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12 Best Dog Breeds for Autistic Children

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Breeds By Ben Team 19 min read August 31, 2021 45 Comments

Dogs for Autistic Children

It’s hard to overstate the value dogs have played in the lives of humans. We probably wouldn’t even be here if it weren’t for dogs, as our partnership probably allowed us to out-compete Neanderthals.

Dogs continue to provide immeasurable value to our lives in the modern world. For most of us, this value comes in the form of companionship and unconditional love (as well as a bit of entertainment). But some people derive even more value from dogs. Some depend on dogs to navigate the challenges of daily life.

This includes not only service dogs, who help blind or deaf owners overcome their challenges, but emotional support animals, who help to soothe frayed nerves and short-circuit panic attacks.

Some dogs have even been trained to perform potentially life-saving tasks, such as monitoring their owner’s blood sugar levels.

But today, we’re going to focus on the ways dogs can help those with autism spectrum disorders.

As it turns out, dogs can make incredible companions for autistic children, and some can even provide specific services that help improve the lives of these kids.

Below, we’ll talk about the ways dogs help autistic kids, compare and contrast the different roles four-footers can play in an autistic child’s life, and discuss some of the best breeds to consider.

Animals and Autistic Children

Before we get started, let me ask you to indulge me for a moment, so I can share a personal experience relevant to the subject at hand (if you’re in a hurry, feel free to skip down to the next section).

Before I started writing full time, I made my living as an environmental educator (among other things, I ran a 501c3 nature preserve).

The work required me to do a bunch of different things, from guiding families on nature hikes, to monitoring the habitat, to my favorite thing – conducting live animal presentations. I’d bring out a couple of animals, rattle off some of the basic information about the species, answer questions, and, usually, let willing audience members touch the animals.

The vast majority of the audiences for these programs were elementary school groups, scout groups, mom’s clubs, and seniors, but I also had the privilege of putting on these programs for a variety of special needs kids – including many who were on the autism spectrum.

One school, which specifically catered to the needs of autistic children, even built weekly visits to the preserve into the school’s curriculum. These kids would get to come to the preserve each week and meet a new set of animals.

Their weekly visits were easily the highlight of my week, and I’d like to think the kids enjoyed them too.

The animals involved were typically non-domesticated or exotic species, including millipedes, alligators, ducks, snakes, chinchillas, and many more unique critters. Some were bigger hits with the kids than others (a giant tortoise was a particular favorite), but I don’t think I ever introduced them to an animal that didn’t strike a chord with some portion of the kids.

One day (and we’re finally getting to my point — I appreciate your patience), I brought my dog with me to work. She was a sugary sweet chocolate lab who eagerly made friends with everyone she met. So, at the end of the program, I asked the kids if they’d like to meet her. You can probably guess their response.

I took all of the kids outside and had them wait in a semi-circle, just as they would when I would introduce them to any other animal. Once they were ready, I made the clicky sound my dog knew well, and she came trotting outside while smiling and wagging her tail.

To say that the kids were excited about the experience would be the understatement of the century.

They lost their minds with joy.

The kids were petting her and throwing her tennis ball this way and that. I even taught the kids some of my dog’s commands and tricks, so they began telling her to sit, roll over, and bark. Their teachers practically had to drag them back onto the bus when the class was over.

I had come to expect that the kids would love the animals I introduced them to, but I was thoroughly unprepared to see just how much they loved meeting a dog. I’d introduced these kids to incredible and bizarre animals from all over the globe, but nothing ever impacted them the way my silly Lab did.

In the years that followed, I had the chance to introduce my pup to many other autistic children. And while there were certainly exceptions, most of the kids thoroughly enjoyed getting the chance to meet a canine.

So, add my voice to the countless others who sing about the benefits dogs can provide to autistic children.

Different Dogs for Different Roles: How Dogs Can Serve Special Needs Kids

There are three basic ways a dog can play an important role in your child’s life. The first thing you must do is decide what this role will be.

Dogs can serve autistic children as:

Service Dogs

Service dogs are trained to perform specific tasks that benefit or assist their owner. The classic example is a seeing eye dog, but service dogs can also be very helpful for children with autism spectrum disorders.

Some of the tasks service dogs often perform for autistic kids include:

  • Tracking and locating autistic children who tend to wander off.
  • Intervening in cases of self-harm, by putting themselves in between your child and the source of harm.
  • Being tethered to autistic children to act as a chaperone and keeping the child out of danger.
  • Sitting on your child’s feet during meltdowns to help “ground” your child and ease anxiety.

Obviously, dogs that perform these services require very comprehensive training, and they can, unfortunately, be pretty expensive (most start at around $10,000). But, a legitimate service dog should also be afforded near-universal access to public and private locations and allowed to stick by your child’s side in school or anywhere else he or she needs to go.

Emotional Support Dogs

Emotional support dogs enjoy many of the same protections and privileges that service dogs do, but instead of being trained to perform specific services or duties, they’re primarily tasked with providing love and comfort.

