For a child with autism, the world can sometimes be a scary and complex place. Sensitivity to sounds and lights can make it incredibly hard to navigate the environment and lead to sensory overload, or they may feel required to communicate with others in ways they do not feel comfortable doing so, and daily tasks can become difficult to complete. However, with their pet dog by their side, all these things can become a bit easier.
Prior to arriving in China, I did conservation advocacy and hands-on wildlife rescue and rehabilitation in Calgary, Alberta, Canada with multiple organizations. I had a BA from The University of Calgary, but no formal scientific animal training, only practical experience. I arrived in China in January 2011, as a volunteer for Animals Asia Foundation. Through a series of events or what I would call life mistakes, I found a job after my volunteer term and stayed in Chengdu, Sichuan, China. In my situation, like many others, what we perceive to be our greatest mistakes in life turn into our greatest victories when we do not give up.
I’ve spent a lot of time over the past few months lying on the floor weeping beside my 13-year-old Border Collie, Echo. She has always been particular about how she wants to be petted so I do my best to focus on her neck and belly but not her face – she doesn’t like that.
Anyone who has cared for a loved one knows that being a carer can be tough at times. Caring for a child with special needs, an elderly relative, partner with mental health; whatever the need of the person, being their carer can often be challenging. It is no different if you care for a dog with issues, and it is important that as professionals we remember this.
I recently read about Linda Michaels’ Hierarchy of Dog Needs (HDN) and was very impressed with her “positive training” approach to working with dogs and their humans. As Ms. Michaels notes below, “The HDN is supported by scientific evidence and makes no apologies for embracing protective ethics concerning our beloved dogs. The No Shock, No Prong, No Choke logo is loud and clear.”
All responsible dog people are urged to find a good trainer, attend classes and produce a wonderful canine citizen, this goes hand in hand with the saying that ‘there are no bad dogs just bad owners’ and that society thinks that it’s irresponsible not have our dogs spayed and neutered. The ‘rules’ around dogs appear to be black and white, good and bad, nice and nasty but how easy is it to abide by these largely unwritten laws on responsible dog guardianship?