A night of music by James Bradley in aid of Assistance Dogs Northern Ireland.

Autism Anchor Dogs Programme


Please note that we are not currently accepting applications for trained Autism Assistance Dogs.

This programme places fully trained Assistance Dogs within homes. It takes approximately 12 to 14 months to train these dogs. The Charity provides Autism Anchor Assistance Dogs and Autism Companion Assistance Dogs.

-Taking on either a fully-trained Autism Anchor/ Companion Assistance Dog is a big undertaking. Life caring for child(ren) with Autism is challenging in the first instance. If there are additional on-going stressors, such as children changing medication, work or school tribunal’s , relationships ending or having additional caring roles for parents. Adding a dog into the mix is not advisable.

Whilst the dog is fully trained , it is an additional workload and our assistance dogs have their needs to be met such as:

  • Exercised for at least one hour a day regardless of the weather
  • Groomed daily
  • Fed and cared for
  • Training maintained

Please be advised that it is essential that you read through all documents carefully to ensure your family and child fulfil the necessary criteria to be able to pursue your application. It is vital that both parents/guardians are in agreement to the application. If you are interested in progressing, complete the Application Form and return by recorded delivery in order to ensure the arrival of your application form.

The Autism Assistance Dog Programme relies on our ADNI Foster Volunteers, who take on the full-time responsibility of caring for and training an ADNI puppy. Training takes approximately 12 to 14 months to train it is a 24/7 commitment. Foster carers attend a weekly puppy training class which lasts approximately one hour. As the puppies grow training extends to outside the training hall. This socialisation training is a vital component of the dogs training. At present training classes are in Belfast, other venues can be arranged throughout Northern Ireland, subject to acquiring adequate numbers of foster carers.

When the puppies are approximately 5 months old the recipient family are introduced to our ADNI Dog Training classes. Attendance at these classes is required on either on a weekly or fortnightly basis.

An ADNI puppy will be identified for the family (however sometimes changes will have to be made). Initially at the training classes you will be observing the foster carer and your puppy, and gradually you will be taught how to control the trainee pup/dog using the relevant commands.

Assistance Dogs NI

Where possible recipient families will care for their pup/dog over a week-end, this will give families the opportunity to experience first hand the commitment and work involved in having an Assistance Dog within the family home.

It will allow families the opportunity to make an informed decision whether they want to proceed with their application. Throughout the whole process you will be supported by ADNI.

Benefits cited by parents include

After my child attempted to bolt, the dog did not move so then neither did my child, thus saving my child’s life.

I simply guided my child back to hold his dog and he did so without any fuss.  In the past if my child had  run off, it would have resulted in me chasing them and  him kicking and screaming when bringing him back.

Family used to find shopping and walking negative experiences, so they would avoid them altogether.

Now they say it is great to be part of the community again.

Parents noted how much the child loves the dog, my child is helping them to feed the dog every day.

My child even brushes the dog’s hair and now allows his parents to brush his hair, which would have been an impossible task in the past.

Child found the concept of possessives (who owns what) easier to learn when his dog’s items were introduced first as he knows his dog’s items so well.

Children are more adaptable to change since receiving the dog.

By giving commands through the dog, children accepts redirection with minimal fuss.

Parents noted how child’s spontaneous speech has improved since being partnered with the dog.

We have four types of Assistance dogs - Autism Assistance and Autism Companion Dogs, Disability Assistance Dogs and Therapy Dogs.

Click on an image below for more information.

Autism Companion Dogs

Assisting individuals to gain more independence.

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Disability Assistance Dogs

Learn how our dogs can help full-time wheelchair users.

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Therapy Dogs

Exceptional dogs bringing comfort and happiness to people.

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