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I have three boxers and a female Boston Terrier. A family with an autistic boy who is about 10 sometimes visit the dog park. My two older male boxers pay no attention to the young man nor does the Boston. My 3-year-old female boxer, however, takes a very aggressive stance when he's at the park. It's very strange in that she knows the boy is there before we hit the gate, even if he's not near us. She stands and barks at him continuously as soon as she finds him. She is a very friendly dog and this is the first time I've seen her show aggression to any person. She gets along with all the other dogs, too. Of course, the first time it happened, I got her on lead and removed her from the park. Today was the second time she has not even gotten to go into the park because she started the behavior before we got through the second gate. Has anyone else experienced anything like this? The only thing I've found online in searching deals with dogs as therapy animals for children with autism. My girl, clearly, would not suit that role. Today, I put her in the car and let the other dogs play for a few minutes before bringing them all home. I don't know how often this family goes to the park, but their visits seem to be increasing in frequency. I suppose we will stop going to the park at all. Thanks for any insights anyone might be able to provide.
 

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I don't know if he was exhibiting unusual behavior the first time she met him prior to her appearing aggressive or not. She noticed him before I did and I only noticed him because of her behavior. He did engage in some of those behaviors for sure once she had begun barking. He did not seem to be acting abnormally the last two times we've been to the park when he was there when we haven't even gone in. And, the first time, she knew he was there even though he was quite a distance away. Perhaps, since dogs have such advanced senses of smell, she knows his scent and is responding to her first encounter with him. Ideally, I would love it if the boy would be willing to work with me and allow me to try to break her bad behavior. Of course, I would never ask him or his parents to do this and if I were his parents, I'd tell me to get lost if such a proposition were made to me. I have no other means of working with her on this matter, however, and I regret that our park visits will have to come to an end.
 

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My Dogo was unsure about handicaped people and it's because they move "strangely". I'm sure your dog notices the difference between a neurotypical person and person with autism. Since she has never seen it before, she is scared of it. What we did is socialize our dog to handicaped people. We did it by parking our car in front of a handicaped facility and feeding a lot of treats until he was calm. We repeated the excercse a couple of times and now he is fine. Now, just last night we found out he is reactive to drunk people so we have to go sit outside a club late at night. Sigh.

PS. I apologize is I used any offensive language, I'm not a native speaker.
 

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Thanks, Rivonia. Maybe we can work on the issue from the car at the park. Great idea. (BTW, I didn't see anything offensive in your post. Your English is quite good, I think.)
 

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Pretty much every dog I've ever had can sense when someone is not right. That includes people who are stoned. The mentally ill. The autistic.

I sometimes walk my dogs late at night and there are often some unsavory characters and it is incredible how differently they react to certain ones. Even before I notice them the dogs have turned to face them and stiffened their whole body.

Its one of those things they pick up on right away.
 

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Pretty much every dog I've ever had can sense when someone is not right.
I think it's frequently just that they are nervous due to something outside of what they've experienced as human behavior and physical characteristics, not any special sense. Like dogs who don't like men with deep booming voices, or people in hats, or stooped over little old ladies with walkers- if they haven't been exposed to it and it's outside of what they "know" humans to do and look like, it may cause them to take pause and or react negatively.

OP- my cousin was born with brain damage which causes some autism like traits (she has good comprehension and is super task oriented, but has trouble putting thoughts into words). She spends a lot of time "studying"- people, animals- she learns many things by observing, but we have to remind her frequently that people don't like to be watched intently (staring). Though she loves and is always excited to see dogs, she is quite dog savvy, knows proper dog manners and is usually pretty well received. Through her, I've met a decent number of kids with autism and other learning disorders, and some of them tend to have behaviors which could make a dog uncomfortable- different body language, staring/direct eye contact, sometimes loud speech or noises as well- for a dog who is sensitive to or unfamiliar with that, it could make them nervous and/or reactive.

You could certainly condition your dog to the child from outside of the park or in your car, to help lessen her reactivity to him, though I wouldn't bring her into the park or off leash around him, as she's shown that she's uncomfortable in his presence, for whatever reason.
 

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As many people have said above, I think because of the child's different behaviour compared to the people she's used to interacting with, may have her a little worried, just be careful and you should be fine, also make sure to keep an eye on the dog and the child
 

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This is an interesting post, because I also have this issue however our experience with our dog has been with people with limps and also screaming kids running at you (they don't know any better and want to meet my dog, sigh). You guys have given me a good idea of parking outside a playground and doing some counter conditioning inside the car. Still not sure how to deal with limping people, as I don't see them often... Anyways, to the OP, do you think feeding treats to your dog in the presence of the autistic child will help? Maybe she ONLY gets these special treats when the child is there? Start from a far distance, and then slowly and gradually over some weeks make the distance nearer?
 

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This is an interesting post, because I also have this issue however our experience with our dog has been with people with limps and also screaming kids running at you (they don't know any better and want to meet my dog, sigh). You guys have given me a good idea of parking outside a playground and doing some counter conditioning inside the car. Still not sure how to deal with limping people, as I don't see them often... Anyways, to the OP, do you think feeding treats to your dog in the presence of the autistic child will help? Maybe she ONLY gets these special treats when the child is there? Start from a far distance, and then slowly and gradually over some weeks make the distance nearer?
The most important thing is how you react. If you are totally blasé about it, your dog will calm down. If you act startled or taken aback your dog will pick up on that as well.
 
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