While there is no denying that a dog can change your life, your specially-abled child will most likely find his/her life wonderfully changed after getting a support dog that can provide emotional support and be a skilled companion dog, forging a bond with your precious child like no other!
Research studies have found that 67% of families with autistic children had dogs, and 94% of the parents reported their autistic children had formed a special bond with the dog.
Specially-abled kids with a service dog reported fewer meltdowns in the presence of a pet dog. Also, the stress levels experienced by their parents are significantly lowered. Findings suggest that a trained assistance dog can make a difference to confidence levels, help reduce anxiety, and improve communication in an autistic child.
Now, if you are considering getting a pooch for your child, know that not all dogs have the right temperament and high tolerance for small children.
Here we have listed the best breed of dogs that make great service dogs to your special needs child:
1. Golden Retriever
Alright, so Golden Retrievers are probably one of the most friendliest and goofiest breeds you can find, and their lovable nature, high tolerance to fussy babies and toddlers, an abundance of fun and friendliness make them the number one family dog in the world!
One distinct characteristic that makes a Golden Retriever most suited to act as an emotional support dog is its calm demeanor and loyal nature. To sum it up, if you considering getting a therapy dog that can have a significant impact on your child, look no further than the Golden Retriever.
2. Saint Bernard
You’ve seen those big gentle giants who are mostly drooling and lolling around on a couch or trying to snuggle up to their owner. A Saint Bernard doggo is very affectionate to their owner, especially with kids.
They love cuddling with kids and guarding your yard., making them one of the best dogs for your special needs child.
Saint Bernards don’t mind being alone, but they do thrive in the presence of kids. They are very tolerant of toddlers and you stay assured of specially-abled child’s safety as these dogs are innately gentle and caring.
Now, on the flip side, a Saint Bernard dog is unlike many of the other large dog breeds which bound about in abundant energy. A Saint Bernard does not have a very high energy level and does not require a lot of outdoor time.
Also, if you are living in an apartment, we would not say that a Saint Bernard would be the ideal breed to act as your loved one’s therapy dog. Saint Bernards are large and need a large space in your home.
3. Labrador Retriever
They are the most common type of service dog. Like Golden Retrievers, Labs are one of the best dog breeds for a young child with autism. They are devoted, affectionate, and loyal canines that are always eager to please its owner.
Labradors are widely believed to be the best therapy dog for people.
These dogs are mostly full of energy and are always up for playtime. So, if you have some trouble getting your kid in the open air, this furry friend with 4 paws with their abundance of energy and fun might be successful in getting your kid to play outside in the sun
It is extremely easy to train Labrador Retrievers because they are very intelligent and display an eagerness to quickly respond to and please their owners.
Keep in mind that a Labrador is only suitable if you have enough time to regularly exercise and keep it actively engaged. Also, Labs hate being left alone.
The Labrador Retriever has a shorter coat and they tend to shed more than other short-haired breeds because their hair is incredibly dense.
Again, we reiterate the fact that you should consider a Labrador retriever for your kid only if your family is active and love the outdoors. Else these dogs could end up being dismal and obese.
4. Labradoodle (Goldendoodles)
The Labradoodle, as the name suggests is a cross between a Poodle and a Labrador.
The great thing about Labradoodles or Goldendoodles is that they do not shed a lot, making it a great option for those who don’t want a lot of cleaning up around the house. You’ll need to research carefully to make sure you wind up with a healthy dog that doesn’t shed; there are a lot of unscrupulous breeders out there and you don’t want to be cheated.
Another valid reason to get a Labradoodle is that they are allergy-friendly, making them a great choice for families who have members with respiratory sensitivities.
Labradoodles are easy to train because of their high levels of intelligence and their wit and playfulness combine to make a skilled companion dog.
5. Bull Terrier
Okay, we get that the picture of a Bull terrier is not what you might have in mind while considering a canine companion for your young child. Bull Terriers do have a bit of a violent history as they were originally bred as fighting dogs, but do keep in mind that today, the modern members of the breed are among the most loving and affectionate dogs in the world!
