Attention Deficit Disorder in Dogs

Does your dog suffer from Canine Attention Deficit Disorder (CADD)? This article discusses diagnosis, treatment options, and preventative measures. Don’t let your dog suffer. There are things you can do for your pet.

Attention deficit disorder in dogs is on the rise and has become a leading cause for owner surrenders and subsequent euthanasia.  Don’t let it happen to you, there are simple things you can do to prevent this disease from afflicting your dog. 


A previously well-trained and well-adjusted dog suddenly displays the symptoms of CADD with what is generally termed acute onset destructive behavior.  The dog may engage in self-mutilation (excessive licking, chewing, hair pulling), excessive vocalization (constant barking), hyperactivity and compulsive behaviors (chewing, digging, jumping up, eating furniture, racing around, tail chasing), or suddenly suffer from memory loss (forget housebreaking and soil inside).  The diagnosis is sometimes muddled by the coexistence of separation anxiety, which may or may not accompany CADD. 

Keywords to establishing a diagnosis of CADD are that the symptoms are of sudden onset and increase in magnitude over duration.  In general multiple symptoms are expressed, which lessen in the presence of the dog’s owner and disappear during periods of high mental stimulation or physical activity (training, walking, exercising).  Before jumping to a conclusion of CADD, a veterinarian should eliminate other possible health concerns, especially when symptoms are limited to only one of the listed ones, such as incontinence or licking, which often find their origin in physiological malfunction or parasites.

Dogs are not born with CADD.  It is an environmentally imposed condition that can be reversed by promptly addressing and removing the triggers for the disease.  

It is important to recognize that CADD is not a preexisting disorder in dogs.  Immature animals only appear to be afflicted by the condition, but that is of a temporary nature, and easily preventable, see paragraph below.


If your dog displays typical CADD symptoms, treatment is advised.  Occupational therapy, group therapy, and intense social interaction have been highly successful therapeutic devices.  Owner participation is a must.  Once the dog is placed on a treatment regimen of routine exercise (plenty of walks), social interactions with same and other species (playtime with you, other dogs, children, and even cats), mental stimulation (obedience training, fly-ball, agility training, learning of new tricks, dog toys) coupled with contact therapy (petting, grooming, and massaging the dog) symptoms of CADD diminish rapidly.  Benefits extend to the owner as well; increased satisfaction with their situation and weight loss are only two of the oft-mentioned bonuses that accompany the treatment of CADD.

What if the cause of CADD was unavoidable?

A dog owner may experience a sudden unavoidable outside demand that prevents him or her from providing the proper attention to their canine companion.  These include, but are not limited to, having to work overtime, hospital stay, a move, school, and many others.  During those stressors, consider short-term solutions such as dog walkers, dog day care, friends and neighbors, to provide the necessary emotional stability for your dog.  If symptoms occur, treat them promptly.  See further preventative measures mentioned below.


Prevention of CADD is simple and begins as soon as the dog is acquired.  It is a life-long process.  Establishing and maintaining routines for feeding, sleeping, elimination, exercise, training, and grooming, along with a stimulating environment, a job, and judicious use of toys, training aids, and crates prevent most occurrences of CADD.  Early, often and ongoing socialization of a dog is a must.  A pup that has been fed, exercised and been played with is asleep, not barking up a storm or excavating the yard.  A dog confined to his crate is not eating your couch.  Let him have a fun and safe chew toy.  Play with him.  Spend time with him.  It’s that simple!

Spending time with your dog is not the same as occupying the same room while you are immersed in electronic diversions.  Pay some attention to your dog.  If you are watching TV, spend time to brush the dog, and use the commercials to teach him a trick or two.  Sure he knows how to sit, but does he know ‘which hand holds the goodie’, ‘wave bye-bye’, ‘beg’, ‘pray’, ‘stretch’, ‘take a bow’, ‘dance’, ‘sing’, or ‘bring a specific toy’?  Even oldies but goodies such as ‘balance the treat on your nose’ or ‘catch’ are edutainment for dogs.

Caution:  CADD is a highly contagious disease!

Do not attempt to treat CADD by exposing another dog to your afflicted one.  The extra company alone will not provide the proper mental, social, and physical interactions needed to cure CADD.  Two dogs require individual attention and training as well as combined sessions, therefore two dogs triple your time commitment instead of merely doubling it. 

Prevent Canine Attention Deficit Disorder – spend more time with your pooch.

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User Comments
  1. Concerned

    On January 1, 2012 at 12:43 am

    I volunteer for a 501C to save dogs. I recently acquired a foster for which definitely either has ADHD or ADD. She has plenty of walks and attention. However, she does not listen what-so-ever at all, is house trained but still goes in the house, and has NO attention span, knows sit, stay, lay, up, come, and give me your paw but refuses to do them unless she is leashed (which is how I found out that she did in fact know her commands) and I command her attention. I’ve never heard of this in animals but do know the signs.

    After working with her continuoiusly, over two weeks, I finally got her to do her commands but only on leash. I finally have her crate trained for which she used to refuse to even go near, and when crated, freaked out to the point I thought she was going to hurt herself. If there is even the slightest distraction, regardless of whether she is leashed or not, she completely forgets what she is doing and is ready to do who knows what.

    She is house trained but does go in the house as if the thought hits her and she does it. If kept leashed, she has NO issues with this. If pee pads are put down and she is left unleashed, she goes on the pads or next to them, and does not due her duty on her walks so that deterance is out.

    She was adopted out for a month but was returned for biting people. She never did this when I had her for a short time prior to adoption although she did have guarding issues. I was able to deter this behavior by having her lay on a couch adjacent to me while friends and family sat with me while making her stay away. It seems this did not stick with her adoptive parents.

    When returned is when I spent all day trying to work with her on her behavioral and ‘listening’ issues, which has shown much progress but she has such a long way to go (90% more) and I do not think there is much more that I can do. Since having her back, she ended up biting a relative on Christmas. Since she now has a biting history, she needs to be put down.

    I now have awareness of what the issue is and have implemented every strategy on this page and more with only minute behavioral modification but even that small amount is substantial compared to how she was. I would like to know if there is anything more I can do in the future when faced with a situation similar to this? It breaks my heart that such a lovable, cuddly dog that needs to be put to sleep because of a chemical imbalance, that was not caught soon enough, such as this and do not want another occurance, no matter how slight the chances it would happen again.

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