Challenges of Service-Dog Ownership for Families with Autistic Children: Lessons for Veterinary Practitioners Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • The purpose of this paper is to describe the challenges of service-dog ownership for families with autistic children. Through a qualitative interview process, this study has found that the integration of a service dog into a home environment is a highly dynamic and interactive process with numerous benefits and challenges. Public-access issues, learning to interpret dog behavior, the time constraints of increased social interactions, and the time of year the dog is placed into the family are important components affecting parental satisfaction. Parent, family, and child challenges included the dog being extra work, finding added time to maintain training, financing care for the dog, and the impact on family dynamics. These factors and challenges were appraised in order to understand the impact that they could have on the perceived success of the placement, parental satisfaction, and the dog itself. Despite the effects and consequences of these challenges, the parents overwhelmingly reported that having a service dog to keep their child safe and to provide companionship was well worth the many inconveniences of service-dog ownership. Most importantly, attention needs to be drawn to these challenges to promote the safety of both the child and the dog, minimize stress on the family, and encourage veterinary support of these highly dynamic relationships.

publication date

  • December 2008