In the case of autistic children, such dogs can be very valuable for calming those who struggle with frustration and anxiety.

Despite not being trained to perform a specific task, emotional support dogs must still be well-trained. They’ll need to be not only obedient, but well-behaved too. This will ensure that they don’t cause problems in public or while your child is in school.

Because they don’t require as much training as service dogs, emotional support dogs are usually less expensive. They vary pretty widely in cost, and there are also a few non-profits that may be able to help you acquire an emotional therapy dog for a reduced fee.

Pets

In addition to service dogs and emotional support dogs, plain ol’ pet dogs can be amazingly valuable for autistic children.

Pet dogs won’t perform any specific services to your child, and they won’t be allowed to accompany your child to school or in every public place. But that doesn’t mean they don’t provide meaningful value to autistic children, because they do.

Many autistic children will enjoy a pet for the same reasons and in the same manner that most youngsters do, but they may also enjoy a few additional benefits. In fact, there is even research that backs this notion.

For example, one study showed that children with autism spectrum disorder not only bonded strongly with their pets (which provides value in itself), but they enjoyed improved social skills too. Many also became more assertive after helping to care for their pet.

Other studies (including one which focus on guinea pigs rather than dogs, but the findings are likely applicable to dogs too) have found that pets help to reduce the stress and problematic behaviors that many autistic children struggle with.

Picking Out a Specific Dog For An Autistic Child

Now that you understand how valuable a dog can be for autistic children, as well as the different roles your canine can take on in your child’s life, it is time to start picking out a specific breed for your kid.

If you think that an emotional support dog or a service dog is the best choice for your child, you’ll need to contact an agency that trains and prepares dogs for such work.

In these cases, you don’t want to focus on the breed as much as you want to work with professionals to determine the best individual dog for your kid (although it is wise to familiarize yourself with the basics of the breed in question and select one that’ll fit in well with your family).

On the other hand, if you are just looking for a pet, you should pay very special attention to the breed you select.

Different breeds exhibit varying personalities, aptitudes, and care requirements, and you’ll be wise to pick one that is a good match for your family.

We are going to concentrate on helping those looking for a pet. With this in mind, we’ll explain the types of traits to seek out and the best breeds to consider below.

Important Traits for Dogs Who Will Be Paired With Autistic Children

Dogs can clearly be valuable companions for autistic children, but some dogs are better suited for these relationships than others.

There are no cut-and-dry rules in this regard, and exceptions certainly exist. However, the majority of dogs that will make good companions for autistic children exhibit the following traits:

Gentle Disposition

Above all else, you need to be sure that you select a gentle dog, who will treat your child with kid gloves and stoically suffer the indignities any child can inflict upon his or her pet.

This doesn’t mean you can’t select a playful and fun-loving breed, but you need to pick one that understands how to interact with a child without causing injuries.

Large Size

Although small breeds can make good companions for autistic children, large breeds are likely better suited for the task. Large breeds provide a better opportunity for full-body snuggling and hugs, and they’re usually robust enough to take a child’s pulling, prodding, and pushing without becoming injured or upset. Big dogs can also provide a sense of safety that shouldn’t be overlooked.

Intelligence

Even though we’re talking about pet dogs rather than service or emotional support animals, you’ll need to provide your child’s new pup with basic obedience training. Typically, bright dogs are easier to train than their low-wattage counterparts, although it is important to keep sharp canines sufficiently stimulated, to prevent them from developing destructive behaviors.

People-Oriented

Some dogs tend to keep to themselves and have a relatively independent outlook on life, while others live to please their owners. There is nothing wrong with dogs in the former category, but your autistic child will likely appreciate a pup on the warmer side. People-oriented dogs are also more likely to bond strongly with your kid.

12 Best Breeds for Autistic Children

Many dog breeds can make great companions for kids with autism spectrum disorder, but some are clearly better suited for the task than others are. We’ll discuss 12 of the best below.

Also, understand that mixed-breed dogs can make great pets for autistic children, but it means that you won’t be able to predict the dog’s needs, tendencies, and personality as well as you can for a purebred dog, so extreme care is required for those who choose to go this route.

Remember: We’re talking about dogs that make good pets for autistic children. If you are seeking a service or therapy dog, the breed should be a secondary concern – your primary focus should be on picking the best individual pup for your child.

Regardless of which route you go, we also suggest you check out our three-part guide to dog adoption, where we’ll help you develop a dream dog scorecard to evaluate dogs based on certain traits.

1. Labrador Retriever

Labrador Retriever for Autistic Childern

Labs are some of the best pets for any child, including those with autism spectrum disorder. Labs are extraordinarily devoted to their people and love pleasing their owner. They’re very gentle, and most are intelligent and very easy to train.

Labs do require a lot of exercise, so they’re best suited for families with large, fenced yards.

They can also experience very acute separation anxiety, so they’re better for families that spend plenty of time at home (or are willing to take Fido with them on outings), rather than those who work long hours.

