Three Ways Having a Dog Really Worked for our Autistic Son

Ann Hickman by Ann Hickman Additional Needs

Ann Hickman

Ann Hickman

Mum to three, special educational needs writer and part-time tutor

Anthony had never known life without Smithy, our beagle. It’s been over two years since our dog past away, aged 10.

But the truth is he’s had a lasting impact on our family and particularly our autistic son Anthony.

They grew up together and Anthony will sometimes still miss him.  Because despite what some may think, an autistic boy can be very emotional.

Here’s some of the ways that Smithy helped Anthony:

Rough and tumble

Anthony has a great need to sensory feedback and feeling of being pulled, squashed and pushed make him feel balanced.

Sometimes we’d find him buried under our dog on the sofa others he’d play tug of war or be jumped over.

Smithy would encourage him out into the garden and help him move about and practice those (not-so-fab) gross motor skills.


Smithy may not have been able to talk (obviously) but this let Anthony consider how else he was communicating.He learned what is meant when Smithy stood by the back door, looked sad or knew when he wanted to play.

Anthony would ask Smithy questions and figure out the answer through smithy’s responses. This was all great for Anthony interpreting communication from others and something he could develop without the fear of getting it wrong with his peers.

Emotional well-being

Maybe the best one of them all.Anthony really loved Smithy.

There was absolutely no doubt about it. And he felt loved in return.

They’d both be delighted if somehow Smithy managed to sneak into Anthony’s bed after lights out.

Anthony learned how to express his emotions and how to connect with another living being, by connecting with Smithy.

And when Smithy passed on, Anthony dealt with the loss with emotions and bravery in a way would never thought possible.

Man’s best friend? More like, ‘Boy’s best friend’, really.


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