Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 49, Issue 1, pp 248–259 | Cite as

Parental Perceptions of the Nature of the Relationship Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders Share with Their Canine Companion

  • Caitlin Harwood
  • Elizabeth KaczmarekEmail author
  • Deirdre Drake
Original Paper


This study examined the role of companion canines in the lives of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Interviews were conducted with 11 mothers of children with ASD (aged 5–12) who owned a canine companion in a multiple case study methodology. Transcript analysis revealed the emergence of five major themes, namely; love and companionship, perception of ownership, comfort and calming influence, canine’s ability to assist the child with understanding their world, and challenging experiences. The social and emotional benefits of companion canine ownership were observed in the majority of cases, particularly when the canine was the preferred companion animal and possessed an appropriate temperament suitable to cohabit with children who possess unique social and sensory needs.


Autism spectrum disorder Qualitative Companion canine Mothers 



This study was undertaken as part of a Masters in Clinical Psychology by the first author.

Author Contributions

All authors conceived and planned this study. CH conducted all of of the interviews with participants and engaged with the data analysis, in consultation with EK and DD. All authors contributed to the writing and editing of the manuscript.


No funding was received.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Arts and HumanitiesEdith Cowan UniversityJoondalupAustralia

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