Can Dogs have ADHD?

I walked in the door after a busy day and was greeted enthusiastically by my two goldendoodles. They wiggled and wagged their tails frantically around me, my husband, my daughter, and son as if they hadn’t seen us in days. In reality, it had only been a few hours, but it’s always nice to be welcomed home by those who are always thrilled to see you. After greeting the dogs and saying hello to the cat who watched calmly from across the room, I noticed that there were bits of debris strewn on the dining room floor. Uh-oh. There were chewed up bits of paper along with other items that had been in the trash can when I left home. There was also a trail from the kitchen into the dining room, and it looked like the dogs (or at least one of them) had been pretty busy making a mess while we were gone. I put the dogs in the back yard so we could get things cleaned up without their helpful interference.

Slapshot, who is 2 years old, at least knows how to act like a dog in trouble. He avoids eye contact, tucks his tail a bit, and slinks a little. He takes himself to the back door and waits to be let out, darting down the steps as soon as he can squeeze his 95 pound doggy self through the opening door. He doesn’t bark to be let in until we come and call him or he feels he has paid his penance.

Daisy, on the other hand, is just over a year old and is totally clueless as to what it means to be in the doghouse. She gives the same toothy grin when she’s getting her leash on to go for a walk as when we discover she has chewed up a shoe and scold her. If she is put outside so we can clean up after her, she eagerly heads out and looks over her shoulder to see if we are coming along to play with her.

I’m not sure, but if there is a doggy ADHD I think she may have it. Some of the signs are there. Let’s see. She’s definitely hyper, and enjoys jumping on and off my furniture. Multiple times. She persists despite correction and redirection of this behavior. This is consistent with the hyperactivity my two ADHD children displayed when they were young.

Impulsivity? In spades. I have to be on the alert when I walk her because if she sees something interesting she will take off on a moment’s notice and try to drag me along behind her. I suspect that dragging sensation she feels is the only way she even remembers I am with her.

Distractible? Daisy excels in this category as well. I have been training her in basic obedience skills, starting with the command to sit. At first, she just gave me that toothy grin while lunging for whatever treats I had to give her incentive to learn to sit. Then she would sit just long enough for her tail to hit the floor and she’d be back to the lunging. It would have been great if I had been trying to teach her to bounce her hind end on the floor, but I actually wanted her to sit and stay put for a little bit. I should probably mention that I also had this experience with my ADHD children!

At this point, Daisy can sit with Slapshot by her side providing a strong role model. He’s in it for the treats, but that’s o.k. After I give the command to sit, I give the command to stay. I step back and maintain eye contact while giving the hand signal for “stay”. Slapshot is an old pro with this command, and he sits still as a statue while never taking his gaze from me. Daisy watches me intently for about two seconds, but if there is a noise or movement nearby she has to look in that direction. She just has to, she can’t resist the urge. Again, not unlike my distractible kids. Yes, she wants the treat. But sometimes it’s not worth missing out on something else.

ADHD children have difficulty completing tasks. Once again, this is true of Daisy. What tasks could a dog have to do? How about eating her dinner? Slapshot is a big dog, and gobbles his food down as fast as his specially-designed-to-slow-him-down dish allows. Daisy, while not as large as Slapshot, is also a large dog who forgets to finish the food in the bowl right in front of her. While Slapshot greedily inhales his food, Daisy has trouble initiating and dawdles around her bowl. (Another executive function skill my children struggled with growing up – but never when it came to food!) After a minute or so, Daisy begins to eat. She is genuinely hungry, but will abandon her food for almost any competing stimuli. If she hears another dog barking outside, someone at the door, or even if I take a few steps away from her, she lifts her head and goes to where the action is – even if it means that Slapshot will try and finish her food once his is gone.

I’ve always said a label can be useful if it helps you find information and get support for what you are experiencing. I already live with three individuals with the ADHD diagnosis, so I am recognizing Daisy’s symptoms early on. Daisy is a delight, even if she still has to learn that being cute doesn’t cut it. My family members can be pretty delightful, too.

In addition to the scattered trash in my dining room, Daisy had pulled a box of dryer sheets off the shelf in my laundry room and had chewed up the box and scattered the sheets around the room. She did not ingest any, just spread them around. As we cleaned up the mess my son suddenly commented, “Hey! It smells pretty nice in here!” Immediately the other two ADHD individuals stopped what they were doing to take a moment to enjoy the fresh aroma caused by Daisy’s chewing and all agreed that the room smelled wonderful. Way to live in the moment, guys!

Slapshot and Daisy came back in the house once we had the mess cleared away. Daisy trotted up to me with her usual enthusiasm and toothy doggy grin. I bent over to pet her, and as she gazed lovingly up at me I realized that her typical doggy breath had been replaced by the lovely fabric softener scent of Clean Rain.

2 Responses to Can Dogs have ADHD?

  1. Brenna says:

    This is so interesting!

    I do remember when Slapshot was new to the household though he was just like how you describe Daisy. I really think she is so rambunctious because one she was probably not in as structured a home as she is now, and two that she is still so young!

    This is a very nicely explained and it definitely makes one think.

  2. Kelly says:

    I came across this after searching through google – I have an almost 2 year old goldendoodle and she behaves exactly the same way, and I often think of it as ADD/ADHD, I’m almost at my wit’s end with her, but love her!

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