Dog is truly man’s best friend, and that holds particularly true for people in addiction recovery. Your pet stays by your side through thick and thin, never judging, always accepting you exactly the way you are – while also giving you a reason to keep pushing forward each day.
If you’re one of the many people in recovery who have turned to outdoor activities as a way to stay active and healthy, a dog makes the perfect companion. In this guide, we’ll tell you where to go, what to do, and how to stay safe in your upcoming outdoor adventures with your four-legged friend.
Why the Great Outdoors?
Spending time outside, being active, and soaking up the sunshine (for that all-important Vitamin D) is one of the most effective ways to cope with the emotional ups and downs of addiction recovery. Plus, getting enough exercise improves your physical health and overall well-being, which in turn can lessen some of the symptoms (both emotional and physical) you might be experiencing in recovery. Regularly engaging in outdoor recreational activities can also:
- Reduce stress
- Relieve anxiety and depression
- Improve sleep
- Provide opportunities for socialization
Spending time with pets also offers a number of well-established (and similar) benefits, from reduced stress to increasing the level of oxytocin, a feel-good hormone, reducing blood pressure, and more.
Plus, outdoor activities can be beneficial to your recovery and overall well-being as well as your pet’s health. In other words, outdoor recreation simply makes sense for pet owners, with significant benefits for people in addiction recovery.
Pet-Friendly Outdoor Recreation Locations
Before you think about what to do with your pet in the great outdoors, you first need to decide where to go. Whether it’s a visit to a nearby dog park for an afternoon round of fetch or a local hiking trail to get a good workout in, the places you can go for outdoor fun with your pet are endless.
Resources like BringFido.com provide a simple way to learn about all the dog-friendly locations near you. A few ideas for pet-friendly outings include:
- Dog parks
- Hiking trails
- Dog-focused events
- The beach, rivers, lakes, or streams
Fun Outdoor Activities to Enjoy with Your Pet
Not every outdoor activity is suitable for your pet; water-skiing, for instance, is probably not an activity your dog would enjoy. That said, he might be content to go for a boat ride and watch you enjoy the skiing. However, there are ample activities that promise equal enjoyment for both you and your pet, such as:
- Take a walk to the local ice cream shop for a cool treat on a warm summer day.
- Sign up for a dog training or agility training course you can participate in together.
- Visit the local dog park for an afternoon game of fetch or frisbee.
- Take a day trip to the beach so your dog can frolic in the surf.
- Arrange a pet playdate with a friend and their pet.
- Get your pet a therapy animal certification and volunteer for the local hospital, senior living community, or other settings.
Outdoor Adventure Safety for You and Your Pet
Safety is paramount when you’re heading out on an adventure in the great outdoors with your pet. In most cases, your pet should always be on a leash. There are some exceptions. Some dog parks, for instance, allow dogs to be unleashed for periods of time. In general, it’s best to keep your pet on a leash if you’re venturing into unfamiliar territory or will be around new people or other animals.
If you’re going on an adventure such as camping or hiking, be prepared with ample fresh water and a first aid kit (one for you and one for your pet). If you’ll be spending time around water, your dog should wear a life jacket. Likewise, if you’ll be spending time outdoors during the cold winter months, be sure that your dog is able to stay sufficiently warm. For shorter-coat dogs, that means a dog coat may be necessary, while longer-coat dogs such as Alaskan Malamutes or Siberian Huskies have built-in cold-weather protection.
Finally, you should take your pet’s temperament into consideration. Is your dog well-socialized and accustomed to quickly making new friends with unfamiliar people and other pets? If not, a trial run is advisable to ensure that your dog won’t become territorial or aggressive in the presence of unfamiliar people and animals. It is sometimes possible to train your dog to eliminate aggressive tendencies.
Additional Resources on Safe Outdoor Adventures with Your Pet
If you’re looking for more ideas and tips for safe outdoor adventures with your pet or for more information on the benefits of outdoor activities, check out the following resources:
Mom.me offers a few unique ideas for fun places to take your pet.
Doctors Foster and Smith suggest a few fun adventures you can engage in with your dog.
HEARTS for Families lists 50 sober activities to help you beat boredom, some of which are suitable for your pets, as well.
Looking for some fun games or ways to get some physical activity with your pet? Nylabone has a few suggestions.
Here’s a fun list of 18 ways to stay active with your dog in warm weather from Greatist.
Outdoor activities help you to stay physically active, which provides many benefits for both mind and body. People in recovery often turn to outdoor adventures to improve their physical fitness, cope with the emotional challenges they face in recovery, and to improve their overall well-being. When coupled with the benefits of spending time with pets, the great outdoors can be a powerful coping mechanism throughout your recovery journey – and it’s good for your pet’s health and longevity, too.