The 9 Worst Dog Breeds for a Child with Autism

And the characteristics to avoid

Jane Pardo
Updated February 22, 2023

Dogs make wonderful companions for kids with autism. Sometimes, a gentle furry buddy’s presence is all an autistic child needs to ease stressful moments.

However, not all dog breeds are suitable for kids on the autism spectrum.

If you have a loved one with autism, you must consider your child’s sensitivities when choosing the right breed. We created this list to help you avoid dog breeds that may not be a good match for your autistic child.

Characteristics of dog breeds not suitable for autistic kids

While most dogs provide valuable emotional and developmental support for autistic children, some breeds could bring more harm than good.

A study involving 13,700 Finnish pet dogs revealed significant differences among breeds in the occurrence of certain behaviors, including aggression.

  • For example, more than 10 percent of Miniature Schnauzers were aggressive to strangers.
  • In contrast, no more than 0.5 percent of Labrador Retrievers showed aggression toward strangers.

A study on canine behavioral problems in Japan unveiled that Chihuahuas and Miniature Dachshunds bark at noises inside the house more than other breeds. Pomeranians, Kaninchen Dachshunds, and Maltese dogs were also reported to exhibit excessive barking.

  • Environmental influences help shape a dog’s behavior.
  • However, genetic factors also come into play. Some breeds may be naturally predisposed to exhibit certain negative traits that make them less ideal for autistic kids.

Keep in mind the following negative characteristics to avoid when choosing a dog breed for your child:

  • Dogs that bark a lot: Many children with autism experience auditory sensitivity. Too much barking may irritate them and cause distress.
  • Overly fragile dogs: These dogs are not suitable for kids on the autism spectrum who commonly experience emotional outbursts.
  • Aggressive breeds: Some dogs may be prone to aggression, whether to people or other animals.
  • Overly energetic dogs: Some breeds have excessive energy levels, especially when they are puppies. Autistic children often have low endurance, stamina, and muscle tone. Your autistic child may be unable to keep up with an excessively energetic dog’s exercise and mental stimulation requirements.
  • Non-sociable dogs: Some breeds are territorial, aloof, and overprotective. They don’t like when strangers approach family members. The ideal dog for an autistic child loves kids and responds well to strangers.

9 worst dog breeds for children with autism

Here are nine of the worst dog breeds for autistic children and why they are not ideal choices.

1. Dachshund


Bred in Germany hundreds of years ago, Dachshunds originally hunted badgers. These short dogs are loyal, endearing companions but quite fragile.

Breed information

AKC classification: Hound
Height: 8 to 9 inches (standard), 5 to 6 inches (miniature)
Weight: 16 to 32 pounds (standard), less than 11 pounds (miniature)
Life expectancy: 12 to 16 years
Exercise needs: 20 to 40 minutes daily

  • They have a fragile disposition. Dachshunds have short bowed legs, a low silhouette, and a long back that leads to spinal problems. Your autistic child could inadvertently hurt this delicate dog breed. It’s important to pick up a dachshund carefully to prevent back pain and long-term disk issues. Running around while playing must be avoided.
  • They tend to bark, bite, and ignore commands. Dachshunds have a strong, big-dog bark. These small dog breeds require consistent, proper training to enforce obedience.
  • They can be feisty. Dachshunds can be rough playmates, as they originally hunted badgers for fun. They can bite and snap back at children when provoked. 

2. Siberian Husky

Siberian Husky

Siberian Huskies are outgoing and mischievous dogs. Originally bred for sled pulling, these classic northern dogs have a plush double coat and medium size. 

Breed information 

AKC classification: Working
Height: 20 to 23.5 inches
Weight: 35 to 60 pounds
Life expectancy: 12 to 14 years
Exercise needs: More than 40 minutes daily

  • Siberian Huskies are incredibly energetic and excitable. These fast, nimble-footed dogs are bred to run a lot. They need loads of mental stimulation and exercise. They will find ways to escape and sprint freely whenever they can. While they enjoy family life, they could unintentionally harm a child. They are sometimes triggered when children cry loudly or run around.
  • They are excessively loud. Huskies are known for being vocal, especially when upset or bored. They mournfully howl, which could annoy an autistic child who is sensitive to noise.
  • They are stubborn. Siberian Huskies are intelligent but independent and free-spirited. This means they require strict rules and are generally tough to train.
  • They have strong predatory instincts. Huskies cannot resist chasing small animals.
  • They are year-round shedders. Huskies shed a lot, and their fur is not hypoallergenic. A low-maintenance, light-shedding dog breed is more suitable for households with autistic children.

