Animals May Play Bigger Role Than Toys in Aiding Autistic Children

Animals can have a greater impact than toys in improving the social behavior of children diagnosed with autism, the Human Animal Bond Research Initiative reported Monday.

A study by Marguerite O’Haire, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Queensland in Australia, and three other researchers found that participants demonstrated more social behaviors such as talking, looking at faces and making tactile contact when in the presence of animals compared to toys.

“The presence of an animal appears to encourage socialization among children with autism and their peers,” O’Haire said. “When with an animal, children with autism smiled and laughed more often, were more talkative, and looked at people’s faces more than they did when with toys.”

The study involved 33 children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and 66 typically developing peers. Groups of one ASD child and two peers were recorded playing with toys and then with two guinea pigs.

Researchers found that ASD children displayed more pro-social behaviors and positive effects when in the presence of animals compared to toys and less frowning, crying and whining.

An estimated one in every 50 U.S. children has ASD, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The study was published in late February in PLOS ONE, an international, peer-reviewed online publication.

Your Dog Deserves A Good Dog Bed

Dogs are usually viewed as a member of the family and deserve to have a comfortable dog bed to sleep in. Everyone wants to rest in comfort and you would not want to sleep on an uncomfortable bed. Dogs have very different sleep patterns depending on breed and most dogs will sleep for at least half of the day. There are some dogs that even sleep more then that, about 16 hours a day.

The size of your dog will dictate what sort of dog bed you should get. Dogs like to feel safe and secure when sleeping and they therefore tend to favor beds that envelope or cuddle them. Bed with sidewalls or are curved tend to be popular. The weight of your dog is also important, as larger dogs need sturdier beds that will not break under their weight.

Puppies and older dogs will need a different type of bed. Puppies generally do not have difficulties getting in or out of a bed though you do not want to buy a bed with sides that are very high as your puppy may not be able to climb into the bed. Older dogs with arthritis or stiff joints will need a bed that is easier to enter and exit. There are also orthopedic beds that are heated and sooth your dogs’ aches and pains.

Dog beds are designed to fill specific spaces and you can purchase a compact bed if you so desire. Make sure you have an idea of where you want to put the dog bed, measurement help when shopping. There are other types of dog beds that may require their own rooms as some very expensive dog beds are designed as a real bed and have a headboard and cushion. You need to buy a dog bed that will fit the desired area otherwise you may be making an additional trip back to the store.

As well as coming in all different styles and sizes dog beds also come at different prices. If you have a budget then you will be able to find a dog bed in that price range. Ultimately your dog doesn’t care how much money you spent on the bed or how long you spent looking for the dog bed. They just want something comfortable to sleep in and will love you no matter the price.

Removable bed covers are a great idea for those that have very active dogs that are out of doors a lot. These covers will most likely need to be washed frequently as your dog will transfer accumulated dirt from outside onto the bed. It is much easier to wash a removable cover then an entire bed.

A few benefits to purchasing a comfortable dog bed include providing insulation for your dog during the summer and winter months, controlling the spread of dirt, hair and dander, cushioning their joints and bone and providing a private space where your dog can feel safe and secure.

A Dog’s Life

I came across this story recently and thought you would enjoy it.  This is from a veterinarian relating a situation involving a six year boy and his dog. Sometimes, wisdom comes from the most unexpected people

Being a veterinarian, I had been called to examine a ten-year-old Irish Wolfhound named Belker. The dog’s owners, Ron, his wife Lisa, and their little boy Shane, were all very attached to Belker, and they were hoping for a miracle.
I examined Belker and found he was dying of cancer. I told the family we couldn’t do anything for Belker, and offered to perform the euthanasia procedure for the old dog in their home.

As we made arrangements, Ron and Lisa told me they thought it would be good for six-year-old Shane to observe the procedure. They felt as though Shane might learn something from the experience.

The next day, I felt the familiar catch in my throat as Belker ‘s family surrounded him. Shane seemed so calm, petting the old dog for the last time, that I wondered if he understood what was going on. Within a few minutes, Belker slipped peacefully away.

The little boy seemed to accept Belker’s transition without any difficulty or confusion. We sat together for a while after Belker’s Death, wondering aloud about the sad fact that animal lives are shorter than human lives. Shane, who had been listening quietly, piped up, ”I know why.” Startled, we all turned to him. What came out of his mouth next stunned me. I’d never heard a more comforting explanation. It has changed the way I live.

He said,”People are born so that they can learn how to live a good life — like loving everybody all the time and being nice, right?” Then he continued, ”Well, dogs already know how to do that, so they don’t have to stay as long.”

So, You Want A New Puppy!

Thinking about a new puppy? Your first steps…

Ask for assistance

It is not a bad idea to enlist the support of a trainer or shelter staff to help choose the companion dog that is best suited to your family. With hundreds of dogs to choose from, an expert can help you narrow down your choice.

Be realistic

Just as there are no perfect people or families, consider that there are no breeds or mixes that are perfect. The goal is not to find the ‘perfect’ dog, but rather to narrow your search to a type of dog that has the general attributes that are most likely to fit with your lifestyle. Also, remember that each pup is an individual and while a general assessment of a pup’s potential future activity level, behavioral tendencies, and the like can be made, it is ultimately your responsibility to guide your pup towards becoming the mannerly, well-socialized adult dog you hope for. That will require early and ongoing management, supervision and training, and a whole lot of love.

Create a wish List

Start with a detailed list outlining your weekly schedule, the general time and monetary commitment you can make, and the activities you enjoy (and hope for your dog to be a part of). This will give you a good starting point in regards to what sort of dog may be most suitable for your family.