According to the CDC’s latest data, 1 in 54 children are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Of these children, boys are four times more likely to be autistic than girls. Autistic children may experience other conditions related to autism. For instance, 28% of 8-year-olds with autism show self-injurious behaviors. Additionally, about 30–60% of autistic children are also diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and 11–40% of children and adolescents have anxiety. Although ASD does have its challenges, research has found that early intervention can improve social skills, learning ability, and communication.
One intervention that can help children with autism cope is having an emotional support animal. Research confirms that animals help children with autism develop social skills and foster personal development. By offering a child a non-judgemental form of bonding and engagement, ESAs can encourage autistic childrens’ development and safety. An animal can teach an autistic child to share, receive affection, and mingle with others. With an animal, children with autism can feel enough security to interact more freely with their environment.
Top 10 Emotional Support Dogs for Autistic Children
Forming a deep connection with a dog brings out the best in any person. But for a child with autism, a dog can be the emotional support to live a more balanced life. If you’re interested in finding an emotional support dog for an autistic child, the following are some breeds to consider.
1. Great Pyrenees
The Great Pyrenees is a gentle giant. Although a male can weigh up to 100 pounds and look like a fluffy polar bear, the Great Pyrenees behaves more like a quiet puppy. Patient and easy to train, this dog makes a great companion for an autistic child. This breed has an instinct to protect and guide, which comes in handy when interacting with a child.
Don’t be fooled by the Poodle’s reputation as the pampered socialite of the dog world. In truth, Poodles are hard-working, intelligent, and can carry out complex tasks when trained. This breed is also gentle and intuitive, perfect for a child with autism. Poodles are hypoallergenic, making them a good choice for anyone with dog allergies in the household.
3. Golden Retriever
Every list for loyal and obedient dogs will have the Golden Retriever. This breed is an all-around top choice when looking for family-friendly dogs. They’re excellent for children with ASD because of their eagerness to please and patient personality. Golden Retrievers adapt quickly to any environment and function well as emotional support animals.
Collies are mild-mannered and extremely intelligent. They’re also cued in on the emotions of their owners, making them ideal as an ESA. Because they’re naturally playful, they’re perfect for a child with ASD who needs to engage with their environment. Collies can help to draw these children out and create a connection.
5. Saint Bernard
With its large stature and mounds of fur, a Saint Bernard is hard to miss. Despite its imposing size, the Saint Bernard is affectionate and docile. Most importantly, this breed is disciplined and patient, making it a calm companion for a child with ASD. Because of a Saint Bernard’s large size, this dog may be best for older children.
6. Labrador Retriever
It’s hard not to fall in love with a Labrador Retriever. They enjoy pleasing their owners and are gentle with children. Great for families, Labrador Retrievers enjoy interacting with humans. For children who have ASD, Labradors make a silly and watchful furry friend. Note, however, Labradors have an abundance of energy; They thrive better in households with large yards for frolicking.
A Labradoodle is a cross between a Poodle and a Labrador, so you get the best of both worlds. They have the intelligence of a Poodle with the exuberance of a Labrador. This breed is easy to train and extremely good-natured with children. Because this dog is part Labrador, it’s not hypoallergenic like a Poodle and requires grooming. However, the grooming costs may be a small price to pay for such an adorable emotional support dog.
8. German Shepherd
A German Shepherd has all the elements of a superhero—good-looking, intelligent, and focused. Regarded as one of the smartest dogs, the German Shepherd is highly trainable and eager to please. This breed is a natural protector, loyal to its owners, and doesn’t get distracted. Because of its patience, the German Shepherd is ideal for children with ASD.
9. Bernese Mountain Dog
Bernese Mountain Dogs have a serene and calm temperament, making them quiet companions for children with ASD. Like an oversized teddy bear, they tolerate long hugs and are excellent with children. They’re very affectionate and love attention, which helps when interacting with a child who has ASD. Due to their abundance of fur, they do shed quite a lot. However, it’s a small price to pay for such a gentle soul.
The Samoyed looks like a giant snowball, making any child want to delve into its softness. This breed has an exuberant personality, always ready to investigate the world with a child. Fluffy and joyful, this is an energetic dog and is best for larger families.
The Right Emotional Support Dog for a Child with Autism
The right dog for your child depends on your family and the child with ASD. Despite the dogs’ traits listed above, they don’t need a purebred dog to find an emotional support animal for your child. What’s important is that the dog has a temperament that meets your child’s needs, is easy to train, and is the right size for your child and home environment.
If you are interested in learning more about emotional support animals, you may find the following articles helpful: