Livestock guardian dog for child with autism?

Discussion in 'Random Ramblings' started by Dogue, Apr 5, 2016.

  1. Dogue

    Dogue Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 6, 2014
    Okay, this might be an odd question, but I have a child (4 year old) that has autism.
    I was thinking about live stock guardian dogs and how they stay with their flock and keep their flocks safe, and I was wondering if anybody thought this could be transferred to children instead of livestock.

    My child has no sense of danger, no stranger danger feelings AT ALL, and is apt to run.

    Could I use a live stock guardian dog to watch over her while she plays outside in our fenced in yard (it's a short fence- 3ft), to protect her by keeping stray dogs and bad humans away? I of course wouldn't leave her out by herself, but right now I literally have to have my eyes on her at every second because I know that she is so vulnerable.

    What about when we go out? I've heard of tethering children with autism to service dogs to keep them from bolting, but would a live stock guardian dog be okay for that, or do they need to stay on their home turf?

    Any other breeds I might want to consider? The problem with the typical service dogs is that they are all super friendly breeds (goldens, labs...), and I really need a dog that will not let a stranger abduct my child. She tries to hug and kiss just about every person she meets, within moments of meeting them, so she is vulnerable to something like that, and my biggest fear is that I will turn my head for a moment and she will be gone.

    Any ideas, suggestions, comments?
    Thank you.
  2. drumstick diva

    drumstick diva Still crazy after all these years. Premium Member

    Aug 26, 2009
    Out to pasture
    I wish I had an answer for you. Some breeds are naturally protective of family. If one truly bonded with her, I think it would stay with her outside etc. and not allow anyone grab her, or an animal to hurt her. Maybe you could discuss fully, what her needs would be, with people that train service dogs.
  3. MeepBeep

    MeepBeep Chillin' With My Peeps

    The protection instinct can easily transfer to children... I can't comment on 'flock' protection breeds, but I can comment on at least one breed of herd protection and working dogs... My last three dogs have been Australian Cattle Dogs and if they are not shadowing the children by being attached at the hips they position themselves in very close proximity at a vantage point where they can watch all the children... And if the children wander apart the dogs will herd them back together... Also none of my Cattle Dogs have every been wanderers or runners, they have all stuck very close to the house, never out of sight especially if a family member is outside...

    Now with the good comes the bad although with training you can diminish the bad... In regards to Cattle Dogs my first one was hard wired and very pushy when it came to the task of herding, it took months of training to break him of the instinctive nipping at the heals when you were not going the direction he wanted you to go in... We finally got that under control and then he turned to leaning into your legs to change your direction, so we had to work on that as well... In the end he became a great dog but it took some devoted training to get him there... Our other two also had/have the herding instincts but they are much less up front and pushy, it took a lot less to break them of their normal herding habits, but you still see it pop up once in a while...

    Also Cattle dogs are supper high energy and smart, they need constant stimulation and a job or else they create their own job and that usually involves taking something apart or destroying something...

    Beyond that over the years almost everyone that has seen how our cattle dogs interact with the children has commented on how the dogs are constantly shadowing and 'baby sitting' the children in close proximity never letting them out of their sight...

    Do note they are not flock protection dogs, they like to herd and even if you break them of their normal K9 predatory instincts so they don't attack the chickens they are bound to run your chickens into the ground trying to control their movements or just harass the chickens to entertain themselves...

    My guess is that if you contact a service dog company they very well could train a herding dog or flock protection dog to be a very good service dog to your child, but I doubt you will find a turn-key dog, they are all going to need some training specific to your child's needs...
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2016
  4. Pork Pie Ken

    Pork Pie Ken Flockless Premium Member

    Jan 30, 2015
    Africa - near the equator
    German Shepherds not only have a wonderful temperament, they are aloof with strangers (e.g. they will not accept petting from someone who is not part of the pack) and naturally protective. I used to have two and they were the most wonderful dogs to have - very intelligent, perceptive and had great temperaments. They also tend to bond very closely with one family member, so if you ensure that is your child, then you would be onto a winner, i would imagine.

    There are some members who are professional dog trainers - i hope that they chip in and provide a less partisan opinion than mine. [​IMG]
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2016
  5. Chickerdoodle13

    Chickerdoodle13 The truth is out there...

    Mar 5, 2007
    Phoenix, AZ
    Dang, I started writing a response and deleted it by accident!

    I agree with the other posters that GSDs and Cattle dogs are very family oriented and can be quite protective of their people. The issue, I think, is that dogs that are reactive to strangers are not good candidates for public areas, especially if your child will go up to strangers and pull the dog with them. A stranger reactive dog may end up biting someone in public who just happened to get too close to your child and the dog itself. I think a service dog expected to go out in public needs to be very well socialized as a youngster, which often means they will not react in uncomfortable situations. Livestock guard dogs are NOT socialized with people and are not expected to be particularly friendly to people. Often times, they tolerate handling from the owner, but getting them to a vet or doing grooming can be a challenge when the only thing they've been socialized to is sheep (or whatever animal it is they are protecting). If a dog is socialized only to you and your family, it will not make a good public service dog in my opinion.

    That said, the presence of a dog is often enough of a deterrent for many. I think a well socialized, trained dog could be exactly what you need for your child. If you were to work with a trainer who specialized in service dogs for autistic individuals (or even a dog already trained as a service dog - both options are unfortunately a large investment), they could be trained to pull the child away from strangers. A true service dog is not cheap though, whether you train one yourself with a trainer or you purchase an already trained one.

