dogs for autism

Selecting a Service Dog Puppy

When it comes to Service Dogs, selecting the right animal is always important. It is often hard to know how to select a dog when wishing to owner train or buy a puppy to send to a training organisation. Here I will discuss some of the techniques and tests used to select dogs as suitable Service Animal candidates. Please note that there are MANY different tests and theories on how to best select a suitable dog. This guide will not list everything; it will be a resource that aims to educate and aid handlers in some of the important tests that aid Service Dog selection. Not every dog that passes these tests will necessarily have what it takes to be a Service Dog. The wash-out rate for Service Dogs is incredibly high- especially when they are required to do complex tasks such as alerting to seizures and drops in blood sugar.

Whilst this post specifies that the tests are for selecting a Service Dog puppy as a prospect, the majority of these tests can also be used to assess fully grown dogs such as those in shelters that you may be considering as your Service Dog partner. 

WHAT BREED?

Any breed can be a Service Dog. Despite this, there are some important issues to consider when thinking of getting breeds that do not necessarily fit the conventional Service Dog stereotype such as Labs, Retrievers and Poodles.

  • Access issues. Unusual breeds of Service Animal are often prone to more Public Access challenges due to standing out and not matching the stereotypes that people have in their minds.
  • Suitability. If you need a mobility dog, it doesn’t make sense to have a Chihuahua as your Service Dog. Make sure that the breed you select is capable of performing the tasks that you need it to.
  • Health issues and lifespan. Whilst some larger breeds such as Great Danes are used as Service Dogs, they have a shorter lifespan. Training a Service Dog is time consuming and expensive so it makes sense to get a Service Animal that will be healthy and live for a good amount of time.
  • Breed Traits. This is not always a highly limiting factor, but it is something that is definitely worth considering. Some dogs such as Huskies and Shiba Inus have high energy levels and are renowned for taking their time to learn tasks. Whilst it is good to acknowledge that there are exceptions to every rule, it doesn’t hurt to consider breed characteristics that may affect your dog’s ability to perform tasks successfully. Breeds such as German Shepherds are highly intelligent and are becoming more popular as Service Dogs, however their guarding instinct is a common cause for failing Public Access tests due to growling and being overprotective of their handler. When selecting the breed of your dog, be sure to investigate what common traits they possess and how you plan to tackle these in training to avoid issues.
  • Personal Requirements. Are you willing and able to groom a longhaired dog daily? If not, then you should not get a Service Dog that requires regular grooming. Do you have allergies to dogs? If you do, consider looking into breeds that are better for those who have dog allergies (such as Poodles).

TESTS

Most Service Dog organisations perform tests such as those listed below when the puppies reach 7-8 weeks of age. These tests do not fully determine characteristics such as temperament since the dog is still developing. The tests aim to assess natural instincts that make a dog more likely to be successful in training such as their food drive, attention to the handler and recall abilities. It is often good to go with a breeder that has either bred Service Dogs before or has breeding dogs from Service Dog lines. It has been proven that dogs who do well in these tests and are successful Service Animals are more likely to have offspring that are also highly suitable and successful in the Service Dog field. These tests should be performed with each puppy from the litter being separated from its littermates and other animals to avoid distraction.

  • Noise/Recovery Test- Drop an object that will make a loud noise (such as a metallic food bowl). Assess the dog’s reaction and how quickly it recovers from the experience. Commonly the dog may react to the sound and jump but it is how the dog chooses to recover and approach the situation that is most important. Curiosity and sniffing of the object is a positive sign, fearfulness and running away is not desirable.
  • Lap Test- Put the puppy on your lap. Observe its body language and how much it relaxes. If the dog relaxes and responds by making eye contact or trying to reach your face for attention this is desirable. If the dog cowers and tries to get off your lap, it does not pass this particular test.
  • Sociability- Put the puppy by your feet and pet it. If it stays by your side, offers eye contact and enjoys the interaction it passes. It is also acceptable for the dog to stay by your side for attention, leave to explore before returning for more affection. If the puppy runs away or seems nervous, cowering or shivering as it receives affection, this is undesirable.
  • Recall- Have the breeder or another person move the puppy a few steps away. Call out to the puppy to get it to come over to you. If the puppy comes over with no hesitation this is a very good sign. If the pup takes a little more persuasion but eventually comes this is also alright. If the pup ignores you entirely or wanders off it is considered as a fail for this test.
  • Prey Drive- Have a toy such as a rope and drag it around on the floor. If the dog grabs the toy and shows curiosity in chasing after it, this is a good sign. If the dog behaves in an overly aggressive manner or is fearful/disinterested of the toy, this is an undesirable result. It is important not to select a dog that has a huge prey drive for Service Dog work, however it is good to select a dog that has a healthy degree of curiosity and is willing to work and show interest.
  • Retrieve Test- Scrunch up some paper into a ball and throw it a short distance away. If the dog picks it up and brings it back to you this is a great result. If the dog picks it up and brings it part-way back to you this is also good. If the dog runs over to the toy but does not pick it up or return with it, this is still a good sign of curiosity, but not as good as the first two reactions. The dog fails this test if it simply watches the ball without reacting to it or ignores the action completely.
  • Hearing/Curiosity test- Use a squeaker toy to initiate the pup’s interest. This test is also a simple hearing test. If the dog comes over to investigate the squeak, this is a good sign. If the pup fails to turn or turns but does not come over to investigate after more squeaks this classes as a fail for this test.
  • Tug Test- With a rope toy, initiate some simple play. This test is important for dogs that are going on to be mobility dog performing tasks such a pulling open doors. Desirable reactions include: latching onto the toy and tugging or holding onto the toy briefly before letting go. Less desirable reactions include showing interest in the toy but not knowing what to do and ignoring the toy.
  • Food Drive- Place some high reward food such as meat between your fingers and test the dog’s interest in it. Desirable reactions are: sniffing and working to try to get the food with its tongue, sniffing and trying to get the food before eventually giving up. Undesirable reactions include showing little to no interest in the food, showing no real desire to get it from between your fingers.
  • Willingness to work- Get the dog’s attention with some high reward food such as meat. Then place this food underneath a small container whilst the dog is watching. If the dog starts sniffing at the container and trying to get to the food underneath, this is a good sign. This test aims to see how much the dog is willing to work for a reward. Poor results include ignoring the container or showing no interest in getting to the food underneath.
  • Unusual Interaction Test- Get an assistant to start waving their arms around whilst shouting and causing a scene. Service Dogs have to be used to working around a variety of different people. This test aims to assess how they cope with unusual people and situations. A good reaction includes: curiosity, watching and wagging the tail. A bad reaction includes: fear, signs of wanting to escape the person and growling or aggressive behaviours.

anonymous asked:

@consult Jess, I live in Australia too and am looking into getting an assistance dog for autism. My question is, did you train your dog yourself, or obtain them through an assistance dog organisation? And was it difficult to qualify for a dog for psychiatric reasons as an adult? And how much did they cost?


I owner trained my assistance dog - which means I did it myself. I did consult 2 trainers, one of which is my sister who happens to be a trainer and she assisted in the process. 

The first thing I would recommend you do is join the facebook groups Aussie SD/AD and Australian Assistance/Service Dog Handlers Support Group. There you will be able to get feedback and responses from a variety of people in the Aussie AD community, with experience with a whole range of issues. Their is a screening process for these groups to ensure the safety of members so you will be sent a message with some questions. Existing members are also usually asked to vouch for new members as being legit (because as you may know fake service dog teams is a big issue in our community) so if you wish to join you can PM me your fb name at chronicallyspoonless.tumblr.com or if you want to have a more ongoing conversation about this you can contact me there. 

I would also recommend you start following some service/assistance dog teams on social media- a lot of us have fb pages. This will give you more insight into what life with a AD is like. Many of the members of the groups I mentioned above have pages. I will give you some links to good ones down the bottom 

Marvelous Mutts Dog Services also posts some really good information and is run by the person who runs one of the AD groups and is a big advocate in the OT community. The infographic of costs comes from her. 

