If your child has any additional or special needs, finding the right furry friend for them could be a bit of a challenge. Luckily, there are many experts and charitable organisations who train dogs to be specialists in many conditions.
Not all children with additional or special needs will need a service dog, but some may benefit from having a dog trained to help with certain medical conditions or states. For example, as well as guide dogs for individuals who are blind or partially blind, there are also specialist dogs that are trained to help children living with autism cope in our busy world. These special dogs can be an absolute wonder for parents that sometimes find themselves struggling to cope with the demands of caring for their child or children, because even an extra set of trained doggy eyes can prevent an incident happening before it has the chance to occur.
It’s not only guide dogs and dogs that are trained to help with autism, either. There are also dogs trained to help with anxiety or panic attacks, depression, seizures, diabetes, ADHD, social anxiety, and much more. But finding them can be a little difficult – you’ll find that you probably can’t just pop down to your local pet store and find a dog that is trained in the specialisations that you need for your child.
To get a dog that is trained to help your child live with their condition in the best way possible, you should start by looking at the websites of charitable organisations and dog training services that can point you in the direction of trained dogs. Most likely, a quick internet search on Google will yield several results for organisations in your country that train assistance dogs for children and adults. Of course, if you’re looking for dogs for your child or children, then what you’re specifically searching for are “assistance dogs for children” in your area.
You’ll come across several UK charities to start with, including Assistance Dogs UK, Dogs for Good, Dogs Helping Kids, and then more specialised sites like Autism Life Dogs and The Blue Dog. You may find that many dog organisations that specialise in training assistance dogs will have long waiting lists, so the sooner you start contacting these organisations about their services, the more likely you are to find a pup to suit your child.
Most assistance dogs will be Labradors and Golden Retrievers, or crosses of the two, but from time to time, you’ll also come across other breeds like Cocker Spaniels and various Retriever breeds like the Flatcoated Retriever. This is because these dogs are highly friendly, easy to train, and very well behaved. An assistance dog will typically spend at least the first year of their life being trained by an organisation and their volunteers, before starting their formal training around 18 months old. As someone looking for an assistance dog, you should also expect to be included in the dog’s training course.