When Tyson King shares the value a service dog can provide, he speaks from experience.
For the retired Canadian serviceman who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, his service dog Cully – from Courageous Companions, a veteran-run non-profit that pairs dogs with veterans with a variety of conditions – has transformed his life.
King had served two tours with the army in the former Yugoslavia, and on his return experienced anxiety, hypervigilance and night terrors, with the resulting effects eventually consuming his life. A variety of situations can trigger a negative response – from construction zones and other loud noises to large crowds – but Cully, an Australian shepherd, will respond with a lick of King’s hand or a gentle tug to help attract his attention and guide him out of the situation.
The impact of Cully’s support has let King get off medication and turn his attention to helping others through his new business.
“We train the dogs to meet an individual’s unique needs, from PTSD to diabetes and epilepsy,” says King, adding he can also direct individuals needing a support dog to possible funding sources to help with the cost.
Delivering the highest quality of training for the dog and handler ensures not only a solidly trained dog but a smooth integration for both.
“We make sure that the dog is safe to be in public as a support dog, but also that the dog actually works – doing the tasks it’s supposed to do when it needs to do them,” King says. “It’s very rewarding.”
Trainers needed: Here’s how to get involved
Inspired by his own experience, King founded VIK9 Consulting and Training to train service dogs for people living with a wide variety of medical conditions. He’s keen to find others in the community to join his team as paid professionals who will work with both the dogs and clients.
Initial training takes about 18 months – this takes the dog to the level of BC certification – then King provides more advanced training to MSAR standards.
While formal training isn’t a prerequisite as King will provide both training and ongoing mentorship, an affinity for dogs and an openness to people of all backgrounds and disabilities is essential.
Ideally he’d like people to work with the dogs from the puppy stage right through their condition-specific adult training, but if you’re only able to work with puppies or only with older dogs, he’d also like to hear from you.
Trainers must also be able to take the dog to Winnipeg for periodic advanced training sessions with a master trainer.
Can your own dog lend a paw?
If you think your dog would be a good candidate to offer support for you, King also offers specialized training at a reduced cost, provided its breed and personality are appropriate.
Individual training and training for small groups of up to three teams is also available.