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Dogtopia Shows Commitment to Veterans Through Dogtopia Foundation Support of Purdue University Study


Dogtopia is not only a leading dog, daycare, and spa franchise; the company is raising the bar when it comes to charitable giving through the Dogtopia Foundation, which enables dogs to positively change our world via three major causes. Since its inception, the Dogtopia Foundation has helped fund efforts around service dogs for veterans, youth literacy programs, and employment initiatives for adults with autism.


Last month, the Foundation celebrated one of its most notable achievements yet – the publication of a study by the Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine, which it supported by sponsoring dozens of service dogs with K9s For Warriors. The newly published study provides further evidence of the benefits of service dogs for veterans with PTSD and helps identify more specifically which dogs and human-interactions lead to the best outcomes. The research was led by Dr. Maggie O’Haire, associate professor of Human-Animal Interaction in the College of Veterinary Medicine, and conducted from 2017 to 2020.

Over the three years of research, 82 veterans with PTSD and their service dogs from K9’s For Warriors were studied through video-recorded behavior tests with the dogs, questionnaires to ask the veterans about their mental health, and smartphone technology to measure daily emotions and how much time veterans spent with their service dogs.

According to a release from Dogtopia and the Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine, the full study can be found at PLOS ONE, and the key findings were as follows:

  • Veterans and service dogs spend about 20 hours together per day on average, comprising about 82% of their time.
  • The most common and important task veterans ask their service dogs to do is to calm and comfort anxiety.  
  • Veterans with worse depression were more likely to ask their dogs to initiate a social connection or help make a friend.
  • Veterans with more anxiety and fewer PTSD symptoms were more likely to ask their service dog to signal when someone was approaching from behind.
  • The strongest bonds were seen with service dogs who were less excitable and humans who found caring for their service dog to be easy and convenient.
  • Lower PTSD symptoms and better mental health were seen among veterans with less excitable service dogs and those with a stronger human-animal bond.

These results are important because the amount evidence for the therapeutic role of service dogs for PTSD is currently limited. Even with lengthy veteran waitlists for service dogs, Veteran Affairs (VA) still hesitates to fund service dogs for PTSD because of this lack of evidence.

“The ultimate goal of our research is to amplify the voices of veterans and their families through science,” said O’Haire, who has been conducting research on service dogs and veterans for seven years across three studies with a fourth ongoing study. “We are providing quantifiable data that shows how service dogs can improve symptoms and quality of life for certain veterans with PTSD.” 

This sentiment is echoed by Liz Meyers, the executive director of the Dogtopia Foundation.

“We’ve seen first-hand the benefits of service dogs for veterans with PTSD and are proud to support Dr. O’Haire’s ground-breaking research,” she said. “Until financial support improves for the men and women who bravely served our country, we remain committed to raising funds to train service dogs for veterans with PTSD and increasing awareness of the need through the efforts of our franchisees who are incredibly dedicated to this worthy cause.”

Meyers and the Foundation have kept their word when it comes to that commitment to veterans. Since 2017 when the Dogtopia Foundation was established, the 501(c)3 non-profit has sponsored nearly 200 service dogs in partnership with Dogtopia’s franchise network of nearly 200 dog daycares. More than 60 of those dogs were sponsored in partnership with K9s For Warriors over the last year.

In total, Dogtopia franchisees have raised more than $1.2 million dollars for the Foundation, which also supports employment for adults on the autism spectrum across Dogtopia locations nationwide. This program began because there are very few career options for the nearly 100,000 teenagers with autism who enter adulthood each year. For daycare owners, the Foundation offers an Autism Employment Guide and hosts webinars to provide them with the tools and resources needed to create a work environment where individuals with autism can thrive.

In addition to supporting adults on the autism spectrum, the Foundation backs youth literacy programs such as SitStayRead, a Chicago-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit that prepares volunteers and their dogs to serve as a non-judgmental and supportive audience for at-risk elementary school students and help them grow more confident and fluent in their reading.