The Special Connection between Autism & Dogs
Updated: Jun 12
If you have ever known an autistic person, there is a high likelihood that they had a special affinity with animals. Maybe they would spend a lot of time info-dumping about the life cycle of moths or how sharks are truly misunderstood beings (which is true by the way!). For me it has always been about dogs. Don’t get me wrong, Horses and Cats are great too, but no one has ever made me feel more seen or understood than a dog who can’t judge me for the way I talk and act differently than most people. They will simply see me for me and it will be enough.
Human Communication is confusing for a lot of people with all the double meanings, hidden messages between the lines and not to mention the sarcasm! The way animals communicate however, and dogs specifically, is so satisfyingly clear and obvious.
A lot of people will miss these signs of clear communication if they haven’t spent a lot of time studying dog body language and all the more subtle signs. For people who have studied these however, it will suddenly feel as if your dog is talking to you non stop, almost screaming at you “look I’m stressed about this thing” with a simple yawn or “I’m not very comfortable being pet right now but we can sit next to each other” with a side eye.
Imagine how refreshing it is to finally find someone who speaks your language after not being understood for so long. And this is true for both autistic people and dogs. I like to think that we have a mutual commitment to understanding each other. I will make the effort to advocate for their needs and translate their emotions and feelings to my fellow humans. And in turn the dogs will just accept me for who I am and pay me back in kisses and cuddles.
I have always struggled to feel emotional bonds and connections with people. It is quite isolating and lonely seeing your fellow humans form these deep bonds while I stand on the outlines watching, wishing for the ability to do this too.
But then I meet a dog and the love I am capable of feeling for them is almost crushing. The bonds that I have formed with some of the dogs at daycare have been incredibly valuable to me (and hopefully them too!). I feel humbled knowing that some of the dogs trust me so much that they will search me out for comfort, finding solace in my presence as much as I do in theirs. And I know that when I get overwhelmed, they too will readily offer me this emotional support.
Just the other day I found myself stressed and unable to calm down by myself. So what did I do?
Sat in the kitchen for 10 minutes with my heart dog in my lap while she was slowly nodding off. This provided me with some important sensory comfort: Deep pressure therapy from having a dog on my lap & a calming effect of the rhythmic stroking of my hand through her soft little fur. To me, there is nothing more healing than this precious exchange of mutual comfort.
It's no wonder that autistic people might feel drawn to animals more than they do to their fellow allistic (non-autistic) humans. We share a lot of similarities in the way that we communicate but are both often misunderstood for the way that we express ourselves. Dogs can provide us with unconditional love and understanding that we might otherwise not get somewhere else.
And I could not be more grateful for them.