What are autism assist dogs (smart pups) and what are the benefits for autistic children?

What are autism assist dogs (smart pups) and what are the benefits for autistic children?

Autism assist dogs also known as smart pups are individually trained dogs meant to provide assistance for autistic children in Australia. Dogs that are chosen and trained to be autism assist dogs are calm, friendly, and show absolutely no signs of aggression toward strange people. They are taught for good etiquettes in public, including not jumping on or sniffing people, and not barking unnecessarily. This level of simple training is the complete expertise that smart pups are equipped with.

Smart pups can be used as therapy dogs, companion dogs or safety dogs. For therapy purposes, a smart pup is used during lessons to facilitate learning. For companion purposes, an assist dog lives with the family as well as spends most of its day interacting with the autistic child. Autism assist dogs help with social, emotional, behavioural, and sensory challenges in the child. These dogs serve as a social ice breaker, because other people are often attracted to dogs, and will interact more readily with the autistic child.

Australian autistic children really open up and interact with a service dog. The service dogs possess obedience training as well as training for public access. Autism assist dogs usually have additional training that focuses specifically on the needs of the autistic child for whom it has been matched.

Assist dogs are also trained to provide maximum safety for children with autism. As far as safety is concerned, the dogs are highly trained and are used with children with life-threatening autism who tend to run away. The autistic child is tied to the dog and the assist dog turn out to be a protector of sorts for the autistic child. Service dogs meant to provide maximum safety are used carefully in order to avoid stressing the dog. These dogs need time off to play and just be a dog. They are trained that when the service dog vest is on; then, it is working time and it provides all its services to the child.

Unlike other service dogs, autism service dogs work in a triadic relationship; although, the dogs usually are attached to autistic child via a tethering system, they receive instructions from parents. This is a good thing because parents can easily manage the safety of their children through the dogs. The presence of autism assist dog in a family with an autistic child is essential. The dog facilitates improvements in the child’s gross motor skills along with a decrease in the frequency of behavioural tantrums and anxiety. Most autistic children learn to hold a smart pup’s harness and become reliable in not letting go.

Autism assist dog will always alert the parents whenever an autistic child engages in certain dangerous activities, including climbing onto furniture or window ledges. One of the most significant features of autism assist dogs is that they tend to have a special bond with autistic children. Despite the fact that it takes a significant amount of time before the bond manifests itself, the overall benefit is the child’s greatest companion. Apart from maintaining the child’s safety, the dog engages in playing activities with the child.


1) Autism assist dogs: http://www.smartpups.org.au/services/autism-assist-dogs

2) Smart Pups changing lives – Jack’s story: http://sunnycoastkids.com.au/news/smart-pups-changing-lives-%E2%80%93-jack%E2%80%99s-story/

3) Smart Pups: http://www.smartpups.org.au/faq