Can Dogs Help With ADHD?

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Introduction

According to The American Psychiatric Association, 5% of American children have ADHD. This percentage varies from study to study and is also shown to change depending on the age of people in the study. People suffering from ADHD have looked to medications or even herbal teas to help reduce symptoms. 

However, another possibility is that dogs can help reduce the symptoms of ADHD. Studies show that pet therapy has been effective in helping improve socialization, lower blood pressure, and even combat loneliness. Dogs have long been known to take on roles such as service dogs and therapy dogs, so it isn't too far-fetched to believe that dogs can help with ADHD as well!

Signs Your Dog Can Help You with Your ADHD

Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder has been around for years, with a large number of people having been diagnosed officially. When someone has ADHD, it is much easier to see the symptoms in the person rather than actual signs of the dog witnessing them. However, dogs are sympathetic creatures and are able to sense changes in us humans and our personalities.

Despite dogs basically being superheroes, we still can't depend on our furry friends to completely solve our medical issues. By pairing a dog with therapy, medication, and other ADHD-relieving tactics, we can learn to cope and live a normal life. 

Body Language

Here are some signs you might notice when your dog senses high energy or stress:
  • Alert
  • Barking
  • Whining
  • Wag tail
  • Pacing

Other Signs

These are some other signs you might notice if your dog is sensing high energy:
  • Wanting to Play
  • Also Showing High Energy
  • Zoomies
  • Slobbery Kisses

History Behind Dogs Helping with ADHD

For hundreds of years, dogs and other animals have relied on instinct and have reacted to certain situations to protect themselves in the wild. Domesticated pups have carried this intuition with them and still heavily rely on instinct to protect themselves and their owners. 

Medical professionals have long understood that animals can greatly assist people with physical disabilities. It is more recent that medical professionals have realized animals can provide for people with mental or emotional disabilities too. 

While there is no clear history on their use specifically for ADHD, dogs have been used as emotional support animals to help with symptoms of anxiety and depression. Research has shown that children with ADHD are calmer with dogs around. For instance, a study has shown that kids with ADHD did better in therapy when a therapy dog was used in the session. A pup's presence offers unconditional love, warmth, and cuddling, which can be calming and mood-boosting. Further, a pup's need to be cared for helps to provide purpose and structure.

Science Behind Dogs Helping with ADHD

The main symptoms of ADHD include a hard time staying focused, being hyperactive, and exhibiting impulsive behaviors. These challenging behaviors can lead to self-esteem problems, relationship issues, and even trouble at work or school. Research has shown that owning a dog is a great way to help alleviate these symptoms. Owning a dog can offer an outlet for energy, a non-judgmental buddy, routine, and decreased stress.

1. Create Consistency

For people with ADHD, routine can be key. Implementing a schedule can help teach planning, and having a dog is a great way to plan ahead! Your dog needs to be fed, walked, and given attention on a daily basis. This routine can be a positive way to alleviate stress, in addition to having a best friend to face the day with!

2. Provide an Outlet

A common trait of ADHD is having extra energy. People with ADHD can feel restless, which can lead to feeling stressed. Having a furry friend to run outside with can be a healthy way to burn off extra energy. There's nothing like playing with your pup as a great source of therapy!

3. Socialization

Dogs give their owners something happy and positive to focus on, especially in awkward social situations. People with ADHD may feel socially isolated, and approaching new people is already a stressful experience. Interacting with people is a critical life skill, and your pup is a great way to strike up a conversation - something all dog owners (and even non-dog owners) are happy to talk about!

Having a love bug that is always happy to see you is also a plus!

Training Your Dog to Help With ADHD

Unless you decide to go through the process of registering your pup as an emotional support dog, there are a few things you can focus on at home so that your pup can help with ADHD.

A specific breed of dog isn't the key decision; more importantly, you want a dog with energy, patience, and friendliness. Labradors or Retrievers are popular pups for precisely these reasons. 

But if you're looking for a dog specifically to help alleviate symptoms of ADHD, it is more important to consider personality and temperament, rather than breed. A dog that is tolerant, gentle, and trainable would be your best bet. Although smaller dogs are cute and cuddly, kids with ADHD may accidentally get too rough or miss warning signs that the pup is feeling scared or territorial. 

Also, having your pup well trained in basic obedience is helpful, especially because times can get chaotic. You can start training your pup early on, even simply by teaching to take treats nicely.

Socialization is also important, so introduce your pup to people as often as possible. Doing fun activities together - like going on walks, visiting the beach, or playing in the park - also helps develop trust and teamwork.

Safety Tips for Dogs Helping with ADHD

  • Make sure you have time for a pup. Dogs can absolutely help with ADHD, but they need time, care, and the same love and affection that you do!
  • It is important to understand that pups are not "treatment" for ADHD.
  • Surprising your child with a pup may sound fun, but it is better to prepare someone with ADHD for any big changes.