Service Dogs for Autism Support

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Are you ready to dive into a topic that’s close to our hearts and could make a world of difference for our family? Today, we’re shining a spotlight on something truly special: service dogs for autism support.

As moms, we know firsthand the incredible love, dedication, and strength it takes to support our children, especially those with unique needs like autism spectrum disorder (ASD). We understand the importance of finding ways to provide the best possible support and care for our kiddos, and that’s where service dogs come in.

These furry companions aren’t just pets—they’re superheroes in fur coats! Service dogs play a vital role in providing assistance, comfort, and companionship to individuals with autism, helping them navigate the world with confidence and ease. From sensory support to emotional regulation and safety assistance, these incredible dogs have a knack for making life a little brighter and a lot more manageable for our kiddos with ASD.

So, mamas, are you curious to learn more about how service dogs can positively impact our families? Whether you’re considering getting a service dog for your child or simply want to explore the wonderful world of autism support, you’re in the right place! Let’s embark on this journey together and discover the amazing ways service dogs can enrich our lives.

Angela of Grassfed Mama shares healthy tips for busy moms.
Angela of Grassfed Mama shares healthy tips for busy moms.

Understanding Autism

Autism (ASD) is a beautifully unique aspect of the human experience, and it’s important for us to have a solid grasp of what it entails. ASD is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by differences in social communication and interaction, as well as restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities.

For many individuals and families, autism presents a colorful tapestry of strengths, challenges, and endless possibilities. From sensory sensitivities to difficulty with social cues and communication, autism can manifest in a variety of ways, each as unique as the individuals themselves.

As moms, we understand firsthand the joys and complexities of raising children with autism. We know that along with the laughter and love come moments of uncertainty, frustration, and overwhelming love. That’s why it’s so important for us to come together as a community and support one another on this journey.

Through understanding, compassion, and advocacy, we can create a world where individuals with autism are celebrated for who they are, supported in their unique needs, and empowered to reach their full potential. So, let’s dive into the wonderful world of autism together and explore the importance of support and interventions for individuals with autism and their families through service dogs.

Service Dogs for Autism Support
Service Dogs for Autism Support

Our Journey of Receiving a Service Dog for Autism Support

Before my son was officially diagnosed with autism, we were met with several safety challenges that hindered us from taking our son to public outings. Even a quick trip to the store created so much stress and anxiety, we often just kept him safe at home and someone else would go run errands alone. We didn’t have a term for it, but was later described as “eloping.” Since I hadn’t heard of this before having a son with autism, I wanted to share a little more about what eloping is with autism:

Eloping in Autism

In the context of autism, eloping refers to the act of leaving a safe space or supervised environment without permission or notification. This behavior is also commonly referred to as “bolting” or “running away.” Eloping can pose significant safety risks for individuals with autism, as they may wander into potentially dangerous situations or become lost and unable to find their way back home.

Eloping behavior is relatively common among individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), particularly among children and adults who may have difficulties with communication, sensory processing, or understanding social cues. There are various reasons why individuals with autism may elope, including:

  1. Sensory Overload: Individuals with autism may become overwhelmed by sensory stimuli in their environment, leading them to seek relief by leaving the situation.
  2. Escaping Unpleasant Situations: Some individuals with autism may elope to escape from situations that they find uncomfortable, stressful, or aversive, such as loud noises, crowded spaces, or social interactions.
  3. Special Interests: Individuals with autism may be drawn to specific places or objects that they are fixated on, prompting them to elope to seek out these interests.
  4. Communication Difficulties: Individuals with autism may have difficulty expressing their needs, desires, or emotions verbally, leading to frustration and a desire to escape from communication challenges.
  5. Impulsivity: Some individuals with autism may have difficulties with impulse control or understanding the consequences of their actions, leading to impulsive elopement behavior.

It’s essential for caregivers, educators, and community members to be aware of the risks associated with eloping behavior in individuals with autism and take proactive steps to prevent elopement and ensure the safety of those affected. This may include implementing safety measures such as door alarms, fencing, and tracking devices, as well as providing education and support to help individuals with autism learn alternative coping strategies and communication skills.

