Study Shows That Therapy Dogs Can Reduce ADHD Symptoms in Children

PetMD Editorial
Published: July 19, 2018
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In a randomized trial, researchers from the University of California, Irvine found that therapy dogs reduced symptoms of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children.

Led by Sabrina E. B. Schuck, PhD, MA, the trial found that children with ADHD who received canine assisted intervention (CAI) experienced a reduction in inattention, an improvement in social skills and fewer behavioral problems.

The trial--titled, “A Randomized Controlled Trial of Traditional Psychosocial and Canine-Assisted Interventions for Children with ADHD”--involved 88 children from 7 to 9 years old who had been diagnosed with ADHD and who had not previously received medicine to help their condition.

The study exposed a randomly selected group to “best practices” psychosocial interventions and compared that with participants who received the same intervention with the addition of certified therapy dogs.

While both non-CAI interventions and CAI interventions were effective at reducing ADHD symptoms in children after 12 weeks, the group that received CAI experienced improved attention and social skills at just eight weeks, with fewer behavioral problems. The results found that there were no differences displayed for hyperactivity and impulsivity.

Schuck told Science Daily, “The take away from this is that families now have a viable option when seeking alternative or adjunct therapies to medication treatments for ADHD, especially when it comes to impaired attention.” Schuck notes that a lack of attention is the most significant problem experienced in those with ADHD.

The study was the first of its kind that involved children with ADHD in a randomized controlled trial with CAI. It provides solid evidence that supports the use of therapy dogs in conjunction with traditional psychosocial therapy for children with ADHD.

Image via Anna Hoychuk/

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