    Both of the above breeds can definitely be handfuls when they are younger, and it may take a few years (sometimes their whole lives!) to settle down. I do also think it's important to buy puppies from breeders that have already bred known service dogs. I'm a firm believer that overall temperament is passed down from parents. If the parents and siblings and other relatives are sane, stable dogs, the potential for your dog to be sane and stable is quite high with the right socialization and training.

    If you are just looking for a dog to be protective of your child and family at home, you have a lot more options I think. Our cattle dog was very protective of his family, but you have to remember that the dog may need to be put away when visitors stop by.
  6. Dogue

    Dogue Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 6, 2014
    Thanks guys.
    Unfortunately, the cost of a professionally trained service dog is $15k or more. There are programs that provide free ones, but they are so overwhelmed with people that need dogs that they are a minimum 2 year wait, if they accept you at all. I hate the idea of my kiddo competing with other people for a "who is most disabled" contest in situations like that.

    The things I'd need a dog to do are-

    -watch over her when she's in the yard and keep her from leaving the yard or alerting if she tries to
    -alert or prevent a stranger from taking her or from her walking off with a stranger
    -help calm her when she gets overstimulated by being affectionate and calm towards her
    -tether her to the dog when we go out so she can't bolt and run into the road or other dangerous areas or bolt and get lost

    So, I think some dogs could be trained to do those things, but I would need one where the behaviors come natural too. And a dog that is not overtly aggressive like a guard dog, because it needs to be safe in public and calm. But I worry that goldens/labs are TOO friendly. I don't need a dog that will happily walk with a stranger as they kidnap my child, ya' know?
    But cattle dogs worry me because she develops phobias quickly. A dog that nipped at her would be a very likely candidate for her next big phobia, not to mention, I wouldn't be able to tolerate that from a dog, even if it is an offshoot of herding instinct- teeth don't belong on kids!

    My child has come a LONG way with therapy and services. She was nearly non-verbal and could only communicate by screaming. Now she talks up a storm, although it's easy to tell by her word choices that she doesn't think the same way as most other kids... but she usually can get her point across, at least to people who know her. She's also atypical in that instead of being the stereotypical child with autism that doesn't show affection, she is FULL of love. It's actually a problem because she treats people she has just met with the same trust and friendliness as she would treat me (her mother). She doesn't know boundaries or have any fear, and she can't grasp anything that isn't very simplistic, so I can't explain to her these things in a way that she can understand. She is the sweetest, most loving child ever. I am hoping to find a solution, such as a service dog, that might allow her some more independence so that she isn't constantly being "harassed" by me to keep close, hold my hand, come here, don't do that, etc.

    So, now that I've given a lot more information, does anybody have any comments or suggestions?
  7. Ol Grey Mare

    Ol Grey Mare One egg shy of a full carton. ..... Premium Member

    Mar 9, 2014
    My Coop
    Reach out to @Mutt Farm...may have some ideas or resources
  8. Mutt Farm

    Mutt Farm Chillin' With My Peeps

    Hi! Saw a notification from Mare. I train service dogs and have trained and placed dogs with autistic children, teens and young adults. I briefly read over your posts. I don't have time to go into great detail right now but wanted to give a brief reply.
    Your thought of a LGD type dog is perfect. You're spot on that you can't have an aggressive dog, need a social yet suspicious protective dog. You'll need an intuitive dog, rather than a worker type dog. Even if you happen to have an extra $15,000 laying around to "purchase" a dog from a "non-profit" (HA!), you cannot buy the intrinsic bond needed to protect your baby. If you're willing to put in the sweat equity you should train your own dog. Start with a great dog, a pup from great proven stock. Pyrenees, Aussie, GSD come to mind first. Jump on the internet, network. First, find the perfect pup. Grow it into what you need it to be.
  9. Dogue

    Dogue Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 6, 2014
    I ended up purchasing a Great Pyrenees puppy. A female.

    Now, my question is, how do I get this pup to bond to my kids?
    I've had lots of puppies in my life, but they've all been exhuberant and people-focused.
    This pup is only six weeks old, but has been with goats. And while she was the most friendly of the litter, she is just nothing like the other puppies I've had. She runs away when you come near her. She doesn't come to you when you try to get her attention.
    Did I mess up? Should I sell her and get a different pup?
  10. Chickerdoodle13

    Chickerdoodle13 The truth is out there...

    Mar 5, 2007
    Phoenix, AZ
    The puppy is only six weeks old and you just brought her home. It will take time for her to settle in and she hasnt even reached the critical socialization point yet. She's recently undergone a very traumatizing event (removal from mom) and it can take puppies a while to settle in. While I think six weeks old is too young for a puppy to be removed from mom (I prefer 8 weeks at least), I would recommend getting in touch with a trainer sooner rather than later. I really recommend positive reinforcement as the primary training method, especially since this will be a child's dog.

    GPs are not without their challenges, but with proper socialization, they have the potential to be great dogs for children. It would be a good idea to research the breed so you know what to expect (ie. they are not good candidates for off leash life).

    I know you want a dog for protection, but it is always a good idea to socialize and desensitize dogs, otherwise the potential for a reactive, aggressive dog is quite real. This becomes a problem when visitors come over and suddenly you have a very large, reactive or aggressive dog that is difficult to manage. I would outline the behaviors you want to train the dog for and then create a plan to help you teach and reinforce those behaviors. Again this is easier with the help of a trainer, especially in the beginning.

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