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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