How can a service dog help my autistic child?

An autistic child can develop a very strong bond with a service dog.
We believe that, because both the child and the dog often use non-verbal cues, they communicate with each other in a mutually familiar way. As a result, we see:

  • decreased stimming
  • lowered anxiety levels
  • less sensitivity to stimulus
  • more comfort in public situations
  • better sleeping
  • improved social interactions with peers

Children with service dogs also display a great sense of pride in their dogs.

Parents benefit as well. Whenever their child experiences a meltdown in public, others are far less quick to judge when they see the service dog’s bright blue vest.

What’s the difference between a service dog, and an emotional support animal?

According to the ADA definition, a service animal means any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. Tasks performed can include, among other things, pulling a wheelchair, retrieving dropped items, alerting a person to a sound, reminding a person to take medication, or pressing an elevator button.

Emotional support animals, comfort animals, and therapy dogs are not service animals under Title II and Title III of the ADA. Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are not considered service animals either. The work or tasks performed by a service animal must be directly related to the individual’s disability.

MTR dogs qualify as a SSigDOG (sensory signal dog or social signal dog). Our dogs are trained to assist a person with autism. For example, the dog alerts the handler to distracting repetitive movements common among those with autism, allowing the person to stop the movement (e.g., hand flapping).

For more on the Federal definition of service dogs, visit the ADA’s website.

What should I look for in a service dog organization?

Experience and diligence. You’ll benefit far more with a dog that can perform consistently and reliably. And the only way you’ll get that is by working with an organization that:

  1. has years of experience training dogs and recognizing their strengths and limitations
  2. takes the time to understand your family’s unique needs
  3. can identify the right dog for your home

Will your dogs keep my child safe from bolting, escaping, and eloping?

No. While autism service dogs do help keep your child safer, they should never be considered a reliable safety barrier. They are not trained to be guardian dogs. Beware of organizations that promise safety as a primary benefit of their dogs.

How much do service dogs cost?

Costs vary throughout the industry. Generally, costs are based on the level of training you need, the experience of the trainers, and the business acumen of the organization. If you would like to find out more about the current cost of training a Monkey Tail Ranch service dog, please contact Elise Lalor at elise@monkeytailranch.org.

Please note that while contributions may be given to The Monkey Tail Ranch on behalf of a particular child, those funds do NOT constitute a purchase.

How do you match the dog with the human?

We start by gathering information. That means we interview you, and ask a lot of questions, so we can identify your needs. We also suggest services or tasks you may not have considered. We look at your situation from a dog’s perspective, as well, to ensure that we can get it to perform the tasks you require.

While we have experience working with dozens of breeds, we most often use labrador retrievers from a specific breeder with whom we’re very familiar. This allows us to assess the strengths of each litter and do our best to match you with a dog likely to meet your goals.

What happens to the dogs that don’t qualify as service dogs?

They become family dogs. Service dogs are amazing animals with very unique skills. Only a few puppies from each litter possess the special traits necessary to be a service dog. For those pups who don’t enter our Service Dog Training Program, we simply shift them into our fully-trained family dog program.

If we already have a good dog, can you train it to be a service dog?

It’s unlikely. The qualities we look for are so rare that we jokingly refer to the dogs who possess them as “unicorns.” However, we’re happy to evaluate your dog and determine if he or she has the necessary potential.

What happens when you deliver our service dog?

We begin the transition. When your dog is between twelve and twenty-four months old, we accompany the dog to your home so we can ease the transition process for both your family and your service dog. We explain what your dog learned while with us, and we train you and your family to properly handle him or her. That includes practicing basic obedience problem solving, and public access skills. If appropriate, we also work with your school and your aides.

What is your lifetime training guarantee?

It’s a promise. Delivering the dog to your home is just the beginning of our relationship. We partner only with families who commit to a dog for life. In turn, we commit ourselves to you and your dog for life.

Because we know these dogs so intimately, we can often resolve problems quickly. And as long as we feel our partnership is mutual, we will continue to work with you, via phone consultations and follow-up lessons, free of charge.

Do you train dogs for other disabilities or special needs?

We’re glad you asked. While we specialize in autism and anxiety disorder service dogs, we have experience training service dogs for a host of different disabilities and special needs. Give us a call, and we’ll discuss your needs. If we can’t help, we’ll refer you to an organization that can.

What support do families receive?

While the dog is a working service dog, the Monkey Tail Ranch will pay routine medical expenses for the dog. We will also board the dog for free if you need to go out of town without your service dog. Most importantly, we offer a lifetime training guarantee, where we will work with you to ensure the dog is performing as needed to help your child.

Who owns the service dog?

The Monkey Tail Ranch maintains ownership of all dogs during their service life. We require families to pass a public access test at time of placement, one year later, and every three years thereafter. Upon retirement of the service dog, the family may be given the option to adopt/take ownership of the dog or retire them to the ranch.

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