Autism In Dogs: Can A Dog Be Autistic?

Pet parents have always wondered whether autism exists among the canines. On their own part, researchers have been busy since the mid-1960s, looking into the possibility of the autism spectrum in dogs. While we have seen several promising studies in canine autism signs and symptoms, we are yet to record definitive or conclusive evidence that the spectrum does exist in pups. However, substantial evidence from findings points to the fact that pups are born with chronic conditions and exhibit behaviors that are similar to the human autism spectrum, which is referred to as autism in dogs.

How to Know if Your Dog Has Autism

Repetitive Behavior

Autistic dogs tend to repeat certain behaviors and patterns. This does not mean all those normal canine behaviors like chasing their tails or running to the entrance every morning to beg their parent for a walk are autistic behaviors. What we are trying to say is that the dog observes a daily routine that it can never sway from irrespective of what happens. But this symptom alone is not enough to say that a dog is autistic.

Awkwardness and Social Nervousness

Dogs are sociable and friendly creatures that love to meet people, and there are specific breeds that can make friends with other animals. An unsociable dog may be displaying signs of autism; however, if the dog is newly adopted, shyness is expected at the initial stage, as it gets acclimatized to the new owner and environment. We expect this kind of natural shyness to wear off, but if the awkwardness persists, it may be as a result of autism.

Lack of Enthusiasm

It is expected that canines come replete with energy, always friendly and enthusiastic. If this enthusiasm is lacking in your pooch, then canine autism might be the culprit. This is especially true when your dog belongs to one of those energetic breeds like the Boxador.

Obsessive-Compulsive Behaviors or OCD

It is not only humans that display signs of OCD, but dogs also have them too, and you may need to check out any dog with such. Obsessive-compulsive disorder can manifest in different ways, like a dog always wanting to have its toys at the same location and does not hesitate to take any misplaced one back to the location. The dog might want its bed made in a certain way, likewise its food.

Lack of Emotions

The emotions of an autistic dog are hard to read, as they just put up a poker face, defeating their parent’s effort to try to decipher when they are happy, sad, terrified, and the likes.

Handling Autism in Dogs

Autism in Dogs

A dog that is suspected of having the autism spectrum should be taken for veterinary examination. While a cure does not exist for the condition, your vet can do a few tests and collaborate with you to create some sort of care plan that may benefit the dog – thus, unwanted behaviors can be prevented, and they can live a more comfortable life.

Create a Safe Zone

When presented with an uncomfortable stimulation, autistic dogs react in a strange manner. What they usually do in this instance is to move to one particular spot, which they have marked as safe. Your job as a dog parent is to make this space available for them and the space should be easily accessible when the need arises. The space can be the kennel, their bed, or one particular room.

Stick to One Particular Routine

Autistic or not, the canine population are creatures of routine. A dog gets to learn how you do things very fast and will thrive when you stick to this routine all through its life. For autistic pups, the normal routine is taken as a security blanket. The dogs will know what they are expected to do, the best time to do it, and what to expect in return.

Slow Introduction of New Things

If new things must be introduced, your best bet is to take a slow and gentle approach. Autistic dogs can be easily scared by new stimuli; thus, things must be done slowly. If you bought the dog a new toy, allow it ample time to scope the plaything out. The same can be said for new furniture. The initial stage is usually frustrating, but your dog will benefit in the long run.

Never Baby Them

Being overprotective and babying an autistic dog is considered a wrong move, as it only reinforces unpalatable behavior. Coming to the dog’s aid means that there is actually something it needs to be terrified of. Thus, you must remain firm but compassionate.

Respect Their Limitations

Never throw a dog into a situation that is uncomfortable just for the fun of it. Autistic dogs come with unique needs and have some aspects of their personality that you just cannot change. A dog with this spectrum cannot be forced to be friendlier. Even when you introduce it to a new home, do so with a firm approach.

Always acknowledge the fact that your pooch is different and has needs that have to be respected. It is possible that your furry companion won’t like you getting too close, though it may be heartbreaking, you are not in a position to force issues except when it becomes absolutely necessary.

Simple Commands Will Do

While communicating with your furball, you need to keep it simple and straightforward. Easily understandable hand motions and the one-word command will suffice. The dog will only be overwhelmed with a long string of instructions or commands. In addition to ignoring your command, it might break into a run and hide.

Diet and Exercise

For optimal physical and mental health, exercise is important. A change of diet is often recommended for autistic people. Though there is no particular evidence showing that the same can work for dogs, it won’t hurt. Always seek the vet’s recommendations, as the symptoms may be alleviated with a high-quality diet.

Anxiety can be reduced through exercise, and the dog can burn out all the nervous energy and divert it into a useful activity. The physical benefits notwithstanding, a dog needs to exercise daily, and adhering to a comfortable regime breeds happiness and a sense of security.

Read Also: Do Dogs Have Down Syndrome?


Just like in humans, canine OCD and autism in dogs can be managed with Fluoxetine. The drug is not targeted at curing the disorder, its function is to alleviate some of the symptoms. It calms the dog, which ensures that those unpalatable behaviors show up less often. The medication is a continuous one and might work wonders for the overall health of your pooch as the dog’s life will become more normal with the medication. However, it must be prescribed by a vet who has made certain that it is safe for the dog involved and will bring desired results.

Other Facts you Need to Know About Autism in Dogs

  1. Symptoms of canine autism start manifesting from the puppy stage.
  2. OCD characteristics such as compulsive tail chasing are common among breeds like German Shepherds, Bull Terriers, and many more.
  3. Anxiety disorder has similar symptoms to autism.
  4. It may not always be autism; a dog experiencing challenges may be suffering from Canine compulsive disorder.
  5. Veterinarians don’t call it dog autism or canine autism; they refer to it as canine dysfunctional behavior, as there is not enough research or studies to back up autism in dogs.
  6. Even without scientific backing, some scientists who have been researching mirroring neurons in canine brains have come to the conclusion that pups displaying the symptoms of the autism spectrum were actually devoid of those neurons. This aided them in deciding that the absent neurons are exactly the cause of canine autism.
  7. Dogs don’t become sick with the autism spectrum; they are born with it, and probably inherited it from their pedigree.
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