A dog is a wonderful companion for a child with autism, which is a disorder that creates significant social and behavior issues. The New York State Department of Health reports that dogs bite out of fear. If your autistic child is going to be around dogs frequently, or you want to bring a pet dog into the family, it is important that your child know how to behave around dogs.
Assign walking and feeding chores to your autistic child. Depending on his current ability levels, he might need assistance, but include him in the care-taking responsibilities. This will help the dog and your child develop a strong bond that will last for the lifetime of the dog.
Show him how to respect all dogs. Demonstrate how he should pet them and only when invited to do so, if the dog is not your family pet. Teach him that when they are sleeping, he should not disturb them and if they want to play when he is not ready to play, he should gently tell them no, or come to you for assistance. If it is your family pet, explain the dog is part of the family and needs to be treated with love, respect and kindness.
Get a puppy, not a full-grown dog. According to the North Star Foundation, an organization that provides service dogs to people with autism, it is best to start with a puppy so your autistic child and the dog start from scratch and build a strong bond. Depending on your child's ability level at the time the puppy enters the family, consider puppy training lessons and have your child take part in the classes.
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- Let your child choose the dog's name so he immediately feels ownership for his new companion.
- Don't leave the dog and your child alone in a room until you are very sure he knows how to treat a dog.
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