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Dogs and Autism

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Kratu is my assistance dog. I am what’s called an owner trainer. I found the whole assistance dog world very hard to navigate, it was confusing and unhelpful in places too. One experience was very hurtful.

Here is some information from people I know, who are excellent at what they do, and whom I trust to provide accurate, up to date and most of all the right information for anyone who would like to look into getting a dog to become an assistance dog, training one, or just researching before making any kind of commitment.

It is a commitment, it is hard work. The end result for me was Kratu and his support, help gave me so much more freedom. He was the catalyst for a huge life change for me.

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We did things that I never dreamt were possible. There will be ongoing articles about autism, dogs, how important they are to families, autistic people, children and introductions to understanding them a lot better.

Communication is so important to get it right as I know from often getting it so wrong! 

Learning how to communicate with a dog, their body language, when they are stressed, scared, nervous, happy, excited and how to respond is the key to a healthy balanced relationship with them.

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Diet, nutrition, exercise and a lot more to come. Doing the best I can for my best friend is the least I can do, I set out to learn, research and educate myself, and I did.

I am happy to share with others, the key to canine communication, caring for the canines that in turn help us navigate life in an often difficult, strange and sometimes scary world.

The following information is a great place to start and will help inform and guide you to making the best decisions if you decide to go ahead and welcome a dog that will become an assistance dog into your family.

The following information has been shared by Hilary Armour, Chief Executive at Dogs for Autism:

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There are four ways of getting an autism assistance dog

1. Apply to a charity who will supply you with a fully trained dog

The charities who train Autism Assistance Dogs are Dogs for Good, Support Dogs, Dogs for Autism and Helpful Hounds

2. Buy a fully trained autism assistance dog from a ‘not for profit’ organisation who will provide you with a trained dog.

Two well established organisations are Autism Dogs CIC and Supporting Paws.

3. Buy a ‘ready trained dog’ from a company who provides ‘trained dogs’

I do not know of any reputable companies who do this and I would never recommend this as a route.

4. Buy your own pet dog and train it yourself – become an ‘owner-trainer’

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Pawsable.com specialise in teaching owners to train autism assistance dogs – autism is their speciality.

Other organisations include Helpful Hounds who also have an owner trainer scheme and Sherlock Hounds.

Details can be found on their website:https://www.helpfulhounds.org.uk/

Each organisation works slightly differently and has a different cost structure so it is worth doing your homework!

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Things to look out for and avoid….

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Before getting a dog please remember that dogs bark (end of story— dogs bark!!!), they shed their fur, they need walking twice a day in all weathers, they roll in and eat unspeakable things, and sometimes you ask them to do something and they completely ignore you!

They are sentient beings, they have a personality and will, and they will need at least two years of consistent training input and above all PATIENCE and understanding when things don’t go according to plan.

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Because of this, even though they may love dogs, a full time assistance dog is not always the right choice for an autistic person.

Dogs will not always follow your schedule in the way that you want them to.

When you own a dog you need to have some ability to be adaptable to its needs when they don’t coincide with yours and to be able to manage unexpected change – or at least have strategies to cope.

Hilary Armour, Chief Executive at Dogs for Autism
Website: www.dogsforautism.org.uk



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