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Autism Anchoring Dogs

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Abstract

Our service dogs keep children safe and calm. We are unique as service dog trainers because we use giant breed dogs as autism service dogs. Giant breed dogs can weigh an average of 110-150 lbs and some, up to 180 lbs. This heavyweight class of dog is up to almost twice the weight of a young child (4-10 years of age) of approximately 40-100 lbs. We provide a special harness connecting the child to the service dog, and the service dog to the adult handler — who is in charge of the family team. If the child runs or starts to wander off, the dog braces itself and voluntarily goes down preventing the child from going further than the end of the equipment tether. This simple premise of using the dog to anchor the child within a short distance of the adult promotes safety in practically any environment: walking outside near traffic, grocery stores, camping, children’s museums, vacation sight-seeing, sporting events, family barbecue’s in the neighborhood park, movie theaters, restaurants, etc. We can provide a secure means of walking through the world for an autistic child and his/her parents.

With an anchoring dog, there is another loving guardian for your child.  This anchoring dog not only provides the initial physical anchor but also an emotional and social anchor as well.
For the autistic child, an anchoring dog offers a safe place to go for comfort and solace during or after a meltdown.  Often the process of petting or stroking an anchoring dog can help reset an autistic child’s equilibrium in a stressful situation.  Being able to lean against the dog or have the dog lean into the child provides the pressure that soothes, redirects, or dissipates anxiety or frustration. The dog becomes a living transitional object that accompanies the child and parent in their daily activities. Doing normal activities in a safe manner helps the family function better as a unit in public.  This reduces resentment and creates an atmosphere of inclusion within the family, which strengthens bonds and builds relationships through shared experiences.

 

Submitter

Katie Osborn

Location Portland, Oregon
URL http://www.autismanchoringdogs.org/
Tags
  1. Animal roles
  2. Autism
  3. Autism assistance dogs
  4. Dogs
  5. Mammals
  6. Service animals