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Can Dogs Have Attention Deficit Disorder?

Can Dogs Have Attention Deficit Disorder?
There are some dogs which seem to have endless energy - they whine a lot, can't seem to relax and can often be destructive

There’s a huge amount of controversy when it comes to hyperactivity (ADHD) in human children. There’s no doubt that lots of children genuinely suffer from ADHD, but some professionals believe that too many are diagnosed with the problem just because they are overly energetic. This can lead to unwarranted treatment. Similarly, there are some dogs which seem to have endless energy – they whine a lot, can’t seem to relax and can often be destructive. Is it possible that dogs can suffer from ADHD too? And if so, how common is the condition?

ADHD is in fact extremely rare in dogs. In most cases, a dog that appears to be hyperactive is actually bored, attention seeking or anxious. Many first (or even second) time owners don’t realize that dogs are clever animals that need something to do with their brain, and a way to use up their often boundless energy. If they don’t get that physical and mental stimulation, they aren’t likely to feel settled or relaxed.
This is particularly the case if your dog is of a working or herding breed. Dogs that were designed for a working career have huge energy levels and they need a job to do.

What you can you do if your dog is driving you crazy with his hyperactive behaviour

1. Have a chat to your veterinarian to find out if your dog is suffering from anxiety. This isn’t uncommon in pet dogs and if it is affecting your much loved canine buddy, then there are things you can do to help. Your vet may refer you to a specialist veterinary behaviorist for treatment.

2. Increase his exercise. Dogs get an endorphin rush from exercise just like we do, but only with high intensity activity. This means that just going for a walk won’t make him feel better. Get his heart rate up by taking him jogging or playing ball in the yard until he is panting and at ease. Be mindful of the weather and don’t overdo it in the heat.

3. Give him a job to do. Think about obedience classes, agility training or flyball racing. If they don’t appeal to you, why not teach him some new tricks? Even if your dog is well behaved and doesn’t need to learn any manners, on-going training will make him think harder and leave him mentally fatigued and calmer.

4. Teach your dog to settle and to calm down. You can teach him this using either a mat or a crate. This is where a good dog trainer can help you, but make sure you do your homework – choose a trainer with experience in working with active dogs, and only use positive methods to teach him to relax.
If you invest the time and effort in changing your dog’s behavior, he will be calmer and more relaxed, and so will you!

Susan Wright DMV is a vet, a dog expert and freelance writer. Susan shares articles on health conditions as they relate to dogs to help dog owners learn how to properly care for their pets.

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44 Comments
  1. Wow – great tips!! I never knew that dogs could have that. We sure love our dog, he’s doing pretty good, so I don’t think I need to worry yet. 🙂

  2. I think all dogs have ADHD! At least it seems that way.

  3. We will be getting a dog soon, so this is timely advise. I wasn’t aware that this could even happen, and good to know that it’s rare. I think you’re right, children are over diagnosed!

  4. I think our dog was ADD..she seemed to be all over the place most of the time!

  5. Great tips and ones I need to check into as I have a neighbors dog that they do not take care of and so the dog is very destructive and this is not her fault it is just because no one takes the time to take care of her.

  6. Wish I had read this when our dog was a puppy! Being a hunting breed, he has a ton of energy. He does love to just run and run and run!

  7. My dog is the opposite! She loves to sleep, doesn’t like to go on long walks – well, she is old, maybe it is that 🙂 Thank you for the tips!

  8. I have known several dogs who have been very hyper. These are great tips for owners of such dogs!

  9. Our dog is older now, but great tips to keep in mind for our next loved one.

  10. Wow! I didn’t know dogs could have ADHD. I have known a lot of kids who have had it including my stepson.

  11. My dog is active….as he should be! We have a big yard for him to play in. I just wish he wouldn’t dig so much!

  12. I think all dogs have ADD, or ADHD! If we don’t absolutely wear ours out, they are little terrors! Yesterday I took our boxer/bulldog mix Xena for a 3-mile walk (her first), and she was so tired she slept all the way home and all through the night. It was awesome!

  13. Great tips for owners of hyper dogs. I only wish I had the patience to do this.
    Thanks
    Debra

  14. These are wonderful tips! We got a puppy a couple of months ago, and she has quite the energy! I think much of that is her age, but I love the idea of taking her on a run (or at least trying it for a short distance, as she is on the smaller side). She also loves fetch, so now that the weather is warming up, we could play in the yard longer!

  15. I couldn’t agree more that ADHD is extremely over-diagnosed—no matter in which context you’re talking about. I think in many cases it seems like the “easy way out” since it can be “fixed” with meds, which is “fast” and requires relatively little effort. It can be difficult when a lot of families have dogs that don’t necessarily suit their lifestyle and so things just don’t sync well. I would also suggest diet changes as another consideration to make in the event that a dog has lots of energy!

  16. I myself am not a dog person, but will send a link to your blog to my daughter. Thank you, I am sure it will be very beneficial for her to read this!

  17. Never even thought about this. I do know that we have often had busy dogs and the advice was always to “give them a job,” so we’d teach them to bring in the paper and pick up toys.

  18. Interesting point you made about the walks. I have a highly active german shepard and my husband tells me she needs more walks but I always thought she was happier and calmer when I played with her in the yard over taking her for long walks. Now I wonder if I am not on to something there!

