dogs for autistic kids

It’s long been said that dogs are man’s best friend, and there’s nothing sweeter than the bond between a child and their dog. However, finding the right match for your family can take some work.

This can be especially true when you have a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), but some dog breeds perform exceptionally well in a household with kids on the spectrum.

This guide will cover how dogs can help with autism and which dog breeds you should consider for your child on the spectrum. 

Do Dogs Help with Autism?

service dog and autistic child

While taking on a dog is a big decision, the time commitment and the financial cost can both be well worth it when you consider how beneficial a dog can be to a child with autism.

Having a dog can make a world of difference for a child with ASD. The bond and interaction between a child and their dog can help immensely with social and emotional development as well as behavioral issues in kids no matter where they are on the spectrum.

While most kids benefit greatly from canine companionship, kids with ASD stand to benefit even more. In fact, one study showed that the vast majority (94%) of autistic children were able to develop a bond with their dog.

Having a dog can help kids with autism enjoy companionship, learn responsibility and other life skills, improve their social skills and communication, decrease stress, and increase overall happiness and well-being.

A pet can provide emotional support and help reduce anxiety and repetitive behaviors in children with autism. If they are trained as service dogs, many breeds can also help prevent a child from wandering off by alerting caregivers or by being tethered to the child.

Service dogs can even accompany a child with ASD to school or other daily activities. 

Service dogs can also be of great benefit for autistic children who have comorbidities such as seizure disorders, Epilepsy, Tourette’s, OCD, and anxiety disorders.

Dogs can be trained to alert to a variety of health conditions and assist with a variety of physical and emotional needs.

Organizations such as NEADS and Paws With A Cause help to train a variety of breeds to become certified therapy or service dogs for kids with autism.

Although the cost to train a service dog can be high, many organizations operate as non-profits to be able to provide dogs to those in need, with the cost covered by donations.

Best Dogs for Kids with Autism

While any dog can make a wonderful pet, there are some dog breeds that are better suited than others to join a family with a child on the spectrum.

Socialization, obedience training, and individual personality can also make a difference in your family’s experience with a dog.

Some of the breeds on this list may surprise you, but their temperaments make them a perfect match for children with autism.

In general, dogs that are loyal, patient, loving, intelligent, and easy to train are the best suited for life with a family member with ASD.

Whether you get a dog that has been specifically trained as a service dog or just looking to add a new pet to your family, any of the following breeds will make an excellent choice!

1) Golden Retriever

golden retriever adult

These intelligent, loyal, quick learners are a great match for the energy and activity levels of a household with children and even get along with other pets.

They are easy to train and bond readily to their owners, making them a common choice for therapy or emotional support dogs.

A Golden is a great choice for any family, but their gentle disposition and patient, loving personality make them an especially great companion for a child with autism.

2) Labrador Retriever

smiling labrador retriever

The Labrador is one of the most popular dog breeds for families with children. Their temperament also makes them one of the most common breeds to be trained and certified as service dogs.

Labradors are known for being affectionate, loyal, low aggression, friendly with strangers, intelligent, and easy to train.

These traits make them the perfect friend for a child with autism.

3) Newfoundland

three Newfoundland dogs outdoors

While the Newfoundland may not be the first breed to comes to everyone’s mind, they are naturally friendly, easy to train, and very smart.

These large dogs are loyal, sweet, exhibit low aggression, and are great with kids and strangers. They are commonly used as therapy dogs for children with various special needs, including kids with ASD, and their moderate activity level makes them a very low-maintenance option for a less active household.

4) Saint Bernard

Adult Saint Bernard dog outdoors

Kids love to cuddle up with these gentle giants. Their patience and loving personality make them an excellent choice for families with a child on the spectrum.

While their large size may make it difficult for them to become certified as an official service dog, their loyalty and ability to help their owners with simple tasks are great assets to anyone with special needs. 

5) Bernese Mountain Dog

Bernese Mountain Dog outdoors

Less active households will enjoy life with a Bernese Mountain Dog. This lovable giant loves to stay at home and chill, is great with kids and other pets, and makes a great companion for kids with autism.

Bernese Mountain dogs are sensitive, in-tune with their owner’s emotions, and love to exchange plenty of cuddles and affection.

Their strong, gentle presence is a great addition to a family with a child on the spectrum, and bonding should happen very easily.

6) Poodle

Two poodles posing for photo

Poodles are frequently trained as service dogs for families who need a hypoallergenic pet. They are also a great option for those looking for a dog on the smaller side.

Their high intelligence and natural inclination towards obedience make them a great option to become trained therapy or service dogs.

Their playful, gentle disposition makes them a perfect match for autistic children, and their ability to sense their owners’ needs helps them provide emotional support.

7) Beagle

Beagle looking up at owner

Beagles are another fantastic mid-size breed well-suited for apartment-dwellers or any family looking for a dog on the smaller side. They are naturally friendly, playful, loving, and gentle.

