One of the key points to making sure that a service dog is helpful is making sure that it attaches to the child with autism. Part of the criteria for an autism service dog is that it is very eager to make social and emotional connections. That might seem backwards, until you realize that the dog has to be super-eager because the child's efforts will probably be minimal.
But it does mean that there is a risk for the dog bonding to someone other than its intended child, which is why NSD warned us to keep our distance, particularly during the first few months.
It's been a challenge, particularly for Nathan. Initially, we'd planned to get Nathan a cat of his own to focus on, but Dave had some last-minute reservations and that plan got put on hold. Since then, I've been having to spend a significant portion of each day telling Nathan to leave Icon alone. It's also been a challenge for me, since I'm the one home with Icon all day and the one who deals with the daily training updates and the majority of the outings.
But the efforts are starting to pay off. Icon is beginning to follow Alex around instead of me, which is a good sign.
We've been having Alex feed Icon, give him treats, play with him during the walk and groom him. It's a lot to manage but I've been trying to focus on keeping it fun for both of them.