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What breed of dog for a family with a child with ASD?

(24 Posts)
BlackbirdSingsInTheDeadOfNight Mon 28-Dec-15 16:28:58

Hi all, we are thinking of getting a puppy to add to our family. Our boys are aged 10 and 7, and DS1 has diagnoses of high functioning ASD, dyspraxia and sensory processing disorder as a probable result of being born extremely prematurely.

I'm just wondering if any of you with children with similar issues have dogs, and if so, what breed? We would like the dog to be a friend to both of our children, and would get it autism trained if possible (though I gather that there are huge waiting lists for this). DH and I both work from home, so the dog would never be alone for hours at a time. We have an average sized house, good sized garden and a huge park just down the road, so a larger breed is a possibility. We've been led to believe that Labradors can be very good pets for families with an autistic child, but are open to all suggestions. Any thoughts most welcome - thanks!

TheHouseOnTheLane Tue 29-Dec-15 02:59:18

Labs are excellent because they're intelligent and very chilled out. Big enough to cuddle properly and yet not leapy and snappy. Have you considered borrowing a dog? I think there's a website which allows people to connect with families who need weekend care for their dogs with people who'd like to experience a dog for a short time.

BlackbirdSingsInTheDeadOfNight Tue 29-Dec-15 10:05:54

Thanks, that's very useful to know. Good local friends of ours have two labs and we spend quite a bit of time with them, so I guess that's nearly as good as borrowing a dog (brilliant suggestion though - thank you!). Also good point about labs not being leapy and snappy. DS gets freaked out very easily by sudden movement and shrieky noises, which I guess rules out some of the smaller breeds!

If anyone else has any suggestions then they'd be much appreciated! smile

TheHouseOnTheLane Tue 29-Dec-15 11:16:42

Anther nice calm breed is surprisingly the greyhound. They're very lazy beings and also love to simply lie near their people for HOURS on end. They do love a big run a day...my brother has a beautiful greyhound and she has one walk to the park where she goes nuts alone off her lead for half an hour then has the rest of the day chilling out.

They like a game of tug of war....and they're very loving and loyal. You can get them from Greyhound rescues usually...young ones. I just googled in fact and it seems they're a good choice for companions for people with Autism as they're very adaptable. smile

TheHouseOnTheLane Tue 29-Dec-15 11:18:15

www.gapnsw.com.au/lucy/

www.irishmirror.ie/news/irish-news/mother-autistic-boy-told-how-1806801

Ooogetyooo Tue 29-Dec-15 13:18:13

We have a whippet and got him as a pup only because we have a cat and wanted to be sure he wouldn't chase the cat around. They are lovely and calm and like the greyhounds need a good burst one or twice a day and then they will just mooch and sleep. Very placid and won't mind being pulled about and handled a little roughly by our Ds. Plus you will be in seventh heaven buying various coats and collars for him, or maybe that is just me!!
hArdly any shedding of fur as well.

WaitingForSnow Tue 29-Dec-15 13:20:34

Have you had a look here:
supportdogs.org.uk/our-work/autism-assistance-dogs/
We are considering one for our ds.

Owllady Tue 29-Dec-15 13:23:30

We have a collie but they are not a beginner's dog. Most the therapy dogs we know are standard poodles or greyhounds. Why don't you ask in the doghouse section?

CMOTDibbler Tue 29-Dec-15 13:33:00

We have lurchers, and they are very calm dogs who don't bark/yowl, and not inclined to jump up or be all over you. They are sensitive to people, and lie quietly with you when a person is sad/ill. My mum is nearly non verbal and both dogs really seem to know how to engage with her.

Both my dogs came from EGLR who foster their dogs so really know their personalities, and are happy to chat about them

BlackbirdSingsInTheDeadOfNight Tue 29-Dec-15 14:48:12

This is all hugely helpful, thanks enormously everyone! I don't know if DS would qualify for an official autism assistance dog, as he's high functioning, but it's really useful to know about the scheme. DH's best mate has a lurcher and he's a really lovely dog, though he was rescued from a very traumatic past and it's taken him literally years to be loving and trusting. It wouldn't have occurred to me that going down the lurcher/whippet/greyhound route would be a possibility - thanks for the great suggestions. And also for the comment that a collie isn't a beginner's dog - again very helpful! Much appreciated, kind people. smile

SauvignonBlanche Tue 29-Dec-15 14:52:23

Our rescue Lab has been great for my DS with ASD, he gained the confidence to go out on his own more by walking him to the park and even got speaking to other dog owners! grin

BlackbirdSingsInTheDeadOfNight Tue 29-Dec-15 19:16:03

Thanks Sauvignon, that's good to know - any dog that can boost DS's confidence and be a friend to him and his younger brother would be a good thing!

WowOoo Tue 29-Dec-15 19:49:26

We don't have dogs but have just had a visiting lurcher and friends.

Their son is autistic and their bond is amazing. He's such a great kid and such a beautiful, obedient and lovely dog. That dog had special healing powers (for me) and I'm dog sitting for them soon!