While Beagles are very intelligent, they can also be a bit stubborn and independent, which must be taken into consideration when making your choice for a pet or service animal.

Although they can be trained as service dogs, the Beagle is particularly well-suited for a child on the spectrum who just needs a playful friend.

8) Labradoodle

Outdoor Labradoodle

Bred to exhibit all of the wonderful traits of both Labradors and Poodles, the Labradoodle is another excellent choice for families looking for a smaller and allergy-friendly (though not hypoallergenic) dog.

They are playful, smart, and easy to train, making them a popular choice for families with children. Their active and loving temperament is a perfect match for many kids on the spectrum.

9) Goldendoodles

Goldendoodle playing with a tennis ball

Similarly, Goldendoodles (a mix of Golden Retriever and Poodle) offer many positive traits, including an allergy-friendly coat and friendly temperament.

These pups are sweet and loving, excellent with kids, and tolerant of strangers and other pets.

Like Goldens, they are easy to train and are quick learners, making them a great asset to any family in need of a therapy or service dog.

10) German Shepherd

German Shepherd outdoors

German Shepherds have a reputation for being smart, helpful, and protective – all traits that are perfect for a child in need of a service dog or a canine best friend.

Their intelligence and eagerness to please make them a loyal companion that is easy to train for a variety of tasks and jobs.

German Shepherds are frequently chosen for work in law enforcement, private security, and even the military. When working, they are highly focused and can match their handler’s energy levels with ease.

11) Great Dane

Great Dane resting in the shade

Another lovable breed that makes a great companion to kids with ASD is the noble Great Dane. These pups are loving and affectionate while also being easy to train and friendly with strangers and other pets.

Despite their large size, they are gentle and patient, making them excellent with children. If you have a highly active kiddo, a Great Dane would be an especially good choice due to its playful nature.

12) Collie

Collie peering out from bushes

Just like Lassie, Collies are highly intelligent, eager to please, easy to train, and a wonderful companion to any child. They are also playful, sweet, perceptive to their owner’s emotions, and great with kids.

These traits make them perfectly suited to helping an autistic child with simple tasks or even preventing them from wandering.

They are a relatively easy dog breed that can accommodate even a new dog owner.

13) Old English Sheepdog

Old English Sheepdog running outdoors

These playful furry goofballs are a wonderful companion for kids of all ages and especially those on the spectrum. Old English Sheepdogs are known for being loving, smart, funny, and loyal.

Surprisingly, this breed is hypoallergenic (they shed very little, despite their long coat).

Despite their large size, they can also adapt to apartment living quite easily if needed. With proper socialization, they can make excellent working dogs who tolerate strangers, other animals, and public situations.

14) Cocker Spaniel

Cocker Spaniel photographed in flower field

Cocker Spaniels are known for being loving and gentle as well as playful and happy. These pups are highly intelligent, loyal, and carry a sweet disposition.

They bond with their owners easily and are always up for adventures or cuddles. If you need a smaller lap dog for your child with ASD, the Cocker Spaniel would be a great choice for your household.

They can adapt easily to apartment living and enjoy family life.

15) Corgi

Corgi playing outdoors

The Corgi has become an increasingly popular dog breed in recent years. Like Cocker Spaniels, they have a joyful and playful personality.

Although active, they are on the smaller side and can thrive in an apartment setting.

They are very smart and easy to train, although they may require some extra work to fix their barking and nipping habits.

Overall, the lovable Corgi is a great pet to help your autistic child come out of their shell!

16) Samoyed

Samoyed dog standing outside

Clever and loyal, the Samoyed is another wonderful choice for those who can accommodate a large and active dog. They are good with strangers, easy to train, and love to please their owners.

Their soft fluffy coat is perfect for snuggles, and their joyful temperament is a great match for kids on the spectrum.

Although Samoyeds can become easily bored, with the right amount of exercise and mental stimulation, they should thrive in any home!

17) Great Pyrenees

Great Pyrenees dog photographed in autumn leaves

The Great Pyrenees is wonderfully devoted to its family, gentle with children, and carries a sweet disposition.

They are patient, loyal, loving, and easy to train with a protective instinct that makes them perfect for watching over an autistic child.

Their intelligence helps them become trained service dogs with ease. Although they can be active with a high need for exercise, this could be a perfect fit for some families.

Any child with ASD is sure to find a best buddy for life in a Great Pyrenees.

And Now, Over to You!

Choosing to add a dog to your family can be an excellent decision for those with a child on the spectrum.

Autistic children benefit greatly from having a canine companion in the home, whether their pup is officially trained as a service dog or not.

While finding the right match for your family will be dependent upon your child’s individual needs, your pet’s temperament, and your household’s activity levels, the breeds above are generally a great place to begin your search. 

Have you ever owned a dog that proved to be a great fit for your family’s unique needs with a child on the spectrum? Let us know about your experience in the comments below!