How Pets Can Help Kids with ADHD


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Boy running with dog

Children who have been diagnosed with ADHD can benefit from caring for and playing with a pet. If you are on the fence about bringing an animal into your family and you have a child with ADHD, consider these points:

  • A pet can teach a child with ADHD to schedule and plan ahead. Pets require a schedule for feeding, walking, bathing etc. Once your child becomes accustomed to following the pet's schedule, it will be easier for him to follow a schedule for homework, chores or extra-curricular activities.
  • If your child has lots of excess energy, playing with a pet can help with that. Your child can burn off energy walking a dog or running around with a kitten, making her more relaxed later in the day.
  • Fish can also be a calming influence. Watching fish swim around is very relaxing.
  • Kids with ADHD are used to their parents trying to calm them down or reprimanding them. A pet offers unconditional love and will not criticize a child for having too much energy. Animals are great listeners and can build up a child's self-confidence.
  • Child psychiatrists may use pets in therapy with ADHD children. For instance, dogs can be used to teach behavioral modification techniques to the children and their parents.
  • Trying to live up to other people's expectations despite the difficulty can put stress on your child. Petting an animal or even just sitting near one can reduce stress.
  • Children with ADHD may have difficulties with social interaction. When your child plays outside with a pet, other kids will automatically want to join in. When you invite a child to your home for a playdate, the pet is a great icebreaker.
  • Outdoor exercise can be extremely beneficial to kids with ADHD. Fresh air and good circulation from aerobic exercise increases oxygen-filled blood flow to a child’s brain. If your child walks her dog in the morning before school she will have an easier time concentrating in the classroom.