The Healing Power Of The Outdoors: Can Spending Time Outside Benefit a Dog’s Health?

Can something as simple as spending time outdoors promote your dog’s health and healing?

(Of course, by outdoors I don’t mean a little, cramped yard at your city dwelling. Neither I mean tossing your dog out in the yard, regardless of the location, and leaving them out there.)

If your dog is healthy and doing well, the difference will be likely subtle enough that you might not even notice it. When your dog is ill, however, the change can be quite dramatic.

The Healing Power Of The Outdoors: Can Spending Time Outside Benefit a Dog's Health?

Jasmine’s story

Every time we come up to Jasmine’s ranch, I can’t help thinking about this. (Jasmine’s ranch is a property we bought in Northern Ontario.)

After Jasmine’s horrible hyperthermia event, followed by the discovery of an abdominal abscess and surgery to remove it, she was in quite a bad shape. Her blood and muscles were fried, her liver was hurting and overall she was in the worst shape ever.

When we got her back from the hospital, she was doing so poorly that we started to wonder whether we were just torturing her and that we perhaps should let her go.

Is it wise to leave for the wilderness?

We had a trip to Jasmine’s ranch planned for about a week after she was released. Should we go?

She was fresh after major trauma and surgery, her episodes were back-to-back, her temperature fluctuating toward high, she wouldn’t eat and had to be force-fed …

… going away didn’t seem like a good idea at all.

We felt that the best idea might be to remain at home, close to her vet and emergency care. We discussed it with him but he said that there wasn’t much more veterinary medicine could do for her and that we should go on the trip.

That morning she had an appointment to have her stitches removed.

Ready to go and ready to stay

We packed everything and got ready to either continue the journey or return home, pending the vet’s assessment.

It was five in the morning of that day and Jasmine was still running a fever, panting and pacing, not well at all. My hesitation about taking the trip was extreme.

However, we decided to load up and off to the vet we went. He removed the stitches, examined Jasmine and said that we should proceed with the trip.

I must have looked quite down from all the worrying and sleepless night also, because he put his hand on my shoulder, “try to take it easy,” he said. Just the kind of advice which, if you could follow, you wouldn’t need in the first place…

Arrival at the ranch

We did make our way to Jasmine’s ranch. What happened then was like a miracle.

As she got out of the truck, you could see her feeling better already! (Or happier, anyway.) After all the suffering it was as if she had a reason to live again. Still weak, but with a happy look on her face, we could watch the transformation unfold in front of our eyes.

The episodes stopped. She regained interest in life. Quickly she started eating on her own as well. Everything only got better from there.

Taking that trip was the best thing we could have done for her! How did coming to her ranch have such a profound effect on her?

A childhood memory

Every time I’m pondering this issue, it brings out memories from my childhood.

My parents lived in a city but our granny lived in the country. We spent school days with our parents, but all the weekends and holidays at granny’s place. There I noticed an interesting phenomenon.

While the city kids were sick all the time, the kids at granny’s place usually got sick only when they fell off something and broke a bone. They didn’t get allergies, they didn’t get colds, they didn’t get the flu.

The difference was as clear as day. But what was causing it?

Reduced pollution?

My home city had a lot of industry and pollution. Granny’s place was in the woods, as far from industry and civilization as it gets in a country that is so small it could barely make a tiny island in one of the Great Lakes.

Could it be that all there was to that?

Most of the kids at granny’s place spent their days outside playing and getting into mischief. There was one family living there, which moved in from a city and remained living by city rules. You could hardly see their son outside at all. And guess what? He was also frequently sick.

However clean the air outside your home may be, it might make a little difference if your dog doesn’t get out to breath it!

There are enough papers and articles out there now showing that indoor pollution will beat whatever nasty air you might have outside any day.

While it partly might be just directed to get us buying air purifiers, there is something to those claims.

I also came to believe that physical pollution is only part of the big picture.

Not that there isn’t enough of that one. Smog, indoor and outdoor chemicals, noise, radiation from all our electric and electronic devices …

Lack of psychological pollution?

