According to The American Psychiatric Association, 5% of American children have ADHD. Children with ADHD find it difficult to focus, control their impulses and also experience hyperactivity. While there is no cure, studies have shown that dog pet therapy can significantly reduce the symptoms of ADHD in children.
What are the Best Dog Breeds for ADHD Children? The Best Dog Breeds for ADHD children are dogs that are easy to train, intelligent, loyal and energetic. Breeds that have these qualities include: The Bernese Mountain dog, Jack Russell Terrier, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, The Golden Retriever, Samoyed etc.
There are a lot of breeders out there and it can quite confusing when sourcing for the best dog breed for your ADHD child. To make it easier for you, I have provided additional information on all you need to know about the best breeds and how dog pet therapy can help children suffering from ADHD.
The Best Dog Breeds For ADHD Children
Studies show that dog pet therapy has been effective in helping improve socialization, lower blood pressure, and even combat loneliness in ADHD. Below are our top picks of the best dog breeds for ADHD!
1. The Energetic Jack Russell Terrier
If you want a small, energetic companion dog for your ADHD child, then the Jack Russell Terrier is your best call. Small, cute, intelligent and energetic, Jack Russell Terriers make for such fun pets. They love to learn and are easily trainable, which is great for giving ADHD sufferers something to focus their time and attention on.
Jack Russell Terriers require a high amount of both physical and mental stimulation and often do well when it comes to agility activities. Signing up for some classes with a Jack Russell ESA is not only a great way to add some routine to the life of an ADHD sufferer, but also helps with socializing, for both owner and dog.
Many would say that a Jack Russell is a large dog in a small body, and this couldn’t be truer. With a strong sense of determination and such an eagerness to please, it is no surprise that Jack Russell terriers are such a popular breed when it comes to companion dogs.
2. The Bernese Mountain Dog
If you would prefer a large breed dog, the Bernese Mountain Dog is a top pick for on the best dog breeds for ADHD children. Bernese Mountain are calm, very good-natured, peaceful and affectionate, and can really make an ADHD sufferer feel so loved.
They are also sensitive, loyal, gentle and extremely intelligent, making them a great option to become a companion for a child with ADHD.
Although they are large in size, they are generally quite calm and easy to train. They do well in a number of different activities, from obedience to tracking to herding, giving an ADHD sufferer plenty of choices when it comes to trying new things with their pooch.
The Bernese Mountain Dog does require plenty of exercises and will definitely encourage its owner to spend more time outdoors, which is good for ADHD children.
3. The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is a breed that is extremely gentle and loves to cuddle, making them perfect for apartment living. Small, soft and sweet-tempered, this is a breed that will be well suited to your ADHD child and the rest of the family.
Being quite highly dependent on human companionship, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel can really help ADHD sufferers with loneliness and stress-reduction. While this may be the case, it is important for you to also train your dog to be independent, so that separation anxiety doesn’t become an issue further on down the line.
While the breed may be great for apartment living, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel still needs plenty of exercise, meaning that they will also be able to encourage ADHD sufferers to spend more time outside.
4. Golden Retriever
Golden Retrievers are a top choice for emotional support dogs. Their happy-go-lucky personality combined with a need to please their owners make them a great choice for families with an ADHD child.
Golden Retrievers are gentle, patient, loving, loyal, and exceptionally easy to train. This breed has a calm temperament and decent intelligence, which is why they are often trained as service or therapy dogs.
Simply put, if you are looking for a long-term friend, who can help benefit your child with ADHD, then it doesn’t get much better than the golden retriever.
5. The Rough Collie
Collies come in two varieties and both make some of the best dog breeds for ADHD:
Rough Collies – these dogs feature a long coat, and were first made famous by canine TV star Lassie. Smooth Collies on the other hand, have shorter coats, they are flatter and denser.
Although the Rough Collie requires more grooming than the Smooth Collie, this can actually be beneficial for providing a daily routine for those who have ADHD.
When it comes to the personality of the Rough Collie, they are extremely energetic and athletic, and are also highly intelligent. They make an ideal companion for those who enjoy spending time outdoors, although they do also love to be a part of the family.
