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Anyone know about assistance or therapy dogs for asd children?

(27 Posts)
purplerainbow Sat 30-Jan-16 14:16:22

Hi there, Iv come across here in the hope of finding someone knowledgable on assistance or therapy dogs for asd children. I had another thread that was getting conflicting advice as was recommended to come here, hopefully I can find hose who know their dog stuff here!

Ds1 is 9, has asd but has bad anxiety and very low self esteem. He is high functioning and completely physically able. He has anger outbursts when he is struggling with something. He likes animals and has always been very good around others pets. We used to have guinea pigs and he would sit for ages with it on his lap stroking it quietly and he loved it. I don't want to get caged Pets though. Iv read a lot about assistance dogs for autistic children and Iv read about 'therapet' when dogs are used in hospitals, nursing homes, schools etc for people with problems to stroke and pet to reduce stress levels. I live in the South east and struggling to find anything of any help. Iv been on the paws website for the courses I could go on but they are so over whelmed they aren't even taking next years bookings until the end of this year! Can anyone help guide me in the right direction for getting any info? Or any experiences?


Greyhorses Sat 30-Jan-16 14:23:56


I don't know how you would go about getting a trained therapy dog but I think that would be the only way to go really and I wouldn't consider trying to do it yourself.

I have a rescue dog who had been originally bought for an autistic child for similar reasons. He is a fantastic dog with everyone and everything and has never been phased by anything I have thrown at him but even he was petrified at the childs outbursts and ended up a nervous wreck and being removed from the household for weeing himself when the child was reacting to something, so it doesn't always work out how it should. I think it's a big ask to expect a dog not to be frightened in such a situation unless trained to do so.

I do hope you find something suitable but I think your best going on the waiting list for the right dog smile

purplerainbow Sat 30-Jan-16 14:27:49

So you think I'm these circumstances it would only be an assistance dog or nothing? We are basically trying to build his self esteem which will reduce his anxiety and reduce the anger in turn. He loves animals and nature so I'm trying to challenge that....

purplerainbow Sat 30-Jan-16 14:28:02

Channel not challenge

Greyhorses Sat 30-Jan-16 14:55:16

I'm no expert Purple and I'm sure someone will come along and tell you a different story. The only experience I have is that my pretty average dog did not have a happy life being constantly on edge living with a similar child due to his outbursts and it terrified the dog to the point he couldn't cope around the child at all. He still cowers now when he hears children shouting and this is 4 years later.

This is only one dog and one child though so I couldn't say that it wouldn't work in different circumstances with the right help and support.

Have you tried doing some dog walking maybe at a reacue centre and see how everything pans out?

Even with a puppy who has grown up with a child there are no guarantees the dog will turn out as you want (I say this from experience!) and I think an older temprement tested dog would be a safer bet...but again I am no expert!

purplerainbow Sat 30-Jan-16 15:06:05

We have a local animal centre and I'm going to ring them. I was thinking maybe they would let him volunteer (with me) and see if he could help out. Not sure their stance on kids being on site but worth a go!

frenchiepup Sat 30-Jan-16 16:18:08

There was a programme on a while back that was about assistance dogs and some of the failed guide dogs went to become assistance dogs to children with asd etc so maybe speak to them. Also another charity called canine partners train dogs to help adults with mobility problems - i enquired about puppy walking for them and they were very helpful so maybe give them a ring too who might be able to help

wannaBe Sat 30-Jan-16 16:30:35

Rather than a specific autism assistance dog you may be better suited to a buddy dog. As a general rule these are guide dogs etc who didn't make the grade as a guide dog, but still have the right socialisation that they are less likely to be phased. Speak to guide dogs to see what the protocols are for qualifying for a buddy dog, and even if they specifically wouldn't be the right organisation they may be able to point you in the right direction.

My dp works for a further education college for adults with VI and other disabilities including autism, and they have a buddy dog who was a failed guide dog who spends time with students on a rotated basis.

wannaBe Sat 30-Jan-16 16:34:08

And just for reassurance, if a dog has failed as e.g. A guide dog but is still eligible to be a buddy dog, then the reason for failure would likely be something such as anxiety on public transport for instance, which would mean that it wouldn't be able to be a guide dog for the blind, but that it's training and socialisation are still such that it could work in a different environment iyswim.

Mrsmask70 Sat 30-Jan-16 18:16:22

Hi we have a withdrawn guide dog and a son with ASD. Our dog had a minor health issue so was only 5 months when we got him. They come and vet your home, and match you to a dog they think would be suitable for your family. So it's not a chronological waiting list. It was a very positive experience for us. If it had been a disaster and not worked out well, then they would take the dog back and rehome it themselves. I found this reassuring, as there is an element of risk. I also had to have that conversation with my other child about what would happen if it didn't work out.. Our dog is lovely, my son did cry out the first time he jumped up at him and he immediately went into the down position and everything has been fine since. He was young, but had had all the early socialization and housetraining, which was wonderful as we are novice dog owners. It is a slow bonding process between them, so I think if you're realistic and don't expect miracles, having a dog around autism can be fab. Our dog gets all the attention he needs from everyone else in the family, so there's no pressure on my son, but he is made up when my son with ASD spends time with him. We did go through the usual jumping and nipping pup phase, but he never did it to my son with ASD which I found fascinating.

purplerainbow Sat 30-Jan-16 18:29:53

Thanks so much, all of that is really helpful. I have a lot to look into, exactly what I needed!