  19. This was so enlightening! I had a Golden Retriever that seemed to stretch everyone’s conventional wisdom about that breed’s energy level. People would keep telling us, “Oh yeah they don’t calm down til they’re two.” A few would say three. But Shea was four, five, six, and still not able to calm down or stop jumping on people. I would’ve loved to have known these tips!

  20. Glad to hear someone saying this. I hate seeing dogs penned and chained up. They need to be able to exercise and play just like humans. Zoos know this and actually create play programs for their animals to keep them from getting bored and anxious. They provide toys and some make a point of hiding the food when feeding so the animals can seek it like they would in the wild and have something interesting to do.

  21. Interesting, I always just figured that hyperactivity or other traits like that was just part of the dogs breed or personality, but these are great ideas to help dogs that seem anxious or over excited. We don’t have a dog right now, buthope to in the near future, this is great information to have on hand 🙂

  22. I can definitely relate to this post. We have a super hyper dog (a Springer Spaniel) and she just has so much nervous energy. She does calm down when we run her a lot, so that is great advice.

  23. Remembering to engage our furry friends is really important. Too often, they get scolded for just following their natural instincts. Thanks for these tips!

  24. I have two fur babies, Lucy and Ricky. They are my children. When I first got Lu from the pound, she was so over active. All the time. Nothing could control her at all. My vet used to say that she had ADHD, teasing I thought. I truly believe that she does have it. She is a bit older now at 7 and has a bad hip. Hip replacement to come within the next couple of months. She hurts when she trying to stay active and I see in her eyes, that she is about to explode. I try to keep her mind active and we walk around the yard,but that is never enough for her. lol..I found that even playing simple games with her, keeps her happy. We play hid the rice cake pieces. LOL. I use gluten-free, salt free rice cake pieces and hide them. She runs all around the house looking for them..It is so important no matter the age or physical health to keep them active. Thank you for the wonderful posting. I went a bit over board on my comment..I just love all dogs and I hate to see dogs that are just pinned up. It is awful.

  25. My dog is a rescue and had both anxiety and food aggression when I got her. She has calmed down a lot but when her anxiety gets a bit much for her she takes her own refuge under the bed! She is my best friend and constant companion. Thanks for the great tips.

  26. I don’t actually have a dog myself, but I am a stage manager and I’m working on a theatrical production all about dogs, so this was really timely and interesting!

  27. I never thought my dogs had ADHD but occasional one of them gets whiny and restless. If bathroom is ruled out, I have found exercise and a cuddle has always been great solutions. My old boy loved wearing a shirt. I put one on him to cover a sore he wouldn’t leave alone and he wanted to keep wearing it. Mostly I think dogs don’t get as much exercise as they need. Great tips.

  28. Great advice! Especially the exercise part and giving them a job to do. That is what the dog whisperer caesar did a lot in his shows 😀

  29. My sister has a very hyperactive dog and these are some great tips of how she can deal with that. Just like children sometimes I think we just assume there is always some problem that warrants treatment instead of just giving them more to do or other activities to challenge and entertain them.

  30. I agree with some of the other comments, I feel like most dogs are crazy and off the wall. That being said, the tips you gave are awesome to try so you don’t drive yourself crazy with a crazy dog!

  31. Wow, great tips! I didn’t know dogs could have ADHD. Learned something new today. 🙂

  32. I LOVE dogs and I hope that our family can get one soon. These are great tips!

  33. I had a pointer once and I’m sure he had some form of adhd. He was hyper and easily distracted

  34. I love these tips. You made a lot of good points.

  35. Wow. Never thought a dog could have ADD. Love your tips, though. Especially giving the dog a task to do. Thanks!

  36. I had never thought about dogs being hyperactive because they are bored or unchallenged. These are certainly great tips for a dog owner to think about.

  37. I love dogs and this is great information! My dog right now is sawing logs on my rug, but he’s had a big day playing with the kids. He tries hard to keep up! Thanks for the information!

  38. My sister’s dog actually has ADHD! They just try to help her get enough exercise and have enrolled her in flydog I think it’s called? Her name is Leela and she’s a sweet border collie/shetland sheepdog mix.

  39. I never thought that dogs can have ADD. My dog, who passed away 4 years ago, always had lots of energy. He had half-Labrador in him, so he was always a happy-go-lucky dog, always curious, and always up to play or take long walks. I can’t wait to adopt another dog someday.

  40. It definitely doesn’t surprise me. We have a Border Collie and a Patterdale Terrier. Neither dog can sit and snuggle with us. They were born to move, run, herd or hunt. Luckily we have a large farm… so they are always active.

  41. This is so fascinating. As a teacher I have taught my fair share of ADD children but I would never have thought this was a condition animals could suffer from as well. My 2 boys would love for us to have a dog but it isn’t very practical out here in Kuwait. That said, I’m sure owning a dog is somewhere in our future and I will definitely keep this information stored for future reference. Thanks for sharing

  42. my dog got huge problems as he barks out the window as well of fighting against another dog (which i had one), so i need help to control my dog who is out of control please?

    • I would suggest talking to a trainer that can set up a program to help stop your dog’s naughty behaviour.

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