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

Autism Assistance Dogs Overview


The Autism Assistance Dogs Programme for Families of Children with Autism is designed to provide quality of life improvements to the Autistic child and their family. The intervention is based on the principle of providing a fully trained dog to the parents and the autistic child.

Once a dog has been matched with a child ADNI provide training and support to the parent(s) to ensure that the dog works to the maximum of its abilities. Due to funding restrictions the cut off age is 11 years old, as it takes 12-14 months to train the Assistance Dog. The programme offers Autism Anchor Dogs and Autism Companion Dogs.

While no autistic child is typical, the behaviours exhibited can lead to isolation, (lack of interaction with family, siblings, other people), mobility issues, sociability issues, lack of awareness of danger and limits. In these circumstances for the parents and family members, the general feeling and quality of life is one of high stress, lack of “normality” in social situations, (not being able to go shopping, restaurant, travel, leisure.)  There are real issues of safety with their children having a high tendency to bolt in open spaces.

Our Autism Assistance  dogs brings independence not just for the child but for their parents.  The companionship, confidence and independence that an Autism Assistance Dog offers an autistic child empowers the child to participate in education, social and leisure activities, reduces the stress associated with interacting with other people and getting involved in social situations.  Parents have spoken of how the trained Autism Assistance Dog has moderated their child’s behaviours which has left them feeling less isolated in social settings. Families report being able to participate in the ‘normal’ activities that families do.

Assistance Dogs  are provided free to our families however there will be some initial costs involved such as the purchase of a dog crate. Click Here . However the recipient’s are requested to participate in fundraising and other appropriate functions for the Charity as we receive no government funding and it costs the Charity £5,000 to train each Assistance Dog.

The Charity offers families two means of obtaining an Autism Assistance Dog.

  • Placement of a fully trained Autism  Assistance Dog
  • An Assistance Dog through the Family Member Fostering Programme

Placement of a fully trained Autism Assistance Dog

This 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 10 to 12 months to train and 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 socialization 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 a fortnightly basis at the start moving on to attending the weekly training classes. 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 pup using the relevant commands.

Where possible recipient families will care for their pup 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.

The Charity receives no government funding and we rely on fundraising and grants in order to provide these ‘life-changing’ dogs. At present we have no specific funding stream to provide Autism Assistance Dogs to children and adults over the age of twelve.

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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