Published: November 18th, 2016 | Jeremy Feldman

Oslo Coffee in Brooklyn is my usual pick-me-up in the midst of a hard day, and if anyone knows what a hard day feels like, it’s a dog with PTSD.  From pups living in shelters to dogs fearful of thunder, canine PTSD can happen to any dog. That’s why Lee Charles Kelley has made it his life’s mission of treating dogs with PTSD.

Should you and your pooch need a little more zen in your life and less stress (and, let’s face it — we all do, especially with this election), what better place to start than with a free seminar with us, PetYen, and Lee Charles Kelley? We were lucky enough to strike up a conversation with Lee before the seminar. Go ahead and read below to be inspired to find your dog’s inner calm.

Interview with Lee Charles Kelley on Canine PTSD

  1. You’ve been training dogs professionally since 1989 using the Natural Dog Training, created by Kevin Behan. Why is the Natural Dog Training method your preferred choice of training?

“I started as a dog trainer in the late 1980s using the dominance model, which was the most prevalent form of training at the time. After a while, I realized that while it was effective in some ways it was also hard for most dogs. They didn’t like being “pushed around.” So, after reading Don’t Shoot the Dog by Karen Pryor, which was all about positive reinforcement, I began studying and using that model. It was much nicer than dominance, but I found that it was also less effective. When I first read former police dog trainer Kevin Behan’s book, Natural Dog Training, I was skeptical. But since I felt driven to find the best, the most effective training system I could, I tested some of Kevin’s techniques with two dogs I was working with. The results were amazing. One of the dogs — a Jack Russell terrier named Mack — had flunked out of an Upper West Side training school because “he couldn’t learn the down command.” He would either roll over on his back and piddle or grab the trainer’s hand with his teeth. Within 20 minutes of using Natural Dog Training techniques, I had Mack going into a down while running in Central Park! And he LOVED it!”

2. Can dogs suffer from PTSD?

“Yes. The same parts of the brain — not to mention the same neurochemicals — that are activated in human subjects are also active in dogs who’ve developed PTSD. Research shows that many zoo animals and even some wild animals can develop PTSD.”

3. What causes PTSD in dogs? What symptoms should we look for?

“In all cases, the cause is a deeply stressful event in which the subject is unable to find a safe way to release those feelings of stress. Symptoms include flashbacks, where specific triggers related to the original traumatic event, cause the subject re-experience that event as if it were “happening again for the first time.” Dogs will tremble, hide in closets or under beds, try to avoid certain people or situations, they may not like being touched or petted, if confronted with a trigger they may whine, hyperventilate, try to escape, or lash out with “fear aggression.”

4. Is there treatment for dogs with PTSD?

“Yes. There are several forms of treatment. According to Dr. Nicholas Dodman (who uses behavioral science techniques and, when those don’t work, pharmaceuticals), a dog can never really be cured of PTSD. I disagree. And this is why the Natural Dog Training model is so important. Remember, PTSD is caused by deep, unresolved stress. And Natural Dog Training techniques are designed specifically to trigger a dog’s unresolved stress and turn it into a kind of emotional flow.”

5. What does that mean?

“It essentially means teaching the dog to play! Believe it or not, rough-and-tumble outdoor play releases more of the good kind of brain chemicals associated with new neuronal growth that can reverse PTSD than Prozac or other drugs!”

6. Together, we’re hosting a free seminar on canine PTSD. What’s the biggest objective for hosting this free seminar and what do you hope the attendees will get out of it?

“The objective is to help as many people and dogs as possible. That involves 1) teaching them how to recognize the signs and symptoms of PTSD, 2) helping them determine if their dog is actually suffering from PTSD and 3) teaching them how we use the core principles of Natural Dog Training.

I’ve always loved doing research. This goes back to my days in junior high and high school, where I would spend my lunch hours in the library! When I began studying to become a dog trainer, I carefully researched and tested every possible training technique and approach I could find. And I eventually found that Natural Dog Training was head-and-shoulders above everything else out there.”

We have to deal with the reality of canine PTSD on a daily basis, and sometimes it’s not fun. The deck often feels stacked against you — and your canine companion— and navigating the treatment for canine PTSD can be a minefield. So, we hope you join us and Lee Charles Kelley for a free seminar.

How to Register for the Seminar:
Where: Halyards Bar located at 406 3rd Avenue Brooklyn, NY 11215
When: Sunday, November 13 4:00pm-6:00pm EST
Contact: Dog lovers can sign-up on Eventbrite or contact PetYen at
Share: Use #petyen to share the news!

Click the link below to add the invite to your Google Calendar. 

And, you can join us on Facebook. 

Photo Credits

All photos created by PetYen. Taken November 2016. 

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