Note that labs vary quite a bit in size. If you are interested in getting the biggest one possible, it is usually best to opt for a male, rather than a female.

2. Golden Retriever

Golden Retriever for Autistic Children

Golden retrievers are celebrated for their gentle, loving personalities and all-around awesomeness, so it shouldn’t be surprising to find that they’re great for kids with autism. They’re a popular breed for reducing anxiety and for many types of service work.

They’re usually quite similar to Labs in terms of personality and temperament, and they’re also very easy to train.

Golden retrievers do have longer hair than Labs, but this isn’t necessarily a drawback – their hugs are pretty darn cozy. It may, however, create more of a mess when they go through shed cycles. Frequent brushing may help mitigate this, and it is the kind of task many autistic children may enjoy performing.

3. Poodle

Poodle for Autistic Children

Poodles – particularly the largest variety of poodles, the standard poodle – are fantastic pets for kids. Not only are poodles often described as being “hypoallergenic,” they’re incredibly smart, easy-to-train, and loyal. They’re also surprisingly protective, and they are one of the most affectionate and kid-friendly breeds around.

Toy or miniature poodles can also make good pets for autistic children, but you’ll just need to be sure that your child understands that he or she must be gentle with their pet.

Note that poodle mixes – particularly Labradoodles and Goldendoodles – are also good choices. They combine a lot of the traits of the first three dogs on our list, including the spunk of Labs or goldens and the allergy-friendly coat of poodles.

4. Old English Sheepdog

Sheepdog for Autistic Kids
Old English Sheepdog photo from Wikipedia.

Old English sheepdogs are very family-oriented dogs who are another good option for kids with autism spectrum disorders.

They are generally pretty easy-going, and they’re always ready to play and goof around. But Old English sheepdogs also have a serious side too, and they are usually smart and easy to train. These are also protective dogs, who won’t hesitate to put themselves between danger and their family.

However, it is very important to note that Old English sheepdogs are not a good fit for all families. They drool quite a bit, and they leave a rug’s worth of hair everywhere they go. They also need very frequent brushing and regular grooming to keep their coats healthy. But if you don’t mind these challenges, these are great dogs who are very easy to love.

5. Beagle

We’re including beagles on our list, but we’re doing so with a few caveats. They may not be ideal for all kids with autism spectrum disorders, but they may be exactly what some other kids and families need.

Most of the breeds we’ve included on this list are exceedingly friendly and gentle, but they’re also pretty big, which can be intimidating to some kids.

Beagles, on the other hand, rarely exceed 30 pounds, and they usually greet every person they meet with a wagging tail and smiling expression – they’re rarely intimidating to anyone.

But despite being gentle, loving, and an all-around blast to play with, beagles are pretty vocal dogs, which may irritate some kids (not to mention neighbors) with their barking.

They’re also a bit independent at times, so training them can be challenging (they’re smart, but they just don’t care about doing your bidding – they just want to play and track interesting scents through the grass).

6. Bernese Mountain Dog

Bernese Mountain Dog for Autistic Children

Bernese Mountain dogs are another great choice for just about any kid, but their combination of big size, gentle temperament, and intelligence makes them especially helpful for autistic youngsters.

Bernese Mountain dogs are both easy to train and eager to please. They’re also entertaining in a way that makes it hard to suppress a smile in their presence. They love pleasing their people, and they are pretty sensitive too. This means they need plenty of love and affection, which will only help forge a stronger bond between pup and kid.

Unfortunately, the breed is noted for drooling quite a bit, which some kids may find off-putting. They’re also heavy shedders, so you’ll need to be willing to deal with dog hair on the furniture. But these are both rather minor issues for such otherwise-awesome dogs. Besides, that’s why couch covers were invented!

7. Boxer

Boxer for Autistic Kids

Widely regarded as one of the best breeds for kids, the boxer makes an excellent companion for most youngsters – whether or not they have autism spectrum disorder. Boxers are sweet, loving, playful, and patient, and they have an excellent temperament for autistic children.

Boxers are also a pretty good size for many families, as they’re big enough to feel like a “big dog,” yet they don’t reach the gigantic sizes that some other breeds do. Boxers are pretty friendly with most strangers they meet, so they can be great companions for families who like to take the pup on outings.

Do note that while basic obedience training is always important, but it is especially important for boxers, as many will tend to jump up on their people when excited.

8. Bull Terrier

Bull Terrier for Autistic Children

Bull terriers have a bit of a violent history (they were originally bred as fighting dogs), but modern members of the breed are among the most loving and affectionate dogs in the world – particularly with children. These are people-oriented dogs, who love hanging out with their pack, and they are pretty smart and easy to train too.

They’re also ridiculously entertaining pups, who have a talent for making their people laugh. You do need to make sure they enjoy plenty of exercise and stimulation though, as they can become quite destructive if bored.

Ironically, the bull terrier is one of the dog breeds that is most commonly suspected of displaying canine autism. There is a ton of debate about the issue (some authorities don’t even believe such a condition exists); we’ve written about the question of canine autism before, so go check it out and see what you think.

9. Great Dane

Great Dane for Autsitic Children

Many autistic children enjoy big dogs, particularly big dogs who like to snuggle. This makes the Great Dane – who satisfies both of these criteria – a great choice.

Yes, they’re gigantic dogs, so you’ll need to have the space (and food budget) to accommodate them, but they’re also smart, loving, and exceptionally loyal.

The size of a Great Dane actually provides a number of benefits – particularly when combined with their protective and nurturing nature. Ultimately, the value these dogs can provide an autistic child is hard to exaggerate. Were I in need of a pet for an autistic child, a Great Dane would likely be one of my first choices.

10. Newfoundland

Newfoundland for Autistic Children

If a gigantic and gentle floof sounds like the perfect canine companion for your kid, you must consider the Newfoundland.

They’re essentially super-sized, super-fluffy, super-sweet Labs, and they’re easily one of the best dogs for kids – especially autistic children – in the world.

Just beware: I’m not kidding when I say these are gigantic dogs. Many exceed 100 pounds, and they occasionally reach 150 pounds or so — and their long coats make them look even bigger than this. But again, big is often best when picking out a pup for your autistic child.

Like many other big, fluffy dog breeds, they drool and shed a bunch. But that won’t matter once you see your child bond with his or her new Newfie (as they’re often called).

If I seem like I’m selling Newfies pretty hard, it’s because I am. I think they’re just awesome, and they deserve very serious consideration for parents of autistic kids.

11. Rottweiler

Rottweiler for Autistic Children

As with beagles, I’m including Rottweilers because they may make an unbelievably good choice for some autistic children, even though they’re clearly not cut out for all families.

Rotties – even relatively small ones who may only weigh 80 pounds or so — are a whole lotta dog. They’re very strong and built like linebackers. They’re also assertive and more than willing to test their owner’s boundaries. They are in no way, shape, or form a good choice for first-time dog owners.

But those willing to take charge, train their pooch, and provide plenty of opportunities for exercise will be rewarded with a level of love and devotion that’s difficult to convey. Rotties are also very intelligent and easy to train – they’ll do just about anything to get some love and affection from their people.

Also, Rotties are very snuggly dogs who love physical contact. This may provide special value for some autistic children.

12. Pit Bull

Pit Bulls for Autistic Kids

There’s a lot of hysteria about this breed, but the truth is, pits can make awesome pets for kids – including those on the autism spectrum.

Listing the good traits of pit bulls would take days. They’re one of the friendliest breeds in the world (in fact, they’re widely considered too pleasant and outgoing for guard dog work), and they have million-watt hearts that never stop beaming out love to their peeps. They’re quite smart, they’re easy to train, and they’re absolutely adorable too.

Now let’s be clear: I’m not suggesting that you pick up a mature pit-mix with a murky history and tell your kid to have at it.

But I am suggesting that you consider obtaining a beautiful little pit pup from a reputable breeder, and – like you would with any other dog – train and socialize it properly. If you do, you’ll likely be glad you did – these are awesome dogs.

   

Dogs have been shown to provide significant value to a number of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders, and, as mentioned earlier, the benefits probably go both ways. Just be sure to think carefully about whether your child would benefit most from a service dog, a therapy dog, or a companion.

Once you figure out the answer to this question, just follow the recommendations listed above, and if you decide a pet is the best choice for your child, consider one of the breeds listed above.

Remember that no matter what kind of dog you select, it is important to keep safety in mind when kids and dogs are concerned. Never allow children to interact with dogs unattended and always be sure to teach your kids how to safely interact with dogs.

Do you have an autistic child? Why are you considering a dog for them? Does your kid already have a canine companion – how is it working out? Share your stories in the comments!

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Ben Team

Ben is the senior content editor for K9 of Mine and has spent most of his adult life working as a wildlife educator and animal-care professional. Ben’s had the chance to work with hundreds of different species, but his favorite animals have always been dogs. He currently lives in Atlanta, GA with his spoiled-rotten Rottweiler named J.B. Chances are, she’s currently giving him the eyes and begging to go to the park.

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Darron de Lange

Hi Everybody, I love your list of dogs here, and I’ve been bit by a few dogs on your list, but I will get to that in a minute. Im South African, and i’m a Single Dad of 4,
2 boys and 2 girls, my 2 youngest children my 9 year old girl and my 6 year old boy both have ASD, they very different in there ways but very similar at the same time, if that makes any sense? Okay I’ve owned American pitbull terries for the past 23 years ive breed them and showed them and my current American pitbull terrier is a level 4 protection dog and I’ve owned the American pitbull terrier,
a Boerboel, a Staffordshire bull terrier, a German shepherd and a German shepherd cross husky and EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THESE DOGS have all been excellent around my children and my my childrens friends. I can’t say which one those dog breeds are better with my chdren then the other but the proof is in the pudding, it’s the owner of any dog breed that makes or breaks a certain dog breed.

