Dog for family's with children with autism

(45 Posts)
givemebooks Sun 30-Aug-20 12:32:28

Hello, i posted this in the SEN section but was advised that I might get more advice and answers here!

Over lockdown 2 of my sons have finally received their confirmed diagnosis of autism, my boys are DS1 aged 13 and DS2 aged 9, we have known for many many years they had autism but the waiting list and such and lack of support mean we are only at this point now.

Apart from getting an EHCP for out youngest (DS1 has one already) nothing has really changed we have been an autism family for years!

For a few years ago we were at the jorvick center and saw a child with a support dog and it is something we have been talking about since

Now for "official" support dogs the waiting list is long and likely our boys have already missed the boat with age ( they prefer children to be aged 7 due to waiting lists),

So we changed tack to more of a fanily pet dog, leaving the support element but knowing that animals provide support and companionship in many ways no matter ehat!

I wondered If any family's have pet dogs the they use as emotional support and companionship for there children with autism? and if you can tell me a little about your dog journey, how they have perhaps help your child? How your child/children reacted?

Any and all advice would be wonderful and suggested breeds? Is there better breeds for temperament for understanding or not overly reacting to meltdowns?

We have both grown up with family dogs so the standard puppy and dog life is not new to us so no worries there!

Its just this step feels full of so many questions for us and we do not know any other families with dogs and children with any SEN needs we know our boys want this and we know companionship of the dog would focus on our youngest he is very vocal on feeling alone at times yet he has issue been around people or having others in his space, he has recently been through the loss of his guinea pig and the heartache he made me feel when he said he had no one now just broke me, i feel the best friend of a dog would make his world

Plus it is nothing we want to rush in to not that we could at the moment as rescue dogs are not suitable for family's with other pets (we have 1 cat) and new puppies well the cost has gone crazy at the moment and even without been set on what breed, we know we would want fully registered breeders and we are priced out of the market right now!! But any recommendations of breeders would be lovely

So sorry for the million questions! Hope someone can offer some help and guidance

OP’s posts: |
BatleyTownswomensGuild Sun 30-Aug-20 13:14:37

I'd say a calm breed. But much depends on how your kids autism manifests. Are they big stimmers? (My DS's stimming definitely rattled some more sensitive dogs.) How are your kids with sounds? If they are noise sensitive then you probably want to avoid some of the yappier terrier or toy breeds. (The smaller dogs are often noisier than their bigger counterparts.) I reckon something steady, soppy and devoted like a lab would be a good bet.

A lot of posters on these pages rave about giving rescue dogs a chance but, to be honest, as your kids may have meltdowns and stim, I think you'd be better with a pup. It can acclimatise to the environment from the off and won't have any baggage from past trauma.

tabulahrasa Sun 30-Aug-20 14:07:10

My DS hated having a puppy in the house, he does like dogs, has always lived with dogs... but having a tiny sharp bitey unpredictable puppy in the house was massively stressful on him - for months.

And he never quite came round to that dog, it was tolerated but he didn’t ever like it like he did ones that arrived already past the puppy stage.

Veterinari Sun 30-Aug-20 14:16:27

Yes it's tricky because most puppies of any breed are difficult for children - they are very sharp and teethy and are unpredictable. During puberty they lose training and are hard work, so in terms of a nice calm supportive family pet you're realistically looking at putting in 1-2 years of intense work/training and managing the pup with your DC before any real rewards.

But a rescue dog is also risky - less known family history/less predictable. Breed specific rescues May be an idea - I know people who have adopted 2-4 year old labs/golden retrievers from breed specific rescues and they are often rehomed because of family breakdowns so pretty good temperament wise. Though as with any rescue, separation anxiety is a risk.

I think any dog will take work - it really depends on whether along with your family commitments, you can commit time and attention to training a dog consistently over the next few months/years to get to the situation you want

Dreamersandwishers Sun 30-Aug-20 14:17:47

Lab or Lab/ golden retriever cross. They will be big and a bit clumsy, but also tolerant of clumsy kids, in my experience.
Puppy stage could be hard on all concerned whichever dog you get.
I have 2 - male is very empathetic, calm and cuddly. Female was easier to train but remains more independent, but still tolerant. No SEN kids here, but nothing bothers them, they are very much people dogs.

Suzi888 Sun 30-Aug-20 14:30:05

No sen child but we have a Lab, so I’d say a Labrador or Labradoodle. A puppy will take a lot of training and can be excited and bark, chew, scratch, jump up and need two hour walks a day, so hope you are prepared for all of that too. Plus general expenses, ours costs around £100 a month excluding vet bills and grooming. An older, rescue dog could cut out all the puppy training and house breaking phase.

