Dogs Can Show Human-Like ADHD Behaviors, Study Finds

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10/21/2021

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Some dogs exhibit behaviors that closely resemble ADHD in humans, according to a study released this month in the journal Translational Psychiatry. The study, which tracked hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattention in more than 10,000 dogs, provides hope for better treatments for both species, the authors said. 

The research team, based in Helinski, Finland, looked at more than 11,000 dogs of different breeds, asking owners behavioral questions based on human ADHD research.

Hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattention were found to be more common in young dogs and male dogs, matching the observed demographics of ADHD in humans, the authors said. 

The study also found that dogs who stayed at home alone daily were more hyperactive, impulsive, and inattentive than dogs who spent more time with their owners or were not alone. In dogs, ADHD-like traits can present as an inability to calm down, inattention, and continuous barking or whining, the authors said. 

"Dogs share many similarities with humans, including physiological traits and the same environment," doctoral researcher Sini Sulkama said in a press release. "In addition, ADHD-like behavior naturally occurs in dogs." 

They also found that a dog's breed plays a significant role in whether it will develop ADHD-like behavioral traits. 

Breeds bred for work, like the German Shepard and Border Collie, had higher rates of ADHD-like behaviors, the team found. On the other hand, breeds that are popular for showing or as pets, like the Chihuahua, Long-Haired Collie, and Poodle, were calmer and had less tendency towards impulsivity. 

The researchers also said they found a link between ADHD-like behaviors and obsessive-compulsive behavior, aggressiveness, and fearfulness. In dogs, obsessive-compulsive behavior includes "tail chasing, continuous licking of surfaces or themselves, or staring at 'nothing,'" the study said. Humans with ADHD are more likely to also have obsessive-compulsive disorder, the press release said. 

"The findings suggest that the same brain regions and neurobiological pathways regulate activity, impulsivity, and concentration in both humans and dogs," Sulkama said. "This strengthens the promise that dogs show as a model species in the study of ADHD."

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