As you can imagine, our home has multiple locks and cameras to keep our son safe at home, but my biggest concern was when we were out in public as a family.

After researching different safety options to help with “eloping,” I found a video of a family showing how their service dog helped their son in public places to prevent eloping. I was very interested in this idea and wanted to learn more!

Service Dogs for Autism Support
Service Dogs for Autism Support

The Role of Service Dogs in Autism Support

First things first, let’s talk about service dogs and what makes them so paw-some! These amazing furry companions undergo specialized training to provide invaluable support and assistance to individuals with various disabilities and challenges, including autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

But what exactly do these furry heroes do, you ask? Well, the possibilities are endless! From providing sensory support to offering emotional regulation and safety assistance, service dogs play an essential role in the lives of individuals with autism.

Imagine having a loyal companion by your side who can help you navigate the ups and downs of daily life with confidence and ease. Whether it’s gently nudging you to calm down during a meltdown, guiding you safely through a crowded space, or simply providing unconditional love and companionship, these furry angels are always there to lend a helping paw when you need it most.

Service Dogs for Autism Support
Service Dogs for Autism Support

Key Roles of Autism Service Dogs

Service dogs play various roles in supporting individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Some of the key roles that service dogs have to support individuals with autism include:

  1. Sensory Support: Service dogs can assist individuals with autism in managing sensory sensitivities by providing tactile stimulation, pressure therapy (such as deep pressure therapy through leaning or lying on the individual), and redirecting attention away from overwhelming sensory stimuli.
  2. Emotional Regulation: Service dogs can help individuals with autism regulate their emotions by providing comfort, companionship, and a calming presence during moments of stress, anxiety, or sensory overload. Dogs are known for their ability to sense and respond to changes in emotions, offering unconditional love and support to their handlers.
  3. Safety Assistance: Service dogs can assist in keeping individuals with autism safe by preventing elopement (wandering away from safe environments), alerting caregivers to potentially dangerous situations, and guiding individuals away from hazards or obstacles in their environment.
  4. Social Interaction: Service dogs can serve as social bridges, helping individuals with autism initiate and navigate social interactions with others. The presence of a service dog can often attract positive attention and curiosity from peers, leading to opportunities for social engagement and connection.
  5. Routine and Structure: Service dogs can help individuals with autism establish and maintain routines by providing cues for daily activities, such as waking up, getting dressed, and going to bed. Dogs thrive on routine and predictability, which can be comforting and reassuring for individuals with autism.
  6. Anxiety Reduction: Service dogs are trained to recognize signs of anxiety or distress in their handlers and can offer grounding techniques, such as deep pressure therapy or tactile stimulation, to help alleviate feelings of anxiety and promote a sense of calmness and security.
  7. Communication Support: Some service dogs are trained to assist individuals with autism in communicating their needs and desires to others. This may include tasks such as retrieving communication devices, delivering messages, or providing physical prompts for communication.

Overall, service dogs play a multifaceted role in supporting individuals with autism, providing assistance, companionship, and unconditional love that can significantly enhance their quality of life and independence.

Considerations for Getting a Service Dog

If you’re considering getting a service dog for your child with autism, you’re embarking on a journey that could truly change your family’s life for the better. But before you take the leap, there are a few important things to consider to ensure a smooth and successful experience for you and your furry friend.

1. Finding the Right Fit:

When it comes to choosing a service dog for your child with autism, it’s essential to find the perfect match. Start by researching reputable organizations that specialize in training service dogs for individuals with autism. Look for organizations that have a proven track record of success and prioritize the well-being and welfare of their dogs.

2. Understanding Eligibility Criteria:

Before getting a service dog, it’s important to understand the eligibility criteria set by the organization you’re considering. Eligibility requirements may vary depending on the organization and the specific needs of your child. Be prepared to provide documentation and undergo an assessment to determine if a service dog is the right option for your family.

3. Navigating the Training and Placement Process:

The process of obtaining a service dog can be lengthy and involves training both for the dog and the handler (your child or family member). Be patient and prepared to invest time and effort into the training process. Work closely with the organization to ensure that your child receives the necessary training and support to build a strong bond with their service dog.

