Dogs help kids struggling with ADHD

Is your ADHD child struggling to make friends in your estate or complex?  Think about getting him a dog

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) symptoms can cause all kinds of problems for children, whether it’s low self-esteem or problems relating to others at school and home.

An increasing body of research is showing that owning a dog can be a fantastic way to help children cope, by creating healthy and important habits, giving them an outlet to burn off excess energy, serving as a non-judgmental confidante and companion, and providing the opportunity to branch out socially.

Here are some of the benefits:

A dog helps create consistency

Implementing a routine can create better habits, such as the ability to make a plan and stick to it. And having one involving a dog can be a fun way to help build these skills.

Owning a dog requires the child to maintain a schedule: the dog needs to be fed, walked and played with on a regular basis. While the idea of creating a schedule may seem like a tedious task, it can actually create a pleasant distraction from the everyday stresses that school often causes. It could even help with memory and forgetfulness: if the child forgets to feed him, the pup is going to find a way to let him or her know!

Provides an outlet to burn of excess energy

Hyperactivity is one of the defining symptoms of ADHD, and dogs provide an easy (and fun!) outlet to work off that extra energy. The restless feeling ADHD causes can be frustrating and running outside with a furry playmate can be a rewarding, healthy way to alleviate it. Playing with a dog can also elevate serotonin and dopamine levels, nerve transmitters known to have positive and calming effects on the body.

Alleviates loneliness and isolation

Children coping with ADHD often feel lonely and isolated by their condition. It can be frustrating to face struggles that many others don’t experience and can’t understand.

Dogs, unlike people, are completely non-judgmental. They love you for exactly who and how you are, and their opinions don’t change because of any mistakes you may make. Instead of your child coming home and dwelling on the problems faced at school, he can direct his thoughts to walking his best friend and giving him what he needs.  Even after the longest, most challenging days, that smiling face and wagging tail tells him, “I love you! I’m so happy you’re here!” Who doesn’t need or want that every day?

Helps make friends with other kids

A dog can be an instant icebreaker. Even if he isn’t with your child at the time, it’s an easy topic for kids to be able to relate with one another.

Angie Thornton, president of Touch Our Pets Therapy Dogs (aka TOP dogs) notes that while at present TOP dogs doesn’t work with ADHD children, she personally witnessed the therapeutic effect of a dog with a child with ADHD through another programme.

“We were visiting a special school on a monthly basis, and I took my Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Thandi. We would sit on picnic blankets on the lawn, and the children would come and interact with the dogs. They would pet the dogs, brush them, give them treats, and walk with us, holding a secondary lead, around the gardens. They were free to move between the dogs, as and when they wanted to.

“One particular boy, we’ll call him David, always came to interact with Thandi. He would stroke her, brush her, and talk to her. He spent the full hour with her, on a regular basis.

“One day the teacher happened to say to me. ‘The effect Thandi has on David is amazing. He suffers from ADHD and can’t concentrate on anything for more than a few minutes, but the days Thandi is visiting, he concentrates all morning, anticipating her arriving, I’ve watched him spend the hour with her, and he also concentrates for the remainder of the day.’”

“I was really surprised, but really proud of Thandi. I had no idea why David was attending that particular school, and he certainly didn’t show any signs of ADHD during our interaction with him.”

Attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are not new; in fact, attention deficit was first recognised as long ago as 1763.  See the timeline since then, here:

“A Randomized Controlled Trial of Traditional Psychosocial and Canine-Assisted Interventions for Children with ADHD,”

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