Our bottom line is safety
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.
At AAD, we know how desperately parents want to keep their children safe. And we know how hard it is to be ever vigilant, looking out for an autistic child’s safety. We are here to help ease the burden.
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.
This freedom evolves over time as the adult/dog/child team becomes more capable of experiencing new venues–knowing the anchoring service dog will provide more security and comfort for both the parent and the child.
The social impact alone can be immense. The difference between having a service dog with a child experiencing a public meltdown versus without is enlightening. With a service dog in harness, the public immediately identifies the child as having special needs rather than an ill-behaved child, and a wave of sympathy and/or understanding develops which allows the adult to comfort the autistic child without having to ward off ignorant, judgmental comments from passersby. This is a relief. If the adult team member is more relaxed, the autistic child will be more relaxed.
When the team is working together they are ambassadors for the dog because the public is more likely to interact with the dog. The questions asked are relatively predictable to answer: “What is your dog’s name?” “Moses.” “How much does he weigh?” “130 pounds.” “What type of dog is he?” “An autism anchoring dog…” The predictability of the questions acts as a social bridge for the verbal autistic child, and a psychological safety zone for interaction with strangers. This type of predictable social interaction increases the child’s confidence and, hopefully, decreases fear responses to the general public.
Thank you for visiting our website. We encourage you to explore it fully and contact us with any further questions you might have for Autism Anchoring Dogs. We look forward to hearing from you!