The one downside to Collies is that their impressive intelligence means that they can often get bored easily. Mental stimulation is just as important as physical stimulation, but having a dog with such high requirements can often be even more beneficial for those with ADHD.
6. Labrador Retriever
There’s a very good reason the Labrador Retriever has been the most popular dog in America for the last two decades. Their calm, eager-to-please personality makes them not only a great family pet but a wonderful choice for bonding with a child with ADHD.
7. Great Pyrenees
Originally used to guard flocks of sheep, Great Pyrenees dogs have a calm temperament and are very bonded to and protective of their families. Their large size also makes them quite sturdy. You won’t find a more devoted dog than the Great Pyrenees. This breed has a gentle temperament and a fierce devotion to its family. Great Pyrenees is gentle with children, making it an ideal match for children diagnosed with ADHD.
8. Rescued Dogs
When it comes to picking an emotional support dogs, rescue dogs are often overlooked. Rescue dogs make some of the best dog breeds for ADHD!
Rather than purchasing a young puppy, opting for a rescue dog instead can be very beneficial, especially when you want the dog to be able to help with ADHD. Not only will many of them already have a certain level of basic training, but they also tend to be more mature, doing away with the stress that can come from owning a puppy.
Their unconditional love is so intense, and any history that they may have can often help a rescue dog to give you a surprising level of support. The best dog breeds for ADHD are the breeds you love the most!
9. German Shepherd
As with the other breeds on the list, intelligence and trainability are the top traits that make the German Shepherd a top pick for kids with ADHD. The naturally protective instinct of this breed makes him a great all-around pick for families. And because he is both gentle and loyal, he makes a great therapy dog, too. With the right training, the noble German shepherd would make a perfect addition to your family.
Friendly with both family and strangers, the Samoyed is one of those breeds that always looks like she’s smiling. This clever dog is easy to train and eager to please, making it a great companion for the entire family — including children with autism. Just know it can be highly energetic, so daily exercise and training are a must.
Ways Dogs Help Children with ADHD
For AFHD sufferers, having an emotional support dog has helped particularly by significantly reducing the symptoms of ADHD in the following ways:
- By providing Consistency: Having structure, routines and habits provides a framework in your life, so you can effortless take care of all of your responsibilities and still have time for creativity and fun. ADHD symptoms can make setting up structure and maintaining it tricky. Pets are very helpful in this area!
Implementing a schedule can help teach planning, and having a dog is a great way to plan ahead! Your dog needs to be fed, walked, and given attention on a daily basis. This routine can be a positive way to alleviate
In addition to having a best friend to face the day with! Dogs need a routine, and this helps children with ADHD improve their time management skills.
- Build Self-esteem: Low self-esteem and ADHD tend to go hand in hand. However, having a pet can help to increase your self-esteem. Having someone who has missed you and is always excited to see you, makes you feel really good. ADHD pet owners also feel really proud of themselves for taking care of their pets.
Sometimes it is the first time they have ever been able to take consistent daily action. This builds their confidence and has a ripple effect on other parts of their lives. Some owners told me that they were barely able to take care of themselves, yet when they got their pet, it forced them to raise their game.
Not only did they become outstanding pet owners, they also started taking better care of themselves too.
- Lower stress levels, depression and increase calmness: Stroking a dog, or any other physical contact, minimizes stress and anxiety.
One study showed that thinking of your pet when you’re feeling down is as beneficial as thinking of a human friend. Just knowing that someone loves you unconditionally can be a great comfort, especially when facing interpersonal issues with friends, family, or co-workers.
- Provide outlet for extra energy: Hyperactivity is one of the defining symptoms of ADHD, and dogs provide an easy (and fun!) outlet to work off that extra energy. One study found that dog owners spend about 30 minutes more per week exercising.
The restless feeling ADHD causes can be frustrating, and running outside with a furry playmate can be a rewarding, healthy way to alleviate it. In addition, dogs, especially that are energetic can also compel children with ADHD to become more active. The exercise and playtime that a dog needs provides the perfect outlet for any extra energy.