They are especially disposed to be incredibly devoted and caring with children.
They are pretty smart and easy to train too.
One good reason to consider this popular dog breed is that they have a talent for making their people laugh and your specially-abled child will find a trusted playmate in this dog.
The drawback is that these dogs require plenty of exercise and stimulation and if deprived of physical activity as they can become quite destructive if bored.
6. Staffordshire Bull Terrier
Yet again, the Staffordshire Bull Terriers may have a tarnished reputation, but honestly, they have proved to be docile, trustworthy, and loyal companions, especially in the company of children. So much so, that this breed of dogs is referred to as “nanny dogs”!
The Staffordshire Bull Terrier is affectionate, playful, and outgoing, and with the right training, can be a family pet who can be a great friend and protector to your precious child.
7. Bernese Mountain Dog
Here’s another giant with 4 paws, this breed is a mass of black, white, and brown fur and keen intelligence.
This breed of dog displays a gentle temperament and excellent intelligence.
The Bernese Mountain dog is goofy and gentle, and children with autism mostly form a deep bonding with this breed.
However, keep in mind that if you get this breed, you will have to shower this dog with as much love and attention as you give to your specially-abled child! This breed is sensitive and demands love and attention or else they may become uncooperative and sulky.
Again, like other giant dogs, Bernese Mountain dogs drool and shed a lot. You will need to plan ahead for dealing with furballs on your carpet and furniture.
Ah, the beloved Poodle! These lovable dogs have earned an impressive reputation as both a therapy dog and a service dog; their keen intelligence makes training a cakewalk.
The Poodle displays an unusually high level of empathy, and they are able to tune into the owner’s moods and emotions rapidly. This quality makes this breed a perfect choice as an emotional support animal since they can quickly sense the arising surge of negative emotions in your specially-abled child.
If you want a support dog for your kid who prefers a small and less furry breed, the Poodle is your best bet.
If you are looking for a small, easy maintenance companion dog for your child on the spectrum, a Beagle would be an excellent choice.
Especially if you are looking forward to introducing your kid more to the outdoors and want him/her to spend more time outdoors getting some physical activity and soaking up Vitamin D.
This is because the Beagle is pretty much an accurate definition of an energy ball and many a time, the kid will want to accompany this dog outside in the sunny garden and frolic around with their canine buddy.
Although the Beagle is intelligent and easy to train, they are very independent by nature. You may be surprised to find that they can be surprisingly stubborn at times.
Another factor that you need to keep in mind is that the Beagle’s bark may sound annoying and may cause disturbance to your child.
Aside from that drawback, the Beagle is a small, intelligent dog that does not shed a lot and could turn out to be a great support animal for your specially-abled child.
The quintessential family dog, the Collie is a supremely loyal breed known for its keen intelligence and eagerness. This innate desire to please combined with their smartness makes them easy to train as therapy dogs for autistic children.
The best trait of a Collie is that they are highly aware of human emotions, which would be a blessing for any parent looking for a support animal for a child with special needs.
This elegant breed is naturally playful but will not wander off from its owners, making Collies the perfect match for newbie dog owners.
Yet another of the giant breeds, we have the Newfoundland dogs on our list of best dog for your special needs child. Fluffy and huggable, this breed will give a child with autism a sense of protection and safety. You can also be more assured and confident of allowing your unruly toddler to play with this breed as they bond with kids strongly and don’t mind the pinching and suffocating hugs!
Sparing a couple of drawbacks, the Newfoundland dogs are loving canines. They don’t need rigorous daily exercise; you won’t need to spend a lot of time walking your dog.
Now, be aware of the fact that most Newfoundland dogs exceed 100 pounds or so. They need a lot of food and abundant space in your house. Also, they drool and shed a lot, which will require a lot of attention.