3. Chihuahua


Chihuahuas are tiny dogs with expressive eyes and a big personality. They are a national symbol of Mexico. These compact dogs are great for apartment living, although not ideal for homes with autistic children.

Breed information

AKC classification: Toy
Height: 5 to 8 inches
Weight: Up to 6 pounds
Life expectancy: 14 to 16 years
Exercise needs: Up to 30 minutes daily

  • They easily get injured. Chihuahuas are small and fragile, which leads to a higher risk of injury. Rough playing should be avoided. When not supervised carefully, children with ASD can accidentally fall on them, drop them, or squeeze them too hard.
  • They are temperamental. Chihuahuas may bark aggressively at strangers. They are feisty and fearless even when barking at dogs much bigger than them. 
  • They easily get jealous. These tiny dogs may growl when someone or something unlikeable approaches their human.

4. Italian Greyhound

Italian Grayhound

Italian greyhounds are gentle and friendly indoor dogs that require little exercise. However, they are extremely frail and prone to injuries.

Breed information

AKC classification: Toy
Height: 13 to 15 inches
Weight: 7 to 14 pounds
Life expectancy: 14 to 15 years
Exercise needs: Less than 20 minutes daily

  • Italian greyhounds are incredibly fragile and prone to health problems. While they don’t look delicate, these sweet-natured dogs break easily. The bones in their long, spindly legs fracture easily. Young puppies can even injure themselves when carelessly jumping off a bed. Fractured legs, torn ligaments, and dental diseases are typical in Italian greyhounds.
  • They are easily stressed. Loud noises and fast movements of children with ASD can scare Italian greyhounds and cause them to bite. These frail dogs suffer digestive issues and behavioral problems when distressed.
  • They are stubborn, independent, and hard to housebreak. Without patient crate training, some Italian greyhounds do not get fully housebroken.
  • They don’t like being left alone. When left alone for hours, Italian greyhounds may resort to destructive chewing.

5. Akita


Originating from an ancient Japanese lineage, Akitas are dignified and courageous dogs widely known for their unwavering devotion. These muscular, double-coated dogs have a noble stance and a powerful presence. However, they can be aggressive and stubborn.

Breed information

AKC classification: Working
Height: 24 to 28 inches
Weight: 70 to 130 pounds
Life expectancy: 10 to 14 years
Exercise needs: 1 to 2 or more hours daily

  • They are quite possessive with their things. Autistic children may not understand this peculiar trait of this dog breed. Akitas usually react badly if someone attempts to suddenly snatch their toys or touch their food during mealtime.
  • They have aggressive tendencies. Known for their strong guarding instincts, Akitas typically show aggression toward other dogs and people when they feel the need to protect. They can also become dangerous when mistreated, even accidentally.
  • They are powerful, headstrong, and challenging to train. Akitas are independent, intelligent, and domineering with a streak of stubbornness. They require strong leadership and long hours of positive training. Without strict discipline, they could disobey commands and destroy household items.
  • They do not tolerate teasing and silly behaviors. Akitas are generally stern and somber. They may not respond favorably when an autistic child behaves erratically, like pulling, squeezing, or teasing them.

6. Japanese Chin

Japanese chin dog

The Japanese Chin is a charming lapdog with a sweet, flat face and a lovely, silky coat. This regal toy breed is affectionate and playful. But it may not be the right choice for households with an autistic loved one due to its fragility and separation anxiety.

