Poodles as Autism Therapy Dogs

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People who are interested in poodles as autism therapy dogs should know that these dogs are wonderful, happy, and intelligent animals that are competent in this capacity. Their ability to learn quickly and their loyal personality makes them good candidates for this important role.

There are many types of therapy dogs that are trained for supportive roles, and poodles are ones that can be wonderful with both children and adults who have autism.

What are Autism Therapy Dogs?

An autism therapy dog is an animal that supports someone who has Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).  They are able to provide:

  • Increased safety – lessens the threat of wandering
  • Control of the person with ASD by having control over the dog
  • Teaching responsibility
  • Reduce aggression and frustration in the person with ASD
  • Provide comfort around change and upset
  • Help with sleep issues
  • Help with social interactions
  • Aid in communication
  • Reduce social stress and allowing participation in school, work and leisure time

A bond between the poodle and their owner means they can often head off volatile and unsafe situations. They create a safe, loving, and learning environment for the person with autism.

These dogs are different than service and emotional support dogs. They are trained by not as thoroughly as service dogs are. They are to give support and comfort rather than fulfill actual jobs such as opening doors etc.

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Rights of Autism Therapy Dogs

Autism therapy dogs have expanded rights compared to everyday pets as they offer support and stability to those who have them for support of ASD. These poodles who are trained in this capacity are a type of emotional support and need to be on hand for their human, especially in stressful and troubling situations. They are able to have certain liberties in this supporting capacity when it comes to accessibility with the person they are supporting. They can:

  • By-pass no pet policies in rental housing
  • Fly with their owners
  • Do both of these things for free

Why Do Poodles Make Good Autism Therapy Dogs?

Being an autism therapy dog can work for any size poodle since the most important characteristic of support is an even and good temperament which poodles have. They are friendly, patient, gentle, and at ease in most situations and also love human contact, which fits perfectly as characteristics needed by an autism therapy dog. Although toy and miniature poodles may have some issues with the physical support of an individual, they are perfect for individuals who simply need an animal to give them comfort and calming. Once a person with ASD is assessed for their particular needs, then the type of poodle is easier to choose.

Training to be an Autism Therapy Dog

Autism therapy dogs do not need extensive training that service dogs do but do need more than support dogs. They need to be very well socialized and leash trained along with learning some specific techniques when dealing with the owners that are ASD. They will be required to:

  • Be friendly with a stranger
  • Sit for petting
  • Touch feet and ears without reacting
  • Walk on a loose leash
  • Walk-in a crowd with no negative reaction
  • Sit, down and stay when told
  • Come when called
  • Behave when approached by another dog
  • Little reaction to distractions. Focus on their job not things around them

Training Requirements

Training can be done by yourself or by a professional trainer once you know how in-depth it has to be for the particular ASD owner. If you are going to take on this task, whether with a puppy or older dog, do you will need to:

  • Set aside a regular time each day for learning
  • Keep sessions short and interactive
  • Consistency – When you work with your poodle, correct them for things they do wrong and given lots of praise for things that are done properly
  • Keep things simple – Introduce one act at a time, so it’s not confusing
  • Praise is the most important interaction! Your Poodle is a people pleaser, so give them lots of love and praise
  • Never, ever use physical retribution – the word NO can correct wrong behavior, but aggressiveness and cruelty will not work other than to instill fear
  • Don’t start too early. Your Poodle needs to be old enough to understand basic manners learned then move on to the more complex autism therapy training

Once trained by either yourself or a professional trainer, it will be important to have treats handy for praise when your poodle has done a difficult job or gone above and beyond in helping the person they are assisting.

Treats such as Zukes Mini Naturals Peanut Butter Treats are tasty, small treats that are easy to carry and allow quick praise when your therapy dog has done well.

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Items to Help Travel & Positive Reinforcement

Once your poodle is trained as an autism therapy dog, you will have to make sure you have the proper items for when you are out in the neighborhood as well as traveling afar. A proper leash and collar are essential when your poodle is supporting their human no matter what the Poodles size is.

Trying a No Pull Harness or a Buckle-Down Collar will help both the person and dog interact safely at school, work, or leisure. They keep the dog close for support. Some standard poodles can be fitted with a special harness, but this will have to be assessed on a person to person basis.

If you are going farther than regular walking distance, then you will need to make sure your therapy poodle has comfort items for both car and flight safety. It’s important to bring:


Poodles are good pets but even better autism therapy dogs, not just for children but adults. Whether they are toy size and are carried around for support or standard size that can take more of a physical role, they both have the character and intelligence needed to thrive in this important role.

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