Alison, Courtney E. (2011-10). Using Dogs in a Home-Based Intervention with Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Doctoral Dissertation. Thesis uri icon


  • Humans and dogs have lived among each other in mutually beneficial relationships for thousands of years. In recent years, this human-animal bond has emerged as a catalyst for animal-assisted activities and therapies that may benefit those with disabilities, including children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). ASD are characterized by qualitative impairments in social interaction and communication and restricted repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests, and activities. The nonverbal and nonjudgmental nature of dogs may be non-threatening and easier for children with ASD to decode, which may decrease anxiety and facilitate social bonding. Further, with their roles as social lubricants/transitional objects and natural foci of interest, dogs may facilitate social interaction between children with ASD and other people. Using a single case, multiple baseline design across participants, this study investigated whether multiple semi-structured interactions with dogs would increase social and communicative behaviors and decrease restricted repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior in children. Although only two had statistically significant results, all three participants showed responses to intervention in the hypothesized directions. This study supports the position that children with ASD may benefit from participating in animal-assisted activities with dogs.

publication date

  • August 2010