12. German Shepherd
If you have a concern about safety and are looking to get a dog for your specially-abled child’s protection, a German Shepherd is an ideal dog for your family. Highly regarded as one of the smartest canines, German Shepherds are usually the first choice when it comes to recruiting for military and private security.
German Shepherds have a keen intellect, excellent focus, and are not distracted easily like many other dog breeds. They are keen listeners; they listen to their owner intently and display a smart knack for handling complicated tasks. As a family dog, they are cautious with strangers but gentle and loyal to their owners.
This popular dog breed can easily keep up with your small child’s energy and can tone down their activity as needed.
13. French Bulldog
If you’d prefer a petite, easily manageable pet, a French Bulldog would be perfect for your family. These dogs don’t shed much or take up a lot of space.
Also, if your young child with special needs is prone to mood swings and periods of withdrawal, this breed could be a suitable and accommodating pet. This is because they’re as happy snoozing in the child’s lap as they are frolicking in the park. They are accommodating, good-natured dogs.
Like many small breeds of dogs, a French Bulldog amount can be stubborn and slightly bossy; which is why it is important to start training them early. If training is introduced earlier as possible, you can be assured that these dogs will grow up respectful of their masters and display a fair amount of obedience.
14. Pit Bull
Okay, we get it; you were not expecting to see this name in a list of suitable dogs for children with special needs. But we are here to tell you that contrary to stereotypes, a well-trained Pit Bull pup can grow into a well-rounded canine that can guard and befriend your child.
So, what we recommend is to connect with a reputed, trusted breeder and get a Pit Bull pup for your family. In this case, you’ll be able to start training them early, and introducing them to your household will be easier.
Now, this breed is muscular and has quite an aggressive energy, often appearing rude when they get overexcited. Continuous training and socialization will surely put a check on this behavior.
Boxers are widely popular as one of the best breeds for kids– whether or not they have autism spectrum disorder. Boxers are sweet, loving, playful, and patient; we’d say that these dogs display the perfect temperament to be around children on the spectrum.
When it comes to their size, Boxers 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.
The only thing you need to be concerned about is the obedience training; this is especially important for boxers, as many tend to be quite unruly when excited and will tend to jump up on their people when excited. As a parent of a child with special needs, you want to eliminate any chance of your child getting agitated by an unruly pet.
16. Bichon Frise
The Bichon Frise is another dog that was bred for companionship. If you’re looking for a small-sized feisty and quirky dog with a loving personality, you cannot go wrong with the Bichon Frise. The breed is fond of human contact and relishes time spent among anybody willing to pamper it.
As a therapy dog, it is cheerful, uplifting, and devoted to its charge. This type of dog is often used as a therapy animal for groups of children. It does not spook easily, so loud noises aren’t usually a problem. A Bichon Frise displays extremely high tolerance levels when with toddlers and infants, and are generally comfortable around poking and prodding toddlers.
17. Old English Sheepdog
The Old English Sheepdog is a family dog, and are very protective of their owners. Fiercely loyal, and smart, they are generally easy to train.
They’re always ready to play and goof around and make a great canine companion for your special needs child. They show obedience, loyalty, focus, and motivation. If your child struggles with communication and needs a steady, supportive companion, an Old English Sheepdog could make a wonderful canine companion
Now, for the drawbacks of owning an Old English Sheepdog, they are prone to excessive drooling and shed hair wherever they go. They need very frequent brushing and regular grooming to keep their coats healthy.
Now that you have gone over the most suitable breeds of dogs for your special needs child, we would like to reiterate why it is super beneficial for your child to own a pet dog.
If you’ve decided to add a dog to your family for your child with autism, you should decide whether he or she would benefit the most from a companion dog, a therapy dog, or a service dog.
We advise that you go through the recommendations and decide on a breed of dog after considering your child’s needs and temperament.
Do let us know what you think of our suggestions in the comments below!
You may also read: The Best Dogs for Someone in a Wheelchair