ADHD in Dogs
January 20, 2023 | 3 min read
Updated January 20, 2023
By Sarah Milton
Published: January 21, 2023
Summary: Can a dog have ADHD? In this blog, learn about ADHD in dogs and the dog ADHD symptoms...
Can A Dog Have ADHD?
Yes, canine ADHD does exist, although it’s usually sporadic. Dogs with canine ADHD-like tendencies (or hyperkinesis) can exhibit behavior like fearfulness, noise sensitivity, attention deficit (distractibility), poor social skills, hyperactivity and typically require more attention, play, and fuss from their owners.
Some breeds are more likely than others to develop ADHD, namely terrier breeds (particularly Cairns and Jack Russells), and German Shepherds. Recent research from Finland also found that, alongside breed, many behavioral, demographic, and environmental variables were also associated with canine hyperactivity/impulsivity including:
- Age and sex (more likely in young and male dogs)
- Body size (more likely in medium-sized dogs)
- Daily exercise
- Daily time spent alone (typically dogs with ADHD tendencies display more hyperactivity with their owners the more time they spend alone)
- Compulsive behavior
- Aggressiveness and fearfulness
Most interestingly though, the study also found that a dog was more likely to display ADHD-like behaviors if an owner had previously owned dogs before. But, more research is required to fully understand this data.
It’s important to acknowledge the difference between ADHD and normal puppy behavior though, as they can be quite similar. A puppy will often seem and be uncontrollable, very active and energetic, and disobedient while they’re in training – but this is normal. However, if there’s one puppy in the litter who is behaving erratically while the rest of their pack is calm, this can sometimes be an indicator of ADHD-like tendencies.
Dogs, ADHD or not, all thrive on a proper routine, appropriate exercise and mental stimulation, as well as a balanced diet, but those with ADHD-like behavioral tendencies will benefit from these pillars of routine care ten-fold.
It’s also worth noting that some dogs may be simply overactive because of their breed (like Collies, for example) and need more stimulation than just a daily walk. In addition, some dogs may be super reactive in comparison to other dogs – again, this can just be a temporary personality trait or learned behavior and can be redirected with praise-based training.
Dogs that seek attention often may simply not be getting exercised an appropriate amount and may genuinely be bored. But, if you pay them attention when they exhibit demanding attention, this is processed as a reward for a dog and they’ll continue doing it.
If you’re not sure how much daily physical exercise your dog needs dependent on their breed, check out our handy guide below and chat to your vet about breed-appropriate stimulation:
If you think your dog may need support with their ADHD/hyperkinesis behavioral tendencies, and you are exercising them appropriately and amply interacting with them, you should consult with your vet.
Author McReynolds, Tony “I Think My Dog Has ADHD” American Animal Hospital Association, Dec 09. 2021 https://www.aaha.org/publications/newstat/articles/2021-12/i-think-my-dog-has-adhd/
Authors Sulkama, Sini and Puurunen, Jenni and Salonen, Milla and Mikkola, Salla and Hakanen, Emma and Araujo, Cesar and Lohi, Hannes “Canine hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattention share similar demographic risk factors and behavioural comorbidities with human ADHD” Nature, Oct 01. 2021 https://www.nature.com/articles/s41398-021-01626-x
Author Jones, Mary "Can Dogs Suffer From ADHD?" Dogs Best Life, Aug 03. 2022 https://dogsbestlife.com/home-page/canine-adhd/?cn-reloaded=1
Comes from a family of animal lovers and got to grow up with a menagerie of pets! I believe owning a pet is a privilege and I love researching and creating informative, fun content for fellow pet owners to help their furry friends have the happiest and healthiest lives. When I’m not writing blogs, you can find me sharing a walk with my pet dachshund or at a yoga class!