ASD · Autism · Autism and Pets · Companion Dogs

Autism and Pets: Considering a service dog?

Dog Therapy Session with BP

My son BP who is has Autism has been very afraid of dogs since he was very young.  Now at 13, It’s been a several step process to lessen his anxiety.   In the beginning, during his weekly Behavior Therapy sessions, we tried everything from outings to the park, making trips to the pet store, and even having one of BP’s ABA therapists bring in their own pet, which ended up not working.  After a few months of several attempts and putting our heads together, we contacted a local Therapy dog program. Perhaps, one that frequently would visit hospitals and veterans. Didn’t know if the idea would fly at all. We told them our story and asked if they might bring one of their dogs to our house just to make BP feel more comfortable around them.

They were gracious enough and said “yes!” We were elated!  This was something new for the dog Therapy program because they never encountered children with Autism before. This is a huge step in the area of behavior therapy. I think it’s a great concept.  They loved the idea of visiting our home to make a child happy and so do we!

Now a few months later, My son has made so much progress that he can actually be next to a dog with out anxiety for about 15 minutes! So parents, even if your son/daughter is not afraid of dogs.  This might be an alternative just to try.  Therapy, Companion and Service dogs can be wonderful for your child.

February 2015 Update:

We are continuing with the weekly Therapy Dog visits, Brutus, a sweet black lab mix, come to visit.  So very calm!

I am currently in the process of filling out an application for an Autism Service Dog thorough Canine Companions For Independence.  They happen to offer Service Dogs for no charge.  But they aren’t easy to obtain.  There is a several step process just to get approved for a dog: Interviews, etc. It will also require a few weeks personal time for intense training.  But right now we will see if we even get approved.  I will keep you posted!

 Note: M & M’s are a great motivating tool for BP.  But we never give them to doggies.

Therapy Session Therapy Session2

If you are thinking about getting a service dog for your son or daughter, I would highly recommend it! Don’t be discouraged by the process of obtaining one, because it’s going to so worth it in end and having a service animal will certainly improve the life of your child in ways you could have never imagined!

Autism Service Dogs can provide a calming sense of security, decreased meltdowns, anxiety, and reduced stimming. They also can increase social interactions. Improve and encourage verbal communication. Total companionship. An unconditional friend, they can also help with daily living skills and will help increase your child’s sense of independence.

 A few tips and recommendations:

A.  Do your research: There are many wonderful organizations out there who train Autism Service Dogs.  Google it and see what you come up with.  There are several different options.  Assistance Dogs International has a great site to search by area for organizations or programs.

B.  Have Patience: Obtaining a Service Dog can sometimes can take up to two years. It won’t happen over night. It’s a several step process that will require your constant effort. Don’t give up.

C.  Talk with your family: Having a service dog is a life long commitment.  Are you as a caregiver or parent willing to take care of the Dog and keep up with training?.  A service dog is not considered a pet but, a companion assigned to your child and actually chosen specifically for your them. 

D.  Talk to your Child’s Doctor: Do you feel your child would benefit from a Service or Companion Therapy Animal? Perhaps they might write a prescription letter stating your child would benefit from having such an animal.

I apologize for not updated posts.  But will be keeping up as much as I can.

Thanks.  Have a great day!