Dog for little autistic boy(32 Posts)
Hello doggie people! I wonder if anyone has any ideas in this. We are thinking of getting a dog (puppy) for our little boy, he is nearly 6 and is autistic. He is non-verbal but bright and very affectionate and interactive. The factors I want to consider are:
Needs to be small, we do not really have the room for a big dog, and I would rather have a small or even very small dog, and it would be nice to be able to pick it up, take it everywhere etc.
Needs to be good with kids (obviously), friendly and loving, not aggressive or snappy, able to tolerate a rather excitable and huggy child.
Trainable and biddable but with a personality.
Not masses of hair and upkeep.
Is there any dog like that???
i think bichon frise (sp?) have a low shed also lhasa apso's
Not tiny but cocker spaniels are lovely and very very cuddly; a show version needs slightly less exercise than a working one. Hair loss is average
I think a therapy dog aswell
A puppy of any breed is likely to be quite bouncy and Bitey
Good with kids, not aggressive or snappy will be down to the individual personality of the parents, not the breed and the puppy's life experiences.
I find the description 'excitable and huggy' a bit unnerving to be honest.
Because most dogs, actually, don't like hugging, faces pressed against theirs and the impulsive stranglehold type cuddles kids like to give...
Quite often, when dogs are subjected to this sort of rough, but entirely loving behaviour they stay permanently highly stressed and anxious throwing out subtle signals that are often missed until it starts escalating into growls, air snaps etc.
I have two children with autism and our dog Eric a poodle shih tzu cross would probably fill your requirements. We have had Eric since he was a puppy and so they have all got used to each others' quirks and foibles I suppose. Eric is a really clever dog and even as a puppy he sensed that ds and dd needed differing approaches from him. So with dd he'd chase round after her he'd jump onto her knee but with ds he'd sit at his feet and wait for him to stroke him.
Ds was really scared of dogs before Eric but Eric was tiny as a pup and still is only nine inches high and because he has never given reason to be scared of him ds adores him and allows him to sit on his knee and even lick him.
Ds and dd are very quiet and predictable though I'm not sure many dogs would be very relaxed around a child who was excitable and huggy. Could you teach ds to recognise the dog's cues that they were unhappy? Could you teach ds how to approach a dog and how not to be excitable and huggy round them? It may well be that as a family you need to look for a therapy dog trained to meet your ds's needs.
I have an autistic son who had 'his' first dog around age 7. He was always calm though and not overly 'huggy'. He drew a lot of solace from his dog - the dog was the centre of his world - but the downside was, the dog died quite young (aged 6) and then his heart was smashed in two. Fortunately by that time we had a second dog who took over. She had always chosen to sit on the younger son but oddly, as soon as my autistic son's dog died, she'd sit on his knee, instead... She was unusually calm, placid and loved hugs. She was an English bull terrier. My autistic son's dog a staffy.
Dogs do not have human body language - hugging is something many dogs hate! You might be best getting a puppy who could grow up knowing your son and his ways but to be honest, a dog might not be the best pet for him.
Ds2 has Asperger's - he hated the first few weeks with our puppy - he couldn't understand that things he was doing were making the normal puppy nipping worse and refused to act differently e.g. he doesn't like wearing anything on his feet in the house but has very long, thin, mobile toes which dpup found absolutely fascinating but wouldn't start wearing slippers even though that would have made his life easier
He also hates changes to his routine and having a puppy turns your household upside down for a while. He adores him now and they are great friends but it was hard work for a while
My experience is pretty much identical to basildonbond's. We got our dog as a puppy when ds was 7 and he found it really hard at first because it just wasn't what he expected. A year on and they're the best of friends but be warned when you're exhausted from puppy night duty and ds downs tools and refuses to go to school, there may be tears!
Plug for a cavalier King Charles here, fantastic dogs for children. Extremely gentle, affectionate and tolerant. My 15 y old cousin with aspergers was given one at eight and they are the best of friends.
A cocker crossed with a poodle - cockerpoo - is a popular breed round here, small, but with a personality and with less shedding because of the poodle hair. They are fabulously cute when small.
Would also agree with Basildon and Babe the early weeks were really difficult with Eric and the dc. Ds spent most of his time avoiding the puppy and dd, who was the target of Eric's nipping, hated it.
We had to put Eric behind a gate as a consequence for nipping dd because she had to see he was being punished I suppose.
Eric learned quickly though and once that spell was over it has been lovely to watch them together.
Both ds and dd enjoy going on walks with Eric (if the weather is good) and dd can teach him anything even without the obligatory ham because he loves her.
Thanks for the posts everyone. You have underlined for us that getting a doggie is not something to be taken lightly or done without a lot of thought. DS can be nice and gentle with animals (we had a very old cat, now sadly passed on, and he was very kind and gentle with her), but he is also prone to running about and getting excited. We were thinking how nice it would be to have a little dog who would run around with him, and also be a companion (there are no other children in the family so he is always with adults, and he doesn't really have friends because he is non verbal so other children at school, although they are kind to him, don't really communicate a lot with him).
We do know it would involve quite a lot of time, effort and attention, but we are not novice dog owners, I grew up around literally dozens of dogs and my parents are dog breeders who live with about ten or eleven dogs in their house all the time! But I have never, in my own right, had a dog, only a cat (who lived for nearly eighteen years). DH has had lots of dogs in his life.
It's a shame you don't want big and sheddy because labs are fab. Have you ever seen the footage of the lab with the little boy in Argentina? (google if you haven't, it's beautiful). He's got downs syndrome but is also on the spectrum.
Not all dogs are the same, they're as varied as people. If you don't hug our lab he will come and throw your arm up over him, or wrap both his front paws around your arms. He's extremely happy with children, hasn't bitten, from very young mouthing was always minimal and gentle. Total puppy damage was one pair of shoes and one pair of flipflops, so it was far from weeks weeks and weeks. Sounds like you have experience and time and anyway not every experience is the same. We got a happy, well adjusted puppy because we had to make sure everything would be ok with our child that has a major dog phobia. Research and you'll find the right puppy. I'm not going to suggest a breed because I've only had a collie (needs a farm), an Irish setter (too big) and a lab (best dogs in the world ).
Labs are lovely but they are quite big, DH particularly wants a dog that is small and compact. I would also be very happy with a collie (that's what my parents breed, too much hair on the roughs for me, but a smooth collie is nice) but DH is adamant he wants something smaller.
If we got a puppy it would not be left on its own much, there is pretty much always someone at home (DS only goes to school part time at the moment).
a collie (needs a farm)
Ahem, I have the dog described in your post.
Virtually no puppy damage, kind, gentle, will force people into hugging her by shoving her head and body through arms, will put paws around necks etc.
She is a working bred, highly driven farm collie....
Who is kept as a pet.
As are the majority of collies I see being walked who are by and large pretty happy
Firstly dogs in general do not like being hugged or picked up...individual dogs may like it or tolerate it, but as a rule it's not something you can count on.
Secondly...some dogs are great with children with autism, some aren't.
My DS pretty much lived in his bedroom until our puppy wasn't a puppy anymore as he just couldn't cope with being chased and bitten by the puppy...as he's a teenager with AS, that wasn't a huge issue, but with a younger child it would be.
Now, of all of us DS is the one that the dog isn't as good with, they struggle to read each other's body language and because of that and the fact that the dog finds DS unpredictable he's really not very tolerant of DS and pretty wary of him.
Again because of DS's age (he's 19) and because the dog is mine it's really not a problem, but for a younger child who actually wants to interact with a dog it would be.
You could endure the puppy stage and weeks or months of no-one being able to run without tiny teeth attached to their leg and come out the other side with a nice playmate for your DS, but equally - you could end up with a dog that isn't happy in the company of your DS...and there isn't any guarantee which way it will go.
Not saying collies don't make great pets. Far from it, they do. But not what OP wants (or actually it is, but too big).
I'm pointing out that I only know my dogs, not all dogs, as does everyone else. My bearded collie was a rescue (battersea thought she was a working collie, because she was dumped on them at only roughly 10 weeks). We were when she turned into a grey medusa. She hated London, she got hours of walking but the city was just too restrictive, and luckily she got out to the country every weekend. That, for her, was heaven, you could feel her mood every Sunday and it was heartbreaking. But then they say, like owner like dog, I was a teen and I hated London too. Living there sucked
look at the assistance dogs uk website for charities who could help you
Another vote for a King Charles or perhaps a Border Terrier? They are lovely and not quite as bonkers as some terriers.
Yes border terriers are lovely too
King Charles cavs are known as 'love sponges'. They are super content to be cuddled etc.
Look up dogs for the disabled
Also medical service dogs and add the word autism
Thanks again for all the thoughts. Yes collies are great (my parents have at least six or seven of them at any one time, they live in the house and sleep on the beds!), but too big for what we are envisaging. DS does not need any special assistance, or even therapy in the usual sense, from the dog, just someone to play with really. He does not have any major behaviour problems, or self-harm etc, and he is very sociable, he does not live in his own world like some people on the spectrum can. We just thought it would be nice for him to has a companion specially as there are no other children in the house or the family.
Could you maybe try a trained dog for people with autism first and go from there? I don't know the criteria for applying though.
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