A big dog can be clumsy, my dog is 9, loves kids and will absolutely stand on their feet, sit on them, squish them, he does not respect personal space etc
Staffies and boxers can also be very good- but may take more obedience / socialisation/ owner experience.

I personally would not get a small dog... can be snappy, yappy, and bustling children can hurt them unintentionally if you have a busy household. Although my dog isn’t a registered therapy dog he has gone into hospitals and nursing homes and the patients absolutely loved him.

longcoffeebreak Sun 30-Aug-20 14:39:04

I have 13 year old son with Autism and recently got a miniature poodle puppy. As someone said upthread a puppy is tricky for a kid who might struggle with I'm unpredictable behavior and sharp little teeth as well as jumping up or barky invitations to play tug 😀.

My son has struggled we keep pup out of his bedroom as he is scared of the puppy chewing his toys and models and I have a crate and a gate on the kitchen so I can impose space if pup has the zooms or my son is having a meltdown so that everyone is safe.

Puppy is now 6 months old and my son is getting fond of the puppy and we walk him together sometimes which is great as my son struggles to find an exercise he likes but he loves walking and talking with me when we walk the pup.


SionnachRua Sun 30-Aug-20 14:42:45

Not sure about where you are but Irish Guide Dogs have a lot of dogs that don't make the cut for guide or assistance dogs. These are often rehomed to families like yours who would need a quiet, well behaved pet. It might be worth contacting similar groups and seeing if that's something they do.

SoThisisMe Sun 30-Aug-20 17:18:38

OP I have pm'd you.

givemebooks Sun 30-Aug-20 18:23:21

Thank you all so much for your posts and advice, lots to think of and I did make a second post in the doghouse so we have even more fantastic info to keep working on!

OP’s posts: |
givemebooks Sun 30-Aug-20 18:24:50

And i confused the 2 threads ha!!

OP’s posts: |
emptycup Sun 30-Aug-20 18:35:11

Do your DC actually like animals/dogs?
My DS has autism (6) and he shows absolutely no interest in them. But we have a golden retriever who is very calm, patient and placid around my DS. They live happily alongside each other but DS rarely pays him any attention.

Ylvamoon Sun 30-Aug-20 19:22:01

I agree with everything said about the puppy stage.
You need to have a good look around and decide what kind of dog you and your children would like.
I'd say any companion breed is a good match in terms of "empathy" they are geared to be people friendly. But are sometimes tricky to train or have the tendency to be a one person dog. Others, like the retrievers or spaniels are easier to train but often have higher exercise demand... in essence, be aware of the type of "job" the dog was originally intend6 for, this will give you an idea about temperament and suitability.
I have Tibetan Terriers (utility dog: a bit of herding, guarding & a good luck charm!) and I think once past the puppy stage, they are perfect family dogs! They are not faced by much and I find them very adaptable to whatever life throws at them.
They love their humans, as long as they can be with you, they are happy!

clpsmum Sun 30-Aug-20 19:26:12

You can get a service dog that failed their training??? They sometimes only fail slightly as the training is so rigorous so they are still great. Sorry if somebody has already suggested this I've not read the full thread xxx

RiaRoth Sun 30-Aug-20 19:36:06

Worth contacting these organisations to help you and advise you . Some have schemes to mentor you getting a dog.

They can help train to Assistant dogs and give you legal rights to enter premises that do no usually allow dogs

support dog


givemebooks Sun 30-Aug-20 20:54:11

@emptycup I have 3 boys and they all love animals, we have 2 fish and 1 cat, we have over the years had a hamster (passed in 2012)and 2 guinea pigs one who passed last year and one who passed at the beginning of last month ( they were 7 and almost 8 years old!) , they have loved having animals and the piggies were great companions for my youngest they lived in his room and he helped care for them

The boys have been asking for a dog for over 4 years smile

OP’s posts: |
Theredjellybean Sun 30-Aug-20 21:14:56

A cavalier spaniel... Brilliant family pets, small enough not to take over, lazy so don't needs loads of exercise, kind,, patient, endlessly tolerant.

My dds were tiny when we got our first puppy.. He was dressed in dolly clothes and pushed in buggy, etc... Just used to let them do anything they wanted.

