Pets give so much joy and happiness to people, children in particular take delight in having pets. Having pets also comes with many benefits for children from teaching them responsibility to loyalty and friendship. A very close bond can be formed between a child and his dog.
A hot topic of discussion is always what type of dog is best and safest for your child. Is there a particular breed that is considered best and how do you go about choosing a dog for your child. But what if your child is autistic, how you choose the best dog for your autistic child?
Before you go ahead and consider getting a dog for your autistic child it is best to first be sure that your child likes dogs and that you are prepared to commit yourself to caring long term for a dog. Once you have taken those two important factors into consideration you can start looking into how to choose the best dog for your child with autism.
What Is The Best Type Of Dog For Children With Autism?
You may think that you want to look at what breed of dog you would like to get for your child and while this may be the case with a child without autism it is not the best way for a child with autism. What you need to consider is what is the purpose of getting a dog for your autistic child. There are three different types of dogs you can consider: a companion dog, a service dog or a therapy dog. Each type of dog serves a specific purpose and they are all trained differently.
A Companion Dog
A companion dog that is well-trained and well-behaved is an excellent choice for a family that has an autistic child. A companion dog will soothing and show love, loyalty and affection towards your child, as well as provide exercise opportunities when walking the dog. A dog is also a draw card for other kids and it is can be hard for children with autism to socialize with other children – a companion dog will make it so much easier for your autistic child to interact with other children in a non-threatening way.
Having a dog will teach your autistic child valuable practical skills and responsibility. It will also provide you as a parent a wonderful way to teach your autistic child valuable lessons about caring for others and consideration of the needs of others.
Service dogs are specially trained and receive certification to assist people with disabilities to perform certain functions that present them with challenges. In most countries service dogs are allowed to accompany their owners in all public areas even where dogs are not usually allowed such as restaurants, shops and even schools. There are special harnesses or capes for service dogs that identify them as being working dogs so that it is clear not to disturb them.
A service dog is specially trained for the person that it will assist to help with the specific needs of that person. Service dogs can help with many different things from helping someone with diabetes and alerting them when their blood sugar levels are low, to assisting with mobility problems, assisting with hearing and visual impairments and epilepsy to alert of seizures. Service dogs also help with anxiety disorders and developmental disorders including autism.
Autism service dogs can help to lessen anxiety in an autistic child on outings such as school and shopping, as well as to medical appointments that may cause additional stress for your child.
Some autistic service dogs can recognize and help to prevent self-harm behavior or help to mitigate emotional meltdowns. When the service dog senses a meltdown it will respond with actions that are calming such as leaning against the child or lying across the child’s lap to soothe him.
Therapy dogs are specially trained to provide company and affection in therapeutic environments. You will find them working in nursing homes, hospitals, mental health care facilities and other health care settings. They can help to soothe and calm people going through a medical procedure that is stressful and help with occupational or physical therapy.
Therapy dogs have become highly popular with assisting children and adults with autism due to their calming effect and for their ability to promote and ease social interaction.
Some therapy dogs are specially trained while others are chosen for their tolerant, affectionate and calm disposition. Therapy dogs often wear a cape too, but they are not permitted in all public places like service dogs are.
What Breed Of Dog is Best For Children With Autism
There will always be discussion around which dog is best for children and which is best for children with autism, however one specific dog always stands out – the Labrador Retriever. Chances are high you will see the Labrador Retriever at the top of the list when it comes to the best choice for service dogs, for the best dogs for children with autism and for the best dog for families. They make brilliant therapy dogs and companion dogs.
While it is always great to give a rescue dog a home, always keep in mind that rescue dogs may have a traumatic history and may not make the best pet for an autistic child. When choosing a therapy dog or a service dog for an autistic child it is always best to contact an accredited agency and specifically request a dog that has experience working with children that have autism.
It is so important to ensure that the dog you choose for your autistic child is a highly suitable match for your child as well as for your family. The process of matching an autistic child with the right dog may take up to two years with home visits and special training taking place.