In terms of qualifying as an owner trained team - basically you just need to be disabled by your illness. In Australia Assistance Dogs (AD’s) are covered under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (commonly referred to as the DDA). This covers both owner trained and program dogs. Your state will also have its own laws about assistance animals. 

 Section 9 of the DDA states that:  

(2)  For the purposes of this Act, an assistance animal is a dog or other animal: 

  • (a)  accredited under a law of a State or Territory that provides for the accreditation of animals trained to assist a persons with a disability to alleviate the effect of the disability; or  
  • (b)  accredited by an animal training organisation prescribed by the regulations for the purposes of this paragraph; or   
  • ( c) trained:      
  •       (i)  to assist a person with a disability to alleviate the effect of the disability; and      
  •       (ii)  to meet standards of hygiene and behaviour that are appropriate for an animal in a public place. 

Section 9c is the part that allows for owner trained assistance animals. To decode the legal stuff: basically this means that to be a real assistance dog protected by the DDA there are 3 main components: The handler must have a disability The dog must be trained in tasks specific to needs arising from that individual’s disability. The dog must be able to behave appropriately in public, be toilet trained, non-aggressive, clean and healthy. 

So in terms of your question about qualifying - from an OT perspective - its not hard if you have a disability all you need is a doctor who knows you well to agree that you are disabled by your illness and that an assistance dog would assist you in dealing with your disability, and the doctor has to be willing to sign their name to it basically. 

In terms of qualifying for a dog from a program - that is almost certainly more difficult but as I have not had a program dog (yet - i am currently looking into it as an option for my next dog), I would say your best source of information is to check those FB groups I mentioned and ask there - there are many people with program dogs in there, including people with program dogs for autism.

I’d also like to mention there is a middle ground category - there are some organisations (orgs) that allow you to train a suitable dog (may be your own dog, you may purchase a dog, they may assist you in finding a suitable dog) and have the dog tested and qualified by the org to say yes this dog meets legal standards. The org will provide you with legal support and will help when there are access issues. MindDog is one of the best know orgs that does this for people with mental health conditions and although autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder it is covered by the DSM and still covered by MindDog. 

In my opinion, assistance dogs are fantastic tools and I owe my life to one, but fair warning that it is not an easy solution or a cure all. They take a lot of work and its not something you can do on a whim - Im not saying you are like that - I tell everyone this because these are living creatures not a piece of technology or a medication that you can just trial and throw away if it doesnt work.

LINKS (to access the youtube links, hover over the names):

  • Jaquie Blake - Has an OT service dog for many illnesses - she is autistic. Instagram (IG): Helper Dog Harlow AND Chronically Jaquie 
  • Tatyana Schneider - Multiple severe illness but not autistic - owner trained dogs. Follow her on facebook on that name or on youtube (particularly watch her older videos when she was less sick and able to post more)
  • Service Dog Colt - Janaye has a TBI and Colt is an amazing example of an OT service dog. IG: Service Dog Colt
  • Paws and Love are another fantastic OT team - NJ also post training videos of tasks like DPT that you may find useful (if you would like a tasks post send in another asks and I’ll make a separate post as this is quite long already). IG: nerdkidanddoge 
  •  The Service Dog Life - Another OT dog - Hazel is trained primarily for severe allergy alert 
  • The Frey Life - Mary has a service dog for cystic fibrosis however he is not the focus of their vlog, however they do have some videos specifically about service dog stuff. IG: The Frey Life 
  •  And finally - us - I don’t post public access so much any more and this is mixed as my personal and AD account but you are welcome to check it out - I do have task posts you just need to scroll through if you want. Tumblr, IG: adventures_with_bindi 
  • Marvelous Mutts Dog Services:  

I hope this ridiculously long post is helpful - feel free to contact me through asks on here or my personal blog if you have more questions.

