You calm me


Service Dogs for Children with Autism act as constant companions to children with autism to help them improve social interactions and relationships, expand verbal and nonverbal communication, teach life skills, increase interest in activities and decrease stress within the family. A PAWS Dog doesn’t pass judgment, but breaks into the world of autism and becomes a crucial part of the family’s life.


Determine if you qualify for a PAWS Dog for Autism


Learn what to expect with a PAWS Dog for Autism


Frequently asked questions about PAWS Dog for Autism


LEWIS helps Elliot and his family sleep peacefully


Applications are open January 8th-March 29th, 2024.


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“Elliot willingly goes to bed now with LEWIS, who models for Elliot how to relax. LEWIS sleeps in bed right next to Elliot and now he pets LEWIS and soothes himself back to sleep when he wakes in the middle of the night. Because of LEWIS, we are sleeping with a peace that’s eluded us for years.”
– Daniel, Parent of PAWS Service Dogs for Children with Autism Client

Daniel and Dorene Taylor have two young boys – Elliot, who’s seven, and Owen, who’s nearly six. Parents, especially those with little ones, know that a sleepless night now and then is “normal.” But the Taylors’ son Elliot has autism and that makes for a very different “normal.”

Daniel explained, “Bedtime in our house was a constant struggle. We would often have to hold Elliot to help his body shut down at night. He’d wake up at the slightest noise and then Dorene or I would have to go lay down with him so he’d go back to sleep.”

The frequent restless nights easily fed into difficult mornings getting Elliot up and regular tantrums from him during the day.

Both Daniel and Dorene have worked in the Special Education field, so they were more prepared than many to accommodate Elliot’s needs. Even then, stress was inevitable. It was a chance encounter with a stranger a few months after Elliot’s diagnosis that spurred Daniel to investigate Service Dogs for Children with Autism (SDA).

His search quickly led him to PAWS. The family applied and was accepted into our SDA pilot program and they recently welcomed home LEWIS, a mixed Yellow Lab/Golden Retriever.

Almost immediately, Daniel shared, life was different. “It seems ironic to say a two-year-old Lab is bringing calm to a home, but he truly is. The relationship that’s forming between Elliot and LEWIS is remarkable to see. Elliot willingly goes to bed now with LEWIS, who models for Elliot how to relax. LEWIS knows that at the end of the day when it is dark outside and playtime and work time is done, we should be laying down to rest. LEWIS sleeps in bed right next to Elliot and now he pets LEWIS and soothes himself back to sleep when he wakes in the middle of the night. Because of LEWIS, Dorene and I are sleeping with a peace that’s eluded us for years.”

In the morning, Daniel typically takes LEWIS outside, plays with him and practices commands. The tasks may be simple, but their effect has been profound: “I’m finding that when LEWIS and I get that time together in the morning, I am a better person to my wife and sons,” Daniel said.

“In my work,” he continued, “I’ve often seen families split up from the unimaginable stress of raising kids with special needs. I know Elliot is benefiting from having LEWIS in a whole host of ways. Believe me when I say that if a dog can strengthen a family, help a husband love his wife and both of them to love their children well, then that dog has done the most important work there is. To everyone at PAWS who never get thanked enough, here is another believer in the work you do.”



To be eligible for a PAWS Service Dog, an individual must:

  • Be 4-12 years old: application received by 7th birthday; needs assessment completed by 9th birthday; placement prior to 12th birthday
  • Be in an ongoing education program
  • Be in a speech, physical, occupational or recreational therapy program
  • Can be a “runner”
  • Have excellent family support
  • Have a parent or guardian trained as a facilitator; sibling facilitators need to be 18 years or older. Please note that in a two-parent household both parents are required to attend two, three-hour training classes prior to the placement of the dog, in most cases these trainings will be within your home.
  • Have the ability to train with their dog a minimum of one hour a day during team training
  • Have no other dog in the home (can have other animals)
  • Live in an area serviced by a PAWS Field Rep (determined upon application)

If the applicant is younger than PAWS’ minimum age, visit for a list of other ADI programs that may train for younger children.

While Paws With A Cause has established eligibility criterion for the types of Assistance Dogs we provide, we do not discriminate against any applicant based on race, color, creed, gender, religion, marital status, age, nationality, physical or mental disability, medical condition, sexual orientation, citizenship status, military service status or any other consideration as indicated by federal, state or local laws.



Paws With A Cause works hard to ensure each client is matched with an Assistance Dog that enhances their quality of life and independence. We know this is an ongoing process, which is why we strive to help each Assistance Dog Team prosper before, during and after certification.


The search for a client’s dog match begins as soon as their Needs Assessment has been accepted. Our goal is to make the strongest possible match for each client in the “waiting pool.” Many factors are considered when evaluating a possible client-dog pairing. Depending on the individual client, and the particular qualities of each available PAWS Dog-in-Training, it may take up to two years to find the right match for their needs, temperament, and lifestyle.


Once a client is matched, training begins. During these 3-6 months, trainers review a client’s needs assessment and video to custom-train the Assistance Dog for tasks to enhance a client’s independence and quality of life. PAWS’ training standards exceed the industry average. If a dog is unable to meet PAWS’ training standards, the client will be matched with another compatible PAWS Dog as soon as possible.


When training at PAWS Headquarters is complete, the Assistance Dog is placed with the client in their home and team training begins. Over the next 4-8 months, a PAWS Field Rep helps the client learn how to work with their Assistance Dog in the home, workplace, school, etc. When the client and PAWS Dog are working well together, the Field Rep videotapes them performing their tasks. This video is reviewed by PAWS Client Services and once approved, the Assistance Dog Team is certified and ownership of the PAWS Dog transfers to the client.

Assistance Dog Teams are tested and recertified every 24 months to ensure they continue to work well together. Follow up is conducted on alternate years or whenever a client needs additional assistance.


After certification, PAWS remains available for support. Clients may contact PAWS Client Services at any time if extra training is needed, whether it’s a new task or retraining of an existing task. Assistance Dog Teams are also recertified every 24 months to ensure they are working at the required proficiency of PAWS and ADI.

When an Assistance Dog retires or passes away, PAWS clients are eligible to apply for a Successor Dog. If accepted, priority is given to successor clients for available Assistance Dogs.

Please note: A PAWS Assistance Dog will not be placed in a home with another dog unless it is a retired PAWS Dog or working Assistance Dog from an ADI or IGDF-accredited agency for someone else in the household. It has been our experience that other dogs in the home interfere with the bonding and training of the Assistance Dog Team.


Please see our Assistance Dog FAQs here.