Introducing Tonka’s Tips….

Tonka and I at obedience training when he was 10 months

“Tonka’s Tips” is the page on my site that will help you to use my PTSD Service Dog homework. This is the beginning, first, you must be diagnosed with a disabling form of PTSD, it can present in different forms but it must be diagnosed as a disability.

Basically, your doctor or another person listed under the Accessibility for Ontarian’s with a Disability Act (AODA) will/may require you to do research into a Service Dog and what the physician or person with authority is asked to do, as many do not know the process. That amounts to two thing’s; that they will diagnose you with PTSD as a disability and second that they will write a letter of documentation that the you require a Service Dog due to a disability. Once you have that, the journey starts, that “Letter of Documentation” is what makes your dog legal, nothing else, just that!

Next you need an understanding of what a Service Dog is and what your dog will need to do in order to assist you AND fit into your family/lifestyle.

Any Service Dog is considered a working dog as it is asked to perform specific tasks. A Therapy or Comfort Dog is not considered a working dog because it does not perform tasks…it is companionable and comforting only. Thats is the difference between the two. We’ll talk about the tasks required later as they are taught to the dog, have no fear, you got this!

Why use a dog…because even though the AODA wording is Service Animal, which means that cats, pigs, lizards or birds can be Service Animals, only a canine has an exemption under the Federal and Provincial food and health Acts! Except in the US where it is my understanding that Pig’s are recognized also. So thats another reason why a dog is best besides the obvious learning ability.

A Service Dog must present acceptable behaviour at all times in public, be under control at all times and will perform specific tasks. In layman’s terms…it behaves and can be redirected if needed, which is basically the training of Sit, Settle, Come, Heel and Stay. Those are the base commands for any dog, then we build on those commands. It takes time to teach but thats were the “In Training” label on the vest comes in…that training label allows us to start getting some benefits of a Service Dog as we follow our commitment to 1) Exercise/Walk the dog every day, twice a day 2) Consistent commands by you, members of your family and any others 3) Instruction when you feel you require it 4) Bonding through Play and training at the same time!

And thats the first three steps; get diagnosed with PTSD and your letter, decide about your dog remembering that Tonka is a Snorkie not a Lab and start obedience classes because its easier to have someone else “train you”, dog is easy! You will be buying a cape and I have all that info for you as well. You don’t need any certification, its the letter and training that matters.

Professional trainers think that only they should supply the dogs and that it should be regulated more, so they are actually petitioning the government. Why? Perhaps their arguments work for some people with a disability but I can pretty much say that when it comes to mental health (PTSD specifically) their arguments around scenting cortisol are not the only answer!

How do I know…because I live it, every day.

I don’t have a kennel that produces dogs. I don’t have a business training dogs for others. I don’t sit on any service group boards. I’m not into fund raising and don’t expect you to be either.

I simply want to educate people about PTSD Service Dog’s and how they help me. I’ve done all the homework that your doctor will require/ask you to do for a Service Dog in Ontario. Now I want others who are in need and are diagnosed have the same opportunity as me.

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“Service Dog’s Rule…”

Well, here it is, our first post…

Not sure who we are? The dog’s name is Tonka and I’m Ben…together we live my life. Tonka is my Service Dog and goes everywhere with me. I know he doesn’t look like a Service Dog to you but I assure that he is and that he is legal.

There is a lot of confusion out there about Service Dog’s, especially here in Ontario as the Accessibility for Ontarian’s with a Disability Act is being implemented. Most people think they know about Service Dogs and Accessibility but they don’t really. Part of our hope is that we can change that through education.

Service Dogs cost a lot of money…between $15,000 and $30,000 with the wait times for one being in excess of 2 years! I couldn’t afford that or wait that long, even if I’d known at the time that a Service Dog would help me. And while a person still has to travel to be trained, they are not guaranteed to get the dog that they’ve been working with until then.

PTSD is not the easiest diagnosis to get to if you haven’t some kind of military or emergency responder background. People, even doctors, don’t get it…the stigma being if you’re not one of the aforementioned, you can’t have a problem!

Yet, I am living proof that you can. Due to trauma before the age of five I have suffered, unknowingly, ever since. In July of 2013 I was granted the use of a Service Dog due to symptoms of PTSD…and my life changed.

My future Service Dog was my own personal dog, Tonka.

Tonka was a pound rescue at 7 months old we adopted in 2010. He didn’t know his name but had a clue, he wasn’t housebroken and he didn’t know any commands. He was 3 years old in July 2013 and became a Service Dog…home schooled!

Anyone can home school with the right help, commitment and desire to learn in a fun way. Follow our continuing journey as we offer tips and guidance. I’m sure there will be lots of questions…we have the answer for 95% of them.

Have a great day, “Us”