Emotion regulation skills. Can a dog be the answer?

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We teach our dogs how to sit, roll over, and speak.  But can a dog teach your ADHD child emotion regulation skills?

If you own a dog, you know the wonderful feeling of Scruffy meeting you at the door with unconditional love and lots of wet kisses.  You can feel the stress of the day disappear as your dog snuggles in for that most important belly rub.  

Studies now show that not only do you get good feelings from your dog, but your dog can actually help your ADHD child develop emotion regulation skills and possibly reduce ADHD symptoms.

Parentoloty.com cites a recent study published in the Journal of Pediatric Research that found owning, walking and playing with a family dog could enrich a toddler’s social and emotional development. In fact, toddlers from dog-owning families in the study were “30% less likely to have conduct and peer problems in comparison to preschoolers from families who didn’t own dogs,” according to the research.

Emotion regulation skills are the skills that allow you to manage and direct your emotions.  They are part of executive function and a difficult skill for many children with ADHD. 

Teaching your child emotion regulation skills are important for many reasons. Parentingforbrain.com

  • Good emotional regulation helps your child develop positive relationships and is also a strong predictor of academic performance and success​​. (Journal of School Psychology)
  • If your child has good emotional regulation, he will be able to focus on assignments and exams rather than being distracted by anxiety and other negative feelings.
  • Students who can self-regulate perform better on tasks involving delayed gratification, inhibition, and long-term goals.
  • Adults who do not have emotion regulation skills report less job satisfaction, mental health or general well-being (Journal of Organizational Behavior).

If your child is struggling with emotion regulation, finding a fluffy companion may be the answer. Project Positive Assertive Cooperative Kids (PACK) studied a 12-week cognitive-behavioral intervention using canine-assisted intervention (CAI) with a group of children with ADHD. Their studies found that the groups who interacted with dogs reported “improvements in children’s social skills, prosocial behaviors, and problematic behaviors… children who received the CAI model exhibited greater reductions in the severity of ADHD symptoms than did children who received cognitive-behavioral therapy without CAI.”

Remember taking on a pet is a big responsibility for the entire family. Make certain to do your research and decide if pet ownership is right for you and your child. Michigan Health suggests asking yourself some questions before getting a new pet.

Play Attention teaches emotion regulation. Your child’s customized, neurocognitive training program will strengthen the core cognitive skills that lay the foundation for strong emotion regulation. Call 800-788-6786 or click here to schedule your free 1:1 consultation to learn more.