Talk

Advanced search

Here some suggested organisations that offer expert advice on SN.

Aspergers and pets!

(22 Posts)
knat Thu 24-Jan-08 16:39:02

My 4 yr old dd is being assesed at the moment with a strong possibility that she has aspergers. She is mad on cats and dogs and we are looking to get a dog. Possibly a shih tzu. Does anyone have any advice or experience with regard to how, if at all, asperger children are with pets/dogs and if it benefits them at all?

TotalChaos Thu 24-Jan-08 17:57:10

there's a biographical book called "A friend called Henry" on this very topic, about a family's experience of how their son with ASD improved his communication after they got a dog. I would have thought that if a kid loves animals, then it would be good for morale having a pet for companionship, encouraging empathy etc, and when a little older being a good source of conversation with other dog lovers. I'm thinking of getting DS a guinea pig for similar reasons, as he also loves animals.

needmorecoffee Thu 24-Jan-08 20:04:01

My son with Aspergers got a cat when he was about 5 or 6. Meant to be a family cat but it took to him and he carried it everywhere and talked to it. For a long time he really only related to the cat (and man, when it went missing it was the worse week of my life (cak then, Hadn't had dd2 at that point))
He's not 14, the cat is 8 and she still sleeps on his pillow and when he's feeling anxious he cuddles her.
A pet is fab but you need the right one. Cats can disappear sad so maybe a very calm loving dog would be a good idea. I've had several Shih Tzu's and they can be a bit highly strung although mine was very loyal. He would snap if bothered though.
Just asked ds1 what pet he would recommend and he said 'something that can't be killed easily' Not sure if he means cos of a rough child or cos of the heartache if it dies/runs away as he's gone upstairs and is playing William Tell overture at top volume.

Nat1H Thu 24-Jan-08 20:08:11

My son has CP, but we have got a cocker spaniel. She is great with my son. He is not always the gentlest of children hmm, and often grabs the dog and even bites her. but she is great, she has NEVER growled or snarled at him, and now she doesn't even move when he grabs her. In fact, she goes back for more - which is hard when you are trying to teach him not to do it! What I am trying to say is that Cocker spaniels are great family dogs, and wonderful with children. highly recommended grin

sarah573 Thu 24-Jan-08 20:18:44

My DS is 9 with AS. He LOVES our cat. I say our cat, but shes more like his cat - she won't come near the rest of us, and is practically his shadow.

Its also helped me to teach him about body language and how his actions effect others, and make them feel. He's learnt when shes had enough of something (suffering numerous scratches and nips along the way!), and the way she responds (ie ears back, tail up) when she is unhappy.

Isn't there a book titled 'All cats have aspergers'? Mine certinally has traits wink

wooga Fri 25-Jan-08 13:21:11

I have been wondering about getting a dog-always fancied getting a cocker spaniel!

My son (ASD) is very nervous around dogs-have had to grab him before as he nearly ran into the road when a dog ran at him, and I want to help him get used to them more.

He's ok with a soppy old dog in our rd and enjoys seeing him.

I have seen several things lately about children with asd/asperger's benefiting from the companionship of a dog.smile

knat Fri 25-Jan-08 13:33:09

thanks everyone. i think maybe a dog maybe the way to go (i am allergic to cats!) - we had a cocker spaniel and had to send it to rescue as it got quiet aggressive with dd (not that she noticed!!!) - she would take his toys away (only to throw them for him - but he didn't take kindly to it!!!) he also used to food guard with everyone and it just wasnt worth the risk. He was very big though at 6 months he was bigger than an average adult cocker. I would feel better with a smaller dog but its just knowing what to get - i've heard shih tzu's can be highly strung, want to be boss (dd's like that!!!)and can be a bit bitey and then others say they are brilliant with cildren - so i'm just not sure - any more recommendations would be great - thanks!

needmorecoffee Fri 25-Jan-08 16:44:03

it just depends on the individual dog really. Maybe a rescue dog from a reputable centre as they can advise on personaility. You can't tell with a puppy really.

flyingmum Fri 25-Jan-08 17:34:03

I think smaller dogs are sometimes more bitey than bigger ones. I'm happy to stand corrected but you never hear of a horrible golden retreaver or a black flat coated one. I'm a bearded collie lover myself and they are lovely but the amount of hair and grooming is a nightmare.

We have a house bunny. hop hop hop. It goes mental for sweetcorn when you open the fridge in the evening grin

Peachy Fri 25-Jan-08 17:41:31

We have 2 asd children (eldest is AS/ HFA at ASpergers level, youngest HFA but more complicated and severe)

We also have pets- indeed, we rescue cats that are severely disabled or need extra help from time to time, although only have 1 atm (as I am pregnant and the cats invariably are incontinent when we get them- also theyc ome from sister and she's on mat leave from the vets).

The combo of ds1 and a pet has been beyond excellent! Our alst cat was wa bad case- he'd had a leg damaged so abdly ti was removed, and his tail, and was so badly shaken I had to use kangaroo care premmie baby techniques on him. DS1 really bonded with him! He was badly sahken when that cat died after a year (unrelated to the original injuries- kidney stones, original was abuse). But it taught him a lot. Our current cat si one we've had for years and whilst rather scary at first (again abused), is a docile housecat now and they also get on.

DS1 would love a guinea pig (no!) or dog but we cannot due to lease terms, however if we were able I would as they would get on. not a Shih tzu- used to date a breeder and cor, they were snappy! MIl ahs Westies and they're snappier than yu'd think as well, think it would be a Bison Frise (sp) or papillon.

Peachy Fri 25-Jan-08 17:41:34

We have 2 asd children (eldest is AS/ HFA at ASpergers level, youngest HFA but more complicated and severe)

We also have pets- indeed, we rescue cats that are severely disabled or need extra help from time to time, although only have 1 atm (as I am pregnant and the cats invariably are incontinent when we get them- also theyc ome from sister and she's on mat leave from the vets).

The combo of ds1 and a pet has been beyond excellent! Our alst cat was wa bad case- he'd had a leg damaged so abdly ti was removed, and his tail, and was so badly shaken I had to use kangaroo care premmie baby techniques on him. DS1 really bonded with him! He was badly sahken when that cat died after a year (unrelated to the original injuries- kidney stones, original was abuse). But it taught him a lot. Our current cat si one we've had for years and whilst rather scary at first (again abused), is a docile housecat now and they also get on.

DS1 would love a guinea pig (no!) or dog but we cannot due to lease terms, however if we were able I would as they would get on. not a Shih tzu- used to date a breeder and cor, they were snappy! MIl ahs Westies and they're snappier than yu'd think as well, think it would be a Bison Frise (sp) or papillon.

nightcat Fri 25-Jan-08 19:57:35

I also like to recommend the book "A friend like Henry", the family researched the type of dog before getting the retriever. I also liked various ideas they have come up with to enhance the benefit (like "dog speak" - not as mad as it sounds!).

iwearflairs Fri 25-Jan-08 22:31:36

There is a bit in Tony Attwood's book on AS about pet therapy - very much recommended. I am going to get my son a dog as soon as we move into a more dog-friendly set-up.

lou031205 Sun 27-Jan-08 22:25:51

Have you seen "After Thomas"?

knat Mon 28-Jan-08 09:24:28

Yes lou I did. I know it worked very well in that case DD not pure autistic as that little boy was but wondered if the principle would work the same (who knows!!!!)

concernedaboutkids Wed 30-Jan-08 04:45:25

Knat,

I'm sorry to tell you this, but I think it's a terrible idea to get a dog. I shouldn't even have to say this, but a dog is a commitment in itself. You are looking at this entirely from the perspective of whether it will help your child- but you have already abandoned one dog because the situation didn't work out. A dog isn't a toy for a child to play with, it's an animal with its own needs- a lot of care and probably specialized training to deal with your child. You can't just pick one that is supposed to be good with children and hope that it's very patient. Will your child poke at it, or pull its tail? Will she take its toys and food away? That's not a fair situation to put a dog in- it might develop food possessiveness because its food supply is in danger, or even aggression.
Think very, very carefully about this. Smaller dogs can be "bitier" than bigger dogs. If the dog has "alpha" tendancies ("bosses" your child) it will try to dominate your child, probably by growling or snapping. In all likelihood it will develop the same issues as the cocker, and for the same reasons.
The question should not be, can a dog help my child, but, can my child treat a dog fairly? If you ask yourself this honestly and the answer is no, then don't get one. You're only setting yourself up for stress and another poor dog sent to the rescue.

knat Wed 30-Jan-08 09:32:28

i appreciate your comments but we are giving careful consideration to this and not just to help our dd. In fact i'm not thinking of it as a case of helping her or as a toy but as being good for the family as a whole. Having had a bad experience before believe me its the last thing i want to repeat. And no you shouldnt have to say that a dog is a commitment in itself i already know that. WE are doing as much role play with her as we can to show her how to be fair with a dog and i know its not the real thing but we are putting the work in.

