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dog to help child with GDD?

(20 Posts)
joggeroo Sun 24-Jul-11 00:13:30

A year since our old family dog died I am thinking about looking for a new dog. Rather than it being just a pet I would like it to be a useful (in a practical/ social/emotional way) companion to my 9yr old who has GDD. He doesn't have a diagnosis of autism so is not eligible for us to apply for an autism support dog or I think the PAWS program.

I am reading The Golden Bridge by Patty Dobbs Gross which is giving me plenty to think about.

Do any of you have any experience of assistance dogs, or choosing/ training a family dog with particular focus on the needs of your child with special needs ?

TheCrunchyside Mon 25-Jul-11 09:14:27

No experience I'm afraid. Try posting in the doghouse section of mumsnet?

auntevil Mon 25-Jul-11 11:31:01

Ditto TheCrunchyside. My DS (8) has dyspraxia/sensory integration problems. We bought a choc lab this year. Plus sides are that she is large and able to tolerate a clumsy child. She is up for hugs and rolling around. Thankfully she is chronically lazy as DS tires easily on long walks - but i'm not sure that is always the case!
Negatives have been the way she will eat anything left around - food or not. Several times she has taken favourite things and chewed them to pieces, resulting in meltdowns. We're hoping that she grows out of this!
Definitely ask in doghouse as there must be some breeds out there that can combine everything you need patience, energy, size wise etc.
Positives - he has a new non judgy friend grin

moosemama Mon 25-Jul-11 15:15:57

Hello joggeroo, I frequent both the doghouse and here and have both dogs and a ds with AS myself.

In our case, my ds has never shown any interest in the dogs (we had three until recently and have two now). I think to him they were always' just there' - although to be fair, they were here before him, so in some ways he's right about that, iyswim. He did show a tiny bit of interest in our lurcher when he was a pup, but only in terms of him being something new in the house and in response to all the attention the pup was getting at the time.

In terms of breeds, there are so many, but from my personal perspective you can't do better than lurchers and greyhounds if you are looking for patient, calm dogs that don't need to be walked for hours every day and are often particularly sensitive around children. They come in all sizes as well, from whippet size right up to deer/wolfhounds. That said, most of them aren't massively trainable in terms of physical assistance, if that's something you would require.

My own lurcher is an absolute sweetheart - he was a rescue that came to us from a foster home at 14 weeks old and is so calm, loving and sensitive, he would make a perfect PAT dog, if I had the time to do it with him. He is a big boy, but because he's so slightly built its never been a problem for us. Ds2 was just 2 when we got him and we now have a 2 year old dd and he's never once knocked over any of my dcs, as he always takes care to be extra gentle around them. He likes a couple of walks a day, when he runs like the wind for about 20 minute, before coming home flopping and proceeding to snore his head off for the next few hours. grin

Many assistance dogs are actually crossbreeds though and are selected from rescues up and down the country. They are assessed for temperament and trainability and then go through a lot of training in order to make the grade. Clicker training is fantastic for this sort of training.

Have you considered contacting some rescue organisations asking their advice? A lot of rescues work very hard to match the right family to the right dog and the people that care for the dogs every day are best placed to know which dogs might be suitable for your family's individual needs.

EllenJaneisnotmyname Mon 25-Jul-11 15:31:39

Sorry, quick hijack - Moosemama, how's your dog doing?

moosemama Mon 25-Jul-11 15:53:49

She's doing better thanks Ellen, thanks for asking. She's even been a bit cheeky begging from the dcs at lunch time and wanted to try and play with her ball this morning. Still got the biopsy result to worry about (Thursday morning) though. sad

Sorry for the hijack joggeroo.

EllenJaneisnotmyname Mon 25-Jul-11 16:11:07

That sounds more positive. smile Cross fingers for Thursday.

Sorry joggeroo.

