Things to Consider Before Obtaining an Autism Service Dog

Written by Michelle O'Neil on April 26th, 2010


1) It costs money to fund raise and go to service dog training. 

We obtained Riley’s dog through an organization called 4 Paws for Ability. Through the generosity of friends, family, neighbors, blog readers and our community we raised 11 thousand dollars in order to obtain Jingle for Riley. Free dog for us, right? Hold up.

We also paid almost $2500 out of pocket for our ten day hotel stay during training, fund raising efforts, hall rental for the benefit concert held, food and door prizes,(though much was also donated), and postage and supplies for several mass mailings. The list goes on and on.

Many families fund raise for these additional expenses. We had the means, and people had already been so generous we felt we could not ask for more donations. But Jingle did not come “free” to us.

2) A service dog is still a dog. They are not robots. They are not slaves. They will not behave perfectly all the time, especially if you don’t continue to work with them.

3) It will take a while for your child’s dog to respect you and trust you, and mind you consistently. 

4) Positive praise always works better than negative, (you know, like with children).

5) People will give you unsolicited advice, about whether they think your child needs the dog or not, and later about what training methods you are using with the dog. A thick skin is required.

6) People will stop you endlessly to ask questions once you have your child’s dog. This is mostly cool, but some days you won’t feel like being the service dog ambassador. Some days you’ll wish you could just read your book while your children take dance lessons.

7)  You don’t own your child’s dog. Technically, Jingle is the proud property of 4 Paws for Ability. We must send in yearly paperwork, complete with vet check reports and proof we’ve actually been working her as a service animal. If Jingle gets lost, her microchip doesn’t give our #, they call 4 paws.

8) There is no guarantee your dog will be allowed in your child’s school and you might face a big legal battle if you decide to go that route. We opted to homeschool for this and other reasons. 

9) Most people we meet are loving,curious, accepting,welcoming and thrilled about service dogs.

10) You will have no idea how great it is, watching your child bond with their dog. We find out a lot about what’s going on in Riley’s mind, by listening to her speak in “Jingle’s” voice. They get closer every day. It’s a beautiful thing, and totally worth it.

Lots of kids are still waiting for their dogs. Read their stories here if you’d like to help.


2 Comments so far ↓

  1. Eileen says:

    I know what you mean about constantly being a service dog ambassador. I’ve had to learn to ignore the people blatantly talking to each other about me and my dog, because if I turned and answered them every time I’d never get anywhere. If they talk TO me of course I will answer, but I try to keep it short. I know one woman who created a personal service dog brochure, with info about service dogs, what they can do, how to act around them, and some quick info on what her dog specifically does. She passes them out when people ask questions, so she doesn’t constantly have to be going over and over the same things.

  2. Chloes Mom Mary says:

    We also know how tiring it can be to contantly be a good service dog ambassador.

    The idea of a brochure sounds interesting – I made up little cards for my daughter for these situations that can be so overwhelming…unfortunately she does not remember she has them when overwhelmed.

    At the end of the day, it is always worth it for the wonderful things in which our Service Dog does for our daughter :-)