Dogs and ADHD I love getting the chance to talk about dogs! At Orchid, we are dog lovers to the core. Many of our clients love it when we bring our dogs to the office. Sometimes they add a great deal to our sessions, from the calming sensory input of petting them while talking to making someone feel more at ease, and at other times, just napping on the couch or being a plain old distraction. Between two of us, we have four furbabies — Chessie, Jaxson, Chloe, and Beau.
I’ve had several clients with ADHD contemplate getting a dog and discuss it with me. The simple act of discussing it is a victory in my book! Seeing all those cute puppies and shelter dogs in need of loving homes on Petfinder.com can really pull someone out of a logic-based decision-making process, way over to the emotional space that tugs on the heartstrings that lead to impulsive decisions. As we know too well, emotional and impulsive decisions are not always good ones and being an ill-prepared dog owner is one of them.
The benefits of being a dog owner are many, and for an individual with ADHD, owning a dog can really help. Dogs thrive on structure and routine and demand it of us. For example, someone that doesn’t always do well sticking to a sleep schedule, and has trouble getting up in the morning, owning a dog a surefire way to fix that issue. Potty schedules are critical, so in terms of breaking up the day into smaller periods of time, potty schedules can help that issue, starting with the first one bright and early in the morning. It really forces you to think about what you can get done in a certain space of time. On the same note, feeding schedules fall into this same category; If you forget, they will most certainly remind you!
Dogs seem to sense the rituals of the morning and evening routines. They are very sensory based and know what to expect based on changes in the environments — the warmth and sound of the shower in the morning, the smell, and sounds of the coffee brewing. My dog always knows when it’s time to go in her crate after I spray my perfume and walk downstairs — she follows and trots right into her crate and lays down, without me telling her. And in the evening, they are great to cue US into winding down and settling in for the evening; to a dog, there’s no such thing as “one last episode on Netflix” or endless surfing online. They practice mindfulness and teach us without even trying.
Of course, dogs are not a great option for everyone, especially for those who are not willing to adapt their lifestyle to take care of it properly, and really devote their attention and love. They can add a lot to a household and a family; but it truly is like having a toddler that doesn’t grow up. I was distracted four times while writing this, twice from Chessie who needed a potty break then couldn’t get her bone out from under the couch, and twice from Jaxson who wanted his bone back from Chessie. However, both are now quietly laying down, ready for bed, reminding me what time of day it is.