Celebrating Service Dogs in September for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Patients

The Value of a Service Dog

September has been deemed National Service Dog Month. These animals are essential for many people living with chronic conditions, disabilities, and various rare diseases. They help patients to accomplish every day activities that many other people don’t think twice about. Although service dogs differ from emotional support pets, they can also serve this purpose for their owners.

Gayle Silberhorn

Gayle Silberhorn trains service dogs for people who need them. She also has a service dog herself. Diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia, her first dog, an Australian Shepherd named Sera, helped her face her daily chronic pain, migraines, and fatigue more easily.

Sera had a daughter Bryn who is also a trained therapy dog, and Bryn’s daughter Saga is currently in training to be Gayle’s new service dog. Bryn works in hospice care and with special needs kids.

Gayle first decided to get a therapy dog when she had broken her ankle and was completely immobile. At this time, Sera was 2 years old and had already gone through obedience training and agility training. Service training came easily for her as she loved retrieving. Sera would bring Gayle anything she needed even before she started her official training. She knew her owner well and could sense what she needed from her.

Before Gayle broke her ankle she wasn’t planning on keeping any of the dogs she was breeding. But Sera had a special bond to her. She would stay in the box when people came to look at dogs, right next to Gayle. Gayle’s dad had also recently passed away, and Gayle was in need of emotional support. Sera craved human interaction and was a very focused dog. She was sensitive to Gayle’s needs and in tune to her emotions.

Sera became both a therapy dog and a service dog, which is unique for a trained pup.

Gayle explains that she was easy to train as she was both smart and loving. Now, four years after Sera’s passing, Gayle is training Saga to be her personal service dog. She has a very similar demeanor to the one her grandmother had.

Aussies

Gayle thinks Aussies are a great breed for service dogs. They are loyal, protective, intelligence, and have a strong desire to work. Of course the breeder matters, but those are the characteristics that Aussies are known for.

It is important to note that if Aussies aren’t given a job through which they can use their intelligence, they often become difficult to train. They need an outlet for their brain and their energy.

Positive reinforcement training is also important. They are sensitive dogs who need soft-handed training.

Things to Know

Gayle explains that its important to ensure that when choosing a breeder for a service dog, you are going to reputable one. You also shouldn’t overlook rescue groups when looking for a good pup. Dogs in rescue organizations often are dogs that would do well with a “job” and without one, have issues. Positive reinforcement and a good trainer can help combat these problems.

That is why Gayle suggests a mentor to help with training. Good training is essential for a good service dog.

It’s also important to remember that service dogs are still regular dogs who need time to play and have fun. It shouldn’t be all work and no play. Gayle keeps a schedule to ensure her dogs get time to play and train every day.

You can read more about Gayle’s experience with service dogs here.

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