TallulahToo Wed 30-Jan-08 22:53:04

Honest advice: Borrow one first!

My DS1 with ASD (7yrs old) insisted he wanted a dog and we were about to get one. Luckily my sister asked us to look after hers for a week while she was away - Disaster! They didn't get on at all and the dog had to be kept in a seperate room. At least I didn't find out when it was too late.

He now goes horse riding every week & we found he loves horses! Funny thing is that the riding school have lots of dogs everywhere and he doesn't even look at them!

Good luck! smile

JoinedToHelp Fri 16-Nov-12 17:19:29

I was brought up with Aspergers, so this is a personal reflection so no sources shall be stated. Also for those who claim I will be biased, I was bitten by a dog before I got a dog, and was petrified of animals, and found that having Sam helped me cope and learn to stop being afraid.

I had a pet dog, he died a couple of days ago. I had 3 other friends with aspergers and the only thing different between me and them was that I had a dog. (Parents in same income bracket, same parent relationships, families were all friends of each others). I was known to struggle extensively with change and socialising, instead of taking me to get labeled my parents thankfully addressed the actual problems! Sam was the solution to all my problems

When I was 9, we got a dog. I named him Sam. I actually feel that having Sam helped a lot, as when I felt unsafe to go outside I could take him with me, and felt it easier to relate to him than to other humans.

Unless there is a specific reason (allergy) it is actually considered that aspies (don't care if not approved term, it is what me and my aspie m8s use and find it better than a constant full label). If male are best to have a dog, and if female are best to have a cat. I know it may seem sexist but it is based on research papers I have been looking into after the diagnosis (explained below).

Whenever I got checked mentally, people thought I was just a very intelligent NT, until I had to move away for college where I didn't have Sam. Within a year I was diagnosed with mild paranoia and Aspergers Syndrome by a specialist.

Having a cat/dog gives an Aspie a "being" to communicate with who doesn't have the stresses of day-to-day life, making them consistent in reactions allowing us to unwind while not being withdrawn. Also it is well known that no cat or dog will ever betray you letting you avoid becoming too withdrawn.

Also for consideration: most aspies don't have imaginary friends as we can't make them... doesn't that mean that having a pet is just as important to our psychological development as having imaginary friends is to NT's?

moosemama Fri 16-Nov-12 17:31:25

Hello JoinedtoHelp and thank you for your insights into pet ownership for people who have ASD. As a parent of a child who has AS I really welcome hearing over other's experiences, especially from individuals who also have AS and can help me to understand things from his perspective a little better.

Just one thing, this thread is a very old one - dating originally from January 2008 - which means that whilst what you have to say is really interesting and most probably of interest to many people on the board, the original poster is probably long gone, having made their decision by now.

However, if you wanted to start a discussion on the board to discuss the merits of pet ownership for people with ASD I'm sure plenty of people would be interested in chatting with you.

KeepOnKeepingOn1 Fri 16-Nov-12 17:36:56

You can tell with puppies the position in the pack they have forged before they come home with you. You must always act in a way that places them at the bottom of the pack and remember that they interpret things differently - things like who sleeps the highest, who eats first, who goes through doorways first etc mean different things to dogs. But these rules are simple and consistent. It is less important that food or toys are taken away from the dog than whether they believe the act was carried out by a pack member who is higher or lower in status than them. They will never act aggressively toward a higher pack member unless they are challenging for domiance and you must make sure this never happens (by treating them as the bottom of the pack below DC). If a dog is challenging for dominace it will go for the weakest first.

We have a large dobermann and 2 boys (11 and 6 - ASD and other stuff and under investigation). They both love the dog. She is obedience trained and will do what the boys ask. They cuddle her in her bed - DS2 making strange high pitched noises and wearing a monkey onsie. She puts up with anything because they are higher than her in the pack and she welcomes any attention from her superiors.

Strongecoffeeismydrug Fri 16-Nov-12 17:54:07

DS has autism but absolutely adores our dog(a westie).
He calls him friend and talks to him more than he does us.
He loves to help feed him and take him for walks(great reason to get him away from the I pad).
It's helped him to be more gentle and affectionate without a doubt.
And the dog follows him around because he loves all the attention he gets from DS smile

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now