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Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Can Dogs Help Treat ADHD in Children? A Guest post from Tammy Mahan of Healthline.com

Can Dogs Help Treat ADHD in Children?

Animal assisted therapy is now being used by child psychiatrists in parts of the United States, Europe and Australia for children with psychological disorders such as ADHD. Animals with specific traits are used to aid in the child’s recovery as a natural treatment for ADHD.

The right techniques are applied according to the notes that therapist take about the physical, cognitive, emotional and social function of the child. Therapists make notes of the improvements or progress while watching the child interact under close supervision with the animal. Dogs are the most popular animal for animal assisted therapy, but birds, cats, rabbits, horses and even elephants and dolphins are sometimes used. 
Photo Source: http://img.webmd.com/dtmcms/live/webmd/consumer_assets/site_images/articles/health_tools/pets_improve_health_slideshow/getty_rm_photo_of_boy_playing_with_dog.jpg

Children with ADHD can benefit from animal assisted therapy in numerous ways. Having an animal with them can make therapy sessions feel like play when there has been a trauma such as death, physical abuse or divorce experienced by the child. Children will tell animals things they might not be willing to tell a therapist or another adult, so the therapist can have the child tell the rabbit what happened. Information that the therapist will use to guide the remainder of the treatment is obtained this way. Therapists also have children to draw the family with animals representing each member. The technique of animal therapy is different from that of traditional therapy but the goals for emotional healing are the same. 

Photo Source: http://pawsitivesolutions.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/Tphoto-672.jpg

Animals can assist in addressing the behavioral components of ADHD. Parents and children are often taught behavioral modification through the use of therapy dogs. Teachers and parents that are frustrated with the behaviors associated with ADHD may at times yell at children with the diagnosis. The dog is used to model the reactions of someone that is being yelled at showing them that they will be frightened or sad and will not come to them. The dog will go to you if you call them gently.

A reduction in impulsiveness and hyperactivity is noted by parents that witness animal-based therapies being used on their children. Children are taught to control impulses, take turns and increase their patience levels while meeting other objectives. Eventually sitting patiently and waiting your their turn is learning by those with oppositional defiant disorder by holding the animals.
Photo Source: http://americalovesdogs.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/Dogs-Kids.jpg
The social component of ADHD is explored as well. Children become increasingly affectionate with animals during therapy, even if they are not comfortable with human emotions or physical contact. The social demeanor of the children may change when around the animal but it is not known if the new behavior will translate to human interactions.
Photo Source:http://www.familyhomesecurity.com/images/Guard-Dogs-and-Children.jpg
Not everyone should use animal-assisted therapy. Another type of therapy would probably be beneficial for a child that has an allergy or phobia. Some children may not be responsive to the therapy, especially if they do not have an interest in animals. Improvement or management of ADHD symptoms could be aided a great deal if your child adores furry little critters. 
Photo Source: http://www.cesar.com/live-the-life/care-and-wellness/images/article/article-child.jpg

Healthline has created a very useful infographics that you can access here.

Tammy Mahan has 20 years of experience in the healthcare field. In her free time, she enjoys writing articles for Healthline.com

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a mental disorder that most often occurs in children. Symptoms of ADHD include trouble concentrating, paying attention, staying organized, and remembering details.

It can be a difficult condition to diagnose. Children with untreated ADHD are sometimes mislabeled as troublemakers or problem children. Make sure you know the basic facts and symptoms of ADHD.

5 Fast Facts

  • During their lifetimes, 12.9 percent of men will be diagnosed with the attention disorder. Just 4.9 percent of women will be diagnosed.

- See more at: http://www.healthline.com/health/adhd/facts-statistics-infographic#.dpuf

Currently, 6.1 percent of all American children are being treated for ADHD with medication. Some states have higher rates of treatment with medication than others. One in five American children who has been diagnosed with ADHD is not receiving medicine or mental health counseling for their disorder.
Lowest Rate of Treatment
  1. Nevada: 2%
  2. Hawaii: 3.2%
  3. California: 3.3%
  4. Alaska, New Jersey, and Utah: 3.5%
  5. Colorado: 3.6%
Highest Rate of Treatment
  1. Louisiana: 10.4%
  2. Kentucky: 10.1%
  3. Indiana and Arkansas: 9.9%
  4. North Carolina: 9.4%
  5. Iowa: 9.2%

ADHD & Other Conditions

ADHD doesn’t increase a person’s risk for other conditions or diseases. But some people with ADHD — especially children — are more likely to experience a range of co-existing conditions. They can sometimes make social situations more difficult or school more challenging.
Some co-existing conditions include:
  • learning disabilities
  • conduct disorders and difficulties, including antisocial behavior, fighting, and oppositional defiant disorder
  • anxiety disorder
  • depression
  • bipolar disorder
  • Tourette’s syndrome
  • substance abuse
  • bed-wetting problems
  • sleep disorders
- See more at: http://www.healthline.com/health/adhd/facts-statistics-infographic#4


  1. The all pictures of this blog is really good.These pictures well described the relation between dog and children.Dog is the famous pet and friend for every children.
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  4. Amazing. Couldn't think of this kind of treatment myself. Does it matter what kind of a dog I have?

    1. Hi Amelia,

      It really doesn't matter what dog you have, all dogs are great.

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