The second cavvy became my dds emotional support dog when she was seriously ill. He never left her.. Laid in room waiting for her when she was in hospital.. Was smuggled into the ward in a shopping trolley and would lie silently under her blanket... So many tears he licked off all of our faces...

While in the UK emotional support animals aren't officially recognised, there is register, you can get your GP to write saying the dog is emo support and some places let you take them in.

Our lovely boy had a special coat and lead with "assistance dog" on it.. And it helped my d regain confidence in the world having along side her.

I cannot recommend the breed highly enough, especially for families who are new to dog ownership as they are easy to train, love their families, trustworthy with kids and so loving.

Veterinari Sun 30-Aug-20 21:17:30

Yes cavalier King Charles are a good suggestion - lovely little dogs but v prone to heart and CNS issues so good breeding a must

fedupandlookingforchange Sun 30-Aug-20 21:28:54

Labs are very good and usually bomb proof, we’ve had a few over the years. Currently have two males, one is a bit nervy out and about but is fantastic in the house and puts up with anything the toddler does. His technique is I’ll just pay here and pretend to be asleep! The other one is unusually not as tolerant but it’s the first lab we’ve had that’s like that.
Definitely get a puppy and meet the parents. The puppy stage is really really hard but that’s the chance you get to turn them into the dog you want.

hiredandsqueak Sun 30-Aug-20 21:48:44

I have a son and a daughter with autism. My dd was 11and ds 19 when we got Eric as a puppy. They hated having a puppy, too unpredictable, too nippy, too disruptive. Both of them spent their time away from the puppy. As he grew though and became a steady and well behaved dog they grew to like and love him.
We now have Bella, a rescue Lhasa Apso. She has been much easier as she was 9 when we had her so the nippy unpredictable stage was long gone. Ds and dd love her, they like that she is a lap dog and never happier than when she is sat on them or beside them getting a fuss.

ChooksAndBooks Sun 30-Aug-20 21:53:59

Golden retriever.

We have one and he happily lives with 5 kids at the moment. He's been around for 3 of the kids from birth and is fab with our foster daughter. He is very calm and patient and loves being around people.

The only downside is he sheds like crazy.

EeeByeGummieBear Sun 30-Aug-20 22:24:03

It maybe more useful to get a trained family pet dog. That way you won't have to go through the puppy stage, and the potential problems pp have outlined. Look at somewhere like ADK9, who can provide a trained adult dog Good luck

Motorina Sun 30-Aug-20 23:01:13

This will be a love/hate suggestion, but I would suggest adding beagles to your shortlist of breeds. They're generally confident, happy-go-lucky animals, who are game for any adventure with their family, and aren't freaked out by kid noises. Mine will happily jump in and out of the campervan, on and off boats and paddle boards, and bounce into new places and meet new people. They don't get phased by much. They're also small enough that most kids aren't intimidated by them.

Mine have been around autistic kids who make (sorry - don't know the correct word for it) loud and unpredictable noises/shrieks and move unpredictably, and were totally not bothered by it. Tantrums don't scare them. It's not relevant to your family's needs, but one of mine, a few years ago, met a teenager with cerebral palsy, and neither his electric wheelchair or movements phased her - she was just happy to have a new person to make friends with. They're also tolerant of being poked, having tails/ears pulled, etc. Generally they like kids, and seem to instinctively understand that kids are kids and should be given some slack. (No, I'm not saying that it's okay for a kid to pull a dog's tail, but sometimes these things happen.)

Perhaps also important - they bond to a family not an individual, which will reduce the odds of 'Fido loves him more than me!' from your boys.

On the flip side, they're stubborn, determined, noisy, will steal anything that's not nailed down, and become destructive if left alone. They have a reputation of being a difficult breed. But, if you can give them what they need, then they're a great family dog.

As I say, might not be the right choice for you. But I would certainly suggest investigating.

N0tfinished Sun 30-Aug-20 23:34:29

I have a son with ASD, until last December we had a Labrador (he passed away). I think I would recommend one - he was sweet and goofy and very chilled. He didn't bark much and was just generally good natured. As he got older & calmer my son really took to him.

Our dog was very food obsessed though- fairly common with labs. I was the one who fed him so he fixated on me rather than the rest of the family. When he was young he did snatch food from the kids hands etc. it's something you need to be careful with.

MsAdoraBelleDearheartVonLipwig Sun 30-Aug-20 23:50:29

My lab is a lovely well trained boy but is actually a bit sensitive. He doesn’t like loud voices in the house and would be terrified of a child having a meltdown.

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