It is not for nothing that dogs are considered â€œman’s best friendâ€. They share many traits with humans that often lead to the development of a lifelong bond between the two species. Also, some breeds are known more than others for their hyperactive and playful natures. Now, a new study has found that domesticated dogs exhibit behavior that is similar to ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) in humans.
According to researchers at the University of Helsinki, dogs can spontaneously display high levels of hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattentiveness – key components of human ADHD. The dog’s age, breed, and sex, along with behavioral issues and environmental factors, were found to be related to the ADHD-like condition they manifested.
â€œOur results can help better identify, understand, and treat hyperactivity, impulsiveness, and inattentiveness in dogs. In addition, they suggest a similarity to human ADHD and cement the role of dogs in ADHD-related research, â€said Dr. Hannes Lohi, lead author of the study in a statement.
Assessment of the human-like condition in dogs
ADHD is a disorder that leads to above-average levels of impulsive and hyperactive behavior. People with ADHD may also have difficulty focusing their attention on a particular task or even sitting still for long periods of time. While it begins in childhood, it can continue into adulthood.
For the study, the authors examined the effects of environmental, demographic, and behavioral factors on hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattentiveness in over 11,000 dogs. The characteristics were rated based on questions in a survey used for human ADHD research.
The responses to the questionnaire were collected from February 2015 to September 2018. Dogs of all sizes and multiple breeds that differed significantly from one another were included in the study.
The main aim of the study was to identify the environmental factors that lead to ADHD-like behavior in dogs and possible links to other behavioral traits. “Dogs share many similarities with humans, including physiological traits and the same environment. In addition, ADHD-like behavior occurs naturally in dogs. This makes dogs an interesting model for studying ADHD in humans,” noted Sini Sulkama. Co-author of the learn.
Role of age and gender
The team observed that inattentiveness, impulsiveness, and hyperactivity were more common in young dogs and males. This is an important finding as relationships between gender and age in relation to ADHD have also been observed in humans. It also contradicts those from previous studies that did not find any notable differences in the traits examined between the sexes.
It was also found that hyperactivity, impulsiveness, and inattention were higher in dogs who spent more time at home alone compared to those who spent less time alone. â€œAs social animals, dogs can be frustrated and stressed on their own, which can be expressed in hyperactivity, impulsiveness, and inattentiveness. Dogs that spend long periods of time in solitude may also get less exercise and attention from their owners, â€said Sulkama.
Interestingly, a new link was discovered by the authors: a link between impulsivity and hyperactivity and the owner’s experience with dogs. Both of these traits were found to be more common in dogs that were not their owners’ first dogs. However, the causality of the phenomenon is so far unclear.
“People can choose a less active individual as their first dog who better suits a pet dog’s imagination, while more active and challenging dogs can be chosen after they gain more experience with dogs,” said Sulkama.
Notable differences between the races
It is known that breeding has a significant impact on the behavior of different breeds of dogs. Through the current study, the team highlighted several racial differences, indicating a substantial genetic basis for hyperactivity, impulsiveness, and inattentiveness.
â€œHyperactivity and impulsiveness on the one hand, and good concentration on the other, are common in work-bred breeds such as the German Shepherd and Border Collie. With breeds that are so popular, on the other hand, being calmer is seen as an advantage for pets or show dogs such as Chihuahuas, long-haired collies and poodles, which make them easier everyday companions, “says Dr. Lohi.
He also emphasized that in dogs bred as domestic or show dogs, the ability to concentrate as a key trait, like in working breeds, has largely been neglected. According to Dr. Lohi is the reason for the increased inattentiveness in domestic dogs.