I have been meaning to write on this issue for a while and now I have finally gotten around to doing it. A heavy guild makes me wishI had done it sooner.
The issue is children on the spectrum and dogs. Over recent years we have seen heart-warming stories of children with autism connecting to his/her dog in a way they had never done before. We all know the bond between man and dog and our heart swells when we hear of those who experience difficulties connecting, making that important relationship with their dog.
Now this blog is not to warn parents off the idea altogether. If your child is on the spectrum they may well indeed benefit from having a doggy addition to the family. But it comes with a very serious warning. These bonds cannot be made through luck. The relationship that comes with dog and child needs to be carefully introduced, shaped and nurtured. Otherwise the alternative may be a dig exiled to the garden and a child too afraid to step foot in the back yard.
Over the years we have spoken to many families who have bought a puppy for their child, hoping the two will grow together.
This is a mistake.
Number 1. Children on the spectrum require routine, they want to know when and where something is happening. Puppies do not come into the world with a routine. It has to be taught and then re-enforced. We have spoken to many hardworking, well-meaning parents who are trying to train their puppy, while at the same time maintain a constant routine for their child.
Another thing about puppies is that they bite, bark, jump, pull, pee, run and play. (Sometimes all at the same time) Parents with children on the spectrum often report that such behaviour in the dog heightens the behaviour in the child and vice a versa. It can be a nightmare trying to get a puppy and a child to settle down.
Will a puppy teach your child responsibility? I don’t know, I’m not sure. As a teacher it is a long and winding road teaching any child responsibility and consequences for their actions. To be done effectively it is done by both the household and the community. Passing that responsibility onto a puppy who is just learning about life himself may be a bit much. Training a dog is difficult for most adults I know. We cannot expect a child to train a dog! Yes, dog training for most kids provides a great and productive distraction but the onus of responsibility needs to be with the adult
So if you still want to introduce a dog into your family’s life, here are some tips on how to make the transition to life with a dog easier for everyone.
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