- Minimizing the sense of isolation and loneliness: Taking the dog for a walk and spending time in nature actually have mental benefits in addition to physical benefits. One study showed that exercising with your dog has positive effects on feelings of loneliness and depression.
The study found that even when feeling sad in the moment, people felt better simply by going outside. Another study showed that children with attention disorders showed improved when they came into contact with nature.
This means that playing with your canine can also elevate serotonin and dopamine levels, nerve transmitters known to have positive and calming effects on the body. So, whether you’re taking him out for his daily stroll around the neighbourhood or looking for a brief escape from the chaos of life, playing with your dog can literally make you feel better.
- Provide unconditional love: Your pets love you unconditionally. They never get mad if you forgot to take the trash out. They can see you at your worst, including the parts you hide from other people, and they still adore you.
Dogs unlike people are completely non-judgemental. They love you for exactly who and how you are, and their opinions don’t change because of any mistakes you may make. They are fantastic listeners. You can pour your heart out to your dog no matter the topic, without feeling judged.
Dogs also give the opportunity for ADHD children to be carefree. With a dog, there is no pressure, no social stress and no anxiety!
- Help with Socializing: A dog is a great ice-breaker when meeting new people, making it easier for those with ADHD to be sociable. Approaching someone you don’t know can be an intimidating task for anyone. This puts extra stress on those who already feel socially isolated, as is the case ADHD Children.
Your dog can be of help, even if he is not with you. Children with ADHD can use the dog to strike up a conversation, mores so, dogs are easy topic with which to relate to another.
Owning a dog can help you socially on a grander scale as well.
Dogs can also help children with ADHD build a social network within their community. Dog playgroups are a great way to meet others and prevent you from withdrawing socially. It can be another thing for you to look forward to and help you branch out into more group outings.
- Gives ADHD Children something positive to think about or look forward to: Dogs can an incredible source of support for ADHD children. This can be very important especially challenging days on when symptoms may be flaring up. Instead of coming home and dwelling on the problems, ADHD children can direct their thoughts to walk their best friend and giving him what he needs.
There have been numerous studies that observed the effect dogs have on their owners’ mental states. One found that dog owners tend to simply feel better about life in general. They help fulfil the central social need of belonging, an excellent way to counteract the feelings of isolation ADD and ADHD can cause.
Dogs can also give a sense of purpose and help ADHD children feel needed and less lonely. Because even on the most challenging days, a dog will still smile at you and wag its tail. Nothing says you are loved more than that!
- Help ADHD Children Focus on The Now: People with ADHD tend slow down and focus on the now, when they are with their pets. Focusing on the present moment, something that is difficult for ADHD children, has a calming and almost meditative effect.
- Provides Body Double: There is a term in the ADHD world called ‘body double’. A body double is usually a friend, family member or coach. This person sits with you while you are doing something stressful, mundane or boring to keep you on task. In some situations (it depends on the task and your pet), your pet can be your body double substitute. Their presence can reduce your anxiety as you make that difficult decision or task.
- It becomes easier to develop empathy when looking after a dog, something that is often a challenge to those with ADHD.
Signs You Might Notice When Your Dog Sense High Energy and Stress
Here are some signs you might notice when your dog senses high energy or stress:
- Alert Barking
- Whining Wag tail
- Wanting to Play Also Showing High Energy
- Slobbery Kisses.
Training Your Dog to Help With ADHD
Unless you decide to go through the process of registering your dog as an emotional support dog, there are a few things you can focus on at home so that your pup can help with ADHD. A specific breed of dog isn’t the key decision; more importantly, you want a dog with energy, patience, and friendliness. Labradors or Retrievers are popular dogs for precisely these reasons. But if you’re looking for a dog specifically to help alleviate symptoms of ADHD, it is more important to consider personality and temperament, rather than breed.
A dog that is tolerant, gentle, and trainable would be your best bet. Although smaller dogs are cute and cuddly, kids with ADHD may accidentally get too rough or miss warning signs that the pup is feeling scared or territorial.
