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The Best Dog Breeds For Children With Autism

| Published on November 12, 2017

More and more studies are showing that having a dog can be extremely beneficial for kids with autism.

One study showed that 94% of families who had a child with autism and a dog reported that the child had bonded to their dog. Another study says that children who live with a dog in their family, especially prior to the age of 5, are more likely to develop prosocial behaviors such as “offering to share” and “offering to comfort.” Yet another study concludes that “participants with ASD [Autism Spectrum Disorder] demonstrated more social approach behaviors (including talking, looking at faces, and making tactile contact) and received more social approaches from their peers in the presence of animals compared to toys.”

Adding a dog to your family is a big decision, not to be taken lightly. The financial and time commitment must be seriously considered, as well as whether or not the child in question actually likes dogs. And according to Autism Speaks, many parents are surprised at how difficult it can be to handle a dog as well as their child in public.

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. (Autism Speaks has a great article to help you decide here.) Once you’ve decided that, you may be wondering, “Which dog breeds are best for children with autism?” Here are the 7 most-recommended dogs.

#1 – Labrador Retriever

There’s a very good reason the Labrador Retriever has been the most popular dog in America for the last 27 years. Their calm, eager-to-please personality makes them not only a great family pet but a wonderful choice for bonding with a child with autism.

#2 – Great Pyrenees

Bred to guard flocks of sheep, Great Pyrenees dogs have a calm temperament and are very bonded to and protective of their families. Their large size also makes them quite sturdy.

#3 – Staffordshire Bull Terrier

Staffordshire Bull Terriers may look serious, but they are actually known for being docile, trustworthy, and loyal. What better friend could any child ask for?

#4 – Labradoodle

Since most of the other breeds on this list may shed a lot, Labradoodles or Goldendoodles can be great options for those who don’t want a lot of extra hair around the house. You’ll need to research carefully to make sure you wind up with a healthy dog who doesn’t shed – many first generation Doodles will still shed, and the rising popularity of these dogs means there are a lot of unscrupulous breeders out there. Be sure to account for brushing time and grooming costs when considering these dogs.

#5 – Bernese Mountain Dog

Bernese Mountain Dogs are sensitive, loyal, and gentle, making them a great option to become a companion for a child with autism. They’re also extremely intelligent.

#6 – Newfoundland

Newfoundlands are immortalized as being “nanny dogs” by Nana in the “Peter Pan” book. These gentle giants are calm and easy to train, as long as you are prepared for shedding and the possibility of drool.

#7 – Golden Retriever

Golden Retrievers are a top choice for service dogs of any variety. Their happy-go-lucky personality combined with a need to please their owners make them a great choice for families with an autistic child.

Autism awareness is a cause that’s close to your heart, check out these items from the iHeartDogs store, which help pair special needs children with service dogs.

Autism Awareness Crackle Bracelet, $14.99. 20% of sales are donated to help rescue & train a service dog for a child with autism


(H/T: Insider Monkey, Cuteness, Autism Speaks, Animal Wised, PubMed, PLOS One, PLOS One)

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