There is little doubt that growing up with a dog can be incredibly beneficial for children: these four-legged friends quickly become your child’s most trusted companion.
It comes as no surprise that dogs can also be beneficial for children who have special needs. There are so many different kinds of dog breeds out there with varying personalities, and not all of them are going to be suitable to be around a child who has special needs.
You may be curious as to which kinds of dogs, and which personality traits, are best suited to be around children with special needs. Thankfully there are a number of different kinds of breeds whose natural instincts make them perfect for children with special needs.
These dogs are usually close to the top of the list of a family dog to begin with, so it makes sense they have also been named for dogs that work well with special needs children.
They are typically very easy going in their personality, and they have an innate need to want to please their owner. They are also patient, loving and loyal dogs so they are very easy to train to respond to the unique needs of a special needs child.
Despite this breeds giant size, they are actually very sweet and patient with children. These dogs are loyal and training them to do simple tasks is very easy with how smart they are. They are well suited to be therapy dogs and are a great option for children with autism.
Labradoodle or Goldendoodle
You will find that the majority of dogs list here shed, some excessively. These kinds of dogs have become very popular with families because they are usually hypoallergenic and therefore don’t shed. These dogs are a mix of a poodle and either a lab or golden retriever. These dogs are highly intelligent and therefore easy to train for the special needs of any child. They are loyal and will definitely bond with your child.
You may not have thought of a collie as a dog that’s good for a child with special needs, but these dogs have been bred for years to be highly aware of and in tune with human emotions.
This makes them ideal for a child who has special needs or may need a dog to sense when a seizure is going to happen.
These dogs also love to play, but typically won’t wander too far from their families which makes them a great, well-rounded family dog.
These dogs are traditionally thought of as being police dogs, but they can actually make really great therapy and personal assistance dogs. They are very focused dogs, which means they will respond well to their owner’s commands and they can handle much more complicated tasks or jobs. They are cautious with strangers but incredibly loyal to their family. They are also playful with children.
Bernese Mountain Dog
Like the others on this list, this breed is loyal and affectionate with its family members. They are eager to please and very easy to train, which makes them great candidates for children with special needs.
Additionally, they are a dog that thrives on a lot of affection so this will help nurture the bond between your child and the dog with the exchange of affection.
While this is another large breed dog, they are a top choice for children with autism. With their intelligence and ease of training, these dogs are one of the sweetest breeds for children with special needs.
These dogs, likely due to their size, are not particularly active dogs. So if you have a child with special needs that limits their mobility this may be a great fit for a personal assistance dog.
These dogs are usually smaller than the others on this list, but they are still worthy of consideration. Beagles are known to be very vocal dogs, so they may not be right for all families who have children with special needs but they could be exactly right for others. They can be slightly harder to train than other dogs on this list, but are still great for children with special needs.
While these dogs are adorable, they are also great service dogs. They are very intelligent, and can be taught to perform complex tasks to assist their owners. They are playful, so they so well with children, but they also are very empathetic which means they become incredibly aware of their owner’s emotions. This can help for children who need emotional support.
The breeds listed are all generally great for a child with special needs but even if a dog is one of the breeds given it may not have the specific personality traits that are desirable for a service dog.
When a dog is trained to be a service dog for a child with special needs. there are certain traits a trainer will look for to make sure the dog is completely suitable.
Before a dog becomes a service animal, their temperament will have to be tested so that parents can be certain they can trust the dog will be safe and not react negatively to their special needs child.
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Here are some of the personality traits looked for in dogs to make sure they would be great service dogs for children with special needs.
If dogs are too hyper or high strung they may not make a suitable dog for a child with special needs for a couple reasons. The first is if the child has a sensory disorder, he or she may not handle a dog’s barking or jumping at them very well. A dog with a calm temperament who doesn’t bark very much can be helpful for children who are living with autism and may need assistance with social situations or anxiety.
No Negative Reactions
Service dogs for children with special needs may be going to a family where the child is non-verbal or has times that they cannot control their hands or feet. In these cases, a dog will be tested to make sure they do not have any negative reactions to having their tail or ears pulled, or potentially having a child bump into them.
Enjoys being around people
Service dogs usually go everywhere with their people: school, work, shopping, social functions – anywhere their humans go, they go. With this in mind, the dogs need to be ok being around lots of different kinds of people and be comfortable in those situations.
Service dogs can sometimes be placed with a task, like getting a bottle of water, certain medications, a blanket or the phone to call for help. These dogs need to be able to focus on a single task and not let other people or objects distract them as their person may be in need of help and it could be serious.
How can I get a service dog for my child with special needs?
There are many reasons you may be able to get a service dog for your child: autism, juvenile diabetes, seizures, sensory disorders and more. A service dog will be trained specifically for your child and how to best help him or her.
Training a service dog is a process, and that process takes time. Any dog can become a service dog, regardless of breed, but it does have to show very specific behaviours and traits in order to be a successful service dog.
A service dog’s training will likely start when the dog is a puppy as teaching an older dog may not catch on to all the commands they need to know.
Depending on why your child needs a service dog, there may be programs you can apply to for help with getting a dog. Your family will be part of the training to make sure the dog responds to your commands and your child knows how to properly interact with the dog.
Having a service dog can help when your child has special needs, especially for when they’re going to school and are outside playing. A service dog can alert your child to an oncoming seizure or when their blood sugars are dropping to a dangerous level.
In addition to helping your child for medical reasons, your child will also develop an incredibly strong bond with the dog. Your child will have a best friend who wants to go everywhere with them and is always going to be there to make sure they stay safe.
Adapting to having a service dog around will be slightly different than having just a family pet, but they will be the best thing you ever did to help your child. It is important to remember that a service dog is a working dog, so they will not necessarily be interacting with all members of your family like a family dog would. The dog will spend most of its time with your child who has special needs as that is what the dog is trained to do.
Getting your child a service dog when they need it can be really helpful in making sure your child stays safe and healthy!