I also believe that there is such a thing as spiritual/psychological pollution. Cities are saturated with stress, anger, and even hatred. While there doesn’t seem to be a way of measuring those (yet), I believe they are just as real as any chemicals or poisonous gasses.

When we come up to Jasmine’s ranch, we can actually feel the difference.

Such a completely pollution-free environment seems to have a profound cleansing effect on your dog and yourself.

That by itself would have been plenty. But I believe there is still more to it than that.

I think the benefit is a combination of things that aren’t here (such as pollution), as well as the things that are.

What are those?

What benefits the outdoor brings?

Well, fresh air for one thing. Direct daylight might be. This could have to do with melatonin, among other things. While melatonin is a darkness hormone, paradoxically, sufficient exposure to daylight is needed for its production to work properly. Conversely, the outdoors does offer better darkness also. No street lights, no LED lights from your TV, computer and other devices.

Not only that melatonin affects the circadian rhythms of several biological functions, it is also a powerful antioxidant.

In humans, melatonin has been studied for the treatment of cancer, immune disorders, cardiovascular diseases, depression, seasonal affective disorder (SAD), circadian rhythm sleep disorders and other disorders.

In dogs, melatonin has been found to be a helpful treatment for seasonal alopecia, as a natural sedative and pain reliever. It helps to prevent brain deterioration in dogs suffering from Canine Cognitive Dysfunction and it seems to boost the immune system also.

What about dirt?

An even less obvious healthy ingredient of the outdoors might be—wait for it—dirt.

Huh, dirt? Well, this is my personal observation and finding. But I can tell you this much: good clean dirt never made anybody sick, and perhaps on the contrary.

Some time back, Jasmine developed a hot spot just before we were supposed to go camping. I was quite worried about that because the campsites were all sand and I knew she was going to dig a hole in it and get sand all over herself, including her cheek with the hotspot. There was no reasonable way of preventing that from happening. What might the sand cover do to the wound?

Do sand and hot spots mix?

Not surprisingly, Jasmine got her hotspot covered with sand within 5 minutes of getting out of the truck.

All we could do was sit back and watch what happens.

The sand created a hard crust over the wound. That remained on there for a couple days, then it fell off and revealed clean skin underneath. Now, I’m not saying that you should use sand as a remedy for hot spots, but it certainly didn’t cause any damage whatsoever.

Moreover, Jasmine’s skin has been prone to infections. When at home, she needs to get bathed at least once a weak, otherwise I can smell the infection brewing. Happens even faster when she gets wet.

Naturally, I was concerned with being out in the wild for two weeks with no good way of giving Jasmine her medicated bath. Well, it’s been two weeks and she doesn’t need one! She did get wet a couple of times in the rain and in the lake, she also got herself covered with dirt and dust (both accidentally and on purpose). When you pat either of our guys there are clouds of dust coming off of them.

And yet, they both look and smell clean! There is nothing brewing on Jasmine’s skin. Wrap your brain around that!

Dirt is just as good for the stomach as it is for the skin. Who is argue? Bentonite clay, for example, is used as a remedy for a digestive upset (it seems to absorb toxins that irritate the gut) and other ailments.


What else is out there? Germs.

There are experts who believe that germs and parasites in moderation promote (and occupy) the immune system, promoting better health. Ever heard of the hygiene hypothesis? Dog sure don’t seem to be concerned about everything being sterile, the kids at granny’s place weren’t either. Eating lunch with filthy hands and even after it was dropped on the ground, eating whatever out there look edible, was a common practice. Was that part of the secret to health equation? Perhaps. Either way, it didn’t seem to have caused any harm.


Perhaps even the color of the outdoors, mostly green, might play its role in the healing power of nature.

The green color is regarded as a color of harmony. It is a mild sedative. For that, it’s useful in the treatment of nervous conditions, hay fever, ulcers, influenza, malaria, colds, sexual disorders, and cancer. It preserves and strengthens eyesight. Being highly medicinal and depressive, it is of great help in the treatment of inflammatory conditions.
Source: Natural Pet Healthcare

Physical and mental stimulation

Spending time outdoors also means plenty of activity, exercise, and mental stimulation.

