Ollie: A Dog On The Spectrum

Ever since Ollie was ‘grown up’ by the age of two, he has been exhibiting behaviours that make us think he is on the Autistic Spectrum. Or at the very least, suffers from chronic Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Despite him being a wonderful well-behaved pet and companion, he lives his life by a rigid routine that he cannot stand to have broken or altered. I wondered if dogs can actually be diagnosed with these human disorders, so looked it up.

Yes, they can.

So why have we come to this conclusion about our beloved pet? Here are some examples of how he behaves every day, seven days a week.

When he comes in from the garden in the morning, he gets a treat of Schmackos. These HAVE to be eaten in the living room on his rug. If the rug is in the wash, or not there for some reason, he cannot eat his treats. After walking around with them for some time, he wil drop them on the floor, and not return to them until his rug is back in place.

At lunchtime before our walk, he gets some slices of cooked meats which contain the tablets he has to take, then four small cubes of cheese followed by a twisty dental stick that helps keep his teeth clean. The cheese and the dental stick HAVE to be eaten on his bed. If his bed has been moved into another room, or a different place, he will take the food to wherever it is, and eat it on the bed.

If Julie is at home, he will then go and sit by her and raise one paw, in the hope that she has something extra to give him. When she raises her hands and says “No more”, he walks over to his rug and lies down, carefully licking his front paws to clean them as if he had been eating with them.

After we have eaten our dinner in the evening and gone into the living room to sit down, Ollie brings each of us a toy. But those toys are not for us to play with him, they are ‘offerings’. He drops them in our laps, then looks expectantly from one of us to the other, in the hope that we will exchange his ‘gift’ of one of his toys for a treat of some kind. When nothing appears, he slumps down on his rug and goes to sleep almost immediately.

Around 10pm every night, he stands up and walks over to me, to indicate that he wants to go out into the garden. On his return thirty minutes later, he gets his final food of the day, a Bonio biscuit. But he CANNOT eat that biscuit unless both of us are in the living room, and both sitting down. If one of us is doing something else, or is in another room, he will parade in circles around the coffee table with the large bone-shaped biscuit in his mouth until he is certain that we are both sitting down and not leaving the room. As soon as we are, he eats the Bonio at great speed, but only on his rug, nowhere else. Once again, if his rug is not there, the biscuit remains uneaten until it is.

If I go to bed, Ollie wants to go to his bed too, and before I go into the bedroom I have to place his bed in its usual spot in the kitchen. I usually go to bed a lot earlier than Julie, but Ollie doesn’t care that she is still up, perhaps watching TV. He runs straight to his bed as soon as I close our bedroom door, and doesn’t move until morning. On occasions when I have been ill or unwell, and have gone to bed during the day or very early in the evening, he seems to sense something is wrong, and sits outside the bedroom door until I appear, however long that takes. He won’t go to his bed if he thinks I might be coming out before morning.

All of these habits have been rigid for almost eight years now, and never change as long as we are at home in Beetley.

When we go to stay with a friend or relative, or take Ollie on our annual holiday, the break in his routine almost shatters his world. Anyone who remembers his glum expression in the holiday photos I posted can see that. It takes him a week to work out we are not going home, and by that time we are usually packing up and leaving. Without his rug to eat treats on he hardly touches them, and as we can only take one or two of his toys and not the whole huge box of them, he ignores those too. Walks on the beach are no substitue for his regular Beetley Meadows, so he will stand on the sand crying or whimpering.

It’s probably not possible for him to have any treatment for this, and I doubt I would bother anyway, as it is all part of his particular canine personality. According to what I read online, dogs like this are born with those disorders, and unlikely to change.

I wouldn’t really want to change Ollie, so that’s okay with me.

82 thoughts on “Ollie: A Dog On The Spectrum

  1. Aw Ollie. Sounds like a sweet pup! at 40 years old, I have my very first dog, April. My middle son so passionately wanted a dog that he worked to save for the entire adoption fee at 11 years old. He loves her dearly but while he is back at school now, she is basically my pup and I have diagnosed my pup with ADHD.

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    1. That sounds worse than Ollie’s OCD. At least he is well-mannered and not too active now. 🙂
      Glad to hear you got your first dog at 40. I hope you have many more in the years to come.
      Ollie will be my last ever dog, as I will be 70 in March, and couldn’t cope with another dog after Ollie leaves us.
      Best wishes, Pete.

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  2. The way you describe Ollie is not surprising. Dogs are very much creatures of habit and they know the ‘time’ as well. If their treat is late, they usually remind you and like everything to be as it is normally before they feel comfortable to eat their food. This is a sort of resource/toy/food guarding behaviour. He feels his rug is his safe place and if you guys are seated, you would pose a threat and he can relax and eat his treat. Maybe I am a bit autistic in a way as I understand why dogs do what they do. He is offering a toy in the hopes of getting another treat as it has worked for him in the past. It is mostly just positive or partial reinforcement. Those kinds of behaviours are hard to extinguish. On holidays, he feels a bit lost as everything is different. He sounds like a darling companion.

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    1. He’s the best dog you could ever wish for, but very unlike any dogs I have had in the past. Everything he does is completely predictable, as if he is living in ‘Groundhog Day’ every day of his life,.
      Thanks, FW.
      Best wishes, Pete.

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  3. I never thought a dog would suffer from OCD, Pete. Ollie is fortunate to have you who loves and understands him. My son is OCD and I often wonder how many kids with this sort of disorder suffer abuse. I makes me feel sad to think of it.

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  4. I suppose that if keeping this strictly to a routine means a diagnosis my husband and I are overdue for an evaluation! I bet I could write a very similar piece about our repetitive behaviors! LOL

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  5. Longtime cat owner‘s comment: if these are signs of autism or OCD, those conditions must be intrinsically built into every cat‘s genetic makeup. 🙂

    Our pets are just like people, we have to accept them the way we find them. How wonderful for Ollie to have parents who perfectly understand that and are willing to accommodate it to a „T“.

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  6. Love this! I have been wondering the same thing about Merlock the cat! He has similar behaviors, If you can see the bottom of his catfood dish its a must to add more. He will meow, and poke you until you do. Since Alex began giving him ice cubes in his water he asks for these by aiming at the fridge and meowing at times, and especially if he hears you getting some for yourself! What ever you do once you must do it again. He also thinks he must be with me be with me in the bathroom and if I go into the bedroom and change. When I shut the door he meows. If I do not lock the bathroom door sometimes he will open it. He has a need to put a black hair elastic in his water dish. Maybe this lets him see the bottom and he can gage there is water in his bowl? He has to go to bed with one of us.

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  7. Both a sympathetic observation of animal behaviour, to which many of us humans can relate, and a moving testament to your special relationship with Ollie. My eyes were moist when I finished reading. Best wishes to all three of you.

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  8. This is so funny and very cute. Dogs do like routine. Ours are like littleclocks. They want everything done at the same time. We are sure the little one has ADD as she gets so excited, especially when she is anticipating something, like a treat or a walk. They are funny personalities and we wouldnt wznt them to be any different.

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  9. After sharing my world with a dozen dogs throughout my life, it makes sense to me.

    Some had more, some less, but each has and had their own indiosicrocies. My life would be less rich without them, I can guarantee that! 🐶🐶🐶

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  10. It does sound like autistic behaviour, Pete but Ollie is lucky you can recognise it. It seems dogs do have a lot of the traits that we thought were just human, like the dementia our little Diesel had. We are still hoping for another dog but fear the rescue centres consider us too old. Life is so empty without a four legged friend.

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    1. I’m sorry to hear they think you are too old. I know a lady of 77 who recently got a rescue dog. It is 9 years old though, so doesn’t need an owner who is too vigorous. She got it from the NCDL in Snetterton, it’s a Spaniel of some kind, very timid.
      Best wishes, Pete.

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  11. At least you will always know if something is “off”. It’s hard telling a vet that you know something is wrong with your pet but you can’t exactly say how you know. One of my cats is epileptic. That was a big scare when it first happened but at least I could describe the problem. Ollie sounds like me. I don’t like my routine changed either.

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    1. That’s possible. He certainly eats his main meal when we are away from home, especially if we are staying with my cousin, as she has two small dogs. If Ollie leaves any of his dinner, they soon polish it off. 🙂
      Best wishes, Pete.

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