Assistance Dogs and Autism Ranking: Insufficient/Mixed evidence

Risks and Safety


There are some possible hazards involved in the use of assistance dogs, some of which are more likely to occur than others. These include

  • Injury to the child or family usually through biting or scratching but also psychological trauma if the child has a dog phobia or the use of the dog is uncontrolled.
  • Injury or psychological trauma to the dog by the child or family.

Because of this, some people advocate careful breeding of assistance dogs, using breeds which are known for their intelligence and placidity. Supervision is also essential in creating a placement that is safe and effective. It is important for the carers of any child to understand that their role is to ensure that the relationship between child and dog is consistently gentle and mutually enjoyable.

Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind recommends that children should not be left alone with a dog unsupervised.


There are some contraindications (something which makes a particular treatment or procedure potentially inadvisable) for assistance dogs. 

For example, assistance dogs may not be appropriate for some individuals and families who

  • Are allergic to dogs.
  • Have a phobia of dogs.
  • May hurt or frighten dogs, however inadvertently.
  • Cannot cope with the demands of dog ownership including costs, the effort and the logistics required to train and look after a dog on a long-term basis.

Placement within a family that already owns another dog, may be more complicated and requires specific care.

31 Jan 2019
Last Review
01 Jan 2019
Next Review
01 Jan 2022