We all know the benefit of that, even though it may not be enough to get us off of the couch.

Unlike sitting in an apartment, there are plenty of mental stimuli outside. Be it the smells—on the ground or carried by air—be it the sounds and other signs of other critters. Plenty of things to pay attention to and analyze. Plenty of things to protect your present territory from (such as chasing off the intruding wolf our guys had to do the other evening).

Frankly, I don’t really know.

It could be any of these things, all of them in combination or something else altogether.

All I know is that it works.

Perhaps we should just acknowledge it instead of analyzing it. Or else somebody is gonna get the bright idea to extract whatever they might believe the active ingredients is and put it in a pill form.

I don’t think it would work but even if it did, what would be the fun in that?

Take your dog outside. Let them get dirty. Let them be dogs. Have fun.

Note: Just like in the city (toxins, fast-moving vehicles), there are things in nature that are harmful or dangerous (bugs, snakes, extreme temperatures) … Keep them in mind and keep your dog safe.

Related articles:
Senior Dog Care: Should I Be Doing Things Differently When My Dog Gets Older?

Further reading:
Why Do Dogs Need Outdoor Enrichment?

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Jana Rade

I am a graphic designer, dog health advocate, writer, and author. Jasmine, the Rottweiler of my life, was the largest female from her litter. We thought we were getting a healthy dog. Getting a puppy from a backyard breeder was our first mistake. Countless veterinary visits without a diagnosis or useful treatment later, I realized that I had to take Jasmine's health care in my own hands. I learned the hard way that merely seeing a vet is not always enough. There is more to finding a good vet than finding the closest clinic down the street. And, sadly, there is more to advocating for your dog's health than visiting a veterinarian. It should be enough, but it often is not. With Jasmine, it took five years to get a diagnosis. Unfortunately, other problems had snowballed for that in the meantime. Jasmine's health challenges became a crash course in understanding dog health issues and how to go about getting a proper diagnosis and treatment. I had to learn, and I had to learn fast. Helping others through my challenges and experience has become my mission and Jasmine's legacy. I now try to help people how to recognize and understand signs of illness in their dogs, how to work with their veterinarian, and when to seek a second opinion. My goal is to save others the steep curve of having to learn things the hard way as I did. That is the mission behind my blog and behind my writing. That is why I wrote Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog, which has turned out being an award-winning guide to dog owners. What I'm trying to share encompasses 20 years of experience.

  1. This is so interesting. Being outdoors, especially in the woods, soothes my soul every time. I’m not that surprised that being at her ranch changed Jasmines frame of mind, & that spilled over to her physical state! You are so lucky to have a beautiful, natural place like Jasmin’s Ranch to go to.
    Love & biscuits,
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

  2. This post is so appropriate to me as we had to take my mom and dad’s 13-year old Shih Tzu mix to live with my sister on her 51-acre farm last week because my mom and dad couldn’t take care of him anymore. It’s been amazing to see the transformation in him in the few days he’s been there! He’s being shown the ropes by to Australian Shepherds and loves riding on the 4-wheeler to deliver hay to the horses.

  3. Being outside in the fresh air is the best thing you can do, person or pup. Being in nature is a healing thing an is acknowledged as being beneficial by holistic and veterinary professionals and I know I always feel better after a walk so I can appreciate Jasmine’s joy in fresh air and the ‘real world’.

    PS Pity that poor family that hid indoors. I hd the freedom to run about when I was a youngster and loved it. What did the kid do all day, play computer games in the middle of nature? Sad eh? * shakes head *

  4. I so believe in the outdoors and although I live in a city now with Layla, I try to do different dog parks every week to get out and breathe the air, plus enjoy the nature that way and we are lucky there are so many places to go in San Francisco.

  5. Great post. I’ve always believed in the healing power of nature, in both people and pets. We moved out of the city to the country around 2 years ago now and I know getting back into nature has done a world of good for me personally, and I’m sure for my dogs as well.

  6. Our husky just had knee surgery and she seems to do better when we lay outside with her….less stressed and seems to be less in pain. I agree with the healing of nature!

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