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Thread: Breed suggestions for child with special needs?

  1. #1

    Default Breed suggestions for child with special needs?

    I work with children with special needs and one parent has asked my advice about getting a dog for their child.

    The child has a severe intellectual and physical disability. They are non-verbal (aged 4), but able to get around by 'bunny hopping' on knees. The child also has epilepsy which is generally well controlled. The child's mother says that the child loves a dog that belongs to an Aunt which is why they are looking at getting one. The family also have older children (teenagers)

    They are looking for a small-medium sized dog and one that is low / no shedding. The breed itself (or cross) would have to be known for being tolerant with children (although I recognise every dog is different and you can't predict the dog's personality).

    Any ideas for a pure or mixed bred that would fit into this type of family?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2013


    i'm not an expert as I don't have a dog yet but I'm getting a british bulldog because of their calm and loving temperament. From what you've described they would fit a lot of the criteria you need. Don't be put off by their scary appearance they are big big softies... From the research i've done about this breed and the limited experience I've had from attending dog shows they seem like the perfect dog.

    They are supposedly very patient and gentle with children (check out the youtube clips of children pulling tails, chewing ears and sitting on them while the bulldog just patiently ignores them), they are also a great size not too big not too small, good and stocky so a couple of bumps from a child with reduced motor skills isn't going to worry them. Not big barkers and don't get over excited which would be good to stay calm around a child with disabilities. They do shed but short haired and not a double coat so a bit of regular brushing apparently helps keep that under control.

    Getting one from a good breeder with genetic testing helps to prevent some of the common problems such as difficulty breathing etc. They don't like extreme hot or cold and you need to make sure they don't tire themselves out too much - won't need a lot of exercise, very much a companion dog, good for lots of hugs and kisses.

    Purebred aren't cheap though due to the expense of breeding (mums need a c-section to birth) I'm currently looking at a breeder who sells hers for $3000. This family might want to look for an older dog though rather than a puppy which will initially need a lot of attention and training. An older dog will have already settled down a lot, should already be house trained etc. Some breeders hang on to a couple of pups for showing then sell them when they are a bit older which would work well here.

    The big thing with all the bulldogs i've met is instant unconditional love, they just want to hug and kiss you all over. Good luck, having a dog is a great idea and if the child has a disability the family might want to contact their state's disability therapy dogs. They can help the family find a suitable breed and also work with the family to train the dog to be a therapy dog. If the dog is helping someone with a disability and they get trained and registered then they can go wherever a guide dog can go to assist the person throughout their daily tasks.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2012


    I had a friend who is wheelchair bound and she always has King Charles Cavalier spaniels. They seem to be perfect for her, they can be active or they can be quiet. Not sure about the shedding though as they have longish hair. They are affectionate and gentle. There could be a perfect rescue dog out there if they are prepared to take time to look.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2009


    There's a lady in a wheelchair who visits our local park who has a king Charles cavalier spaniel.

    They shed a bit but not much.

    Otherwise, maybe a bichon frieze.

    But what ever this lady gets - she needs to be fairly confident about training the dog to walk away from the child, and training the child not to poke the dog in the eyes or stab it with a pencil and etc.

    Most dogs I know that are with special needs children have been placed there by a therapy dog group who train the dog first and also the parents and maybe the child, and follow up with the dog and the training needs. Even the nicest breed of dog can be pushed in to self preservation mode by an aggressive child.

    But, maybe a dog similar to the Aunt's dog might also work. Sometimes a child who is familiar with a particular dog look is comfortable with that kind of dog, but completely freaked out by other dogs (smaller or bigger or just different looking).

    So the safest way to get the right dog would be to contact a therapy dog organisation. There are many different kinds of therapy dogs, from guide dogs, and dogs that provide an extra set of hands around the house for quadraplegics, to ones that provide companionship for autistic or epileptic children.

    But if you're relying on breed temperament - you must meet the parent dogs and confirm that they have nice and tolerant temperaments too.

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