- Jess (and Bindi)

things that suck
  • having an invisible disability and being told that you’re faking and that your service dog is illegal + fake/you don’t deserve that parking space/etc.
  • having hearing loss/being hoh but not being “profoundly deaf” and therefore being told “you’re faking,” “you don’t sound deaf,” etc
  • being pan/bi and being told to “pick a side already”
  • being ace and being told that “humans need sex,” “you just haven’t found the right person,” etc.
  • being mentally ill and people who don’t see it tell you you’re full of shit
  • people thinking that just because today is better than yesterday that you’re either faking or that you’re magically cured
  • people thinking that there is a cure
  • people thinking that you need to be cured
  • people

I’m officially diagnosed with autism and getting a service dog! The dog I’m getting is the one sitting in my lap and his name is Waffles! I’ll probably be posting updates about him so stay tuned for that :)

Image description:
{A slender, trans masculine person with black short hair, black circle frame glasses, a light blue short sleeve t shirt, and black jeans is sitting on the grass with his legs crossed outside on a sunny day. In his lap is a 4 week old english cream golden retriever puppy and there is another one in his arms.}

Service dogs

For those of you who get confused on the terminology.

From a legal standpoint: service dogs should be viewed as medical equipment

From a person standpoint: a furry friend that saves us on a daily basis.

We’re not saying they’re medical equipment, they have the legal rights of medical equipment, we know they’re living breathing things and we respect them as such.

Dealing with Crowds and Service Dog Etiquette

Below are some suggestions for dealing with crowds when you have a Service Dog. When travelling in busy areas or cities you can face a lot of issues, not all of them access-related. You need to be wary of people trampling your dog and approaching you to ask questions. If you are anxious or unsure about how to handle these situations the list I have written may be useful to you.

Ways to deal with crowds:

  • If travelling with a friend or group of people, keep your Service Dog between you and one of them so that they are more concealed and invite fewer people to approach.
  • When travelling on busy transport, keep your leg on the outside of your dog and have them sit close to you to avoid them being stood on or sliding when the transport makes any sudden stops and starts.
  • Always walk on the side of the road when travelling with your Service Dog, this avoids incidents with people driving too close to the curb or your dog being pushed onto the road if you are nudged by a crowd member. If you have your dog clearly vested people should hopefully give you more space on the sidewalk. (Note- This point may be contradictory to what some Service Dogs are trained to do. Guide Dogs in particular are trained to stand in front of cars so that in the event of being hit when crossing a road etc, the dog is a buffer than can protect the human. I merely state that you should be vigilant about roads in the case of an incident that is non-life-threatening to you but very harmful to your dog. If your dog is seriously injured, your independence will be affected as a result of this.)
  • Make sure your dog is clearly marked as a Service Dog with patches that remind people to not pet or distract them. Yes, a lot of people tend not to read them, but it can help deter the ones that do.
  • If you struggle with anxiety and people approaching you to ask about your dog, some patches can be purchased that ask people NOT to approach the handler as it causes anxiety. Consider in investing in ones of these. They can be found on Ebay.
  • On more basic grounds, if you wish to avoid getting into conversation use the simple trick of avoiding eye contact and listening to an mp3 player if possible. It might not always work, but if you aren’t eyeing people back it tends to be less inviting grounds for a conversation.
  • Have a pretend phone call.
  • Have a real phone call.
  • Carry small business cards around with you with information on them. A few of my friends do this. You can have basic info on them or website links that explain things such as: What your Service Dog is trained in, What organisation trained them (if you did not owner-train) and links to places where people can read more if they are interested. It can help if you don’t want to appear rude or dismissive but still want to help educate people about Service Dogs. On cards you can explain that you may have not been feeling very well, but appreciate the interest of the person before giving brief snippets of information about your Service Dog.
  • If somebody tries to pet your dog, a way to deal with this is to place your hand under theirs so that they would come into contact with you rather than your dog. This is often enough to deter people who have either been too rude to ask if they can pet your dog or have ignored your request for them not to.

