Autism Service Dogs

BC & Alberta Guide Dogs, provides professionally trained dogs to children with autism ages 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 professionally trained, certified Autism Service Dog.

It takes up to two years and costs our charity up to $35,000 to produce each Autism Service Dog. Our organization relies on the generosity of donors so that we can provide these dogs free of charge to families across BC & Alberta.

At this time we have filled all applications for the next group of Autism Service Dogs. Please check back for updates.

Contact Information

British Columbia
Phone: 604-940-4504 | 877-940-4504

Phone: 403-258-0819 | 877-258-0819

How an Autism Service Dog Can Help

Having an Autism Service Dog can increase the safety and security of a child with autism. 

An Autism Service 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 Service Dog are different for every child, depending on his or her needs and abilities.

Some benefits of Autism Service Dogs include:

  • Increased safety for the child (prevents the 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

Guidelines for Autism Service Dog Applicants

The application process involves an initial online application followed by a series of interviews, including an in-home visit by a certified Instructor. Eligibility to receive an Autism Service Dog and training is subject to specific criteria, including but not limited to the following:

  • The child must be aged 3 to 10 (at the time of application) and have a confirmed diagnosis of moderate to profound autism.
  • Autism must be the child’s primary disability. We require permission to obtain a medical record from your family doctor.
  • The child must exhibit a tendency to bolt in public spaces. Priority is given to children who are non-verbal.
  • The child must be physically able to walk short journeys and be happy to make contact with the dog without any signs of fear.
  • The ENTIRE family must be committed to their involvement in the program. Other children in the home, if any, must understand and respect that the Autism Service Dog is a working dog and not simply a family pet.
  • The family must be willing to be interviewed at home by an Instructor. Once the dog is placed, an Instructor will visit annually and the primary handler (parent) will be required to pass an internationally recognized test each year to ensure that the dog’s skills are maintained.
  • The child and family must use the Autism Service Dog sufficiently to justify its provision.
  • The family must accept the responsibilities of dog ownership, and demonstrate commitment towards caring for the dog as instructed (proper diet and exercise, vet care etc.). Once the dog is placed with the child, the family is responsible for all costs related to caring for the dog.
  • The Autism Service Dog may not be left alone for more than four consecutive hours. If both parents work during the day, one parent must be able to take the dog to work with them. The dog may be required to sleep in the child’s room for the maximum effect of developing a bond.
  • The dog must have a safe and secure indoor living environment. There must be suitable facilities for free running and exercise.
  • At least one parent must be available for a 2 week in-home training session with the child and the dog.
  • The parents need to be able to understand and implement instruction and control of the dog (training will be provided).
  • The parents must accept and comply with the terms of our Training Agreement and be aware that the dog may be withdrawn if it is not being cared for or used in an appropriate manner.

Regretfully, we are NOT accepting any new applications at this time, as we currently have a multi-year waiting list for Autism Service Dogs. Applications submitted prior to this date are still being processed. Please check back again in the future.

We need your help to reduce our waitlist!
Please consider sponsoring a puppy or making a donation to help us train more Autism Service Dog for families who need our help.

Autism Service 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.

* Access to services must be free from discrimination of any kind including race or colour, gender or sexual preference, nationality, age, marital or social status, religious, political beliefs, or disability.