As humans increasingly treat their dogs as family members, they are finding more similarities between the behavior of dogs and young human children. As adorable as that may sound, it can be tough too, especially if dogs exhibit signs of canine ADHD or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
Children and dogs share somewhat similar mental abilities and behavioral patterns. One such behavioral similarity is ADHD. Whether you have owned multiple dogs, are a working mother, or are a student trying to balance pet care with university responsibilities, it’s essential to understand your dog’s behavior.
If your dog has canine ADHD, that can lead to hyperactivity, a shorter attention span, impulsiveness, and poor social behavior.
An individual with ADHD can be extremely aggressive or moody and snap without prior notice. Children with ADHD often struggle to concentrate at school. ADHD also can cause children to be unsocial.
Dogs with canine ADHD can experience noise sensitivity and fearfulness. They also tend to be more needy and demanding. Some breeds can be more prone to ADHD than others due to their genetics. For example, German shepherds and terriers are known to be the most prone to ADHD.
Fortunately for dog owners, canine ADHD is sporadic. Usually, the dog is just hyperactive or extremely reactive. For dogs to suffer from canine ADHD, they must exhibit both attention deficit and hyperactivity at the same time.
Normal puppy behavior
More often than not, puppies are uncontrolled, super active, and can be very disobedient. That’s normal; they are babies. Puppies need time to learn, and they usually have excess energy to burn. That’s why puppy training sessions need to be short and focused.
With normal puppies, it works best to break a lesson into different tasks. However, if you have a puppy with ADHD, you will need to keep each lesson focused on a simple task such as walking on a leash or sitting.
It’s normal for some breeds to be more active than others, depending on the DNA they carry. Certain breeds that were designed for hunting or providing protection can be aggressive. Their displays of hyperactivity are genetic, and these dogs need positive reinforcement training to help channel that energy into appropriate behavior.
Routine walks aren’t enough for these dogs. They need more physical activity, so owners should consider activities like agility, flyball, or running to help burn off pent-up energy. These dogs also benefit from mental stimulation from interactive toys.
Highly reactive or aggressive dogs
Some dogs are more reactive than others, and that’s normal, too. It’s similar to how some people are more friendly than others. Reactive dogs are not necessarily hyperactive. They react to even the tiniest change in their environment — sound, smell, etc. — with a lot of energy. For example, dogs that bark at falling leaves or try to attack a vacuum cleaner.
If your reactive dog becomes fearful, you may need to consider using a compression garment like a Thundershirt to help calm him. Other calming options: CBD treats or hemp oil for pets.
Some dogs will do anything to get their owners’ attention. And, unfortunately, if you only respond when they misbehave, that will encourage them to continue that inappropriate behavior, whether it is excessive barking, chewing, digging, or jumping.
To counteract that behavior, spend time with your dog in positive ways.
Take daily walks and groom him regularly. Take your dog to an obedience class and practice your lessons at home.
Managing canine ADHD
You can determine a hyperactive dog early; watch for a puppy who behaves differently from the rest of the litter. He’s more likely to be running or jumping when the others are calm, and he may respond by trying to bite or scratch when he’s disciplined.
The behavior is nearly the opposite of dogs with canine autism. While dogs with autism tend to be still and stare blankly, dogs with canine ADHD tend to be hyperactive.
Puppies who exhibit hyperactivity need a calm and structured environment, exercise, and a balanced diet to grow up to be the best companion.
Dogs that have ADHD can benefit from small doses of Ritalin. If you think your dog has canine ADHD, visit your veterinarian to discuss whether medication could help.
Dogs with ADHD that are treated with Ritalin usually calm down within 30 minutes to two hours. Their breathing and heart rates also will slow. Dogs who do not suffer from canine ADHD will have the opposite reaction to the drug and will become excited, and their breathing and heart rates will speed up.
When in doubt, always consult your veterinarian.
Mary Jones is the co-founder & editor-in-chief at TopMyGrades, which focuses on content marketing strategy for clients from the education industry in the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. Mary has conducted a series of webinars for AssignmentEssayHelp. She has extensive content editing experience and has worked with MSNBC, NewsCred & Scripted. She has also authored blogs on Lifehack.org, Wn.com, Medium.com, Minds.com, and many more digital publications.