Is it a good idea to have dogs in an ADHD household? Here is some of the good (and the ugly) of getting a dog in an ADHD household.
Reliable reminder for exercise
Dogs love walks. They are social creatures that want attention from their human. Dogs need daily, or multiple walks per day, depending on the living situation. Conveniently, walking the dog every day builds in an automatic exercise habit. The ADHD brain lacks sufficient dopamine, but exercise is a great way to boost dopamine. Dogs persistently remind their humans that they are due food, walks, or attention.
Sunlight (vitamin D) therapy
There is research linking regular sunlight exposure to improved mental and physical health. Getting outside to walk a dog(s) daily could automatically increase beneficial sunlight exposure. Research suggests sunlight exposure is beneficial with ADHD. Vitamin D is commonly found to be deficient in children with ADHD. Check out the supplements we use to target ADHD symptoms, including vitamin D.
“Man’s best friend” are not fair weather friends. Love and acceptance is abundant with a dog, when the rest of the world may be frustrated with impulsivity, forgetfulness, etc. Dogs unconditional love may improve success with sunlight and exercise therapy. Rejection sensitivity dysphoria can be a big part of ADHD. However, a loving furry companion provides love without judgement of shortcomings.
Creating structure and responsibility
A positive relationship with a dog that is dependent for care sets the stage to build structure and responsibility. The dog will persistently remind their human to feed them and walk them. However, here comes some of the potential ugly part. When responsibility doesn’t happen, then a parent or partner may acquire additional daily tasks. However, the bonus is, they still get the same benefits that would benefit the person with ADHD.
Our personal dog story
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Okay, so here comes the personal story. After my husband and I moved into our second house, we discussed getting a dog. I had never had a dog due to family allergies, but he had grown up with them. We had cats, but now had a backyard for dogs to run and play. We visited the shelter, saying we wouldn’t get a dog that day, but wanted to discuss what types of dogs we liked. That’s when we came across 2 adult siblings, that fit what we were looking for in a dog. Clearly they were inseparable. We decided we couldn’t risk them getting separated, since we had space for 2 dogs.
Our first dogs lulled me into thinking dog ownership was easy. My husband definitely didn’t hold up his part of the bargain of being responsible for poop scooping, but that’s why those businesses exist. Now Biggs does a great job with this tool as her paid chore. Little Bit is even starting to help.
If our first dogs had a fault, it was that they pulled pretty heavily on the leash. With the backyard though, daily walks weren’t a requirement. We used these harnesses to make it easier when we wanted to walk them, which was a big help to make walks fun.
Fast forward 11 years, when the dogs were about 13 years old. We had been talking about getting a puppy while we still had the senior dogs to help with training. One of the siblings ended up with an untreatable tumor that expedited the decision to get not 1, but 2 puppies. We didn’t want our old girl to suddenly be alone.
We decided to repeat the pattern of getting siblings, and get through the puppy stage all at once. My husband talked about being able to train the puppies the way we wanted. A litter of puppies popped up at the shelter we had adopted from before, advertised as a boxer mix. That was a breed we had considered due to personality traits of being protective, and good with the kids. Off we went to meet our new potential family members.
Fast forward 2 years, and the puppy training did not go as smoothly as hoped. The genetic results on our puppies turned out to be part chihuahua mixed with some terrier. Chihuahua personality traits in 40+ pound dogs have presented some unexpected challenges. General training has been more difficult than anticipated with ADHD.
It has been a challenge to consistently coordinate daily walks for the dogs. Despite my husband committing to that daily responsibility, walks infrequently occur beyond what I can fit in. He knows it is important, and means well, but hasn’t mastered scheduling it into his routine. The struggle is real for him, keeping up with my non-traditional night shift schedule, and the girls busy extracurricular schedule. I still have hopes he’ll conquer that challenge, as the dogs behavior necessitates the regular walks, and his mental and physical health would benefit as well.
I have found good success using these training treats when walking the dogs. Having them sit and wait for a treat to the side of the walking path as other dogs and owners pass has been a good technique for their leash reactivity. Just like ADHD, lots of positive reinforcement for good behavior goes a long ways. We had to upgrade to these harnesses for their sensitive skin.
Unless I can do it myself, items are frequently left in reach our anxious chewers when we aren’t supervising closely. We use these bones, or chew toys to fulfill the need to chew. This kennel was great to be able to contain both dogs together when needed, which helps spare belongings and furniture. After chewing through multiple plush beds, this cot finally held up in the kennel.
The puppies have been a life saver for our older dog. She started to play again a little with the puppies. This glucosamine made a huge difference when she started slowing down with age. More recently we added this turmeric, and omega 3 chews (also helpful for the puppies sensitive skin). Her time is limited due to being 15 years old with multiple tumors, but the puppies were the companionship she needed. The supplements help her keep up.
Both my husband and Little Bit benefit from the unconditional love the dogs provide. Little Bit benefits from participating in the responsibility of caring for the dogs. Despite the extra work and a little chaos, the dogs are mostly beneficial to the overall mental health of the household. For those considering adding a furry companion however, it may be worth considering adopting a well trained adult dog in the beginning.
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The content in this post is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It is merely opinion based on personal research and experience.