Autism Service Dogs

Autism Service Dogs are becoming more popular and the demand is growing rapidly.  Autism Service Dogs are trained basic commands such as sit, down, stay, leave it, stop, take a break, and wait.  Beyond the basic commands they are trained specialty skills based on the needs of the individual receiving the dog.  This allows for the dog to help individuals and families in a variety of different ways.  Some ways that Autism Service Dog can help individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are: 

  • Autism Service Dogs act as a constant companion/friend that does not pass judgment.

  • Individuals with ASD may wander or run and Autism Service Dogs can be trained to stop and resist pressure they feel from their harness, with the individual using a specially designed leash that attaches to their wrist or belt loop, etc.  This can be a huge help to families and offer an individual with ASD some independence.  An Autism Service Dog can also be taught tracking skills in case the individual gets separated from their family.

  • Autism Service Dogs can help with teaching individuals with ASD about responsibility. You have to feed and take care of a dog.  By having an individual with ASD learn and help with these tasks, it is teaching that individual about being responsible for another.  This can help and lead an individual with ASD into taking on additional responsibilities.

  • Autism Service Dogs help with social interactions and relationships by being a conversation starter and giving the individual with ASD a subject to discuss that they are comfortable with.  Autism Service Dogs act as a “magnet”, as much of the public will stop and ask questions about your Service Dog!

  • Autism Service Dogs help with developing some verbal skills in an individual with ASD.  The dog responses to commands which is empowering and can serves as safe place to practice verbal skills.  Many families find that these skills are also a great help with comprehending language.

  • Autism Service Dogs need basic care done for them as any other dog.  Giving the dog a bath, brushing its hair/teeth, trimming its nails etc., provides extra practice and helps individuals with ASD be more aware of these skill sets.  By having an individual with ASD help with these things, it may give them an interest in doing these things for himself which in return helps teach some additional life skills.

  • Individuals with ASD may be anxious or have meltdowns.  Autism Service Dogs are trained to remain calm, they are always socially/emotionally less complex, are always available and are more predictable.  This allows and gives an individual with ASD something they can focus on, touch, and control which in return may help to prevent and stop meltdowns.

  • Some individuals with ASD have sensory issues and crave pressure.  Autism Service Dogs can be trained to apply pressure when weighted blankets are not available. 

If you are considering getting an Autism Service Dog, here are a few things to take in consideration and a few tips: 

  • The first thing you may want to do is to think about and prepare a list of things you would like to have the Autism Service Dog trained to perform/help your child with.  This way when you start looking at organizations who train Autism Service Dogs you can ask about training the dog for those specific skills to ensure that they can.

  • Some organizations will train and bring the Autism Service Dog to you.  They may stay and work with you for a period of time to teach you how to handle the dog and all the commands the dog was trained for.  Although, some organizations require you to come to them and go through a training which usually takes about a week.  You will want to decide if you are willing to travel if needed.

  • You will want to do a little research to ensure you can afford veterinary/grooming/food costs on a regular basis.

  • When looking for an organization that trains Autism Service Dogs there is much to consider: 

    • Will they train the dog the skills you are needing or wanting the dog to have?  Some organizations are very flexible what they will train the dog to do and others are not.

    • Cost involved – some organizations provide Autism Service Dogs at no charge to the client and others charge upwards of $20,000 - $30,000

    • Are they a reputable organization? – ask for a couple references of clients that have received a dog with them.

    • Do they provide support or additional training should you need it, and if so, for how long and do they charge extra for it?  Some organizations offer support and training for the life of the dog and others do not offer any.

    • If something should happen to the dog, will they give you priority for another dog and is there any additional fees for this?

    • Is there a waiting list and how long is that list?  How long is the training process?

    • Please be sure to ask is there anything else you should know or be aware of.  Tell them that this is your first time inquiring about an Autism Service Dog and you really do not know anything about them, so any information they can provide would be extremely helpful!

    • Ask if they have any requirements for their Autism Service Dogs such as, do they require their dogs to be certified and do they certify them?  Certification is not necessarily required for an Autism Service Dog however, it is a good thing to do or have.  If an Autism Service Dog is certified, it usually requires that they be re-certified every 2 years! 

For more information regarding Autism Service Dogs, Please visit the following helpful links: