When ADHD and Puppies Don’t Mix
Let’s see. ADD means you have some or all of these symptoms: distractibility, impulsiveness, hyperactivity, inattention…
You might also be impatient, get bored easily, have a hard time making decisions, anger quickly, get overwhelmed easily…and that’s just the beginning.
So why would anyone with ADHD in their right mind decide to get a puppy? A puppy requires patience, consistency, attention and calm. Hmmm. Those don’t seem to be traits that always come easy for those of us with ADHD.
Nearly three years ago, my beloved dog, Annie, passed away. Those of you who are dog lovers will know instantly the deep feelings of loss and pain one feels when losing a pet. Annie was my soul mate who followed me everywhere. I’d never known such loyalty and love from a dog before, though I’ve had dogs my entire life: Blitz, Nanny, Bridgette, Toby, Tina, Ruthie and Harper.
Not long after Annie’s death, we got a puppy, known as “the-puppy-from-hell”: Harper. Harper didn’t enter our lives in a calm, sweet way like most puppies. She charged into our home, nipping, destroying furniture and creating complete havoc. Knowing she’d eventually calm down as she matured, like her predecessor, we hung in there. Sure enough, when she hit the age of two, she became a calm and sweet dog. But I vowed I would never, ever get another puppy again.
So when Harper bonded with my husband, leaving me completely in the dust, my heart longed for a dog that would steal my heart and give me hers.
I began the quest– searching for a puppy. This time, I’d find a breed that was easier going than my last two. At first, I looked into Rescues, but struck out twice with that. Just the wrong mix for my complicated family. Then came toy poodles, then a host of other breeds, until I made the decision (finally) to find a Cockapoo. Cockapoos are a cross between a Cocker Spaniel and a Poodle. They have the intelligence of the poodle and the sweet nature of the Cocker. But most of all, they love their people and are known to be “Velcro” dogs. Just what my broken heart needed.
Here’s where my ADD worked FOR me.
Once I settled on a Cockapoo, I spent hours and hours each day, looking online for breeders. It became the hunt that so many of us love when we’re in that hyperfocus mode. Where others might have given up or just gone with the first breeder that they found, I scrutinized them, studied their websites; how they raised the dogs; the backgrounds of the dogs, references and more.
A professional ADD coach acquaintance, Rhonda Pawlan, saw my dog searching post on Facebook. She, too, was looking for a puppy and showed me a photo of a litter she had considered. I immediately fell in love with one little brown and white puppy. Within a week, he was mine.
Elliot O’Riley Matlen is 12 weeks old as of this writing and has been in our home for less than 2 weeks. To prepare for his homecoming, I ADD-ishly read and researched the best way to housetrain a puppy. I had no idea there would be so many options out there. I decided to go with the pee pad method, which a good friend of mine had used successfully with her dog years ago.
Shortly after initiating the pee pad plan, I began reading that this would only delay the dog from learning to “go” outside. Whether that’s true or not, I impulsively shifted gears and decided to crate train him. My feeble attempt at that ended quickly when both my daughter and I, who along with our ADD also have significant sensory issues, couldn’t tolerate the whining and screaming. Who knew a 4 lb puppy could have such lungs?
I returned to the pee pads but combined it with constant supervision so I could get Elliott outside before he’d hit the pad- a method I thought that combined the best options: pads for backup emergencies for when I couldn’t get him outside in time. And did I mention that the temperatures were in the teens when we brought him home? The coldest spring in years, of course, making the pads a wonderful option, especially at night.
Well, poor Elliott is just plain confused. Should he use the pad? Or go outside?
Hyperfocusing is fun if you’re playing video games or working on a project that excites you, but watching a puppy constantly and rushing outside every time he is in a semi-squat position wears thin after a few days.
Then there’s the middle of the night outings, since he’s still not quite able to get through without an accident. Thankfully, Elliott is happy in his bedtime crate, as long as he’s within 3 feet of me. But I am exhausted, even with my poor husband taking a nighttime shift.
Bottom line? (I’m sure you’ve been waiting):
If you have ADHD and find it hard to stick with routines, hate feeling tied down, need uninterrupted sleep, then perhaps getting a puppy is not the right move for you. But looking beyond the puppy scenario, perhaps there are other things you find yourself getting into that don’t speak to your strengths or challenges. Perhaps you can begin to think about what those things might be and either avoid them, or find supports to help you through them.
One thing that’s getting me through this insanity, is knowing that it’s all temporary and within a few months, I’ll have a wonderful pet. But until then, it has been very very difficult managing this full time job on top of everything else.
How about you? What decisions have you made that turned your life upside down, even temporarily? How did you get through it? What would you do differently the next time around?
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