HOW TO BEHAVE AROUND A SERVICE DOG

Many people approach Service Dog handlers out of simple curiosity. Not everyone has bad intentions. Even though it can be repetitive and tiresome to hear 20 times a day how somebody has a dog ‘just like yours’ or wishes their dog was as well trained or has a distant relative who has a Service Dog, the general public can often not realise this. Here I will discuss simple Service Dog etiquette. For the sake of handlers everywhere, please take these points into account:

  • Do NOT pet the dog without permission. As a rule of thumb it is best not to ask to pet the dog at all, they are working and if distracted they can fail to perform important tasks such as alerting to medical emergencies. There have been instances in which people have suffered seizures after their Service Dogs have been distracted from alerting them. It is dangerous to distract a Service Dog.
  • READ THE PATCHES! Service Dogs do not just wear those glaring bright patches that read 'Do Not Pet’ to look pretty. Please read and respect them.
  • Do not allow your dog to approach a Service Dog if it is working. If you are in doubt ASK whether it is alright for you to introduce your dog. This is especially important if your dog is unruly or aggressive. If a Service Dog is injured by another dog you are seriously affecting the independence of the handler. If a Service Dog is injured it is unable to work. If the dog is unable to work, the handler may be rendered unable to do everyday tasks for a long period of time. It’s not worth the risk.
  • Never feed a Service Dog.  A lot of dogs are on specialized diets and may have health conditions that make them unable to tolerate certain foods. I have had a dog with years of pancreatitis and hypothyroidism - if somebody fed him anything remotely high in fat he would become so seriously ill that his life was in danger. Do NOT feed other people’s dogs. You don’t know their health conditions or dietary requirements. Regardless of health, it is also a distraction. 
  • Speak to the person, not the dog. Handlers often find that they are 'invisible’ when they have their dog. People always address the dog first and show interest in the dog, but not the person. This can be regarded as rude and a tad disrespectful. Consider the handler.
  • Don’t whistle, call out or harass a Service Dog. This is a distraction and as mentioned before, distractions are dangerous.
  • Make sure your children don’t approach or pet a Service Dog. This is a distraction and even though it may appear 'cute’ or 'funny’ it’s still dangerous. On more general terms it is also a good idea to educate your children on how to approach a dog correctly. Although Service Dogs are no risk to people, children should be taught not to rush over to unfamiliar dogs. Not all dogs are friendly and you do not want your child to get hurt by an aggressive or anxious dog.
  • Do not assume the disability of the handler or ask what their disability is. Quite frankly, that is private and personal. You wouldn’t ask somebody why they are in a wheelchair, so you most certainly shouldn’t ask why they have a Service Animal. Not everyone with a Service Dog is deaf or blind. Be respectful of the different disabilities out there and treat the person as you would treat any other. Some people may not mind offers for help, but a great deal are happy to be left to get on with their day with the help of their Service Dog.
  • Be respectful of the dog. You may not like animals or be fearful of dogs. That is alright, but it is important to recognise that Service Dogs are highly trained. They would NOT be a Service Dog if they are aggressive or in any way a risk to people. These dogs are valued family members that are clean, gentle and just trying to get their job done. Most handlers will do their best to keep their dog at a distance to you if you are uncomfortable with them, but this is not always possible. It is rude (and illegal) to ask someone with a Service Dog to move or leave the premises because you don’t like dogs, 'have allergies’ or are fearful of them. Compromises can be met, but please have some respect.
  • Do not be rude to the handler if they don’t permit you to touch their dog or ask you not to distract them. They have a good reason for asking this.
  • Do not ask a Service Dog handler to have their dog 'demonstrate’ a task.
  • Do not take pictures or record a Service Dog without the handler’s permission.
  • Be considerate about the comments you make. 'But you’re so young!’, 'Are you training him?’, 'I wish I could take my dog everywhere, that’s so cool!’, 'You don’t look disabled’, 'You must be faking it’, 'Are you blind?’ They may seem innocent to you but are invasive to a handler. Put yourself in their shoes.


