15 Best Dog Breeds for Kids With Autism
Golden Retrievers, Labradoodles, Labrador Retrievers, Border Collies, and Saint Bernards are among the best dogs for kids with autism. They provide unconditional support and companionship that goes a long way in reducing anxiety & frequent behavioral outbursts, enhancing positive changes in behavior, and reducing stress for family members.
Research done by the National Autistic Society in the UK found that approximately 94% of people with autism suffer from anxiety and almost half experience severe anxiety. Another study shows that about 67% of American families with autistic kids keep dogs as pets. Surprisingly, 94% of the autistic kids in these families form special bonds with the dogs.
With all these in mind, identifying the best dog breeds for children with autism will help you get the perfect pet companion for your child. So, which dog breeds are best for kids with autism?
Best dogs for children with autism
1. Golden Retriever
Golden Retrievers are the darlings of many households due to their gentle, loving, warm, obedient personalities. They are easy to train to provide emotional support or as therapy dogs. Their calm temperament also makes them perfect for autistic kids, who can sometimes experience behavioral outbursts. The only challenge with keeping a Golden Retriever is that they go through shed cycles, which can be a challenge at times. Frequent brushing can help reduce the mess.
2. Saint Bernard
Do not let their gigantic size fool you into thinking Saint Bernard is an aggressive breed. Saint Bernards are known for their gentle, patient, calm, sweet, loving, and loyal nature; qualities which make them perfect for children with autism. They are often trained as “nanny dogs” and make better therapy dogs than service dogs due to their large body size. Saint Bernard is a good choice if the child is not too young and is often in the company of an adult.
3. Labrador Retriever
Labrador Retrievers are gentle, friendly, playful, loving, loyal, obedient, and intelligent dogs. They are also easy to train as therapy or support dogs and are ideal for autistic children. Their playful nature means they are ideal for homes with large, fenced yards and families that spend plenty of time together. If your family loves hiking or spending lots of time outdoors in the wilderness, Labrador Retrievers will be a good fit.
Poodles make great therapy and service dogs due to their gentle, playful, intelligent, loyal, and empathetic traits. Poodles are easy to train and their intelligence means they can master to perform complex tasks. By being empathetic, poodles can quite easily sense the mood and feelings around autistic kids, which makes them ideal to offer emotional support. Poodle mixes such as Labradoodles and Goldendoodles are also good choices for a family with an autistic child.
5. Bernese Mountain Dog
Bernese Mountain Dogs make good family dogs due to their calm temperament, intelligence, and gentle nature. They are easy to train and do well as support dogs, especially for children with ASD. Their sensitive nature and desire for love and affection are often reciprocated when they spend time with affectionate kids, which helps form a lasting bond. This breed, however, is known for heavy shedding and drooling, traits that can put off some people. If your child loves to spend a lot of their time grooming their pets, a Bernese Mountain Dog will be an ideal companion.
Newfoundland is another great choice for a family with an autistic child. This dog breed is a large yet gentle floof known for attractive traits including being patient, sweet, obedient, and adorable. They are easy to train and make good companions for the less-energetic kids because they are not particularly active. Keep in mind that Newfoundlands can weigh up to 150 pounds, drool, and also shed quite a lot. Despite all these, Newfoundlands are simply among the best dogs for kids with autism.
Goldendoodles are playful, smart, friendly, and gentle dogs that make good companions for children with ASD. They enjoy being around people and other animals and are always in a jovial, playful mood. Goldendoodles are easy to train, don’t bark that much, and are always calm and gentle in tough situations.
8. Old English Sheepdog
The Old English Sheepdog is an easy-going, playful, gentle, and patient playmate, especially with kids. Old English Sheepdogs are also easy to train, intelligent, and protective. They rarely hesitate to put themselves in danger in their quest to be protective of any family member. However, note that this breed drools quite a bit, sheds, and needs regular grooming to keep its coats healthy. The shedding means you may have to clean up the house more than you would want.
9. Great Pyrenees
If you’re looking for a fiercely loyal yet gentle-with-kids dog to provide company and comfort to an autistic child, look no further than the Great Pyrenees. They are calm, well-mannered, affectionate, gentle, dependable, and unflinchingly protective. All these amazing qualities make the Great Pyrenees an excellent match. They should, however, be trained early if you want them as service, therapy, or companion dogs for an autistic child.
10. Border Collies
Border Collies make great service and therapy dogs due to their friendly, loyal, fearless, and calm nature. They are easy to train and love to give and receive affection. Their devotion and dedication to tasks also make this breed perfect as a service dog. They are always willing to do a lot for their owners and will always be ready to learn something new. To add the icing on the cake, Border Collies are among the friendliest dogs around, something an autistic kid will find invaluable. Their eagerness to befriend family members, puppies, other dog breeds, and even farm animals is something beautiful to see.
11. Cocker Spaniel
Although Cocker Spaniels are not in the same bracket as the Great Dane and Great Pyrenees in body size, these adorable, sweet, happy, and loyal family friends will make a great companion for a kid with autism. They are always dedicated, love meeting new people, and can read the room better than most dog breeds. Their coats need regular brushing and grooming, something which can become an invaluable bonding activity for an autistic kid.
A cockapoo is a mix between a cocker spaniel and a poodle. They are famous for their friendly and easy-going nature. Cockapoos are intelligent and can tell when someone is feeling sad. Their friendly, playful nature makes them a great option for a family with a kid suffering from autism spectrum disorder. Apart from being a great option for autistic kids, cockapoos are also good for people living in apartments.
13. Great Dane
Big dog breeds that love to snuggle are often the best for kids with autism, and the Great Dane can be a perfect match. Despite its large size, the Great Dane is protective, gentle, and nurturing. These gentle giants are moderately playful, loving, affectionate, loyal, and good with kids. They also get along with other family pets when raised together.
This super cute, adorable, fluffy, and cuddly dog can be a perfect match for autistic children. They often demand love and attention, are eager to please, and make great companions. They are also easy to train, energetic, playful, and love to cuddle. The Sammies, as often called, are simply adorable and your child will definitely love spending time with them.
15. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
Routine is essential in the lives of kids with autism. They need to know when to do specific tasks for them to have a normal day. That’s why it’s important to find a pet that is adaptable, sociable, and can flow with the unique rhythm of an autistic kid’s schedule. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel makes a perfect companion for this. They are gentle, sensitive, calm, and do not bark a lot.
FAQs about dogs and children with autism
Let us have a look at a few common questions people ask about kids with autism and having pets.
What breed of dog is best for an autistic child?
Golden Retrievers, Labradoodles, Labrador Retrievers, Border Collies, and Saint Bernards are among the best dogs for kids with autism. They provide support and companionship that helps reduce anxiety & frequent behavioral outbursts, enhance positive changes in behavior, and reduce stress for family members.
Should an autistic child have a dog?
Yes, dogs offer emotional support and unconditional companionship to children with autism. This helps them better manage their emotions, enhance the development of social skills, and boost their confidence and self-belief.
What is the best first pet for an autistic child?
A cat makes a great first pet for an autistic child because they are more independent, easy to maintain, and does not have the “intrusive gaze” that most autistic kids struggle to handle. When it comes to dogs, poodles make great first pets for autistic children who want to have pet dogs.
How does a dog benefit kids with autism?
Children with autism benefit from support and therapy dogs in many ways including improved speech and vocalizations, reduced anxiety, reduced behavioral outbursts, and positive behavioral changes.
Kids with autism need the right companions for them to enjoy their days. Identifying the most ideal one will play a key role in them being happy. So, consider things such as your kid’s energy levels, social traits, and emotional needs when choosing a pet for them or the family.