4 min read


Can Dogs Help with ADHD?



4 min read


Can Dogs Help with ADHD?


Sometimes it seems like dogs have a sixth sense. They have a wonderful ability to create a comforting environment that can calm any level of nerves. We love our dogs unconditionally, and they love us, too. 

There are many types of dogs that can assist in a variety of tasks. From getting the morning paper to helping clean the house, dogs are capable of assisting their humans with a great number of things. But what about serious behavioral problems? Can dogs help with ADHD? 


Signs that a Dog is Detecting ADHD

Dogs do help with ADHD in a variety of ways. They know how to make use of their five senses, and they put them to work. Most of the time, they are using their amazing capabilities in order to better serve the humans they love so much. Dogs can use their sense of smell to detect an increase in sweat production. This tells your dog that you are active and getting anxious or fidgety. 

Your dog can provide help with this by being calm and consistent for you. Dogs can create a stability that is needed during times of hyperactivity. Having a dog helps to calm nerves and maintain focus. 

Dogs help with ADHD according to their personality and breed. However, when dogs know their owner is distressed, they will often try their best to provide comfort and support in order to help bring their owner back to the moment instead of getting carried away in racing thoughts. 

In order to calm their owners, dogs may put a paw on their leg or lean in for cuddles. Dogs will provide comfort by acting calm and relaxed. They may place their head on your lap or tilt their head at you. If your dog knows you need comfort, you will notice that they are more attentive to you rather than being focused on themself. 

Body Language

Here are some signs you might notice if your dog is sensing your ADHD:

  • Staring
  • Head Tilting
  • Listening
  • Wag Tail
  • Dropped Ears

Other Signs

These are some signs you might notice when your dog is sensing ADHD:

  • Relaxing Their Head On You
  • Putting A Paw On You
  • Comforting You

The History of Dogs Helping with ADHD


The dogs that we know and love today come from a long, long line of amazing ancestors. Dogs have a rich history that began over 15,000 years ago, when their wolf ancestors began a friendship with humans. Wolves and humans had a mutual need for each other. 

Humans needed wolves for hunting help and to protect the community. Wolves needed humans for shelter and food. When humans were done with their food, they gave the wolves their leftovers. Humans began selecting specific wolves to keep. 

The wolves were chosen based on their ability to predict and accommodate the needs of their humans. These were bred to create more animals with those qualities. Over time, wild wolves and domesticated wolves started growing apart. Finally, the domestic ones began resembling the dogs that we know and love today. 

Wolves had amazing senses, and dogs retained some of these senses that were most useful. A dog's most powerful sense is their sense of smell. They use this to detected minute changes in mood. They also have a wonderful ability to read body language and facial expressions. According to a person's body language, a dog can determine how to react. Dogs can also detect mood and mental state based on their tone of voice. 

The Science of Dogs Sensing ADHD


Dogs use all of their senses to predict scenarios and prepare for them. Dogs love predictability, so they use their previous knowledge of situations to help them decide how to act in an upcoming situation. 

As your dog gets to know you, they combine all of their senses to inform how they should proceed. Dogs have an amazing sense of smell. They have around 600 million olfactory receptors while humans have only 5 million olfactory receptors! They use this powerful sense of smell to help them navigate their world and help their humans. Dogs also use their ability to detect tone of voice in order to tell what their owners need. 

Training a Dog to Help with ADHD


ADHD can be a really debilitating disorder. Even though you may be trying to focus and get things done, there can be constant and uncontrollable distractions. It can be easy to lose track of time while off on a tangent, only to realize it ten minutes later. Having a dog can provide a calm reminder to stay on track. 

Dogs can be trained to react to various stimuli in specific ways. You can train your dog to respond to body language cues by demonstrating a cue and reward the behavior you desire. You can reward this behavior with treats and positive praise in a positive tone of voice. 

Even the simple act of training a dog can help with ADHD! Having consistent habits in place can improve your consistency and mood over time. Having a dog to take care of can encourage focus and provide stability. By making the daily care of a dog a priority, feelings of calm come in and you will enter a state of mindfulness. Mindfulness can help calm the brain over time, which can help with ADHD. 

Dogs can be trained specifically to react to hyperactive behaviors. They can be trained to put a paw on you when they catch you zoning out or moving on to a different and unrelated task. They can detect a rise in heart rate, they can be attentive to where you are looking, and they can smell the production of a stress hormone called cortisol that is released when we are becoming tense. 

A dog does not have to be a service dog to help with ADHD. The best thing a dog can do to support their human is provide unconditional love. 

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Written by a Corgi lover Simone DeAngelis

Veterinary reviewed by:

Published: 03/04/2018, edited: 04/06/2020

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