2 karma

While working with dogs, do you add to a training any special Easter-eggs, like: "bring me a beer" command?

Wncsnake3 karma

That would require some special training in the house, usually with a rope around the fridge, but you just have to be patient and understand the training process for complex commands is just a matter of breaking it down into simple pieces. But we usually don't do anything like that.
One fun thing we did was for an autistic child of a veteran, she would wander off, so we gave the dog a down command, and the dog would drop like a rock and not move until given the release command, so she acted like an anchor for the little girl.

zethrowtf-3 karma

Also does Tom know anyone named Luxon from the 82nd? He owes me $.

Wncsnake2 karma

Typical Luxon...