Dogs are more than just our best friends. Their spectacular sense of smell allows them to detect explosives, drugs and even diseases such as diabetes. But, in addition, with their special sensitivity they are able to give emotional support to people suffering from depression, panic attacks or autism.
Precisely, there are many researchers who defend the work of dogs for children with autism, since these pets manage to establish an emotional bond with the little ones who live in their inner world. Something that is really complicated, even for their parents.
Dogs for children with autism are trained in such a way that they improve the evolution and progress of these little ones, providing them with psychological, cognitive and psychomotor benefits, as well as improving communication and socialization with their environment.
Children with autism, how do they feel?
To understand the enormous benefits of dogs for children with autism, it is necessary to understand that autism is a neurological disorder that hinders social relationships and the ability to communicate. Normally these autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are usually detected before the age of 3 years old because certain aptitudes are noticed, although there is no pattern or symptomatology common to all. Simply put, each autistic child is different.
In general terms, autistic children are characterized by:
- Avoiding or being indifferent to visual contact with their environment and with the people they live with. These are isolation behaviors.
- They are unable to understand the patterns of social relationships, including the voice and gestures of people.
- They often perform stereotyped or repetitive movements, and feel excessive anxiety about changes in routines.
- They have a need to escape or run away from their environment, even if it is familiar and known.
5 benefits of dogs for children with autism
There are different therapies with dogs for autistic children. Some are developed in specialized centers by therapists, but others consist of training a dog specifically to coexist with a particular child. Among the benefits of therapy with dogs for children with autism, the following five aspects are worth mentioning:
1-Improves the child’s self-esteem and socialization.
When living with the dog, the dog becomes the child’s faithful and unconditional companion. Thanks to the fact that dogs adapt easily to new situations, this animal is able to help the child with autism to feel understood and to improve his self-esteem and socialization in a few weeks.
2-Increases the child’s independence
Dogs for children with autism are trained to work to the maximum the capacities and abilities of each child. These dogs help the little ones to develop on their own (dressing, grooming, picking up toys, etc). This makes the child more independent and feel more secure and confident with himself.
3-Increases tolerance to frustration
Being in permanent company with the dog, the autistic child will have to learn to understand his furry companion, his times and needs that he will have to learn to respect.
4-Reducing the level of stress and anxiety
The dog’s sensitivity, together with the need to take care of him and caress him, makes the autistic child feel more relaxed and lowers his anxiety level. When accompanying the child in certain situations, such as a visit to the doctor, he will feel calmer in the company of his 4-legged friend.
5-Reduce “escape” behaviors.
This is the greatest benefit of dog therapy for children with autism. As we have already mentioned, children with autism tend to run away and flee from their environment. In the face of these “escape” behaviors, it is possible to place an anchor between the dog’s harness and the child’s belt. In this way, the dog will be able to anticipate such an attitude and will sit or lie down to prevent the child from running away. Little by little, the child will reduce this type of behavior and forget about it.
Which are the most suitable dog breeds for children with autism?
The most commonly used dog breeds for children with autism are those with a docile, intelligent, affectionate, cheerful and obedient character. Since it is necessary to block certain activities of the child, such as “escape” behaviors, these dogs are usually large or, at least, strong enough to prevent the child from running away.
We are therefore talking about breeds such as Newfoundland, Golden Retriever or Labrador. However, for this type of program, the important thing is that they are healthy and well-balanced dogs that are subjected to a training that lasts between six and 15 months.
The results of dog therapy for children with autism can even be seen immediately. In most cases, it is only after six months of pairing that the changes in the child with autism are noticeable.
To ensure the well-being of the animal and the family, it is necessary to evaluate which dog is best suited to the particularities and needs of the child in question. Undoubtedly, it is a meditated decision that seeks the understanding and happiness of the child and the dog.
Having a dog at home. Benefits for all children
Children with autism or diabetes or any other pathology are not the only ones who benefit from the advantages of having a dog at home. Most children love dogs because they are cute, cuddly and cuddly.
But, in addition, growing up with a dog helps your child’s physical and emotional development. Keep in mind that animals are able to transmit values that we adults sometimes forget to teach our children.
We are talking about empathy, respect, unconditional love, fidelity, … These are values that your children can learn with a dog at home. But in addition, children can obtain other essential benefits for their development:
Having a dog at home is a responsibility for all members of the family. The first thing children learn is that their furry friend is a living being that must be cared for, pampered and respected. It is not a toy that is turned off when we want to, nor can we forget about it because it is part of the family and the home. That is why children, depending on their age, can be in charge of giving them food, water, keeping everything tidy, taking the dog for a walk, etc., developing their responsibilities as owners.
You already know that children can suffer stress and feelings of anxiety in many moments of their day to day life. As with dogs for children with autism, your child can find ways to release their stress and feel more relaxed by sharing cuddles with their dog.
When children feel sad, angry or scared, they can always turn to their dog. That is why dogs are very effective for the emotional development of children because they manage to communicate with them in a very special way.
-Increases their security
Since dogs do not give orders or are not critical, which is the case with adults, your child will feel very safe in the company of his dog and will develop an attachment to him, since dogs are always affectionate, if they are treated with affection.
-Relieves separation anxiety
For young children who feel anxious when mom or dad is not at home, the dog provides emotional support as an integral part of the family until the parents return home.
-Encourages a more active lifestyle
It has been proven that children with dogs get more exercise than those without. Many dogs require daily walks, runs or lots of play time, which motivates children to move around a little more.
Several studies show that babies and children who grow up with a dog in the house get sick less often. It seems that the dog’s microbes and dander activate the babies’ immune system, which leads to a lower risk of developing allergies.
As with dogs for children with autism, in general, the unconditional love of dogs makes children feel important and see themselves as responsible for the animal’s care. This is reflected in a better self-esteem and self-image.
-Stimulates imagination and learning
For many children, playing with animals is something new that can stimulate children’s imagination and curiosity to learn more about nature and how to care for their dog.
-It brings joy and happiness
Without a doubt, a puppy in the house brings joy that is difficult to achieve in any other way. Children enjoy their four-legged friend feeling that he is part of their family and the mere fact of his company is enough reason for joy and happiness.
Do you need a dog for kids?
If you are looking for dogs for children with autism you will have to go to centers specialized in their training, but in Las Almenas we can help you select the puppy and the most suitable dog breed for your family.
Keep in mind that not all dogs can adapt to the needs of children in terms of vitality or energetic pace. You also have to assess the size because sometimes the child may perceive a large dog with a certain fear or apprehension.
And finally, it is necessary to take into account the size of the house, since, in small apartments, the most suitable are mini or toy breed dogs. Precisely in Las Almenas we breed in a responsible way up to 7 breeds of mini dogs, very playful, of excellent health and socialized that will adapt perfectly to a home with children.
However, if you have questions and need more information about our breeds, you can take a look at their characteristics on our website or ask us directly through the contact or our profiles on Facebook, Instagram and our YouTube channel.
As you can see, dogs offer endless benefits for everyone. If you have also noticed this and want to tell us your experience, including those about dogs for children with autism, you can leave us your comments below, we are looking forward to reading them!