London: Pet dogs can transform the lives of the disabled, including autistic children, researchers say.
There is a growing awareness that dogs can play a key role in ending tantrums in children, reports the Telegraph.
Experts site the case of five-year-old Jude, an autistic.
Kristina Hughes, his mother, has seen his explosive and distressing tantrums many times - both at home and outside.
Kristina, 40, says her marriage was "at breaking point" because of the strain of providing 24-hour care for a child whose relationship with the world is different from most other children`s.
She has now acquired a new ally in the struggle - Claude, the family dog. She presses a yellow `clicker` box and Claude, a black labrador, responds by going up to Jude and nuzzling into his hand. Amazingly, the boy`s anxiety subsides.
A joint research project has been launched by a charity called Dogs for the Disabled, University of Lincoln, UK, and the National Autistic Society to find out more about this extraordinary connection.
Professor Daniel Mills, who is leading the research project, said: "There is an enormous amount of anecdotal information to suggest that dogs can help children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), and help alleviate stress within the family.
"We hope to be able to pinpoint and quantify specific benefits for carers so they can have realistic expectations and get the most from their relationship with a dog."