Can Dogs Have ADHD

If you have ever thought, “Can dogs have ADHD,” you
wouldn’t be alone. It is entirely possible for dogs to have
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) because dogs and
people have a similar brain composition. ADHD is marked by
distractibility and hyperactivity. Some people may think these
traits are normal for the breed of their pet and companion. It
isn’t always the case.

Dog owners can improve the quality of time they spend with their
dog by understanding what is a normal amount of energy and what is
considered extreme. A great dog trainer will help evaluate the
breed, determine normal behaviors, and help develop a path to
overcome all unwanted behavior. Veterinarians and professional dog
behaviorists (aka canine mental health professionals) can also step
in to assist in the evaluation and treatment plan helping dogs
overcome ADHD.

Defining Normal Behavior in Dogs

Dogs are a fun-loving companion for families of all sizes. They
are both protector and companion, but like their human
counterparts, there are no two dogs alike. Some dogs naturally have
a lot of energy while other dogs will lounge around all day without
a care in the world. This is based on the dog breed, personality,
and potential mental health issues.

Before comparing your dog to the neighbor’s dog, make sure to
understand the differences and similarities between breeds. All
dogs have a general need for companionship whether they seek that
from a human or another pet. As descendants of wolves, dogs are
pack animals and need other dogs (or humans) to be emotionally and
mentally healthy.

Because of a desire for attention often mixed with a high
metabolic rate, it isn’t uncommon for a dog to get hyperactive
after being home alone for long periods of time. Dogs have a
similar sense of excitement that humans do in anticipation of
seeing a loved one. When dogs are left alone for extended periods
of time, they will seek mental stimulation to alleviate boredom
leading to unwanted behavior.

Normal, non-ADHD
unwanted behavior
from a bored dog includes:

  • Digging
  • Chewing
  • Anxiety
  • Barking
  • Hyperactivity

These are just a few of the ways a dog may seek mental
stimulation and energy releases. But, they don’t necessarily
indicate a major underlying condition. With a little attention,
training, and some toys, these behaviors are often remedied.

What Is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

The term Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is most
commonly heard when discussing a condition thousands of children
are diagnosed with every year. Though rare, some animals including
canine species develop ADHD symptoms.

Definition of ADHD

a neurological disorder in the brain that causes hyperactivity,
restlessness, and an inability to stop moving. People and animals
with ADHD are often described as the Energizer Bunny that just
keeps going and going. Those with ADHD lack the ability to focus
thoughts into actions and constantly bounce from one thing to
another often never completing any one given task.

Symptoms of ADHD in Dogs

ADHD in dogs manifests many of the same traits as ADHD in human
counterparts. Dogs with ADHD are extremely restless, hyperactive,
easily startled by noises, or just seem out of control. Even with
adequate exercise, attention, and mental stimulation, ADHD dogs
can’t calm down or relax. Some dogs have trouble sleeping or only
sleep for brief periods of time.

Behavioral Issues Associated with ADHD

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If your pet has ADHD, his hyperactivity and energy levels will
not always be exhausted with exercise. Essentially, he may not feel
tired or mentally satisfied with normal activities. Most puppies
and dogs will play and then nap. Dogs with ADHD might not nap but
instead seek more stimulation and become destructive. For pet
owners dealing with ADHD dogs, all the exercise and love in the
world may not stop the chewing, digging, barking, and nagging.

Interacting with People and Other Dogs

Dogs with high-energy, ADHD, or hyperactive behavior pose a
challenge for dog owners, especially if they aren’t well trained
at being dog trainers. Let’s put it this way, even great
professional trainers can have trouble with some dogs that are
smart and dealing with ADHD. It often becomes a test of wills to
see who will cave; the inexperienced dog owner often gets
frustrated and caves first with inconsistent training.

Canines with this condition known as hyperkinesis, a disorder
causing hyperactivity can actually pose a danger to young children
or vulnerable family members such as senior citizens. Hyperkinesis
dogs don’t mean harm or injury but simply can’t control their
urge to jump, sprint, and frenzie around the house and people.

When an ADHD pet gets around other dogs, their desire to play
and expend energy can result in behavior that puts other animals
into a defensive posture. Dogs with attention disorders and
hyperactivity tend to be more skittish around loud noises and new
environments. Introducing new animals without a good plan isn’t
always the best idea to keep unwanted behaviors down.

High Energy Dog Breeds

Specific dog
are known to have a lot of energy as their natural pace
but aren’t necessarily classified as hyperactive. With the proper
training, exercise, and attention these dogs become great work
dogs, companions, and guardians for families raising children.

