Pets & Autism

Posted on: March 16, 2012

For this blog post I wanted to talk about Pets!

Recently some of the people i follow have been talking about Autism Assistance dogs for their ASD children.
A’s Dad is really keen on A getting a dog, he thinks it will really help to develop A in lots of different ways. I’ve been reading up about them and there are a couple of programs/organisations in the UK that provide such dogs (not sure if its at a cost) but the dogs are fully trained.

A is very wary of dogs, although he loves to watch them – as long as they don’t approach him he’s happy.
I personally don’t think he’s ready for a dog yet, mainly because he is very wary and I feel this has the opportunity to develop into fear… and also because it would be a lot of extra work for us, which I don’t think we necessarily need in our lives at this present moment.

We already have a hamster which A shows no interest in whatsoever, but again is very wary of, should he happen to come into close contact.

I do think dogs would act as a great companion for some children with Autism, as we all know they struggle socially and so making friends is very difficult to do.
Having a dog would enable them to establish a friendship.
They could help to calm meltdowns, anxiety and distress as well as teaching a child responsibility & increasing safety and independence.

A’s Auntie has a dog which visits regular, A is very wary and will hide behind you should the dog approach him – the dog is only a puppy and very boisterous, which entertains A, he can even say the dogs name ‘Harry’ – its nice to see him having an interest but I’m not sure if this is all it is – just an interest. A has the tendency to become obsessed with certain things which after a period of time will pass.

I’d really like to hear peoples
experiences of having pets and/or an assistance dog for their child. So comments are welcome as always.

L x


9 Responses to "Pets & Autism"

I have been reading the same stories about assisstance dogs and I think for some asd children they will be amazing. Not sure about Sean yet – he too is VERY wary of dogs and HATES dogs that woof!!
He has a chequered history with pets, we had to have a rabbit put down after some boisterous play and he was awful with my mum’s dog when it was a puppy – he tolerates her now as long as she doesn’t woof too much!!

Saying that he has built up an amazing relationship with a friend’s puppy, he’s a schitzu/pom cross so he is very small, he doesn’t bark and he’s very cuddly!! His reward for staying for art club after school is to walk Billy!!

We have a yampy Parsons Jack Russell called Ollie, now 7, we got him when M was 4. The reason we did was we were at my friends house, and she had a pup called Ollie, and M loved him, really came alive, and cuddled him. Me being me back then, thought Right we’ll get a dog, anything that might work. As luck would have it Ollie’s brother was still available, so we got him, asked M what to call him, he of course said “Ollie”, because thats what dogs are called lol.

I can’t say the relationship is what I’d hoped for, as in being a friend for M, but they love each other in their own way, and have grown up together, M pulls Ollie to pieces, climbs on him (no joke now he’s 11), and runs round the garden chasing him, but its not a constant thing. Ollie isn’t daft and keeps his distance if he thinks he’s gonna get yanked around. M does love him though.

I think my advise is follow A’s lead on this one, if he is currently nervous around dogs, then you are right, he’s not ready yet. It wouldn’t be fair on him or the dog. I have to say back then having an ASD 4 year old and a pup was hard work.

We wouldn’t be without Ollie, but its a good job he’s a tough resilient little dog, a timid dog wouldn’t have lasted 5 minutes in our mad house.

Another great post, become my daily ritual now….Oh no not more rituals lol x


We got a puppy a year ago, like A, Z was wary of dogs, a friends dog had just had pups & i managed to convince OH to take a look, we took Z & he was very interested in the pups, after alot of thinking would it work having a dog we took the plunge & got one, alot of people said we were mad, having Z & 12 wk old baby & now getting a puppy i could see where they were coming from but we proved the doubters wrong Z loved him straight away! He cuddles him, talks to him, plays tug with him. Z can still be wary of other dogs when we’re out but overall it has worked out for us.

I think it depends on the individual. Sure a dog would benefit some children with autism, but as we all well know, what works for one wont always work for the other. If you think a dog would be a nice addition for your family, go for it, but not on the pressumption that A will love him.- He may or may not.
Saying that, C is in love with our cat, he talks away to her and strokes her and she seems to be very theraputic for him and im sure he would be fantastic with a dog, but our housing arrangements mean that we can’t take on a dog for a good few years yet. Other people’s stories aside hun, do what YOU think will be best for your family! xx

We have 3 ragdoll cats, and Lewis is inseperable from them. If I can explain, a ragdoll cat is a rare breed, historically a one off breeding with a burmese and a persian who had been hit by a car, and recovered from close to death with a very unusually calm and loving temperament. Ragdoll cats are very much like dogs in temperament. They are unbelievably loyal, calm, and have zero agression. They must be kept indoors, as they have no fighting spirit if they meet other cats. They are called ragdolls begause they genuinely flop on your knee like a ragdoll.

This has been brilliant for Lewis, because they are a massive calming influence on him. If he is feeling frustrated, down or upset, he often takes himself off to our bedroom with the cats for an hour, and it is the single thing that can snap him out of a spiralling negative mood pattern.

I think it is the loyalty, the calmness and the incredibly soft (rabbitlike) fur that they have.

One of the cats is very very attached to Lewis. He is a large boy, well over a stone in weight, but is as close to a living breathing teddy bear as you could ever imagine.

I can’t recommend a Ragdoll highly enough for kids with special needs. So much better than a dog, because they provide all the loyalty and friendship with a calming and peaceful mentality.

Beware of fake immitations and cross breeds though, only pure bred ragdolls have this unique character. We were lucky that my wife’s aunt is a registered and licenced breeder. If you are interested, I run her website at

There is a list of registered breeders at although their website appears to be broken just now. I will send you a picture of Lewis with Griffin in a minute.

Ben xx

We have always had pets, dogs, cats, rabbits etc and M loves them all to his pieces. They are viewed totally differently to all other animals which are met with abject terror.

I work on the notion that exposure is a good thing as long as you can handle the inevitable meltdowns.

A Friend Like Henry by Nuala Gardner is a fantastic book about the difference a dog made to an autistic boy. Reading it might help make your mind up. I keep thinking about a dog too, but with 5 kids I’m not sure I can handle any more work!

We have a 4yr old puggle pugxbeggle. Alex also hates dogs, the noise the way they can be all over hIm,yet in his own way he loves champ mainly his fur he will go and lie on top of the dog on the floor and gives him all the food he doesn’t want to eat (which is almost everything) but the dog is unbelievable with him I sware he knows that something is not quite right if alex is in the garden the dog is behind him if he goes to the back of the garden he will bark, I would consider a service dog as he gets older

I personally think a service dog is a great idea, but only you know what’s best for your child! Ethan is a little hesitent when dogs park but he does love watching them and chasing them. We’re going to wait until he’s a little older and we have a bit of a yard before we start actually looking for one though. I watched a news story on them a while ago and one big benifit I think you would get out of it is you’ve said before that A is not always so great about staying safe while on walks. The dogs are trained to keep kids from running on to the road and being attached to a dog is a little more socially acceptable then having a leash attached to a parent, as I’ve seen some parents do!

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