After we were accepted by the Saber Life Foundation, we did need to wait a few weeks before our trainer selected our service dog in training. We had one litter that was a possibility that actually fell through when none of the puppies passed the temperament testing. We were so excited when we heard the news that our puppy had been picked!

4. Preparing the Family and Home:

Before bringing a service dog into your home, take some time to prepare your family and living environment. Consider how the presence of a service dog will impact your daily routines, interactions with other pets, and the overall dynamics of your household. Create a welcoming and safe space for your new furry friend, and involve your child in the process to help them feel excited and prepared for their new companion.

We decided to “self-foster” our puppy, and that just means that we went through all the puppy stages and initial training. We had to go through all the normal “puppy proofing” that would be required if we brought home a new puppy to our home. Many families decided to have their organization foster their puppy or another foster family to help with the stress a new puppy can bring.

Full disclosure, it wasn’t easy bringing home a new puppy into our special needs home, but in the long run I do believe it was a good decision. When Millie (our service dog) was about 9 months old or so, she went and stayed with our trainer for more intense training. She came back to us a few months later and she was just the perfect service dog!

5. Building a Support Network:

Finally, remember that getting a service dog is a big decision that will impact your entire family. Reach out to other parents who have experience with service dogs for autism support, join online communities or support groups, and seek guidance and advice from professionals in the field. Building a strong support network will help you navigate the joys and challenges of life with a service dog and ensure that your child receives the support and care they need.

By considering these important factors and taking proactive steps to prepare for the arrival of a service dog, you can set the stage for a successful and rewarding experience for your child and your family. Together, you’ll embark on an incredible journey filled with love, companionship, and endless possibilities.


From Puppy to Service Dog!! We 🫶🏻 our Millie Dog! #servicedog #autismfamily

♬ I’m Falling In Love – Wildflowers

Saber Life Foundation

After extensive research and gathering insights from fellow moms in our community, we decided to contact Saber Life Foundation to explore the possibility of obtaining a service dog for our son. Their team was incredibly supportive throughout the entire process, guiding us with expertise and making the journey seamless. Just hearing their personal story of how a service dog has impacted their family, is so inspiring and really shows how much these dogs are changing lives.

We honestly wouldn’t have our service dog today if it wasn’t for this great organization. If you’re considering starting your journey of acquiring a service dog for your family, I highly recommend reaching out to them to see if they align with your needs.

Grants for Autism Service Dog

Many families who are unable to cover the costs of a service dog for their child are able to find grants tailored to assist with such expenses. These grants serve as invaluable lifelines, offering much-needed financial support to families navigating the complexities of raising a child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). By alleviating the burden of hefty service dog fees, these grants empower families to access the life-changing benefits of a furry companion without the overwhelming financial strain.

What Are Autism Service Dog Grants?

Autism service dog grants are funding opportunities provided by organizations, nonprofits, and foundations to help cover the costs associated with obtaining and training a service dog for individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). These grants can help alleviate the financial burden of acquiring a service dog, making this invaluable resource accessible to more families in need.

How Do Autism Service Dog Grants Work?

Each autism service dog grant program operates differently, but typically, applicants are required to complete an application process that may include providing documentation of the individual’s diagnosis, financial need, and suitability for a service dog. Grant recipients are selected based on various criteria, such as the severity of the individual’s condition, their ability to care for and work with a service dog, and the availability of funds from the granting organization.

Finding Autism Service Dog Grants

There are numerous organizations and foundations dedicated to providing autism service dog grants to individuals and families in need. These organizations may offer grants directly or partner with other service dog training programs to facilitate the process. Some well-known organizations that offer autism service dog grants include Saber Life Foundation, Canine Companions for Independence, 4 Paws for Ability, and Autism Service Dogs of America.

Applying for Autism Service Dog Grants

If you’re interested in applying for an autism service dog grant, start by researching grant programs offered by reputable organizations in your area or nationally. Carefully review the application requirements and deadlines, and be prepared to provide thorough documentation of your child’s diagnosis and your family’s financial need. Remember, the process may take time and patience, but the reward of a loving, supportive service dog is well worth the effort!