Mrsmask thanks for sharing your experience with me. Who did you actually get your dog from?

SteppingonLego Sat 30-Jan-16 18:34:17

This charity train autism assistance dogs.

Mrsmask70 Sat 30-Jan-16 18:39:18

He was from Guide Dogs. If you look on their website there is a section about rehoming. It's quite a lengthy, thorough process but in our case, that worked for us. I did speak to some breeders, but did find that some were a bit cautious when I mentioned autism, which made me feel uncomfortable too.

purplerainbow Sat 30-Jan-16 18:40:35

Stepp I had a look on there and they aren't taking anymore people on the waiting list as it is too high. I also live further than the 2 hour radius of them sad

purplerainbow Sat 30-Jan-16 18:50:31

I have emailed the guide dogs people from my area regarding buddy dogs

insan1tyscartching Sun 31-Jan-16 19:46:57

I have two children with autism and we have Eric. He isn't a support dog but he is the most lovely companion to ds and dd. He has known instinctively from being a puppy that ds and dd are very different and he has always adapted to them. So for ds he would sit by his feet and wait for him to acknowledge his presence.With dd he will dance around her and be very affectionate. Even now he has his own routines around the two of them because he adapts to them and their needs. He's a clever dog and very people orientated and has a very strong bond with us all which seems to be the key.

purplerainbow Mon 01-Feb-16 09:24:34

Insan, what breed is Eric?

insan1tyscartching Mon 01-Feb-16 12:55:16

He's a poodle shih tzu cross but I'd say temperament wise he is pure poodle tbh. He's very clever and he loves attention and so he knows the best way to get attention from all of us. If he danced round ds, ds would disappear so he sits calmly and ds will stroke him and invite him onto his knee. If he sat by dd, she wouldn't bother to stroke him so he dances like she taught him and then of course dd will play.

purplerainbow Mon 01-Feb-16 15:00:54

My sister has 2 shitzu and I find them quite snappy. They went on training etc. perhaps that's the difference the breeding with poodle makes?

insan1tyscartching Mon 01-Feb-16 16:13:54

Eric definitely thinks and behaves like a poodle although his shih tzu mother was a very calm, gentle dog. His poodle father was just like him clever, attention seeking and a performer though.
Eric is calm in so far as nothing phases him but I think that's more because he was exposed to everything from the beginning as his breeder has cats and geese and chickens and horses and grandchildren and tractors etc so he was exposed to the lot whist tiny before he had chance to become afraid.

purplerainbow Wed 03-Feb-16 09:29:03

He sounds cute. I can't find anywhere with dogs that can offer any help but the rda have offered us to go there and see how that goes

purplerainbow Thu 04-Feb-16 16:05:25

Anyone else about know somewhere I could get help with the dog situation? Only one place I can find is paws who aren't taking any be even on waiting list

lulalullabye Fri 05-Feb-16 02:42:35

We live in Australia and puppy raised a guide dog. He went onto the autism assistance dog programme and is now placed with an 8 yr old girl with severe autism. Over here the dogs are chosen for either the autism or guide dog programme as they show their attributes. His training was 8mths from the age of !yr, so he was placed at 20mths old.
They have very intense training and it helped a great deal that he lived in our household, 2 dd's 8 and 9.

BlackbirdSingsInTheDeadOfNight Fri 05-Feb-16 13:42:34

My 10 year old DS has high functioning autism and we are in the process of getting a Labrador puppy. We applied to re-home a guide dog but were rejected because, in our area, all of the guide dogs currently needing re-homing are apparently quite skittish and nervous and wouldn't cope with our cat or our two noisy boys. However the lady at Guide Dogs was incredibly friendly and really went out of her way to discuss our situation and apologise that none of their current dogs were a match for us / we weren't a match for them. I was very impressed by how thorough they sound - definitely do contact them. (One thing they do stipulate is that anyone re-homing one of their dogs can't be out of the house for more than 4 hours at a time, so they don't accept people who work full-time, even if they'd get a dog walker in during the day.)

We have instead gone to a Kennel Club registered breeder who is really lovely and very understanding about autism. We checked her out (quite easy when they are KC registered) and know for sure that she's entirely legitimate, treats her dogs well etc. When we visited the litter she helped us choose the pup who was most confident with both of our DS's, and we talked through DS1's needs at great length. She was obviously vetting us very carefully. Pup will join us in a few weeks' time and at puppy training classes I'll make it known to the trainer that DS has autism.

Hope that helps! I do think we may have got lucky with our breeder though.

lulalullabye Sat 06-Feb-16 05:12:59

If you do get a puppy, there are things we did with our guide dog puppy that worked really well I think. We never let him on the furniture or knees but he had many cuddles on the floor. Dd2 used to sit every night on the floor in front of the fire playing with his feet, the inside of his toes and pads and gently pulling his skin (rolls). This ensures that they are very comfortable with being prodded and poked. Guide dogs told us not to be too gentle with him and it obviously worked well.

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