Labrador retrievers, border collies and miniature schnauzers are among the best therapy dog breeds for children with autism, according to new research. Providing security and companionship, these puppies help promote positive behavior changes, reduce anxiety, and provide calming focus.
According to a study conducted by the National Autistic Society and Mind, 94% of people with autism suffer from anxiety, almost half of which fall into the category of severe anxiety. Although there is plenty of help available, the constant presence of a specially trained dog provides the kind of companionship and unconditional friendship that can help someone with autism.
Here are some of the other ways dogs can help people with autism:
- Reduce stress on family members
- Promote positive behavior change
- Offer comfort to children with autism when they are upset
- Reduce behavioral outbursts
“Dogs are fantastic pets for so many people, but they’re especially good for people with autism,” says Julie Butcher, chief marketing officer at Webbox.
“Besides being companions and friends in themselves, they can even help people make friends by giving them the confidence they need in anxiety-provoking situations. And when sensory processing issues become too important, spending time with your dog is a great way to both calm down and stimulate themselves by petting them or playing a fun game.”
Take a look at the best breeds below:
1. Labrador retrievers
“Kind, loyal, friendly and good-natured, Labradors make fantastic pets,” Webbox experts tell us. “They are often trained as therapy or assistance dogs, which means they are likely to be a wonderful companion for an autistic child. However, they can be quite rambunctious and excitable during the puppy phase, which can be quite challenging, especially if you’ve already got your hands full with your little ones.”
“Energetic, intelligent and loyal, Collies are remarkably intuitive and sensitive to their owner’s feelings and needs, which means they are often a great fit for people with autism.
“They also like to be trained and can therefore make a great companion for an older child, who may appreciate the structure and routine of pet training. However, Collies are very energetic dogs and need Lots of mental stimulation and exercise, so it’s important to make sure you can provide it.”
3. Saint Bernard
“These gentle giants are known to be loving, loyal and calm, and have always been trained to act as attentive ‘nanny dogs’ for children. However, they are a very large breed, often reaching up to 90cm in height as adults. So they may not be the best option for smaller homes and gardens.”
4. Poodle Mixes
Webbox says: “Poodle mixes, such as Labradoodles and Goldendoodles, can also make excellent pets for children with autism spectrum disorders. They combine the affectionate, friendly, and good-natured traits of a Lab with the intelligence and allergic coat of the Poodle. Be warned that they can sometimes grow to quite a large size.”
5. Miniature Schnauzer
“Happy, intelligent and full of character, Mini Schnauzers can be great pets, especially if raised with children. They can be stubborn though, so you’ll need a steady hand and a bit of patience during training!”
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