Also, having your dog well trained in basic obedience is helpful, especially because times can get chaotic. You can start training your dog early on, even simply by teaching to take treats nicely. Socialization is also important, so introduce your dog to people as often as possible. Doing fun activities together – like going on walks, visiting the beach, or playing in the park – also helps develop trust and teamwork.
How to Register Your Dog as an Emotional Support Dog
When it comes to emotional support animals, there are no rules on specific breeds, or even specific animals, meaning that just about any animal could potentially qualify as an ESA.
Unlike a service dog, an emotional service animal does not need to go through intensive training. To register your dog for ESA, all you need is an ESA letter, which has to be written by a licensed mental health practitioner (LMHP).
There are benefits attached to acquiring an ESA letter. First, you will be able to have your dog with you in situations where a non-ESA wouldn’t be able to go. For example, airlines are required to allow owners to bring their ESA (generally cats and dogs) on board a flight for no charge at all.
Finding housing also becomes easier, as housing providers are required to allow emotional service dogs or cats to live with their owners, even if pets aren’t usually allowed in that accommodation.
Tips for Dogs Helping with ADHD
- Make sure you create time for the dog. Dogs can absolutely help with ADHD, but they need time, care, and the same love and affection that you do!
- It is important to understand that dogs are not “treatment” for ADHD. Dogs only help alleviating the symptoms of ADHD. So, you will need to go through proper channels for therapy and other necessary treatments.
- Surprising your ADHD child with a pup may sound fun, but it is better to prepare someone with ADHD for his/her new family member.
- Always supervise an ADHD child with a dog especially if such child is a beginner.
- The pet you choose needs to meet the needs and energy level of your child, as well as the schedule and resources of your family.
Things to Remember when Selecting Your Dog
- It’s important to look for a dog that is tolerant, gentle and trainable. Labrador and golden retrievers are popular family dogs for these reasons.
- Small, delicate dogs, on the other hand, may not always be the best choice. Kids with ADHD may (lovingly) grab their pets or miss warning cues that the animal is scared or territorial.
However, selecting a dog is less about breed and more about the individual temperament of the animal and your child. If you’re buying a dog, talk to the breeder about your household and your child’s demeanour. You can visit the litter and spend time with the puppies to get a feel for their personalities.
- Rescue pups are a good option. But they’re more of a wild card since many have unknown histories. Be sure to spend significant time with a rescue animal before you bring it home. These pets can take extra time and training, so you’ll want to know what you’re in for before you commit.
Tips for Preparing ADHD Children and Family
Children with ADHD always have trouble with transition and as such bring a dog home for your ADHD child might not go as smoothly as you imagined. Below are some tips you can use to prepare both your ADHD child and your family when bringing a pet for your ADHD child.
Your ADHD child may initially seem thrilled if you agree to take home a dog from an adoption event at the town park. But he/she may quickly lose interest in an animal that needs attention and affection. To avoid this:
- Let your child be part of the whole process. It’s good practice when it comes to executive functions. That includes focusing, planning and following through with a “project.”
- Research potential pets with your ADHD children. Make a list of what you’ll need to buy for the animal and figure out where it will live in the house. Look into a training class if you’re getting a dog, and work on training the dog together. Draw up a schedule that shows who will be responsible for walking, feeding and other chores related to the pet.
- Some parents draw up “contracts” that have kids commit to caring for their pets. If this kind of commitment would be overwhelming for your child, team up instead. You can work together, be flexible, and have a backup plan in place for walking, cleaning or feeding the animal in case she slips up.
- Your child may insist on taking care of the dog. But he/she might not be able to stay focused enough or remember what she has to do. Be prepared to take on some of the work.
- Also, make sure you factor in the whole family. It’s important that everyone is on board with getting a dog. It can create problems if they’re not.
There may be cases where some kids with ADHD really shouldn’t have a pet. Kids with severe impulse control issues or who are aggressive can harm an animal without meaning to.
This doesn’t mean these kids should never have a pet. They may just have to mature and gain better control of themselves before they can live with an animal.
If you’re not sure your child is ready, there are things you can do prepare her for the responsibility of having a pet such as therapy sessions and teaching the child how to be gentle with animals.