Tank& I

“Training a service dog is like…”

Training = Maze

Training a service dog is like…

While walking Tank this morning, I thought of how to best describe service dog training to people who’ve never experienced it. The closest thing I can compare it to is a maze.

Just think about it, your view of the maze is like life with PTSD. You try your hardest to navigate the many jagged, twisty paths to get through to the finish but the tools you have just won’t work. You end up getting worried, bad anxiety attacks, and flashbacks just thinking about trying it on your own.

There needs to be a new tool to help you navigate through the complicated maze.

Here is where it gets interesting.

Someone very kind walks up and hands you a pen, a new tool to help you achieve your goals of navigating through the maze. I’d like to think of a service dog as the pen, a companion that keeps you calm and focused on achieving your life goals.

Instead of getting freaked when thinking about the maze, you are able to calmly use your new tool to start navigating through the many different obstacles.


When I think about Tank, he did just that. Practically a hermit, I didn’t leave the house unless I needed to because of flashbacks. Just thinking about going out would be a struggle because I kept thinking of all the obstacles that may present themselves while out. When I received Tank from Project Delta and we were able to start public training. I felt better about going out, I actually wanted to.

I was able to use my pen and focus on calmly navigating through life. I got further with the pen than I did trying to depend on the tools I had.

But like the maze, training a service dog can usually lead to a dead-end. You have the right tool, but you can’t get past the road block because the tool ended up malfunctioning.

In my case, Tank ended up being way too overprotective. At home I couldn’t get him to stop barking at neighbors and dogs that walked by. Out in public I couldn’t sit down without Tank freaking out on people walking by, barking and snapping his jaws at them.

It was a side of Tank that I never saw coming. It’s a trait that’s hard to break, I would never be able to get him certified as a service dog. I love Tank to death, but I still had goals to accomplish, I still need to get to the finish.

Just like starting over on a maze, I have to try to find a different dog to help me finish my goal. I’m starting down the same path with the same tool hoping for a different outcome.

That’s just what it’s like, ask anyone and they’ll agree.

Three more days until Tank goes to his new home. He’s helped me overcome a lot of obstacles I would have never been able to do on my own. It’s hard letting him go, but he’s served his purpose.


Share to help Veterans:

Author of Combat Medic : A soldier's story of the Iraq war and PTSD.Served as a combat medic on the front lines in operation Iraqi freedom/ enduring freedom. Medically retired from the Army in 2006 with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, retired from the VA hospital since 2013. After struggling with PTSD and suicide for twelve years I have made it my priority to share my story with as meany people as I can to help America understand what it's like being a combat veteran back home from war. It is my hope that other veterans can relate to my life and take use the same tools as me to live a better life with PTSD.

30 comments on ““Training a service dog is like…”

  1. kage2015

    We have a friend who uses a service dog. It is amazing the hours spent training them and matching them to the right person.

  2. I give you so much credit for doing this oh so important job…I wouldn’t be able to give the dog back after I had him or her. You have such a great outlook and understanding of the process

  3. This is such a beautiful post! Tank is so beautiful too. I also love your writing.

  4. This post was more than training a dog. It was very inspirational. I found myself reciting “instead of being freaked out, Keep calm and use your tool”. Thanks for such an awesome post.

  5. babyhenrylikes

    Great analogy with the maze. I’m happy Tank served his purpose and you seem so strong about giving him to another family. I hope that they care for him the way you seem to have. I bet it’s still hard though, he’s such a beautiful doggie!

  6. Thanks for taking the time to explain training service dogs. I never really thought about all the hard work that happens “behind the scenes” before they’re fully certified. I’m glad to hear Tank was able to help, and I hope you find a suitable dog soon!

  7. livvypb

    Awwww Tank looks lovely, must be so hard to let him go. The love of a dog for his master knows no bounds. Great post.

  8. This was a very heartwarming story. It only goes to show the unconditional love and beauty of dogs, I’m very happy for you and am glad that tank had such a positive impact in your life 🙂

  9. That’s sad you have to let Tank go but it’s wonderful to see you process how you feel about it. Dogs are so comforting when you’re down. I love Brute, my brother’s dog. My only companion sometimes as a disabled person. Tfs.

  10. Your story is so inspiring. I am glad to hear the story. Never knew this much goes into training

  11. I love the way you express !! hope you had a good time while training a dog !

  12. Great post. Have been reading about how former S&R dogs work as Service dogs and what a wonderful impact they’ve made in the lives of their new owners. And like all awesome things, the benefit seems to be a two way street here too 🙂

  13. jvankleeck

    An excellent article. You are a very talented writer. It must have been hard to give up Tank but took a lot of strength to know what you needed to help you get through your maze. I hope you find another service dog that is less protective.

    Although not a service dog, I have a dog who is also way too overprotective and I cannot leave the house with her anymore because she lunges at people walking by. I have to take my son now on walks with us so it’s just too dangerous pushing a stroller as well.

    Looking forward to reading more from you in the future.


  14. This is a beautiful post. I’m glad he was able to help you while you worked with him. I’m sorry you had to let him go though!

    • Thank you! It makes me sad thinking about it but he’s going to a home with another awesome dog. Im looking forward to the journey ahead with my new service dog

  15. Interesting story. Thanks for sharing this – there were things I learnt there.

  16. I always knew it was hard to train service dogs, but the maze comparison is great! Not all dogs are meant to be service dogs. Sad that you had to let him go, but hopefully you will have better luck with the next!

  17. Indraneil Chowdhury

    Great analogy with the maze. loved reading this article..

  18. That’s never easy to go through. I hope you find your perfect service dog match and he finds a home he can relax in

Tell me how you feel