Popular Breeds of Service Dogs for Autism Support

We get asked a lot about the best breeds for service dogs for autism support. While various dog breeds can be trained as service dogs for individuals with autism, some breeds are more commonly used due to their temperament, trainability, and suitability for the role. Popular breeds of service dogs for autism include:

  1. Golden Retriever: Known for their friendly and gentle demeanor, Golden Retrievers are often used as service dogs for individuals with autism. They are highly trainable, social, and adaptable, making them excellent companions for children and adults alike.
  2. Labrador Retriever: Labrador Retrievers are another popular choice for service dogs due to their intelligence, loyalty, and affectionate nature. They excel in obedience training and are known for their calm and patient temperament, making them well-suited for supporting individuals with autism.
  3. Standard Poodle: Standard Poodles are highly intelligent, hypoallergenic, and versatile dogs that can excel as service dogs for individuals with autism. They are known for their trainability, problem-solving abilities, and gentle disposition, making them well-suited for providing emotional support and assistance to individuals with autism.
  4. Labradoodle: A crossbreed between a Labrador Retriever and a Poodle, Labradoodles combine the best traits of both breeds, including intelligence, trainability, and hypoallergenic qualities. They are often used as service dogs for individuals with autism due to their friendly and sociable nature.
  5. Goldendoodle: The Goldendoodle is a lovable blend of two fantastic breeds—the Golden Retriever and the Poodle. These furry companions inherit the top-notch qualities of both parents, such as smarts, easy trainability, and being hypoallergenic. With their warm and outgoing personalities, Goldendoodles are a popular choice as service dogs for folks with autism, bringing joy and comfort wherever they go.
  6. Bernese Mountain Dog: Known for their calm and gentle temperament, Bernese Mountain Dogs are often used as therapy and service dogs for individuals with autism. They are affectionate, patient, and adaptable, making them well-suited for providing emotional support and companionship.
  7. Border Collie: Border Collies are highly intelligent and energetic dogs that excel in obedience training and problem-solving tasks. While they may require more mental and physical stimulation than some other breeds, they can make excellent service dogs for individuals with autism who lead active lifestyles and enjoy outdoor activities.
  8. Australian Shepherd: Australian Shepherds are intelligent, loyal, and energetic dogs that thrive on mental and physical stimulation. They are often used as service dogs for individuals with autism due to their trainability, versatility, and affectionate nature.

It’s important to note that the suitability of a service dog breed for a particular individual with autism depends on various factors, including the individual’s specific needs, lifestyle, and preferences. Additionally, individual temperament and training play a significant role in determining a dog’s suitability as a service dog for autism support.

We ended up going with an organization and trainer who picked our service dog in training. She was a golden-doodle and passed all the temperament testing at 7 weeks old. She is amazing and we couldn’t imagine another dog working with our son! Working with a reputable service dog organization or trainer can help match individuals with the most suitable breed and individual dog for their needs.

Service Dogs for Autism Support
Service Dogs for Autism Support

Challenges of Having a Service Dog for Autism Support

Anything good in life also comes with its unique challenges. I did hear about some of these challenges before we received our service dog, so it wasn’t a complete surprise.

Everyone wants to meet your dog.

While it’s undeniably heartwarming to see the joy and excitement that our furry friends bring to others, dealing with the constant attention and requests for petting can sometimes be challenging. When everyone wants to meet your dog in public, it can lead to interruptions during walks or outings, making it difficult to keep your dog focused on their tasks. It can also be overwhelming for some dogs, especially those who are easily overstimulated by crowds.

Additionally, not everyone understands proper etiquette when approaching a service dog, which can pose safety concerns or lead to uncomfortable interactions. While we appreciate the love and admiration for our canine companions, it’s important for people to respect boundaries and ask for permission before interacting with our furry friends.

Most service dog vests display a patch that says “Do not pet” which can limit some interactions from strangers who approach wanting to interact with your dog. With a little patience and understanding, we can navigate these situations with grace and ensure that both our dogs and those around us feel comfortable and respected.

All the normal challenges of owning a dog.

Owning a dog brings so much joy and companionship into our lives, but it’s also important to be aware of the challenges that come with it. One of the biggest challenges is the time and commitment required for proper care and training.