I personally don’t blame and hate those dog breeds that have taking a personal liking to me that they ended up having a taste of me, it wasn’t the dogs fault, it was partly my fault and the dog owners fault that played a part in those dogs having a taste of me, but it’s usually the owner fault of ANY dog breed for having there bad “faults” from been negligent to abuse every dog of every dog reacts differently to a giving situation.

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Ben Team

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Darron! Best of luck picking a dog for your kids.

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Anna

My son is 7yo, autistic and loud. He’s usually in good mood and often shows his happiness with Shrieking. He’s not really interested in dogs but isnt afraid neither – he didnt mind the dog we Cared for a month (when his owner was in hospital). My daughter and I love dogs, we plan to buy one, wanted a cavalier king Charles spaniel. My Friend, who breeds them, said they Dont like noise and if we had a cavalier, he or she would loose the energy and that special happy attitude. Cant explain it well, English is not my first language.
Anyway, im looking for a dog for whole family who world be good around Kids and wouldnt mind My sons noises. Can you help?

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Ben Team

Hey, Anna. I think the wisest thing to do in your case would be to introduce your dog to some of the breeds discussed above and see which one (breed and individual) he bonded best with.
Cavaliers are really awesome dogs, so I’d also recommend discussing it with other breeders before discounting them entirely.
Best of luck!

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Aline

I stopped reading the moment I saw ‘put bull’. You people are criminally negligent and out of your minds. As a reporter, I personally had to cover the case of a man who was killed by his neighbor’s pit bulls when he came over to visit. The man was 80, did not act aggressively and had met the dogs before. The neighbor had not trained them to attack nor were they abused. We were on the scene at the same time as the ambulance, and I will never EVER forget it. Blood splashed everywhere and raw, bloody handprints on the board fence and the door to the house where the poor old man had tried to pull himself up and get away, and the man himself, who looked like someone had shoved him face first in a wood chipper.

And the dogs? Bouncing up and down, panting and grinning… and splashed in blood. I still have nightmares.

Then there’s our friend, the head of our city’s (no-kill) animal shelter, who was walking her 6 year old granddaughter in the park. Enter a pit bull who’d escaped from a back yard and who barreled over, knocked the child down and ripped her face open. Fortunately, our friend got the dog away, but the child is going to be scarred for life. Fortunately, she didn’t lose her sight in one eye, either.

The point is, if you knew ANYTHING about autistic children, you would know that during a meltdown, they cannot control their actions and it’s HIGHLY likely that a pit with a screw loose would get triggered and attack.

How DARE you try to endanger our children this way? I work on two different canine rescue groups, and I tell you now: this breed has NO business being around children, much less autistic ones.

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Ben Team

Hey, Aline.

I appreciate that your heart is in the right place, and it should go without saying that nobody wants children to be injured by dogs.

But your comment is a perfect illustration of the hysteria, as I put it in the article, surrounding pit bulls. Part of that is due to the media chasing readers, part of it is because pits unfairly receive the blame for attacks carried out by a variety of other breeds (and combinations thereof), and partly because some people simply want to believe pit bulls are evil.

I’m not going to change your mind – you’ve already decided what you think about pit bulls. You even bragged that you stopped reading the article. If that’s not evidence of a closed mind, I don’t know what is.

I could tell you that most dog-bite reports rely on (notoriously unreliable) victim descriptions to identify the dog, which creates obvious problems. This is especially troubling when you consider that even experienced shelter workers and other dog-care professionals routinely mis-identify breedsespecially pit bulls.

I could tell you that Labs, Chihuahuas, and even golden retrievers – the breed often held as the pinnacle of good temperament – attack people from time to time.

But here’s the telling bit: When these breeds are involved in an attack, people search high and low for a reason. When a pit bull attacks someone, they (incorrectly) chalk it up to an innate tendency of the breed.

I could also tell you that 87.4% of pit bulls pass the ATTS Temperament Test.

Meanwhile, less than 85% of collies, bloodhounds, Chihuahuas, cocker spaniels, German shorthaired pointers, German shepherds, giant schnauzers, Great Danes, Lhasa apsos, Malteses, papillons, Pomeranians, Portuguese water dogs, Shetland sheep dogs, shih tzus, Weimaraners, Yorkies, and many, many, many others fail to pass the test.

And if you really want to protect children rather than simply slander a breed and perpetuate ignorance, you’ll get to work on notifying people of the importance of spaying and neutering, as 77.9% of all dog bite fatalities between 2000 and 2015 involved unaltered dogs, thus demonstrating that intact/altered status is a far better predictor of the relative danger a dog presents than breed.

But I’m sure these facts would all fall on deaf ears.

So, we appreciate you sharing your thoughts, and we’ll just leave it at that.

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Sarah Oakes

Hey Ben, how dare you try and undermine the real life experiences Aline has shared here. You are seriously deluded. You want numbers? How about 6.5% of the US population responsible for 66% of fatal attacks! But stats aside, did you not read what they said?? Since you’re so quick to label someone as closed-minded, you should have no problem checking out the stories of victims of dog attacks. Go, read what they’ve been through. How any human could still promote dogs after that, I will never be able to relate to. Sick.

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Ailyn van Os

We have 4 dogs around my autistic son and one of them is a pitbull, he is the smiliest, kindest beautiful dog ever. When we take him to the vet he’s a rockstar, the other little dogs are the snappy ones!
I suggest that if you don’t like pitbulls stop spreading hate about them and of course don’t get one.

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Celesta

Yiur ignorance is showing. Just because ahandful of individuals in a breed have commited violence doesn’t make the breed bad or less stellar. My pitbull (raised from pup) is beyond patient and protective of by autistic daughter. My daughter has acted out violently, due to medication problems, including at one point stabbing my pit 4 times with cuticle scissors. Not only did my dog not defend herself, she put herself between myself and my daughter when I was yelling at her for her actions (not the productive respinse from me, but it was a difficult situation), and my pit actually tried to push her away from me and calm me. She didn’t even defend herself from multiple attacks (1 from another dog, a lab, and numerous from our idiotic cat), she simply tried to escape. The only time she has EVER so much as growled at another person was when a stranger at the park tried to grab my daughter’s arm, and she immediately got between the man and my daughter, pushing her back, then barked to alert me (though I was already on my way) and gave a single warning growl. All of these behaviors are completely natural because she hasn’t had any formal training, onoy the absolute basics from me. The only time she can’t be trusted is if you leave bacon unattended. As for attacks, all breeds have attacks, its just pits have been literally forced into the position more often than many other breeds, and the fact that the media, like yourself, tend to highlight pits specifically, making a point to specify “pitbull” in attack stories, but almost never name a breed if it is any other. Whereas if it is a positive story, it is extremely rare (or specifically breed positive sources) that will specify a pit breed in a positive story, as opposed to naming literally ANY other breed, including “mixed breed” in positive light. For example, the stray pitbull who stayed with a toddler who had slipped out of his uome and was wandering the street. The dog was witnessed keeping the child away from the street and was protective of him until police arrived, where he was extremely friendly with the officers. Not once any multiple articles was the fact he was clearly a pitbull mentionsed, just that he was “Mixed stay”. Obviously, ignorant, small minded alarmist are the real problem.

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BROOKE DIRUSSO

I loved this article! To see thecrottweiller on this list really made me happy.

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Ben Team

Glad you enjoyed it, Brooke!

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Elen

Oh, they are lovable and gorgeous. How I wish I could keep all of these. My friend owned a labrador, so I know the background of this pup. I’m planning to have a dog which is a poodle, I’ve read the reviews I prefer the coated hair, and I know it safe for the kids because it says it’s a hypoallergenic dog. I wonder if the poodle can adapt to the climate in a tropical country? Any insight about this? Another list from this site https://ultimatepetnutrition.com/best-family-dogs/ I guess it might help the readers.

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Cin

We have 3 kids on the spectrum! One is a step child who only visits couple times a week. High, moderate and low functioning. Ages 4 ,8 & 9. We are thinking of a female Rottie. It would be our first rottie, but not first dog for us. Weve had plenty thru the years.

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Stephanie Collins

Our 16 year-old ASD son also has a cognitive delay. He bonded at 2 years old with his mutt (now a designer breed (?!) called an Aussiedor) half black Lab, half Australian Shepherd nearly 15 years ago. Anubis has been the best of both breeds from day 1. He had suffered some abuse and had trust issues with men at first. That said, our son was his central focus immediately. He had the energy and athleticism of the Aussie, and the calm temperament and ability to control himself in most any situation of the Lab. Having had a few more challenging breeds (one half-coyote, and one wolf dog come to mind!) Anubis has been a joy and a blessing matched only by our 4 sons. He spent the past 15 years bridging the gap between the world and our son, now in his 17th year, WE serve HIM. LOL

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David Pugh

You mention that Old English Sheep Dogs leave a hand full of hair everywhere they go. We had an old English Sheep dog for 14 years. Actually, they leave no hair, their coats are like wool, but they need lots of combing.

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BB

My daughter is freshly diagnosed at 7. We had a nanny dog, aussie or aussie mix, that she could just lay on and run her fingers through her hair. She would sit close when meltdowns happened. Unfortunately we lost her over the weekend, she was 11 and had been sick. So we are now on the search for another dog to be trained for autism, cookie wasn’t certified so she couldn’t go into the public or school with us where we really needed her, and thats a lot of money to invest in a senior dog for training so she was her ESA when we were at home. She nannied our son too, thats how we ended up with her.

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BB

We are actually looking into akitas, we had one as a nana dog when our son was little. Our aussie was great but if our daughter bolted I was afraid cookie would bolt with her LOL. So we are looking for something loyal, smart, trainable, and more stubborn than our daughter. We are also considering pyranees, newfies, golden retrievers, something big enough to stop her but gentle enough to apply deep pressure when needed.