Some of the most common breeds considered high-energy

  • Dalmatian
  • Labrador
  • Golden Retriever
  • Belgian Malinois
  • Siberian Husky
  • Border Collie
  • Russell Terrier
  • Poodle
  • Australian Shepherd
  • Bull Terrier Breeds

Consider a couple of examples. Border Collie’s are herding
dogs with naturally high-energy levels that are also prone to ADHD.
Basset Hounds, on the other hand, are usually more likely to be a
big lump on a log waiting for their next meal.  

When looking to get a new puppy, keep in mind how much exercise
and attention you can give them. If you live in a small home and
don’t have much space for a puppy to run, consider getting a
lower energy breed that fits your home and lifestyle.

On the other hand, a higher energy puppy can give you a lifelong
exercise partner. Their activity level will help keep you active
and they offer a high level of companionship depending on the breed
selected. Knowing the environment they are coming home to is key to
keeping everyone in the family happy.

Causes of ADHD or Hyperactivity in Dogs

Dog ADHD is caused by genetics, exposure to lead, or
malnutrition. Dog owners should always make sure to work with
veterinarians to find the underlying cause of ADHD to help find the
best solution.

  • Genetics: ADHD is a genetic condition inherited from a
    canine’s parents. So some dogs are more prone to having the
    disorder depending on their breed compared to other dogs. When
    getting a new dog, it helps to visit with the dog parents if
    possible to see their temperament, talk the dog breeder, and get as
    much information about the new puppy as possible. This isn’t
    always possible, especially when adopting so researching the breed
    is the next best things.
  • Exposure to Lead / Lead Poisoning:
    High lead
    exposure is another source of ADHD in dogs. Exposure
    to a puppy increases later behavioral issues. Lead sources can be
    found in chipped paint or items dogs chew on. Be sure to clean up
    any paint right away and don’t allow your dog to chew on things
    unless it’s his designated dog toys.
  • Malnutrition: Poor nutrition also plays a role in
    hyperactivity and worsens ADHD symptoms. Some preservatives,
    gluten, and artificial flavors can exacerbate hyperactive behavior
    in animals. Maintaining a healthy diet and buying high-quality dog
    foods will keep your pet healthier.

Diagnosing ADHD in Dogs

If you think your dog might have ADHD, the next step you need to
take is contacting your veterinarian. Make an appointment with your
vet to discuss any concerns and have the dog tested. Keep a log
about your pet’s behavior for the days or weeks leading up to the
appointment. This helps the vet determine what is normal behavior
and what may fall on the ADHD spectrum.

Things you should have at your visit are:

  • List of concerning behaviors
  • Things the puppy likes to chew on
  • Medications or supplements the dog takes
  • Activity schedule
  • Feeding schedule
  • Diet of the pet
  • Anything else relevant to your concern of ADHD

Blood panels and behavioral tests can confirm any suspicions of
ADHD or may determine there is a different issue at hand. The
specific testing procedure for
ADHD in dogs
consists of administering a small dose of
stimulants to the dog followed by observation for reactions. This
should only be done under the supervision of your vet.

After the stimulant has been administered, the dog’s behavior
will be monitored. His breathing, heart rate, and energy level will
be observed. If medication drops these levels, the dog likely has
ADHD and will develop a plan to help address it.

My Pet Has ADHD, What Now?

If a veterinarian confirms that your puppy has ADHD, it’s time
to make an action plan to help your dog become the household pet
you’ve always wanted him to be. Dogs with ADHD can be difficult
to train but dog training can be an integral part of dealing with
unwanted behavior. Helping your dog learn basic obedience skills
such as sit, stay, come, and even the word no will give him
direction as to what is okay behavior in the home. It will likely
take longer for simple obedience commands to be remembered but give
your dog time.

Behavioral training also gives a foundation for other activities
you can do with your dog to wear him out and burn that energy off
and help him learn to focus. Most dogs start training for basic
commands and then move on to agility work, doggy good samaritan
classes, herding classes, and sniff school for scent dogs. Some of
these advanced classes can lead to work training for your dog,
giving him a sense of fulfillment and positive reinforcement from

Work Training

Almost every dog breed has work traits whether they are to
assist with hunting, herding, or guarding. Find what your dog is
naturally inclined to love to simplify the training process.

Hunting dogs include retrievers and spaniels that love to fetch
things and bring them to you. Hound dogs and beagles are hunting
dogs that find the animal and do well with sniff school. Some
terriers were even bred to go down into rabbit holes giving them an
edge in the chutes of an agility course.  

