It is not a new concept that victims suffering from PTSD have gotten animals as a form of counseling. It is on the other hand very innovative for the United States Government to be using dogs to help assuage the nervousness associated with a traumatic experience. Not only do we use dogs for their heightened senses, but for years we have used dogs in many different capacities in the counseling field. Dogs are being used in hospitals throughout the United States to help people that are suffering to be able to relax to a greater degree.
For civilian therapy dogs, they generally must reach about a year of age before it can begin classes in what normally lasts approximately 6 weeks to become therapy dogs. Therapy dogs have their own picture ID and are used by private institutions as well as U.S facilities to help those suffering and/or with trauma. Now in this particular instance, the dogs "Assigned" to the veteran is trained to actually recognize and assess when a stressful episode is about to take place. The dog is trained to behave in a manner that gets the veterans attention and to pretty much interupt the intrusive thoughts being experienced.
The article addresses a different kind of therapy dog altogether. It also brings up an interesting arguement in that a dog may actually be better equipped in this specific setting to deal with the veteran than a human. While another person may try to help the veteran in their distress, the dog is trained to behave in a "warm" manner with them. The studies that were conducted showed some evidence that when people see a dog, what they in fact see is a dog. A veteran may see a person and personalize aggression, or sadness, therefore making the situation potentially more tense.
On http://www.military.com/news/article/vets-using-watchdogs-against-ptsd.html?col=1198880166361 it is stated that the dog handler must work with the dog for at least 6 months and then the traditional dog service training is at least a year and can cost approximately $10,000 per dog to train. I found this article interesting because on a counseling stand point, it is a proactive way to help those who have suffered trauma and are in need of additional aid in their counseling.