Charity (no. 1181615)

Dogs for Autism

"Enriching Lives, Expanding Horizons"

Who We Help, Why We Help & the Difference It Makes

Dogs for Autism is the first charity in the UK to specialise in dogs for autism, and the only charity to provide dogs to autistic people of any age, anywhere in the UK.  Our work is bespoke to each autistic person as their needs are very different, and we support across the spectrum, from the non-verbal with complex learning difficulties, to high achieving university students.

Dogs for Autism was set up in 2018 by Hilary, a qualified dog trainer, animal behaviourist and special needs teacher, who specialised in teaching autistic students with additional learning disabilities.  She is also the mother of an autistic son and, unable to access an assistance dog through any of the existing charities, she used her experience to ‘owner-train’ her son’s first dog.  This was the catalyst for setting up Dogs for Autism. Hilary’s background gives her a unique knowledge of the challenges that families face and the way that a dog can be trained to mitigate the challenges of autism.

The cost of providing and training one new dog for one year is £14,000, with costs for the second year at around £7,000.  To put this into perspective, however, each dog will be with the autistic partner for around ten years with very few ongoing costs, making the overall cost around £20,000 for ten years of support. 

Our model is different from other assistance dog organisations as we match a puppy with an autistic person from a very young age.  The dog will live with a professional dog trainer for the initial 18 months to 2 years for intensive and bespoke training, and during this time there will be weekly bonding sessions with the autistic person, before the dog is ready to live with their partner full time.  This enables strong relationships to build over time and the autistic person to see the benefits of their dog from the start of the process.

With each Autism Assistance dog that we place we aim to:

Improve communication skills and motivate speech and language efforts

De-escalate anxieties and calm difficult behaviours

Encourage social engagement by keeping autistic children and adults safe      in  public places and enabling families to access the outside world.

In some cases, our Autism Assistance Dogs will enable young people to attend school or university again.

“Thanks to Poppy’s healing ability my daughter has just been put on roll at a school for the first time in 4 years! She has started with a new post 16 education centre which is split into online home sessions as well as small group sessions in the centre. This has only been achieved because of Poppy and her ability to calm my daughter and support her so thank you.”

“If I didn't have Lilly, this lockdown would've been a nightmare and any aspiration I have at the moment for doing my uni work, or anything similar to that, would be non-existent.” 

Our Services Are


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What We Do

Autism is a lifelong disability which affects how people communicate and interact with the world, leading to anxiety and isolation for the whole family. Research has shown that dogs can enable people to access the world around them and to enhance their emotional and physical wellbeing, and in a study 88% of families reported that a dog brought significant benefits to their lives. Many families we have spoken to have been trying unsuccessfully for years to find an autism assistance dog and are desperate for help.

“In the first lockdown I didn’t leave the house for 13 weeks.  I didn’t even go in the garden.  But when we had Lola I was going out every day, we were going for about an hour walk with her.

She doesn’t judge me; she doesn’t think I’m odd because I think differently than other people or I react differently to certain situations than other people, or because my brain just works entirely differently.  She just gets it.”

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If you would like to help with fundraising, please contact our Volunteer Fundraiser Coordinator at [email protected]

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Additional Info

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