Herding dogs such as Border Collies and Australian Shepherds
love to run. If you don’t have them in herding school or agility
class where their speed and quick turns are awe-inspiring, let them
run alongside you while biking.

While it is possible to train an ADHD dog to be a service dog,
it will be very difficult. Most service dogs are picked from the
litter because of their naturally relaxed nature. This can go
against the grain of what a hyperactive dog naturally wants to

Sport Training

Training your hyperactive dog for sports or fun, is the best way
to help them get physical activity and mental stimulation. Agility
training is the most common type of sports training for dogs. An
agility course consists of jumps, tunnels, weaving poles, and other
obstacles the dog must traverse.

Agility dog training is done in baby steps by first leading the
dog around the course and doing small jumps while they are on a
leash. As the dog continues to learn the obstacles and routes to
take, they can be taken off the leash and led by commands. The fast
paced nature of agility courses offers a great amount of exercise
for the puppy.

Exercise and Playmates

Dog owners may confine an ADHD or high energy dog just to keep
it from being obnoxious around other dogs and potentially
instigating fights, but social isolation only compounds the
problem. When ADHD dogs are finally allowed to be out around other
people and pets, they become too much to handle.

Dog owners that attempt to solve the problem by isolating the
pet are just creating a vicious circle of isolation and unwanted
behavior. In order to solve the problems created by hyperactivity,
the dog needs to socialize with other people and dogs as early as

Take him to a dog park where everyone is on neutral territory.
Allow him to roam, run, and play with other dogs. If there is a
concern about safety when it’s introduced to other dogs, keep it
on a leash. Once you have gauged how your dog handles others, take
it off the leash or leave it on depending on the situation.

Social interactions also create an opportunity for more pet
exercise opportunities and just getting out to sniff the world does
a lot for mental stimulation needs. As you are working on basic
obedience training and commands, the times he is allowed to just be
out running around and cutting loose is beneficial. It will burn
off steam and allow for friendly play. While physical and mental
stimulation helps calm his mind, too much structure can be


Just like children who are diagnosed with ADHD, dogs can receive
medication such as dog
. Ritalin is a stimulant. It may sound counterintuitive,
but giving a dog with ADHD a stimulant will have a calming

Dogs and people with ADHD are looking for a way to get their
brain activated. Drugs like Ritalin target stimulation and activate
areas of the mind to help a dog better focus. As a dog calms his
mind, he is able to settle down with his demeanor becoming calmer
as a result.


If you are opposed to the idea of stimulants but want a way to
help calm your dog, there are a few supplements many dog owners
swear by. Valerian, GABA,
CBD oil
, and L-Theanine can all provide a calming effect.
Discuss which one is right for your dog with your veterinarian. You
may consider consulting with a holistic veterinarian if you really
want to explore non-prescription drugs.

Using Therapy Dogs in Treating People with ADHD and Other Disorders

Raising a child with mental health issues such as ADHD, autism,
Asperger Syndrome, oppositional defiant disorder, or
obsessive-compulsive disorder comes with a host of challenges.
Finding coping strategies and ways to help your child overcome the
disorder is vital. Trained service dogs are known to be highly
beneficial for children with these conditions.

A service dog for a child with any of these disorders helps keep
blood pressure down, serves to redirect negative energy into
positive activities, and builds confidence that a child can do
things on his own. Dogs are trained to recognize anxiety attacks
and distracting behaviors and respond in ways to remedy the
situation. Service dogs also help with socialization as other
children become naturally attracted to the dog and owner.

In children with severe anxiety or Aspergers, the dog will
likely respond to an attack by laying with or on the child. The
weight, rhythmic breathing, and closeness of the animal soothe the
child. Whether it’s autism, ADHD, epilepsy, diabetes or a host of
other health issues, service dogs are trained to respond to
whatever the disorder is and help.

The Hyperactive Canine: Dogs with ADHD Aren’t a Lost Cause

Hyperactivity in dogs is relatively common, ADHD is not. If the
dog is still a puppy it likely just needs a few more years to hit
adulthood and calm down. But in the cases where dogs are clearly
past the puppy years and are out of control despite plenty of
exercise, attention, and mental stimulation, further evaluation by
a vet should be done.

The sooner dogs go into behavioral training, the better they are
as pets and members of the family. A dog is diagnosed with
hyperactivity can always benefit from learning or relearning his
command and working on specific tasks leading to mental
satisfaction and exhaustion. Your vet and dog trainer are your best
resources to develop the perfect balance of medication, training,
and supplements to help your dog develop all the right coping

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Source: FS – TheDogTrainingSecret
Can Dogs Have ADHD