Violet5 Tue 26-Jul-11 14:08:58

My 9yr old son has GDD, we bought a shitzu 2 years ago now and my son loves him. He doesn't do any assistance but he's great at playing fetch and my son loves taking him for walks with us (he can hold the lead bcos he's not a strong dog), playing fetch with him and feeding him etc. It's lovely as he's so gentle with the dog, he get's a lot of enjoyment from us having a little dog but then so do we all smile

coff33pot Tue 26-Jul-11 23:20:32

I bought a Jack Russel for my DS 12 months ago. It gave him something of his own that he can rough and tumble with. I had him from 8 weeks and basically took him everywhere and let everyone handle him so he was used to noise and people and has turned out a confident little dog. They are very robust and although loves going on walks is happy running up and down the house and out in the garden because he is small. Get a private one and not a farm one as the farm ones that my friends had were snappy and obviousy have a hunting instinct. I have cats and rabbit and the JR lives harmoniously with them.

It also helps my DS stay down to earth when we are out as he is in charge of the lead and so doesnt run off. Also he has learned care and responsibility as he is the one that feeds and waters it too. the dog is affectionate and doesnt leave my DS side. When he goes school he waits on his window sill till he comes back if I let him. They are easy to train and will fetch an object its just a matter of picking a word and sticking to that word throughout. Very intelligent dogs and great company for kids.

moosemama Wed 27-Jul-11 08:43:19

I love terriers coff33, my Dad had the sweetest JRT and his sister has two Parsons JRTs - also lovely gentle dogs - if slightly hyperactive! grin Ridiculously cute as pups as well. smile

I know lots of different terrier breeds that have been trained up for heelwork to music and agility. Many people thinks terriers aren't trainable, but I would have to disagree with that - they love being engaged and taught new things. I had a Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier (another lovely breed) and she did heelwork to music, agility and obedience and actually preferred training to free playing in the park. grin

OP, if you are thinking about getting a pedigree you could visit Discover Dogs, either in London or at Crufts in Birmingham. That way you get to see and meet lots of different breeds and talk to their owners and the breed clubs about whether or not they would be right for your family.

coff33pot Wed 27-Jul-11 12:49:52

I got to admit moosemama my DH thought I was bonkers to bring a dog in a house of 5 cats and expected at least 1 or 2 to end up as lunch grin

DS loves the cats but they were already 1 and 2yrs old as he was born and so established and adopted other members of my family. I do have a cat that likes to think she is a dog tho and will sit and roll over and chase sticks!

Also the handyness of a small dog is that he goes out the cat flap and night for a wee so there is no early morning whimpers! Also I find it calms DS down when he is boardering a meltdown as I tend to just say "look at the pup he needs a cuddle right now" and it halts him for a few secs and he is concentrating on something else.

The cost of them isnt too bad either as you can pick up a JR or Parsons Russell (unbelievably cute eyes!) for around £250 to £300. But again I would visit and make sure it is from a stable home and not Breeders Ltd! Saw some horrible sights when dog hunting.

runningonmt Wed 27-Jul-11 16:39:45

My DS loves animals but is a bit boisterous (ADHD) for our cats who now do a runner when ever they hear my DS is about.

After winning the lottery finally getting DLA after several attempts I could cut down my hours at work (to school hours) which meant I could finally get DS a dog which he has yearned for for years. BEST thing I have ever done for him. His dog worships DS but hides from him when he goes into a meltdown (cue from me "you need to calm down as you are upsetting Darling Dog") - Sometimes it even works to calm but not consistently at the moment.

He is learning about responsibility (DS not DDog) and putting the needs of others above himself. He took him to puppy training every week. He will (sometimes) walk the dog at the weekend when in a compliant mood and the dog sleeps on DS's bed (in attempt to keep ds in his bed at night and out of mine). He will feed him dried food but struggles with dog meat and picking up the dog mess as DS has hypersensitive senses (including smell) and his gag reflex does into hyper-drive when dealing with unpleasant smells.

Best thing though is that the dog never holds a grudge and is up for a bit of rough and tumble and is always willing to play. He has a high energy level to match DS and they are both avid footballers in the garden. But is calm enough to cuddle up on the sofa with us in the evening. DS misses him when he is at school and DDog is always overjoyed when he comes home from school regardless of what sort of day DS has had (unlike me when I have had a bad day at work and struggle to cope with DS's moods!).

I highly recommend a cocker spaniel - great with kids. Can be left alone for periods of time. Easily trained. Not too small to step on. Not too big to constantly be stepping over in a small house. Gets on well with the cats and shares his dog flap with them. DLA also covers the pet insurance which was a god send following surgery this year for torn ligaments in his hock (about as accident prone as DS then).

I consider him a therapy dog as he works wonders for my DS and takes a bit of pressure off me at the same time.

TheTimeTravellersWife Thu 28-Jul-11 14:08:09

We have a dog from a rescue organisation. They are very careful about who they re-home them to, and rightly so. They came to the house to check it and inspect the garden, lots of questions about if the dog would be left alone during the day. They were reluctant to place a dog with us as DD was under 5 at the time, but we managed to persuade them.

DD just adores her and relates really well to her; brushes her, feeds her, talks to her. DD has ASD, developmental co-ordination disorder, speech and language difficulties. Our dog has a very special place in our hearts and makes DD feel important. She is DD's best friend (she doesn't really have any children as friends.....)

The downside - vets bill ( get insurance!) going on holiday, trying to find somewhere dog friendly, kennel bills if going abroad, make sure you have room in the car for another passenger! It is in many ways, like adding another child to the family.

vjg13 Thu 28-Jul-11 15:56:28

I would also suggest a greyhound or lurcher. We have two and they have really helped my daughter (GDD). Mainly general fitness from walking them and responsibility of holding the older dog's lead, helping feed them etc. They are beautiful, gentle dogs who don't bark much and love a cuddle. grin

Claw3 Thu 28-Jul-11 17:17:05

We have a Labrador, he was given to us. We got him prior to dx of ds, they really are the best of friends. The dog is also ds's main interest and topic of conversation.

MissKittyEliza Fri 29-Jul-11 08:28:43

We wanted to do this, for ds who has ASD, OCD and Tourettes style tics.

We went onto various Internet sites re. Assistance dogs but they're like gold dust. You just can't get them. Ds now ten. He has no friends and is very isolated. I still think a golden retriever/lab would make a companion and emotional support for him but, can't just get any dog/a puppy. Need a steady-Eddie style of "grown up" dog.

Tried various rescue avenues but they said many of their dogs have behavioural issues (!!) which is a definite NO NO.

Watching with interest.....

moosemama Fri 29-Jul-11 09:33:30

MissKitty, have you tried getting on the list for failed Guide Dogs? They are still very highly trained and fully temperament tested, but usually fail on things like being too sociable (so distracted by friendly dogs or people when out walking) or not able to ignore a ball/toy that's thrown near them. A failed police or forces dog might be worth looking into as well?

I would also look into a lurcher - there are literally thousands of them in rescue and many of them are extremely calm, dependable adult dogs that get overlooked just because of misconceptions about the breed. All they need is a couple of good off lead romps a day and they will be calm and quiet in the house. They are totall fuss-monsters though and love nothing better than hugs and cuddles. grin

There is a website called LurcherLink that has hundreds that are desperate for homes, along with people who are really knowledgeable and will only home the right dog to the right family. (My boy came from them originally.)

MissKittyEliza Fri 29-Jul-11 11:52:23

Have tried various avenues..... Autism assistance dog, guide dog buddy dog, rehoming centres.

Can find nothing on failed guide/police dogs.

moosemama Fri 29-Jul-11 12:29:34

I think you need to contact their head office and ask - they don't advertise, but iirc they keep a list of potential homes. Perhaps try this number? Or maybe your district team?

MissKittyEliza Fri 29-Jul-11 12:52:52

Thanks for that. Will try!

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