Waitingforsherlock Tue 29-Dec-15 22:09:33

I think a Labrador may be what you need, but they can have different temperaments. We have an elderly lady who is extremely chilled, very cheeky and very affectionate. Our younger one, now aged five, is a lot more timid around strangers but compensates for this with lots of barking. Indeed both are very barky; could that be a problem? Both hugely affectionate and daft though and great companions. We've just taken the plunge again and are eagerly awaiting the arrival of a red Labradoodle puppy.

I must say that my Aspie dd adores all our animals,( cats, dogs, chickens, pigs), and gains a great deal from spending time with them as do all my dc's.

GnomePhone Tue 29-Dec-15 23:04:28

If you need any further info it would be worth posting in the Doghouse section of Mumsnet Talk, there's a lot of knowledge and experience there too.
www.mumsnet.com/Talk/the_doghouse

fwiw my experience of labradors is that young ones can be a real handful in the house in terms of chewing things and stealing food etc, just something to bear in mind!

BlackbirdSingsInTheDeadOfNight Thu 31-Dec-15 16:45:27

Thanks everyone - looks like all the votes are going in favour of labs or lurchers/whippets/greyhounds. Lots to think about - including getting our house chewed to bits! grin

IonaNE Thu 31-Dec-15 22:28:06

This is just my experience but all the greyhounds I have met were aloof, not very friendly-cuddly; and they are also difficult to cuddle or cuddle up to because they seem to be all elbows and bones. My friend's black lab, on the other hand is affectionate and cuddly and always ready to engage, without the maniac nature of a terrier. For a child with ASD I would get a labrador, or if you want a smaller dog, some type of spaniel.

SauvignonBlanche Thu 31-Dec-15 23:23:54

I should add we avoided a puppy and adopted an older Lab, I think DS found that easier as he was lovely and calm.

PhilPhilConnors Thu 31-Dec-15 23:33:26

We have a lab and a spaniel.
The lab is amazing, so calm and laid back, never barks, very responsive to training.
The spaniel is bonkers, but very loving and cuddly (ds likes the cuddles, but not the nuttiness). He is very high energy and needs careful handling (actually, he's uncannily similar to ds! Selective hearing and always on the go!).
Puppies all tend to go through a shark phase, it is possible to nip this in the bud fairly quickly, but it takes a lot of supervision and consistency. Ds has never liked our dogs as puppies, but grows to love them when they chill out a bit.

IoraRua Thu 31-Dec-15 23:43:29

The guide dogs (in Ireland anyway) sell off dogs that won't make the grade. This can be for many reasons: timidity, injuries, hip issues...but they make great pets as they are superbly trained. You'd also avoid the nippy puppy stage with that.

Would really advise looking into it. My friend has one (son has asd) and they were very helpful.

tabulahrasa Thu 31-Dec-15 23:51:28

If your DS isn't happy with sudden movements, I'd really rethink getting a puppy...puppies aren't miniature dogs anymore than toddlers are miniature people.

They're unpredictable and have sudden bursts of energy, they bite as well, it's how puppies interact and initiate play until they learn not to.

So what you get is a tiny ball of fluff that suddenly attaches itself to your feet or trouser legs with it's needle sharp baby teeth, or bites on your hands when you try to stroke it...they're usually especially bad with children because children are more exciting and tend to react more when they do it, which eggs them on.

BlackbirdSingsInTheDeadOfNight Fri 01-Jan-16 17:14:20

LOL at greyhounds being "all elbows and bones" - I do know what you mean - our friends' lurcher is a fabulous dog but I think he might be difficult to cuddle properly!

Thanks all for the comments re puppies - they are very good points indeed and it may well be that DS would struggle with their puppyishness (and they with him!). PhilPhil, my DS sounds similar to yours!

Iora that is a genius suggestion - thank you! <trundles off to check out the UK Guide Dogs website>

You have all been so hugely helpful - thank you! flowers

amberlight Sun 03-Jan-16 09:35:36

Dogs for Good do a PAWS service, where they help guide families who are looking for a pet to help their autistic child. Worth a google.

moosemama Thu 07-Jan-16 21:58:04

I have two Lurchers and they are complete cuddle bugs. One is very 'greyhoundy' and therefore pretty bony, the other has a large chunk of collie in his mix and lovely to snuggle up with. Both, if allowed, will curl up into a tiny ball next to you and rest their heads on your lap - either that or stretch out until they've pushed you off the sofa! grin

Ds1 was 11 when we got our younger dog. He was a rescue pup from a very bad start, but I anticipated any problems with nipping etc and headed them off by getting ds1 interested in reading about the best way to handle puppies and how to behave around dogs well in advance. He's very rule driven, so once he knew what to do and not to do he handled him pretty well - with the slight exception of still not being able to walk past the dogs without fussing them, even when they're on their beds. Fortunately both our dogs are exceptionally laid-back and take it in their stride.

I'd recommend Lurchers to anyone, as CMOT said upthread, they have a tendency to be very intuitive and sensitive to individuals - both mine seem to understand that they need to be calmer and more tolerant around ds1, in fact they are different with each member of the family, being naturally adaptive to each person's personality and emotional state etc.

I'd definitely suggest speaking to EGLR and Lurcher Link, as both will be really careful to match your family to the right dog.

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