Breed information

AKC classification: Toy
Height: 8 to 11 inche
Weight: 7 to 11 pounds
Life expectancy: 10 to 12 years
Exercise needs: Less than 20 minutes daily

  • Japanese Chins are very frail. Their delicate nature means they are easy to injure. Accidentally stepping or sitting on a Japanese Chin can lead to severe injury. Like chihuahuas, Japanese Chins are brachycephalic. This term refers to dogs with short faces and small nostrils. Their narrow airways typically cause respiratory problems and heat intolerance.
  • They develop separation anxiety and resort to destructive behavior when left alone. These toy dogs need constant companionship. They may express their anxiety by chewing furniture and barking when left alone for hours.

7. Chow Chow

Chow chow

Chow Chows are aloof and dignified dogs with fluffy manes, large heads, and deep-set eyes. While these dogs look cuddly, they don’t like being fussed over or hugged.

Breed information

AKC classification: Non-sporting
Height: 17 to 20 inches
Weight: 45 to 70 pounds
Life expectancy: 8 to 12 years
Exercise needs: Less than 20 minutes daily

  • They can bite and attack when provoked. Chow Chows may get aggressive if someone bothers them while resting or taking a nap. They do not tolerate being roughhoused. Autistic children need a calm and gentle dog that responds well even when they get hyperactive.
  • They are antisocial and standoffish. Chow Chows are fiercely loyal. This unwavering loyalty means they do not respond well to strangers, other pets, and unfamiliar settings. They are highly territorial and protective of family members.

8. Australian Cattle Dogs

Australian Cattle Dog

Originally bred for cattle herding, Australian cattle dogs are extremely alert and intelligent. While they are devoted to their owners, they usually distrust strangers.

Breed information

AKC classification: Herding
Height: 17 to 20 inches
Weight: 35 to 50 pounds
Life expectancy: 12 to 16 years
Exercise needs: 1 to 2 hours daily

  • They are not sociable. These tenacious dogs are fiercely protective and loyal. They don’t bark a lot, but they can get aggressive with other dogs. 
  • They have strong herding instincts. Australian cattle dogs tend to assert dominance and display herding behaviors, involving nipping, toward children.
  • They are very energetic. These dogs need lots of mental and physical stimulation. Australian cattle dogs were bred to do demanding tasks. They tend to exhibit destructive behavior when bored.

9. Maltese


Maltese dogs are playful, charming, and gentle companions with fluffy white coats. But like chihuahuas, these diminutive lapdogs are too tiny for children with autism.

Breed information

AKC classification: Toy
Height: 7 to 9 inches
Weight: Up to 7 pounds
Life expectancy: 12 to 15 years
Exercise needs: Less than 20 minutes daily

  • They are delicate and inclined to bite when stressed. With a small, fragile body, a Maltese can get seriously injured when handled roughly. Maltese dogs may also resort to defensive biting when overwhelmed by the acute voices and abrupt movements of children. 
  • They are usually fickle eaters and notoriously hard to housebreak. Maltese dogs have a reputation for being one of the toughest breeds to housebreak.
  • They bark excessively. It’s generally hard to control the noisy barking of toy breeds. Barking serves as their defense mechanism as small dogs.


How do I avoid negative traits when choosing a puppy?

If you want a pet puppy, you can avoid negative traits by choosing an ethical breeder who knows the best breeds for children with ASD. Tell them about the personality of your autistic child, and ask for breed recommendations.

Is training critical to prevent negative traits in dogs?

Training is critical to raise a dependable, obedient dog. Teach your dog to respect your entire household and follow commands. You can have your pet dog house-trained or find a specially trained service dog.

Final thoughts

A well-trained and lovingly raised dog is excellent around autistic children. Your child will likely enjoy the companionship of an obedient dog with positive characteristics.

Take time to choose the right breed. The best dog for your child fits their personality, helps reduce their anxiety, and doesn’t trigger their sensitivities.

Once you’ve selected a dog, raise it well in a loving home and provide lots of socialization to bring out its best traits.

Besides dogs, we also recommend a few other pets for autistic kids. Check out our best pets for a child with autism.

Written by Jane Pardo

Jane Pardo

Jane Pardo is a senior contributing writer who lends insight into topics regarding pets for autistic children.