Autism Support Dogs, a division of BC & Alberta Guide Dogs, provides professionally trained dogs to children with autism aged 3-10 and their families, at no cost to the recipient. Our goal is to improve the quality of life of children with autism and their family by providing a trained Autism Support Dog. It takes up to 2 years and costs our charity up to $35,000 to produce each autism support dog. Our organization relies on the generosity of donors to serve citizens of British Columbia and Alberta so that we can provide these dogs free of charge to families.
How our dogs help
Having an Autism Support Dog can increase the safety and security of a child with moderate to profound autism. The child’s parent holds the dog’s leash while the child is physically tethered to the dog via a safety harness. This prevents the child from bolting or wandering off. An Autism Support Dog can improve the child’s ability to participate in education, social and leisure activities because the canine may reduce the stress associated with these situations.
The benefits of having an Autism Support Dog are different for every child, depending on his or her needs and abilities.
Some benefits of Autism Support Dogs include:
- Increased safety for the child (prevents child from bolting)
- Encouraged social interaction
- Enhanced responsibility skills for child
- Reduced stress and anxiety
- Supported daily living skills
- Greater quality of life for families by spending more time in the community and participating in family activities
Please take a look at our Guidelines for Applicants Page to see if your child is eligible.
Autism Support Dog Training
The majority of family training is conducted on a domiciliary basis (home-based training). From time to time we also hold residential courses that are based at a hotel near our office in Ladner, BC.
Formal training commences on a Monday, and over the next two weeks (minimum of two weeks) it will cover the entire spectrum of training, equipping the client for success in your post-graduate period. Training includes working the dog in jacket in each recipient’s local community. This may include public transit, public buildings, shopping malls, parks, rec centres, and schools, as well as how to deal with the public and access issues that might arise. Training also includes teaching each recipient about their new dog and how to properly care for it. Training finishes with the successful completion of a public access test, as dictated by Assistance Dogs International (ADI).
During class, the BC & Alberta Guide Dogs instructor works with the caregiver and child on an individual basis, and has just one family client at a time. Upon completion of the program, the recipient and family will have attained a high level of competency with the service dog and will be well-established in their home area. Each client receives a minimum of 30 hours of in-jacket training during the program.
Once graduated with their dog, each team must successfully pass an ADI public access test given by our certified Instructors each year.