Dogs need regular exercise, mental stimulation, and socialization to stay happy and healthy, which means dedicating time every day for walks, playtime, and training sessions. Additionally, there are financial considerations, including expenses for food, veterinary care, grooming, and unexpected medical emergencies. Dogs also require consistent attention and care, which can be challenging for busy families or individuals with demanding schedules.

Finally, there’s the responsibility of providing a safe and loving environment for our furry friends, which includes addressing behavioral issues, managing any allergies or sensitivities, and ensuring they’re well-cared for even when life gets hectic. Despite these challenges, the love and companionship we receive from our dogs make it all worth it in the end!

Costs of acquiring a service dog.

When considering getting a service dog for autism, it’s important to be aware of the costs involved. While the price can vary depending on factors like the organization you choose and the specific needs of your child, acquiring a service dog can be a significant investment. Costs typically include the purchase price of the dog, which can range from several thousand to tens of thousands of dollars, as well as expenses related to training, veterinary care, and ongoing care and maintenance.

Additionally, there may be costs associated with travel, accommodations, and other related expenses during the training and placement process. While the upfront costs may seem daunting, many families find that the benefits of having a service dog far outweigh the financial investment in the long run. It’s important to research your options thoroughly and consider all aspects of the decision before moving forward.

Service Dogs for Autism Support
Service Dogs for Autism Support

The Emotional Side of Having a Service Dog

Having a service dog isn’t just about practical assistance—it’s also about the incredible emotional connection that forms between a child with autism and their furry companion. From the moment they meet, something magical happens.

Imagine your child’s face lighting up with joy and excitement as they meet their new best friend for the first time. That initial spark of connection is just the beginning of a beautiful journey filled with love, trust, and companionship.

As your child and their service dog spend more time together, a special bond begins to blossom. They become inseparable partners, navigating life’s ups and downs side by side. Whether it’s sharing moments of laughter and play or providing comfort during times of sadness or stress, the bond between them grows stronger with each passing day.

But the emotional impact of having a service dog extends beyond just the individual with autism—it also touches the hearts of their family members, including us moms. Witnessing the profound effect that a service dog has on our child’s life fills us with overwhelming gratitude and joy. We see our child’s confidence soar, their anxiety diminish, and their smile shine brighter than ever before. And in those moments, our hearts swell with pride and love.

Of course, having a service dog in the family also comes with its own set of challenges and adjustments. It’s important for us moms to prioritize self-care and support as we navigate this journey together. Remember to take time for yourself, lean on your support network, and seek guidance and encouragement when you need it. You’re doing an incredible job, and you deserve all the love and support in the world.

So, as we celebrate the special bond between individuals with autism and their service dogs, let’s cherish every moment, treasure every wag of the tail, and embrace the joy and love that these furry companions bring into our lives. Together, we’re creating a world filled with hope, compassion, and endless possibilities.


We just brough Millie our service dog home this weekend!! She has bedn training the past 5 months and is now sble to continue to work at home on her skills with us. 🐾🥳 #autismservicedog #servicedog #autismfamily

♬ My Own Hymn – Above & Beyond & Zoë Johnston

Final Thoughts about Service Dogs for Autism Support

Throughout this blog post, we’ve explored the incredible ways that service dogs can support individuals with autism, from providing sensory support and emotional regulation to promoting safety and companionship. These furry heroes truly have a paw-sitive impact on the lives of individuals and families affected by autism, offering love, support, and companionship every step of the way.

We’ve also discussed some important considerations for moms considering getting a service dog for their child with autism, from finding the right fit and understanding eligibility criteria to preparing the family and home for the arrival of a furry friend. It’s essential to approach this decision with patience, care, and a whole lot of love.

To all the moms out there considering service dogs for autism support, we want to offer our heartfelt encouragement and support. You are not alone on this journey, and there are resources, communities, and professionals ready to help you every step of the way. Trust your instincts, follow your heart, and know that you are making a difference in your child’s life by exploring this option.

Finally, we want to hear from you! Whether you have questions, experiences to share, or simply want to connect with other moms on a similar journey, we invite you to join the conversation in the comments section below. Your thoughts, stories, and insights are incredibly valuable, and we can’t wait to hear from you!

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Angela Parker
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