Girl Hugging Dog

What Is The Best Dog For Children With Autism?

Pets give so much joy and happiness to people, children in particular take delight in having pets. Having pets also comes with many benefits for children from teaching them responsibility to loyalty and friendship. A very close bond can be formed between a child and his dog.

A hot topic of discussion  is always what type of dog is best and safest for your child. Is there a particular breed that is considered best and how do you go about choosing a dog for your child. But what if your child is autistic, how you choose the best dog for your autistic child?

Before you go ahead and consider getting a dog for your autistic child it is best to first be sure that your child likes dogs and that you are prepared to commit yourself to caring long term for a dog. Once you have taken those two important factors into consideration you can start looking into how to choose the best dog for your child with autism.

What Is The Best Dog For Children With Autism

What Is The Best Type Of Dog For Children With Autism?

You may think that you want to look at what breed of dog you would like to get for your child and while this may be the case with a child without autism it is not the best way for a child with autism. What you need to consider is what is the purpose of getting a dog for your autistic child. There are three different types of dogs you can consider: a companion dog, a service dog or a therapy dog. Each type of dog serves a specific purpose and they are all trained differently.

A Companion Dog

A companion dog that is well-trained and well-behaved is an excellent choice for a family that has an autistic child. A companion dog will soothing and show love, loyalty and affection towards your child, as well as provide exercise opportunities when walking the dog. A dog is also a draw card for other kids and it is can be hard for children with autism to socialize with other children – a companion dog will make it so much easier for your autistic child to interact with other children in a non-threatening way.

Having a dog will teach your autistic child valuable practical skills and responsibility. It will also provide you as a parent a wonderful way to teach your autistic child valuable lessons about caring for others and consideration of the needs of others.

Boy with dog

Service Dogs

Service dogs are specially trained and receive certification to assist people with disabilities to perform certain functions that present them with challenges. In most countries service dogs are allowed to accompany their owners in all public areas even where dogs are not usually allowed such as restaurants, shops and even schools. There are special harnesses or capes for service dogs that identify them as being working dogs so that it is clear not to disturb them.

A service dog is specially trained for the person that it will assist to help with the specific needs of that person. Service dogs can help with many different things from helping someone with diabetes and alerting them when their blood sugar levels are low, to assisting with mobility problems, assisting with hearing and visual impairments and epilepsy to alert of seizures. Service dogs also help with anxiety disorders and developmental disorders including autism.

Autism service dogs can help to lessen anxiety in an autistic child on outings such as school and shopping, as well as to medical appointments that may cause additional stress for your child.

Some autistic service dogs can recognize and help to prevent self-harm behavior or help to mitigate emotional meltdowns. When the service dog senses a meltdown it will respond with actions that are calming such as leaning against the child or lying across the child’s lap to soothe him.

Therapy Dogs

Therapy dogs are specially trained to provide company and affection in therapeutic environments. You will find them working in nursing homes, hospitals, mental health care facilities and other health care settings. They can help to soothe and calm people going through a medical procedure that is stressful and help with occupational or physical therapy.

Therapy dogs have become highly popular with assisting children and adults with autism due to their calming effect and for their ability to promote and ease social interaction.

Some therapy dogs are specially trained while others are chosen for their tolerant, affectionate and calm disposition. Therapy dogs often wear a cape too, but they are not permitted in all public places like service dogs are.

What Breed Of Dog is Best For Children With Autism

There will always be discussion around which dog is best for children and which is best for children with autism, however one specific dog always stands out – the Labrador Retriever. Chances are high you will see the Labrador Retriever at the top of the list when it comes to the best choice for service dogs, for the best dogs for children with autism and for the best dog for families. They make brilliant therapy dogs and companion dogs.

While it is always great to give a rescue dog a home, always keep in mind that rescue dogs may have a traumatic history and may not make the best pet for an autistic child. When choosing a therapy dog or a service dog for an autistic child it is always best to contact an accredited agency and specifically request a dog that has experience working with children that have autism.

It is so important to ensure that the dog you choose for your autistic child is a highly suitable match for your child as well as for your family. The process of matching an autistic child with the right dog may take up to two years with home visits and special training taking place.

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5 comments

  1. OK.. So my view is very unpopular.. But the reason for it is because I’ve seen it with my own two eyes..
    In my opinion, it doesn’t matter what breed of dog you get.. What matters most is the particular training the dog gets.. I personally have 4 furbabies.. A 10 year old German Shepherd x, a 4 year old Jack Russell, a 1 year old Pit bull x and a 6 month old great dane x sharpei. All different breeds.. Yet their training is immaculate. All four will listen, they do ‘minor’ chores.. They are protective of my children, to the point of them sleeping next to their play pen during the days.. If a dog is not properly trained.. There will always be issues..

  2. Wow this is awesome I just love animals and the benefits they have for us humans

  3. You’ve brought up such an important point here @thesh – how a dog is treated and how it is trained plays such an important role. We also had a Jack Russell growing up and a German Shepherd. The Jack Russell was a lovely little dog but we actually had problems with our German Shepherd. It is important to keep in mind that even with the so called best breeds of dog and the best training things can go wrong. He bit people, he killed our cats, he killed our chickens, ducks, geese…. you name it he went for it.

    There is so much that comes into play when it comes to taking in a pet. Certain dogs also have such a bad reputation – especially Pit Bulls – and very often it has to do with how people treat them. Pit Bulls are often bred for fighting so they have a bad reputation but my opinion is that they are actually an amazing family dog if they are properly treated and trained well. My husband had a Pit Bull and my father in law has one now. I have no concerns about my kids safety around that dog, other than him getting excited when my kids come over and they might get knocked over when he comes to greet them!

    • This was very helpful. I’m looking to get an Autism service Dog for my 5 year old autistic son. He loves our little mix breed (poodle, terrier, apple head chihuahua), BUT my son is sort of aggressive, not meaning to be mean, but plays aggressive sometimes. I knew we needed a big dog for him, but my mother pushed and pushed this dog on us, now my poor puppy has a hurt leg. I’m so hurt that my puppy is hurt, and irritated that my mom thought she knew better than I did, and brought our dog over on Christmas Eve. I believe I’ll be looking into some sort of retriever. A dog that’s calm and can handle my sons ear pulling and slightly aggressive behavior.

      • I’m so sorry to hear about your dog. When I was growing up we had a Golden Labrador and when he passed away when I was 15 we got another Golden Labrador – they are amazing dogs and tough too. So I always recommend them for a family with kids, plus I believe that they are a fabulous choice for an autistic child too. We also had a golden retriever and she was also superb.

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