Alderwood Pet Projects

Dog phobia is common in young people and adults who have a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder.


Dogs are a part of daily life and can cause extreme anxiety for our young people whilst in the community. It can often prevent proper access to the full range of activities offered.

Alderwood has developed an extensive programme that focuses on desensitisation. A programme will usually start with listening activities ‘sound tasks’ (dogs barking etc) and social stories about dogs in general. Pace is set by the individual to ensure they are confident and relaxed. The next stage would be to introduce a dog into the garden whilst the service user observes from a window. All progress is monitored to ensure each stage is appropriate. Eventually we aim to introduce the service user to the Alderwood dogs and take part in our dog walking scheme. Alderwood has a number of dogs which spend time in each home and for some of our service users, dog walking is a regular part of their timetable.

At the beginning of 2010 Alderwood decided to expand their desensitisation programme by introducing the Equine Project. It has evolved and grown since its conception and we now have a varied group of ponies each bringing different qualities to the project. Horses are at stables a few miles from the Alderwood homes. Service users complete an eight week programme which covers all aspects of de-sensitisation, including grooming and feeding. The ethos for this project is predicated on exactly the same foundations as for the dogs, with all aspects set at an appropriate pace for the individual. This project has provided an additional dimension to our service users’ lives and has been met with great enthusiasm.

The Pet Project also includes cats, rabbits, pigs, guinea pigs, dogs and horses.