boy, yellow lab, service dog, autism

Is a Service Dog for Autism Right For You?

Service dogs can address the following areas affected by autism by:

  • Performing behaviors the child can model in therapy sessions.
    • Behaviors dog can perform may include secondary leash or handle led walking in public.
  • Interrupting or alerting to early signs of maladaptive or repetitive behavior, escalation in stress or anxiety, or other responses to triggers.
    • Behaviors dog can perform may include chin rest, nose nudge.
  • Providing grounding or sensory input to decrease physiological symptoms of stress/anxiety.
    • Behaviors dog can perform may include applying weight or pressure by leaning into child or lying down on child’s lap or feet.
  • Assisting with mobility limitations.
    • Behaviors dog can perform may include retrieval, delivery or carrying of items, tug or push things open/closed, on/off, etc.
  • Assisting with daily living skills.
    • Behaviors dog can perform may include dressing, undressing, retrieval for motor skills support.
  • Providing occasion for social engagement by utilizing social stories for the child and corresponding behaviors of the dog can be developed to enhance social interaction.
    • Behaviors dog can perform may include wave, bow, fist bump, etc.

Minimum criteria to apply for an autism service dog:

  • Diagnosis of autism and must be between 4 to 12 years of age.
  • Must be participating in ABA therapy or other intervention services or therapies.
  • Your child is excited and seeks out dog interactions.
  • Designate one adult Primary Handler for the service dog team, called
    the Third-Party Handler.
  • The Third-Party Handler must have the ability to independently complete Team Training, a hands-on training course and reside in our campus dorms in Sylmar, CA for 10 days.  Please visit our Team Training page to learn more.
  • Be prepared to share detailed information that pertains to eligibility including personal history, medical and mental healthcare history, and references.
  • Desire to utilize a service dog for public access and interaction.
  • Ability to provide a safe, loving, healthy and stable home for a service dog.
  • Ability to provide for the dog’s physical, psychological and financial needs.

PLEASE NOTE: The demand for a service dog far outweighs our available service dogs in training and we do not guarantee that every applicant will receive a dog.  We screen and interview applicants whose needs match the strengths and skills of our dogs.

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infographic service dog


The contact person for Admissions and Graduate Services is Hanna Belyea. To request an application packet for admission, please call (818) 833-6442, or email us at: