How do I Choose a Service Dog for My Autistic Child?

Learning how to choose a service dog to work with your autistic child can be a daunting experience.  It is important to remember your child and the service dog are going to be together 24/7 and they must be able to work together.  Your child’s temperament as well as the dog’s temperament must compliment each other.  It is important to choose a service dog that your child likes and feels comfortable with.  The dog should feel the same.  Make sure you spend a lot of time with the dog you are considering and make sure the trainer is willing to work with you on this issue.  Multiple visits are suggested.  Like Therapy Dogs, these special Service Dogs must be able to pass certain criteria.  Because some autistic children are rough with dogs the dog must be able to tolerate a restraining hug, a finger in his/her ear,a tail pull, or any other rough behavior the child may inflict.
The dog must not be startled by screaming, flapping of hands, or other loud noises.  The last thing you want is a dog that bolts when a child has a meltdown.

Basic Obedience as well as Off-Leash Training are essential tasks, and commands must be obeyed in a timely manner.  Keeping the end goal in mind is important as you choose a service dog candidate.  If your child is trying to run off and is tethered to dog, giving the “stay” command to the dog makes it difficult for the child to go anywhere.  This works much better than having to grab the child by the wrist or hand which can upset an autistic child. Giving commands to the dog allows the dog to lead the child gently.  Simply giving the “come” command to a dog will make leaving a store or a restaurant a much simpler task.  The dog will walk the child out saving the parent and child a lot grief if the child is reluctant to leave.

Please keep in mind when you choose a service dog that the dog will be a member of the family and should get along with everyone.  Growling, raising hackles and aggressive behavior are not acceptable. The breed of dog is up to you and your child.  The most important thing is the dog’s temperament.

Here are a few of the many requirements to help you choose a good service dog for your child:

 

  • Your dog must be friendly to strangers, walk on a loose leash, and walk with the child off leash.
  • Your dog needs to be able to walk through a crowd calmly.
  • If you tell the dog to sit he/she must stay until released.
  • In the presence of other dogs your dog must be well behaved and must listen to your commands.
  • If someone bumps into your dog or your child your dog must remain stable and focused.
  • Your dog must NEVER jump on people, family members or strangers.
  • When meeting strangers your dog must remain calm and collected.
  • Your dog must be focused on your child. He/she should not be distracted by the behavior of other children, adults or pets.
  • Training should be so dependable that your dog will refuse treats, toys and other distractions from other people.

These are only some of the requirements for Therapy and Assistance Dogs. Please feel free to contact us for more information to help you choose a service dog. You can reach us at 866.200.2207 or via email at info@autismassistancedog.com.

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