Tuesday, March 30, 2010

More on Autism Service Dogs…

We have received many email questions asking more about obtaining an autism service dog. The information and links below may help you in your search. does not endorse the products or services of any of the organizations below.

Obtaining an autism service dog can be a lengthy process. Most training centers have wait lists of one to five years. The dog breeds most often used are Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers, but you may also find mixes, Poodles, and German Shepherds. Most puppies are obtained directly through specialized breeding programs; sometimes appropriate dogs are rescued or adopted at a slightly older age.

Around 8 weeks of age, dogs are placed with individuals or families who act as puppy raisers. Puppy raisers have the responsibility of socializing the dog to as many types of people, places, and situations as possible. As the dog enters adulthood, he or she is returned to the training center for a period of extended, intensive, and specialized instruction. Autism service dogs are ready to be placed between the ages of 18 months and 2 years of age.

Each training center has its own guidelines for placing dogs. Some training centers provide dogs free of charge; others require a contribution on the part of the individual receiving the dog. Many will assist with fundraising to help defray the cost of the dog. Be sure that the organization you choose to work with is established as a 501 (c) non-profit organization.

Monday, March 15, 2010

What is Autism?

Autism is a general term used to describe a group of complex developmental brain disorders known as Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD). There are five disorders under the PDD umbrella: PDD-NOS (PDD-Not Otherwise Specified), Asperger's Syndrome, Rett Syndrome and Childhood Disintegrative Disorder. These are also referred to as Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).

Autism was first identified as a unique condition in 1943. Its cause remains unknown, but is thought to be a combination of genetic susceptibility and environmental factors. The CDC states that as many as 1 in 110 children may be affected with ASD.

According to the NIH, all children with ASD demonstrate deficits in 1) social interaction, 2) verbal and nonverbal communication, and 3) repetitive behaviors or interests. These deficits and behaviors may range from mild to severe and present differently in each child. Children generally begin to present signs of ASD between 12 and 36 months of age.

What role do service dogs play?

Several agencies train service dogs specifically for the needs of children and adults with ASD. Dogs are trained from puppyhood, then placed with individuals and their caregivers after a thorough application, screening, and training process. These dogs are certified service animals and their access is protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Among other skills, dogs can be trained to interrupt unwanted repetitive behaviors, prevent impulsive running, alert caregivers to potential problems, increase comfort with tactile experiences, and decrease social isolation. Some service dogs are also trained in tracking/search and rescue.

On you can find a patch and ID badge specifically for the Autism service dog.

Monday, March 8, 2010

ACVO National Service Dog Free Eye Exam

Welcome to the blog!

We will be using this blog to communicate news on issues important to the service dog community, keep you up to date on dog health, wellness, and training, and let you know about the products and services that provides. We welcome your comments and suggestions!
During the month of May, the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists will be offering free eye screening exams for qualified guide, police, detection, and other categories of service/working dogs. The dog will receive a complete eye health exam.
More information, including dog eligibility requirements, provider locations, and scheduling information can be found at