Service Dogs in the Classroom























Service dogs were found to reduce stress hormones in children with
autism (Viau et al., 2010)


What is Autism? 

  • Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and autism are both general terms for a group of complex disorders of brain development. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors.

What are service dogs?

  • The presence of an animal reduces children’s physiological arousal and behavioral distress (Nagengast, Baun, Megel, & Leibowitz, 1997)
    Pets help develop nurturing behaviors and perceived competence in younger children (Melson, Peet, & Sparks, 1991)

Four Major Areas of Intervention for Service Dogs

1. Safety: dog will retrieve child, secure child in dangerous situations, alert
parents to unusual/dangerous behaviors (e.g., child climbing out of window,
child’s extreme emotional intensity)

2. Socialization: dog generates positive public interactions, eye-contact, rehearsed
information about the dog, peer group engagement, child’s understanding of dog’s
emotional states and an understanding of his/her own emotions

3. Verbalization: dog in public generates give-and-take conversations, child gives commands
to the dog

4. Interrupting Maladaptive Behavior: dog redirects child’s focus, interrupts behaviors (e.g.,
self-stimulating, aggression), initiates petting/stroking to calm child, provides deep
pressure (e.g., weight against child)

- Service dogs increase safety and security within the home and in public and,
among other positive effects, parents report their children “just seem happier”
(Burrows, Adams, & Spiers, 2008, p. 1645)


Articles connecting personal testaments to show that service dogs are a very powerful resource.  Each article relates to the four major areas of intervention service dogs provide. 






This is a clip about a 9 and a half year old boy who has many issues aside from being autistic.  A golden retriever service dog was placed into the family and has been a wonderful asset to the family. The dog is trained to find their son when he ‘escapes’ the house which is one of his many problems.  New Leash On Life is the program that Tender Loving Canines has come up with for children that have severe autism and may be a danger to themselves.  This program insures that these children are watched 24/7 by a canine companion who is trained for many likely situations and who is trained to assist at all times.  These dogs are a true blessing and provide not only safety, and peace of mind, but companionship, and friendship for a child who may never experience these things otherwise.




SOCIALIZATION "Service dogs help son, dad deal with Asperger's" by the Winchester Star Link:




This article is one about a father and son who were both diagnosed with Aspergers - which is a high functioning type of autism. While they are very intelligent and capable; they suffer from meltdowns due to stress and anxiety. Son Nathan was diagnosed at 9 or 10, his father was diagnosed shortly after since Aspergers is a genetic condition. Nathan used to be bullied and found it hard to be himself before getting his service dog Sylvia. Now he is able to be in clubs and in community theater groups - things that before having Sylvia would have been impossible. His father Ramon is a teacher at the local college. His stress is brought on by large crowds around him and it was getting to the point where it would adversely affect his health. Now, when Nathan feels a meltdown coming on, Sylvia will climb into his lap and soothe him, and when students surround Ramon after class with questions, Coriander will move in between him and the encroaching throng to calm his anxiety.  “Our service dogs allow us to be more independant” say the father and son in the article.  This is the most important thing that a service dog can provide; independence and safety for someone who otherwise would have a harder time coping.









This article talks about a service dog named Fern who watches after two special little boys - Justin 11, and Jacob 9 - who both have autism. They both have very different needs and Fern can distinguish what to do for each child.  When Justin spirals into a melt down Fern presses her body against him to calm him down. However, when Jacob melts down he tries to run away. He will kick and hit adults who try to stop him but he doesn’t mind when Fern stops him. Their mother says that their household is much calmer and less stressful now that they have a service dog.


VERBAL An article on this page is about a 3 year old girl who had verbal communication abilities but chose not to use them until a wonderful service dog named Harley came into her life.  He was able to open doors that no adult could. Within weeks she was giving her new best friend the commands to sit, stay, come etc.  She could also be found at any time of the day whispering all of her secrets into his ear.  While many would like to know the secrets of a 3-year-old with autism, it may take awhile for her to open up to other people.  But, she can rest safe knowing her service dog Harley will never give them up.




Resources to connects schools and families with service dogs

One of the main programs that New Leash on Life provides is:The Lend A Paw (LAP) Program provides assistance and therapy dogs to enhance the lives of individuals experiencing physical, mental, emotional or life challenges. Lend a Paw volunteer handlers and their dogs regularly visit schools, nursing homes and other care facilities to provide healing for the patients and students. This program offers a benefit to animal overpopulation problem by utilizing mixed breed dogs rescued from local shelters instead of relying on additional breeding to produce certified therapy dogs.

As the founding agency of autism assistance dogs with tracking they continue to provide the highest quality of dogs to every child who applies. 4 Paws, unlike almost every other agency does not pick and choose whose child will get a dog. As long as the child’s physician approves the dog and it is safe to place a dog in the home, no family is turned away. They continue their services with no long waiting lists and continue as always to “partner” with families to provide the autism service dog their child needs.

In addition, their online group for 4 Paws Families has a membership of 100+ families. With a group of families, all either having, or in the process of obtaining a service dog from our agency, all in one place with access to each other it is obvious that our families love their dogs and are very happy with our autism service dogs.