There have been a number of studies showing how beneficial canine companions are for kids with autism. In fact, one study discovered that 94 percent of children with autism are able to develop a strong bond with their dogs. The same children were also able to interact with their dogs during play time and have no problem sharing their personal space. That said, prosocial behaviors such as sharing and comforting are learned.
Today, you will be introduced to dog breeds for autistic children as well as information about the condition itself. Adding a dog to your brood can change an autistic child’s life for the better, helping them gain self-confidence and other important social skills.
Good Dog Breeds for Autistic Children
Autism is a developmental disorder generally characterized by troubles communicating and interacting with others. It is often associated with restricted and repetitive behavior as well. Autism can usually be spotted when the child turns two or three years old, with the other signs and symptoms gradually showing over time.
The presentation of autism covers a wide spectrum, ranging from severe impairments (silent, developmentally disabled, etc.) to high-functioning individuals that are active but have distinctly off social approaches such as narrowly focused interests and the inability to immediately comprehend certain means of communication. Some experts are known to divide autism into low-, medium-, or high-functioning autism based on IQ thresholds.
Why get a dog for your child with autism?
Adding a dog to the family is still a big decision to make. There are the financial factors and of course the time commitment that all need to be taken into consideration before anything else. Lastly, there’s the all-important question if the child with autism actually likes dogs.
But if you’ve made up your mind already, then do know there are several options for you out there. You will have to decide if you should get a companion dog, therapy dog, or a service dog first. There are a lot of excellent dog breeds for autistic children to choose from, here are a few of the best:
- Labrador retriever. There’s a reason why these dogs have been the most popular breed in America for the last 27 years. They are calm, eager to please, and are incredibly patient with children.
- Newfoundland. These gentle giants have earned the reputation of being “nanny dogs” thanks to the Peter Pan books. Newfies are known for their calm and easy demeanor as well as their eagerness to learn new tricks. Before getting a Newfie, however, you need to get yourself prepared for a lot of drooling or shedding.
- Golden retriever. Golden retrievers are the top service dogs. They have a happy-go-lucky personality and a need to please their owners.
- Staffordshire bull terrier. Staffies have the most lovable faces ever. Like the Newfoundland, they’ve gotten popular over the years due to their reputation of being “nanny dogs.”
- Great Pyrenees. Great Pyrenees dogs are calm by nature. They easily create a bond with their families and will remain loyal and protective toward them throughout.
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What to look for when choosing a dog for your autistic child
Dogs who are loyal, friendly, patient, and forgiving are perfect for a child with special needs like autism. Having children grow up with dogs has the support of experts, as they believe this allows them to build and fortify a bond throughout the years. When looking for the best dog breeds for autistic children, there are a lot of things to take into consideration. One, do pay attention to your child’s other needs. If your child has an allergy concern, you can go for a poodle or Labradoodle instead.
You may want to avoid herding breeds like the Australian shepherd and border collie. Though they’re patient by nature, their herding instincts may cause them to nip or chase small children even while playing. To adopt a German shepherd might not be a good idea either. Guard dogs can be too protective of the child that they tend to act aggressively toward strangers, including medical personnel.
If you’re actively looking for a service dog or companion for your child, talk to local breeders or head to the local animal shelter for proper assistance. There are foundations such as the Autism Service Dogs of America, the North Star Foundation, and Paws with a Cause that could be of great help as well.