We are glad to share the knowledge.  This is where you will find a small base of frequently asked questions, articles and pertinent and useful information on German Shepherds, service dogs and our wounded warriors.

Pairing vets with the dogs who change their lives by CBS 8 San Diego

By Carlo Cecchetto, CBS 9 San Diego

SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - A North County non-profit is helping veterans who suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and other problems related to their service by using German Shepherds.

K9 Guardians is a relatively new non-profit, but its founder Leisa Grajek said they already have facilities to raise up to 40 service dogs per year.

"Our veterans just mean the world to us at K9 Guardians and we want to show that appreciation in every way we possibly can," said Grajek.

Oden is a German Shepherd who is learning how to be a service dog for a war hero. It will take 18-months of training to prepare him for adoption.

"I think he's going to be a really good dog for a veteran with stability issues," said Grajek.

After 20-years in The Marines, veteran William Tiller needed some support. "If you would have met me ten or 15-years-ago, you probably would not have liked me," said Tiller.

Tiller applied to K9 Guardians and teamed up with Cricket two months ago.

"She's learning to wake me up when I'm having nightmares. She'll get up with me," he said.

During his interview with CBS News 8, Tiller wore a shirt with the number 22 printed on it. It's the number of veterans who commit suicide very day.

He believes K9 Guardians can help bring that number down, and that's exactly what the group's founder loves to hear.

To apply for a K9 Guardian, a veteran must have an honorable discharge and a disability that the service dog can assist. SEE THE VIDEO



 By Nancy Aziz, Channel 6 News San Diego

SAN DIEGO - It’s estimated 30% of veterans who served in Iraq or Afghanistan returned home with PTSD.  Many are treated with medication and counseling, but the San Diego non-profit K9 Guardians is helping heal wounded warriors with specially trained service dogs.

“We place service dogs with those who have served: our fallen heroes, our disabled veterans,” explains founder Leisa Tilley-Grajek. Over 18 months of training, the dogs are taught many skills. Tilley-Grajek raises German Shepherds for the task.

Training begins shortly after birth, as the pups are de-sensitized to many things they will encounter.  Later, they are taught basic skills. “We have what they want and they figure out how to get it, so it’s a reward system and then, of course, from that point on they learn other types of behavior that will then segue into whatever they need to do for their human,” she says. One way the dogs are taught to help is with crowd control.

Many veterans with PTSD are uncomfortable in crowds, so the dogs are taught to put space between strangers and their vet by making a circle around him or her.  They are also taught to lead the way around corners. “So they can send the dog forward to go and kind of check things out and say hey dad, hey mom it's okay, it's alright,” she says.

Retired Navy Senior Chief Dan Cole was able to get a service dog through K9 Guardians and says the dog has saved his life. He says he was angry and anxious after returning from two tours of duty in Iraq.  He says at his lowest point he considered suicide. “If it wasn't for him I probably wouldn't be here today, or not probably, I wouldn't be here today,” he says of his service dog Jaco. “He calms me down during moments of anxiety.  When were are out in public out in a crowd, he helps keep the crowd control, keeps them back and pulls me out of situation that he knows I am having a hard time in,” he says.

Tilley-Grajek says she’s just glad to be able to help. “If I can help save one person perhaps with a service dog, hopefully more, but what an impact that could make one life giving someone hope,” she says... SEE THE VIDEO


Why dogs heal PTSD 

Published by Tracy Stecker Ph.D. in Physiology Today

Many of our military personnel returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been traumatized by their experiences in the warzones.  While the majority struggle with their experiences, most will not go on to develop posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  PTSD is an anxiety disorder that develops as a result of a traumatic experience and involves symptoms of vigilance (i.e., being extra alert and aware of surroundings); numbness (i.e., having difficulty feeling emotions), and re-experiencing (i.e., flashbacks and nightmares). 

We have evidence-based treatments for PTSD that work.  These include behavioral therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy or exposure therapy and medication therapies.  Treatments have demonstrated success, yet there is no cure for PTSD.  Many individuals in treatment work through their symptoms so that they are no longer severely impacted by them.  Yet, symptoms sometimes flare up again in the future... READ MORE

What is PTSD (Post-traumatic Stress Disorder)?

PTSD, or Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, is a psychiatric disorder that can occur following the experience or witnessing of a life-threatening events such as military combat, natural disasters, terrorist incidents, serious accidents, or physical or sexual assault in adult or childhood. Most survivors of trauma return to normal given a little time. However, some people will have stress reactions that do not go away on their own, or may even get worse over time. These individuals may develop PTSD. People who suffer from PTSD often relive the experience through nightmares and flashbacks, have difficulty sleeping, and feel detached or estranged, and these symptoms can be severe enough and last long enough to significantly impair the person’s daily life... READ MORE

What is the difference between a psychiatric service dog and an emotional support animal?

The difference between emotional support animals and service animals is threefold:

1. To have a service animal, a person must be so impaired as to have a disability. For example, needing glasses for poor vision is an impairment, but being unable to see with or without glasses is a disability. Having a mental illness is an impairment, but being unable to function on a minimal level because of a mental illness is a disability. Folks may have an emotional support animal due to a mental impairment if they are also otherwise disabled or elderly or they may have an emotional support animal because of a mental illness disability. Only those actually disabled by a psychiatric impairment would qualify to use a psychiatric service dog.

2. Service animals are task trained to actually do something which mitigates the person's disability. Their defined function is not to provide emotional support (affection on demand or a security blanket) but to do something the handler cannot do for themselves which allows that handler to overcome or ameliorate an inability to perform major life activities. Emotional support animals don't have to be trained, so long as they do not disturb neighbors or pose a threat to public safety... READ MORE

Need to know?  - German Shepherd

Generally considered dogdom's finest all-purpose workers, German Shepherd Dogs are large, agile, muscular dogs of noble spirit and high intelligence. For such deep-chested, solid dogs, they move quickly with great nimbleness afoot. The German Shepherd's natural gait is a free-and-easy trot, but when duty calls they can turn it up a notch or two and reach great speeds. Standing as high as 26 inches at the shoulder and built like a brick doghouse, the German Shepherd Dog when viewed in outline presents a picture of smooth, graceful curves rather than angles... READ MORE.

All the info on Wounded Warriors Project

Wounded Warrior Project  (WWP) serves veterans and service members who incurred a physical or mental injury, illness, or wound, co-incident to their military service on or after September 11, 2001 and their families. On that date, America watched in horror as approximately 3,000 people died including hundreds of firefighters and rescue workers. Many warriors note a sense of duty to volunteer for the military following these tragic events.

Sept. 11 also served as a stimulus for Operations Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom, and New Dawn. Operation Iraqi Freedom refers to military operations in Iraq that began March 19, 2003 and officially ended August 31, 2010. Operation Enduring Freedom refers to combat operations in Afghanistan and other regions in support of the Global War on Terror. Operation New Dawn refers to the conclusion of operations in Iraq beginning September 1, 2010 and ending December 15, 2011... READ MORE