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The 5 Best Dog Breeds for Autistic Children

By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. Updated: June 18, 2018
The 5 Best Dog Breeds for Autistic Children

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Dogs are very sensitive and empathetic creatures. On many occasions, dogs end up creating truly amazing and rewarding relationships with their human companions. Dogs and humans have made such a good team over the years that nowadays you can find dogs for practically all types of characters, personalities and tastes.

There are some dog breeds that are born with particular skills and temperament traits, and they can be easily trained to carry out specific tasks. This is the case of therapy dogs that accompany people with special needs such as autistic children. The emotional bond that forms between the child and their pet is so strong that they become almost inseparable, and it largely improves the child's health and mood.

If there is a child with this type of condition in your family, and you are thinking about getting them a new friend, it is important that you know the 5 best dog breeds for autistic children so that you can then make the right decision. Read this AnimalWised article and discover which are these special types of dog breeds.

You may also be interested in: The 5 Best Dog Breeds for Beginners

1. Staffordshire Bull Terrier

The Staffordshire Bull Terrier is a dog that makes an impression because of its muscular and robust frame. However, behind its strong physical appearance lies a very docile dog that is considered one of the best breeds to accompany autistic children.

Staffordshire Bull Terriers are loyal, trustworthy and have a phenomenal character. They love to be together with their family. You'll see them accompany the child to wherever they want to go, even when it's time to go to bed, as they are really affectionate and obedient. If trained properly, this dog will provide the best care for the child.

Their inclusion on this list is somewhat controversial. Staffordshire Bull Terriers are very muscular dogs with a strong bite and, unfortunately, a bad reputation with some. However, they have suffered terrible abuse at the hands of many owners who have historically engaged them in the vile practice of dog fighting. This does not mean that Staffies are inherently dangerous dogs.

According to the ‘American Temperament Test Society’[1], the Staffordshire Bull Terrier has one of the highest scores for any dog breed with 90.9% at the time of publication. While this test is not perfect, it does go some way to show the importance of treating the dog as an individual. This is the stance of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals which states that ‘genetics do not exist in a vacuum’[2]. Many factors influence a dog's behavior, but this is true of all breeds. More important than breed is adequate socialization, humane treatment and early positive experiences in terms of a dog's aggression. By enforcing breed specific legislation, as pointed out by the ASPCA, you only create the illusion of public safety. By treating dogs on an individual basis you will be better able to stop attacks, prevent purposeful mistreatment and educate owners and the public about how to treat all animals safely and humanely.

While it is true that some individual dogs have been known to attack children, this is true of any breed. It is equally true that many autistic children benefit from the love, care and companionship which Staffies provide.

If you want to know more about Staffordshire Bull Terriers and other dogs which are categorized under the Pit Bull banner, you can check out our article on the different Pit Bull types and breeds.

The 5 Best Dog Breeds for Autistic Children - 1. Staffordshire Bull Terrier

2. Newfoundland

Again, don't be overwhelmed by its size. Newfoundland dogs are as big as their heart. If you go for a dog of this breed, you'll have a new teddy bear at home which will constantly hug your child. One good thing about this dog is that, with it being so large, it doesn't have many energetic requirements. This is perfect for a child who has autism, as it will encourage them to keep calm. It will also work for those children who are less active and prefer drawing or playing in the same space.

The Newfoundland is a gentle giant; it has a relaxed temperament and is very intelligent. Nana, the Darling children's nanny dog in Peter Pan, is a Newfoundland. What more proof do you need that they are great with children?

The 5 Best Dog Breeds for Autistic Children - 2. Newfoundland

3. Great Pyrenees

The Great Pyrenees is a very intelligent breed that has always been used as a working dog. This means that these dogs are adaptable in terms of education and training. This dog, then, will easily learn to look after and protect an autistic child, allowing their parents to relax a little bit and share the responsibility, so that they can do other household tasks at the same time.

These dogs are mentally balanced, quiet and calm; Great Pyrenees aren't barkers. This is a virtue in these cases, as they won't disturb the child. They are good with new experiences and empathize much with their owner.

The 5 Best Dog Breeds for Autistic Children - 3. Great Pyrenees

4. Golden Retriever

The Golden Retriever is the quintessential family dog. It is the first breed that most parents think of when getting a dog for their children. This is because they have all the right characteristics to be a fantastic companion. It is also one of the special breeds that can become an assistance dog owing to its docile, safe and adaptable personality.

They are very affectionate with children and are great at reading emotions. For example, if one day the child is more active and happier, the dog will encourage them to play and have lots of fun together. If, on the other hand, the child feels a bit subdued, the Golden Retriever will stay by their side and maintain a very quiet position, almost saying "I'm here when you need me" while at the same time transmitting all their love to them.

Golden Retrievers are also among the 5 best dog breeds for beginners.

The 5 Best Dog Breeds for Autistic Children - 4. Golden Retriever

5. Labrador Retriever

Dogs, especially the labrador breed, often establish bonds of love and trust with their owners through eye contact. They want to tell you many things with their sweet and attentive gaze, whilst at the same time they make you feel wanted and safe.

Labrador Retrievers are known as companion, rescue and assistance dogs. Among the many benefits they can bring to the life of an autistic child you can find the way they build the child's confidence, help them to reduce anxiety attacks, stimulate their imagination and desire to communicate, encourage their self-control and - as they are very sociable and loving - they are great at integrating children to their environment. A Labrador Retriever could encourage the reactivation of autistic children's emotional connectors.

The 5 Best Dog Breeds for Autistic Children - 5. Labrador Retriever

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24 comments
Channi
Pitbulls where originally called the nanny dog, any dog can bite; any terror breed can lock it’s jaw. Look for a dog that suits your child’s needs and use this article as a guide. Please let’s all be kind to one another, not one of our children with Autism (or needs) is the same
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Channi,

While Pit Bulls can be great with kids, we would like to say that no dog breed locks their jaw. It is a myth. Feel free to take a look here to know more:

https://www.animalwised.com/how-to-make-a-pit-bull-release-its-bite-1513.html
Channi
I didn’t say pits lock their jaw I said any dog can, and as someone who was attacked by a dog and had to have three men get the dog off an article is not going to clear that up
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Molly
Oh the silly comments about pitbulls! Any dog is capable of biting a child. My four year old son has autism and usually does not like dogs (especially small ones that bark a lot), but loves my friends blue pit. They are both very hyper and goofy and when they get together its like watching 2 best friends at play. The dog is very protective of him, too. When they are both outside, he stays right by him everywhere he goes. My son accidentally kicked him in the face while playing once and the dog was fine with it, not even a growl.

I believe if the dog is raised right, then it will be great around kids.
Teresa
What's the best dog for my severely autistic son...19years of age
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Teresa,

We have provided information in the article to answer your question. There isn't a specific dog for a specific age group. Most important is to remember that each dog is an individual as is your son, so you will need to have the right introductory process and ensure they will both get along with each other.
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Merrill
You only have to look at all the videos on Youtube of how many Pit Bulls are so kind to children. Yes, there havge been Pit attacks., but so have MANY other dogs. It's crazy to tar all of them with the same brush.
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Ryan
It is alarming to read how many people are still so ignorant about pitbulls. They are horribly abused by humans and are selected to be used in dog fights because of their strong desire to please humans. They endure pain and torture just to make their owner happy. In fact, the dog breeds that have the highest bite occurrence is Golden retrievers and German Shepherds.
Rating:
Mark Calloway
English Golden Retriever puppies are truly special. Our aim in breeding is to promote the growth of the healthiest puppies possible with the traits we know and love. By using only top notch, health cleared parents from 100% European lines, you can expect a beautiful, healthy puppy with an amazing temperament.
Rating:
Nancy
love staffy
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Lew Heifner
“The first time bully breeds were ever referred to as Nanny dogs was in 1971. In an article written by Lillian Rant, a British born staffy owner who ran the Staffordshire Bull Terrier Society of America, as well as a breeder of Staffies and in an attempt to erase their dogfighting past, she invented this Dickensian protector, which would lie in bed with a child, then jump out, save a child from threats and then jump back in bed with the child, ripped to shreds and she referred to it as "the nursemaid's dog"

The second such instance of the term Nanny Dog, came from the Toronto star in 1987. Kathy Thomas, who was also a staffy owner and breeder spoke about dog fighting in her area and pit bulls/staffies being used. She willingly lied and said that they can't be used for fighting as Staffordshire bull terriers are nanny dogs because her 4 staffies are great with her kids.

Look through any breeders’ almanac or any other pre-1970 source and you'll NOT find any reference to the pit bulldog or the bull terrier being used for nanny purposes, only for fighting and killing. The earliest I could find but didn't last long, was the staged turn of the century pictures of pits and children. However, the thinly veiled link was Nanna from Peter Pan, as the stage show was out, but nanna in the story has been a Labrador, a St. Bernard and a Newfoundland, not a bully.”

Administrador AnimalWised
Please see our reply to the comment below for our stance on Pit Bulls and the misinformation which is spread about them.
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Serena Williams
Pitbulls should not be around children especially children with autism. Disappointing.
Administrador AnimalWised
If a Staffies are socialized at an early age, are introduced to children in the appropriate way, are trained using positive reinforcement and are kept under supervision when with children (as with ALL breeds of dog), then they make particularly good pets for children, especially those with autism. The United Kennel Club admits this is a dog capable of aggression, but so too are all dogs without proper socialization and obedience.

The reason for PBs being vilified is their strength, popularity and their unfortunate historical use as fighting dogs (under human influence). The UKC states that the APBT is particularly bad when being used a guard dog due to its friendliness. An important study released in 2013 shows that breed is not an important consideration when considering reasons behind dog attacks, with improper socialization, lack of neutering, abuse and more being of much greater importance.

We explain the negative reputation of Pit Bull type dog breeds versus the evidence contradiction it in the following articles:

https://www.animalwised.com/pit-bull-breeds-and-types-234.html
https://www.animalwised.com/pit-bull-terriers-as-nanny-dogs-52.html

We advise anyone wanting to learn more about these dogs to read these articles and to not judge a dog simply because of their breed.
D.M
So you asking not to judge a dog based on a breed on an article that is literally judging dogs on their breed traits?

I would never let my children with autism around any bully breed type dogs. Any dog that has to be trained not to attack or be aggressive is not a suitable dog for children, especially disabled/special needs children.
Administrador AnimalWised
Every dog needs to be trained to not be aggressive to other animals or humans through the process of socialization. It is true that we are generalizing dog breeds here due to perceived characteristics. But every dog is an individual and more important than breed is rearing and socialization. Take a look at this link for more information:

https://www.animalwised.com/pit-bull-breeds-and-types-234.html
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D.M.
The top breed suggested in this article have killed many neurotypical children for minor transgressions such as crying, bumping into the dog, taking a toy away from the dog etc. Children with autism can have trouble reading doggie/human social cues, so suggesting the most dangerous breed of dog with many triggers as a good dog for children with autism is highly irresponsible. Also, the "nanny dog" was a myth started in the 70's by a breeder trying to sell more of her puppies. If you had done any real research on this topic you would know that already. Please fix this article. Children with autism are more important than pushing bully breed propaganda. So disappointing to see this.
Administrador AnimalWised
Please see our reply to the comment above for our stance on Pit Bulls and the misinformation which is spread about them.

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