Remember when responding to people approaching you and your Service Dog…

  • Be patient. You may be tired or having a bad day, but try to be polite. You are representing Service Dog teams and it’s important that you don’t give others a bad name or reputation by being rude to people approaching you out of curiosity.
  • You do not have a 'duty’ to educate the public, but if you have the time or energy to spread a bit of knowledge it can help. Let people know simple things about Service Dog etiquette and how to behave around a Service Dog for future reference. The more people that are educated, the easier it is for future Service Dog teams.

  • If you don’t feel like talking, try using the small business card idea I mentioned earlier.

Me: my disorders directly affect my personality and who I am as a person and therefore they have a huge influence on how I view my gender

Some asshole, probably: what is this mogai shit?

Josh Sauchak - Why he's so important to me.

Today I bawled my eyes out, not out of sadness but out of happiness because I finally got to explain to someone what Josh means to Autistic and Aspergers people and I realised during that explanation that he’s my favourite character. Not just in Watch Dogs but in the whole of existence.

Now I feel a little weird writing this because I’ve never felt this way with a character before and if you read this and start to get a little confused please bare with me.

Growing up for me was different, I always knew I was different from how I could read Lord of the Rings or Poldark at the age of six and understand every word. From how I never fit in with the other kids, from how I could only talk to adults because I was on their mental capacity levels and how I’m effected by the system for being this way. When I was finally diagnosed as an Aspergers young lady, it all made sense. Back then, I believed that I had all these quirks and was bullied a lot because I was broken. I wasn’t neurotypical, I was defective.

For me I had nobody in TV, Film or later on video games. Autistic and Aspergers people are always represented as the dependant person who burdens the carer because it’s so “difficult and challenging” to raise / care for people like us.

Because of all these things, people misunderstand people like us. They treat us differently like there is something wrong with us. We’re defective. Broken. Weird. They tell us to “just be normal” and some people say we need a cure.
Some of us are effected more than others like myself and need special attention and care, others are independent but none of us are broken.
I’m in the middle myself, I’m partially independent but sometimes I need help. Especially in social situations like meetings and phone calls or studying but I’m independent enough to fund and plan out every single detail of a trip to Montreal, Boston and New York by myself. To meet new people and old friends. I do get sensory overload and I have breakdowns so sometimes I need help myself. We’re all different though.

This teaches some of us to feel as though we aren’t worth anything. To hate who we are and some of us to more extreme measures that I myself have done and even depression. Some of us are even afraid to tell others that we’re autistic in some way even friends because just like Clark Kent in Smallville, we’re scared they’ll hate us or no longer treat us the same if they find out our “secret”. I know that means they were never really our friends but it still hurts us so much.

But then Ubisoft created Josh.
With Josh he’s independent but sometimes has sensory overloads, like when Lenni hacked Dedsec. He also has a moment when he realises some of the followers are fake and begins to fall into a breakdown. Yet his friends never told him to get over it or that he was over-reacting. They never treated him like he was broken. They never said he was that way because he’s autistic. They never pushed on it. Horatio mentions it in an audio file but never puts Josh down about it. Just Blume and how they ruined his life by marking him as people usually do. Defective.

I relate to Josh so much, when I look at him I see myself and I’ve never had that. I’ve never seen someone so like Josh/me be loved so much because they’re human. Even the little things like how he wears a green hoodie. So simple but I wear a green hoodie all the time. It’s my favourite, even more so now. Even now I struggle with acceptance of my Aspergers but it’s because of these things I speak about it constantly and try to raise awareness and acceptance and I feel with Josh. We’ve taken a huge step towards it. If only TV and film could follow Ubisoft in this way.

So thank you Ubisoft and Jonathan for making someone like Josh so people like me can have someone to relate to and see that it’s okay to be different because the right people won’t treat us like freaks, they’ll love us for who we are. I cry about this because I’m so happy because I see people play this game and love Josh so much and it gives me hope because that means neurotypical people can love me too. I honestly can’t explain it as I can in my head but I tried my absolute best to get the words out.

If you read all this, thank you. I’m sorry for the rambling, I tried.