Dog breeds

Choosing a Dog for Autism: The Best Dog Breeds

Besides being cute and a major source of love, dogs are an extremely valuable resource for learning about compassion, caring for another living being, feeling supported, and feeling less anxious. The connection between a dog and a child is an incredibly powerful thing.

Research suggests that there are three types of dogs in particular that you should consider if you are looking for a dog to help and support your autistic child. A service dog, a therapy dog ​​or a faithful companion.

There has been countless research on the benefits of dogs for children with autism. Benefits include increased social skills, emotional support, and reduced anxiety.

According to the authors of a study exploring the Use of Service and Therapy Dogs for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders: “It is possible to hypothesize that an intervention strategy based on the exploitation of the emotional aspects of the relationship with a dog could represent an effective tool to alleviate the withdrawal of children with ASD by targeting some of the main symptoms of this disorder. The simple, interpretable movement pattern that characterizes dogs may facilitate the engagement of children with ASD in structurally simple social actions that do not require the interpretation of verbal cues and that are highly repeatable and predictable (e.g., throwing , seek-and-fetch, play, walking with a dog on a leash, giving a hand command).

Difference Between Service Dogs, Therapy Dogs, and Loyal Companions

Service dogs undergo extensive training to perform tasks aimed at alleviating their handler’s disabilities. Assistance dogs are legally allowed to go to public places with their handlers, such as the mall, grocery stores, or restaurants. These dogs have very specific reasons to be with their master. There is usually a “no petting” rule assigned to service dogs, as this may prevent them from picking up signals from their handler, so if you are considering a dog that you would like to show regular affection to, service dogs assistance would not be the best solution.

Assistance dogs for autism

Autism Assistance Dogs can be highly trained to help people with different sensitivities. An autism service dog is there to help relationships, increase social interaction, and develop its handler’s fine and gross motor skills.

Autism assistance dogs are trained to pick up cues of self-destructive behavior from their handlers in stressful situations. In such a situation, the dog will exert reassuring pressure, such as leaning into his master or resting his head on his master’s lap to reduce anxiety and relieve him.

therapy dogs

Therapy dogs, on the other hand, are trained to provide psychological or physiological therapy to people other than their handlers. They are brought to different places to bring comfort and healing to those in need. Therapy dogs are brought to places such as schools, care homes, and rehabilitation centers.

These dogs are friendly and easy-going and are encouraged to interact with others while on duty, which means petting is allowed. The role of a therapy dog ​​can be quite varied, from giving courage to children with learning disabilities to supporting those in rehabilitation.

faithful companions

If you are looking for a dog that can be a family pet and give your child the love and affection that dogs usually show their owners, then a loyal companion might be the answer. However, due to the different sensitivities of children with autism, it is very important to give your dog thorough training. This way, you can make sure the dog doesn’t trigger your autistic child by doing something that could be avoided with proper training.

Best dog breeds for children with autism

Remember that you are not only choosing a dog for your child, you are choosing a dog for your family. There are some things you will want to consider, for example, if your child has hearing sensitivities, fast barking dogs might not be the best fit. If there is someone in the house who suffers from allergies, choosing a dog that sheds a lot would create a stressful environment. Here are some popular breeds among autistic families:

Saint Bernard

These gentle giants can look intimidating due to their size, but Saint Bernards tend to be gentle and patient, making them a great choice for children with autism. Saint Bernards are disciplined and intelligent, and capable of performing small tasks. This makes the Saint Bernard an excellent choice for an assistance dog. That being said, their size can work against them as they might overpower smaller children.

german shepherds

German Shepherds are favorites of dog lovers. With an innate protective instinct and an incredibly sharp mind, it’s no wonder this breed is such a popular choice. German Shepherds are remarkably gentle and loyal to those they love. German Shepherds are a well-chosen breed for service dogs due to their intelligence, focus, and ability to perform complicated tasks. This dog breed can look intimidating, but it can keep up with small children when needed and is reliable.

Golden retriever

Golden Retrievers are one of the most common breeds to train as service and therapy dogs. Golden Retrievers are very easy to train, they are adaptable and intelligent, and their size makes them perfect for people with physical disabilities. Golden Retrievers are very happy dogs, eager to please and extremely loyal. If you’re looking for the perfect breed for a therapy dog ​​or the perfect companion for your autistic child, look no further than a Golden Retriever.

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Newfoundland might be a surprising addition to this list, but this dog breed has been a therapy dog ​​for children with autism or emotional disorders for many years. Newfoundlands are intelligent and easy to train. This breed of dogs is not very active, so they could be a good addition to the family for those whose children prefer to play indoors. These dogs also tend to have gentle natures and an affinity for children.


A Labradoodle is usually a cross between a Labrador Retriever and a Toy Poodle. These curly-haired puppies are a popular choice among families with autistic children. Labradoodles don’t shed excessively like many dogs, making them hypoallergenic and a great choice for families with respiratory allergies. Labradoodles are fun-loving dogs that are very intelligent and easy to train, making them a good option as therapy dogs.

Choosing a Dog for Autism: The Best Dog Breeds

Great Pyrenees

Great Pyrenees dogs were bred as mountain dogs tasked with protecting sheep from wolves. These white giants are known to have a calm temperament and to be loyal, hardy, and gentle. That being said, Great Pyrenees need training as young dogs and regular exercise to maintain their obedience and independent nature. These fluffy white babysitters are perfect for autistic kids who like to be active.

Labrador Retrievers

Labrador Retrievers are a popular choice for service and therapy dogs due to their friendliness and easy-going nature. Their intelligence and desire to please their owners make them a good choice for a service or therapy dog. Labradors are a social breed, but that doesn’t take away from their attentiveness to their master’s needs. Whether you are considering a service dog, a therapy dog ​​or a loyal companion, Labradors are always a good choice.

bernese mountain dog

The Bernese Mountain Dog is an excellent companion for children with ASD because he is calm and very affectionate. These dogs are very intelligent and easy to train. Bernese Mountain Dogs are eager to please, making them loyal companions for children on the spectrum and an excellent family dog.

Did you know?

Did you know that dogs can be born with canine dysfunctional behavior, which some people consider a type of autism in dogs?

Vets believe it to be an idiopathic condition, meaning the cause is still unknown. Veterinarians speculate that this condition is caused by a lack of mirror neurons in the brain. Mirror neurons allow the dog to mirror certain behaviors it sees in other dogs, teaching them how to behave and act in certain environments.

Dogs that exhibit canine dysfunctional behavior may exhibit communication problems, avoidance of eye contact, have impaired social interaction, canine anxiety, and trance-like behaviors, to name a few.

To finish

Remember that whether you choose a service dog, a therapy dog ​​or a loyal companion, a dog is a big responsibility and the choice of bringing one into your family should not be taken lightly. If you are considering getting a service dog or therapy dog, many organizations will require you to complete an application, interview you, and view your home to determine if the dog will be in a safe and well cared for environment. .

If you are considering having a loyal companion, remember that early training is important for obedience.

Make sure your family is ready for a new canine addition and that your autistic child will treat the dog with respect. Dogs are known to bring happiness and love into their homes and I’m sure one of the dogs on this list could be a great addition to your family.

Berry, A, Borgi, M, Francia, N, Alleva, E & Cirulli, F. (2013, February 14) Use of Service and Therapy Dogs for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders