How do the assistance dogs benefit autistic people?
Our specially trained dogs are trained to perform tasks to mitigate the negative effects of autism; these tasks vary according to the needs of their autistic partner and can include ‘find the exit’, alerting to emotional dysregulation and deep pressure therapy. Just like any sector of our community there are people who love dogs and people for whom a dog would not be helpful, so not all autistic people will benefit from an assistance dog, but where it works well it can be completely lifechanging.
Why do autistic people need dogs?
What do our dogs do?
Our dogs can:
- Provide safety in the outside world.
- Perform task work to mitigate the challenges of autism.
- Increase independence.
- Reduce anxiety and sensory overload.
- Enable children and young people to access education.
- Increase access to public spaces.
- Help families to attend medical appointments.
- Encourage communication and language development.
- Alert to emotional dysregulation.
How are the dogs trained for their assistance role?
Our dogs undergo extensive and specialised training by professional trainers to meet the unique needs of autistic individuals. The training includes socialisation, obedience and specific tasks tailored to the specific requirements of their future partner.
How many dogs are partnered?
We currently have 19 established partnerships.
How many dogs do we currently have in training?
We currently have 15 dogs in various stages of training.
How much does it cost to train a dog
It costs £25,000 to train and support each autism assistance dog throughout their working life. This might seem like a large amount of money, and many people like to know how this all adds up.
An assistance dog requires long term immersive training, the many many hours of training, handling and educational support that goes into preparing and supporting each autistic partner and dog team requires skilled professional work.
he practical support for the team (dog and partner) throughout the life of the dog is in some ways supported through philanthropic help, but very few services are free to us, veterinary care, flea and worm treatment and dog health and public liabiltiy insurance need to be paid for, as do the necessary safeguarding proceedures and insurance related to the safe working of our staff with vulnerable children, adults and families.
Autism liaison support for the partner and family and the infastructure around the whole programme to support that (training, travel, acommodation, administration etc) are funded by the charity.
The average working life of each of our amazing dogs is 8 years, and we supervise and support them and the needs of their autistic partner closely throughout the life of their working partnership. A pet dog costs an average of £1500 per year to look after for any family, imagine funding the enormous amount of professional input that goes into producing an assistance dog, and it is easy to understand how this figure is reached. Every charity benefits from the time and expertise given by wonderful volunteers, and we do rely on volunteers to help us do what we do, but it is a professional service we are providing and it needs to be very very good, so it will always cost money. We would rather work hard to raise those funds ourselves with the help of doners than ask people to find thousands of pounds to access the help of an assistance dog.
Why can’t you place more assistance dogs per year?
We work hard to ensure that every partnership we train meets the highest of training standards and receives on-going support. However, our resources are limited, and this restricts the number of assistance dog partnerships we can train each year. We rely on donations from the public. The more funding, we raise, the more dogs we have the capacity to train and place. It would risk the welfare of our dogs if we try to train more dogs than we have the infrastructure and funding to do really well, and the welfare of our dogs is our number one priority.
What breeds are typically used for an Autism Assistance dog
We work with a variety of breeds, selecting dogs based on temperament, intelligence and suitability for the specific needs of autistic people. Commonly used breeds include Labradors, Golden Retrievers, Labrador x Golden Retrievers, and Cavalier x Poodles.
How long does the training process for an Autism Assistance dog take?
The training duration varies, but on average, it takes around two years to ensure that the dogs are proficient in their tasks and behaviours. Continuous training and support are provided after the dog is placed with their autistic partner.
Do you only supply dogs to children?
Dogs for Autism provides dogs to both children and adults.
Do the dogs enjoy their work?
Yes! A carefully partnered assistance dog not only changes the life of their autistic partner but also lives an active and fulfilled life themselves, receiving both mental and physical stimulation while they accompany their partner throughout their world. The welfare of our dogs is at the forefront of everything we do, and dogs will be withdrawn from the program if we have any concerns about their welfare or happiness in the role of assistance dog. Applicants are assessed thoroughly to ensure that the dog will have his or her needs met, and all partnerships have a supervising family member or friend to provide additional support with the dog’s welfare.
I’m interested in an Autism Assistance Dog – what can I do now?
Keep an eye on our website and social media, there are times in the year when we open an ‘application window’ so that people can apply for one of our dogs, and we are hoping to have open our applications again at some point during 2024. We will certainly be able to do this if we get enough donations – it is definitely planned for as long as we are able to fund more dogs. We don’t know exactly when, but we will give a few weeks’ notice when we do. We are unable to answer questions about this over the phone.
My child is scared of dogs – can we still apply?
Our work depends on a bond developing between the autistic person and their dog. If your child is frightened of dogs, we wouldn’t place a dog with you. If you are able to work with your child to overcome the fear, then you would be able to apply in the future.
How does the application process work?
Keep an eye on our website and social media, there are times in the year when we open an ‘application window’ so that people can apply for one of our dogs, and we are hoping to have open our applications again at some point during 2024. In early 2024 we will launch a new area of our website detailing all the steps of the application process in advance of opening up applications again.
We will certainly be able to open applications if we get enough donations – it is definitely planned for as long as we are able to fund more dogs. We don’t know exactly when, but we will give a few weeks’ notice when we do. We are unable to answer questions about this over the phone.
What’s the time scale between being on the waiting list and getting a dog?
This can vary as we need to carefully match dog and partner; once an applicant is accepted as a potential partner it will be dependent on the dogs we have in training at any time, but it is rare that a partnership is furnished in less than two years from application.
Can I get an assistance dog jacket for my pet dog?
No. We only give assistance dog jackets to dogs provided and trained by us.
I’ve trained my own dog, how do I register it as an assistance dog?
In the UK there is no assistance dog register, so it is not possible to register a dog as an assistance dog, regardless of where it has been trained.
However, the Assistance Dog Assessment Association | ADAA (theadaa.org) is a charity that offers people living with disabilities the opportunity to have their assistance dog independently assessed.
Can I pay you to train an assistance dog for me?
Our status as a Charity means that we are unable to receive payment for training an assistance dog for an applicant.
Can you train my pet dog to help me?
No, we source, train and provide our own dogs and don’t work with a family’s pet dog.
Support Dogs, Dog Aid and Darwin Dogs are current organisations fully accredited with Assistance Dogs International that train people’s own pet dogs specifically for their individual needs. There are a number of other charities currently in the ‘candidate’ stage of accreditation who can be seen listed on the Assistance Dogs UK website.
If you are looking for all the ways available to train your own dog, please see CATE UK. This is a website which lists all programmes and training providers currently assisting people in the UK, in addition to a wealth of information about assistance dogs.
Can I donate over the phone?
If you would prefer to make a donation over the telephone, please call 01420 629390
Can you contact me when you publish new dates?
Unfortunately, due to the number of enquiries, we are unable to inform you personally of new dates. We advise you to check our website regularly or subscribe to our newsletter for updates.
Can I volunteer or contribute to Dogs for Autism?
Absolutely! We welcome volunteers and appreciate any support. Visit our website for information on how to volunteer, donate, or participate in fundraising events to help us continue our mission.
What can I do to help?
Support us in whatever way you can. Make a donation, sign up to our newsletter, or contact our Volunteer Coordinator
How can I stay updated on Dogs for Autism events and activities?
Follow us on social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and X, and please subscribe to our newsletter on our website to receive regular updates on our activities, success stories and upcoming events.