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Ben Team

Hey, BB.
So sorry to hear about the loss of your pooch. On the plus side, your family did get to enjoy her for 11 years, which is wonderful.
Best of luck in your search for a new dog. Be sure to check out our article on some of the best service breeds (it also discusses certification requirements).
I love Akitas, and they’re certainly awesome puppers, but I think you may be better served by something in the golden/Newfie ballpark.
Best of luck! Let us know when you get your new pooch!

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Robin Arnott

Hello. I’m looking for a dog for my almost 2 year old. She has angelman syndrome. She’s nonverbal unable to walk and also could have seizures. She has VERY bad anxiety around other people.

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Stephanie

We have a 8 year old son that was diagnosed ASD and ODD. We are thinking of getting him a dog this coming year and really leaning toward a golden retriever. He can get very clingy and just hug on dogs so I’m hoping that will be a good dog to love on and they won’t mind so much. Are German Shepard’s also good dogs for ASD kiddos?

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Ben Team

Hey, Stephanie.
German shepherds can be good dogs for ASD children, but the golden retriever is probably the better option. They’re just a little more easy-going and tolerant of kids in general.
More than anything else, I’d recommend meeting the specific dogs you’re considering (and the parents, if you’re picking out a puppy).
Best of luck! Let us know how it goes!

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Rosalind Priest

Hi I would also like to add whippets, my autistic son who also has other problems loves and adores our 7yr old whippet.This dog has had an amazing influence on him he knows when a stress is coming on and will go and lick him or lay on him just distract him.My son plays for hours with him and being a sight hound he has the energy and patience and the laziness to sleep with him when required.
Being a medium sized dog he is not too big too get in his space but big enough for him to feel protected also he will chip in and talk,when my son is talking nonsense to him it’s like they have their own language.
Please also consider a whippet when choosing a dog for a special needs child as whippets have a lot of character and the ability to go on for hours if needed.

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Ben Team

Hey, Rosalind.
We’re so happy to hear your son has benefited from a four-footer! Whippets probably aren’t a terribly common choice for kids on the spectrum, but we’re delighted it has worked out so well in your case.
Thanks for sharing!

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Troy

Hi there! I have a younger brother of 7 y/o, with Spectrum and ADHD. We live in an apartment/flat on a top floor, and were thinking of getting a small but durable dog that would help with his behaviour, empathy, etc. He does really like the idea of getting a dog, especially a fluffy one, and as he is very high-energy and noisy, we were wondering if there were any breed recommendations anyone had? Thanks so much

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Ben Team

Hey, Troy.
If you want fluffy, it’s hard to go wrong with an Old English Sheepdog or Newfoundland, but they’re both pretty big. A poodle, Labradoodle, or goldendoodle may be a good choice personality wise, and they’re sort of fluffy.
Let us know how it goes!

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h. holmes

Pit Bull but no Saint Bernard. Off kilter. Also Old English Sheepdogs are expensive or very time consuming to take care of.

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Symbi J.

My Autism Service Dog for many years was actually a chow cross! She was Chow mixed with either collie or shepherd, and she did a fantastic job for a decade of work. Looking for my new SD now!

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Em

Hi, We have been looking into a service dog for a 15-16 year old autistic, low-support needs girl. Would you think a GSD would be suitable? The hope would be that it would be trained through sixth from with the help of an organisation (UK) and accompany her during University to help with her sensory issues. She has already stated that she would be happy with a high energy breed as she is high energy herself and has expressed interest in GSD’s. I know that they are suitable as service dogs but are they suitable for autism?

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Ben Team

Hey, Em.
A GSD may very well be a good choice. But if you are looking for a true service dog, the breed isn’t as important as the dog’s personality and skills. Just discuss any concerns you have with the organization, and try to give your kiddo a chance to meet the dog before making a commitment.
Also, remember that GSDs are heavy shedders, so make sure that won’t be an issue for your family.
Best of luck! Please let us know how everything goes!

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Lissie

Hi. I’m a single mother to a seven year old who was recently diagnosed with high-functioning autism. I currently work as a medical assistant, and am also in nursing school. I do spend most of my free time home with my son, or we do many child-friendly activities, most of which would be dog friendly. My son is extremely passionate about getting a dog and would love to have a chocolate lab as his companion. My question is, how well do these dogs interact with children on the spectrum? My son is able to speak, however does get anxious in new places, or around large crowds and loud noises. We live in Florida which is prone to thunderstorms and hurricanes and the sound of lightning cracking or thunder booming makes my son very uncomfortable. Also, as a single child as well as myself being a single mother, how well would this breed be at protecting our home, but most importantly, my son.

