A well-trained autism assistance service dog can be a huge blessing to a struggling child and it’s clear why more and more families are turning to this option. Whether their major concern is safety, social development, or problem behaviors, there is a wide variety of tasks that a service can be trained to do to assist.
But, before you jump on the bandwagon, here are 5 important things to know about autism service dogs:
1. Research is everything.
Yes, this seems to be a given but it’s very important not to skimp on the research. With the service dog industry growing so quickly in recent years, there are unfortunately many greedy people looking to make easy cash with untrained, or badly trained, dogs.
Before getting too deep, make sure to really research the company you plan on getting your service dog from. Ask questions, have them explain their process in detail, and ask to speak with true references that have already been through the process with this company.
2. Quality is worth the wait.
The promise of a highly trained service dog with a perfect temperament ready for you immediately is very tempting…but also extremely unrealistic. In order to effectively do their job in a safe and consistent manner, service dogs needs months, if not years (depending on the job), of intensive socialization and training.
Remember that this dog will need to accompany and assist you/your child anywhere you go and you will come across many unnerving situations in daily life.
Though waiting is definitely the hardest part, it is well worth ensuring you receive a well-trained, trustworthy companion.
3. Dogs will be dogs.
With many illegitimate service dog trainers out there, there are also many impractical claims being made about what an autism service dog can actually do.
Though dogs are astounding, they can’t do it alone. They need reinforcements, continuous maintenance training, and direction from a handler to perform their tasks.
Try your best to set aside excitement for a moment and think logically about what you may be reading on the internet or being told by someone trying to sell you something. A service dog is still a dog and is still limited as such.
4. Tasks must be trained for the dog to be considered a service dog.
Along with having clear expectations, you will also want to be knowledgeable about what actions a service dog can be trained to do to help a person with autism. These helpful actions are called tasks and tasks are required for a dog to be considered a service dog under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Many autism service dogs are trained tasks such as tethering and search and rescue trailing to assist with a child who elopes. Stimulation interruption and deep pressure therapy can often decrease anxiety, meltdowns, and panic attacks.
Look into these and other tasks to discover if they may be beneficial for your loved one with autism before committing to a service dog.
Make sure the organization you choose to purchase your service dog from promotes personalized training so your service dog can assist you in the areas you need most.
5. Service Dogs are a huge commitment.
We’ve all seen the inspiring stories of service dogs changing the lives of their owners in this amazing, magical way. Though dogs are quite amazing, it is far from magic. Training a service dog takes a long time but it doesn’t just stop after a year or two, resulting in a perfect dog. No, training is continuous.
Think of your house. You buy a beautiful, new house and things couldn’t seem more perfect. But, in order to keep it that way, you have to repair things and clean up messes daily. The same concept can be applied to service dogs. Maintenance training is an enormous part of the service dog’s success and it should happen daily. It includes practicing tasks to keep the dog’s skills sharp, reinforcing wanted behaviors, correcting unwanted behaviors, and continued socialization.
Working with a supportive organization that teaches you how to maintain your service dog’s training will guarantee success and set you on the right path as an effective working team.
With solid research and some patience, you’ll be ready to start the process of acquiring an autism service dog!
To find out more about the process of obtaining a reliable service dog through an organization that has been active in the industry for over a decade, check out Highland Canine’s application process.
Get in touch!