Which dog is right for you?
There is a difference between a service dog and a therapy dog. We’d add a third category – a companion dog that’s well-behaved and well-trained.
Service Dogs provide companionship and support for children and adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Service dogs receive extensive training and official certification to help perform functions that present a challenge for a person with a disability. The Americans with Disabilities Act mandates that people can bring their service dogs in all public areas – including restaurants and stores. Service dogs typically wear a “cape,” or harness, that identifies them and lets bystanders know they are working and should not be disturbed.
When used as part of your child’s therapy, Service Dogs can:
- Provide increased safety for the child;
- Help control the child by commanding the dog;
- Passively teach the child responsibility;
- Enjoy the right of full public access under the B.C. Guide Animal Act;
- Lower aggression and frustration levels, leading to positive behavioural changes;
- Provide comfort when the child is upset;
- Add a degree of predictability to social settings for both the child and parents; and
- Reduce social stress levels, allowing greater participation in education, as well as social and leisure activities.
As their name suggests, therapy dogs are trained to provide affection and comfort in therapeutic situations. Typically, they work in hospitals, nursing homes and other healthcare and mental health facilities. They can assist with physical or occupational therapy, or simply help calm a patient undergoing a stressful medical procedure.
Companion dogs on the other hand are great idea for starting out and seeing what your needs are with a dog.
A well-trained family pet can be a wonderful calming influence for someone who has autism. An affectionate dog provides unconditional love and friendship on a daily basis. Walking the dog provides both exercise and a “social magnet” to ease conversation with other children. Learning to care for the dog teaches responsibility and practical skills. And pets provide parents with opportunities to teach and model caring behaviors and consideration of a friend’s needs – both important social skills.
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