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Ben Team

Hey, Lissie. Labs are one of the best pet breeds for kids on the autism spectrum (in fact, the dog in the story I shared above was a chocolate Lab).
There are always exceptions, but most labs are gentle, fun, and loving companions who bond very strongly with their people. They’re also smart and pretty easy to train. Just be aware that they shed a lot, they can become mischievous if not adequately stimulated, and they have pretty high energy levels, too.

Regarding protection, Labs aren’t terribly effective in such roles — they may bark at strange or unfamiliar things, but they are ridiculously friendly. They’re more likely to greet a burglar with their tennis ball than to put up a fight.

Best of luck! Let us know what you choose and how it goes with your son!

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Angie

Question. Is a Australian Shepherd/Rottweiler Mix a good dog to consider. A litter of 8 week old puppy are available

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Ben Team

Hey, Angie. Those are probably going to be *very* high-energy dogs who need a lot of leadership, training, and daily activity. If you’re new to dogs, I’d consider those a pretty bad choice, but if you have a lot of experience (particularly with assertive breeds like Rotties), then they may work out quite well.
Bottom Line: There are probably better options.
Best of luck!

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Wood

We are thinking about a dog for our autistic son. He is very loving but quiet. Would a Samoyed be suitable for him?

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Ben Team

Hmmm.
I don’t know about a Samoyed. Samoyeds are certainly very lovable, sweet, people-oriented dogs, but they can also be a bit of a handful. They have high energy levels, they shed a bunch and require frequent grooming, and they can be challenging to train at times.
I wouldn’t categorically discourage you from getting a Samoyed for your son, but there are probably better options. If it is the fluffiness of the Sammy that you like, you may want to consider a Newfoundland. If it is the playful nature of the Sammy that you like, a boxer may be a great choice.
To the extent possible, try to meet a few examples of the breed you decide is right for your family. That should help ensure a good fit.
No matter which breed (or mix) you select, we wish you the best of luck! Let us know what you decide!

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Kristina

My son loves his dogs they help him so much, he hugs them tightly and my son is a big kid so I agree bigger dogs are a good choice. We always have labs, they love to be in his room with him and put up with a lot sometimes. They are his friends and support him.

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Andie

Our 17yo high functioning Autistic, bipolar son has asked about am ESA dog. We already have three (a 9yo shepherd/husky mix, a 9yo black lab and a 4yo border collie/Aussie Shep mix) and want to find something that will fit well for him but also for us as a family. We want to try a program where our son is involved with training the dog so they work together… Do you have a suggestion for a breed type or even a program in the Phoenix, AZ area?

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Andie

Our 17yo high functioning Autistic, bipolar son has asked about am ESA dog. We already have three (a 9yo shepherd/husky mix, a 9yo black lab and a 4yo border collie/Aussie Shep mix) and want to find something that will fit well for him but also for us as a family. We want to try a program where our son is involved with training the dog so they work together… Do you have a suggestion for a breed type or even a program in the Phoenix, AZ area?

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Lana Willers

Hi, I have a 20 yrs old child with autism and we got a Goldendoodle. She was so intelligent and easy to trian. Plus hypoallergenic, with very little shedding. You get the loving and gentle disposition of the golden and incredible intellect of both the golden and poodle. We had her for 12 years, and she recently passed away. But she clearly understood our child’s needs. As well as being a great part of the family. We will be getting another Goldendoodle! I hope this helps make your decision easier.

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Emily

My daughter gets extremely overwhelmed, frustrated and stressed about thing very easily. Is a micro white teacup Pomeranian puppy a good choice?

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Kristina

Personally, I would say no, esp if she’s like my son. When he gets overwhelmed he gets more physical and hugs the dogs tightly he’s not mean but he loves to give the dogs big hugs. Plus bigger dogs usually don’t bark as much as small dogs which can be very annoying. She could play fetch or chase a bigger dog to burn off some energy to which might help. We love labs and golden retrievers for our family they are so loving and loyal and often compassionate.

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Cheryl

Good article except about the emotional support animals. According to ADA law ESAs are allowed on planes and housing that does not allow animals. That’s it. They are not allowed to go in public including school.

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Lisa

English bulldog. Patient and loving. Always ready to play. My son has high functioning autism and we got her for him.

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kimberly coppard

hi, our 10 year old son was recently diagnosed with autism and ADHD. He is high functioning but suffers with high levels of anxiety so can be fine one moment but mental flip the next, becomes very violent and upset. I just We already have a 4 yr old cavalier x shih-tzu, she is very calm and quiet and although my son adores her and she loves him, she is a little nervy and very quick to hide away and keep out of any anxious behaviour. And tends to be much more affectionate to my husband and I rather then the children.
My question is, is it possible to train her to become more of a helpful therapy dog for my son and strengthen their bond? Or is it a good/bad idea to introduce a new, larger breed for the purpose of helping calm my son?
sorry for the long winded comment, any thoughts/advice would be truly welcome! thank you, kimberly.

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Meg Marrs

Great question Kim! I’d suggest talking to a trainer or dog behaviorist, as they can assess your current dog better. I would say that is a good place to start!

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