Thursday, 25 June 2015

Can dogs have Autism?

It is a question that must have crossed a few people's minds because Google came up with a variety of writings on the subject. Rather worryingly, I have actually asked google questions which don't appear to have been pondered by any other human being but that's another story!

This particular question was prompted by a walk which started off as a pleasant evening stroll and ended with an epic battle of wills and a very sweaty human.

I have mentioned that Muffin prefers to stick to the route she usually walks. Last night, as the path we normally go down is overgrown with nettles and thistles, I decided to go along a wider, dusty path. We turned left in the little meadow. This was considered by Muffin, for a time and deemed acceptable. We sometimes go this way at weekends but not weekdays so it threw her for a while. When I then turned left instead of, weekend walk right, it was just all too much and madam refused to walk another step!

I tried gentle encouragement and even a crunchy bribe but to no avail. I then picked her up just to let her know that we were going that way, with or without her cooperation. Still no walking going on when I put her down. I don't really think she understood when I told her that since she had had her summer trim she had less protection against the stingers. I don't think I had been forgiven for handing her over to Richard from dial a dog wash earlier anyway!

I carried on walking until the 50ft lead ran out and still she did not follow. I sat down to wait it out. She came running over but as soon as I stood up, the paws dug in and the bottom went down. I tried a stand off but she won. I ended up carrying her down the path and phoning hubby to get us in the car when I got to the road. When she spotted the car, she suddenly sprinted into action.

After browsing some articles and posts about the question of autism in dogs, I came to the conclusion that I already felt in my heart. There was much debate speculating about how indicators of autism in people can be apparent in dogs. Was it an inherent condition or behaviour formed by socialisation differences. What I read suggested that signs such as

*Avoiding eye contact and other physical contact with humans
*Not engaging in play
*Dislike changes to routine
* Problems with social relationships with other dogs
*Organising toys by shape, size or colour
may indicate autism. Some argued that if autism was present, then it must be in the genetic make up and not created.
My own thoughts about our little diva, is that she doesn't have autism but very much like her human family, her life experience, has shaped some tendencies that place her a little bit on the autistic spectrum.

As a family/pack, we all tend to be slow to trust and bond. At some point, we have all been let down badly by somebody we trusted. I am guessing the same is true of Muffy, who came to us as a stray, with nothing known about her past.

Once we have, against the odds, formed those bonds, they are strong. We are not really a demonstrative bunch but despite the lack of hearts and flowers, there is a feeling of security, of strength and a deep love that is always felt but rarely spoken.

The truth is, anyone of our family unit is likely to feel wobbly if our routine is messed with. It was apparent from once putting Muffy in kennels and trying her with a home boarder, she tends to display many of the signs of autism to a much greater degree when not in her normal environment.If her little world is static, then it is safe. Very important for a dog whose experience of the big wide world may well have been scary.

If hubby has had his shredded wheat on the right day and I have ensured that every lone magpie is saluted. If muffy has not deviated from her usual path, then all is normal and safe. Irrational maybe but perfectly sane from where we are standing. Our little dog, who may or may not, be autistic, fits right in. <3


  1. Muffin sounds very much like my Pip. He was also a rescue and had many issues. He did the same thing where he would just stop walking and demand to be carried. He also hated change and sometimes would make himself sick over the smallest change in routine. I think this was part his past (abandonment issues)!and part his terrier nature.

    Like the way you describe your family, we are a family of rescues in some ways so he fit in quite well. Our new dog Ruby is also a rescue, but she has very different issues.

    Muffin is so lucky to have such a caring and understanding family!

  2. my friend Steph told me she heard a lecture that dogs bring learning to a person. That their issues reflect issues with their people and all can learn from each other. The universe continuing the learning curve for all of us! I know Cole has certain problems that reflect ours. He has joint issues like I do, and food allergies as I do. He is VERY time oriented like my husband, and thank dog he doesn't own a watch because our lives would be ruled by it! LeeAnna at not afraid of color