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Treat Your Nature-Deficit Disorder with Your Dog
Inhaling Vitamin N
Walking with dog

Dogs have been our boon companions for at least 32,000 years—pretty close to forever. They were our first nonhuman pals (domesticated cats came along 23,000 years, and horses 28,000 years, after dogs), hunting partners and all-around nature guides. Joining forces with such a remarkably capable species gave us a leg up on our rivals, sped up the pace of our evolution and today, provides us with a vital connection to the natural world.

As it turns out, we sorely need such a connection. In 2010, the average American spent 28 percent of his or her waking hours involved in some form of electronics-related activity: 26 hours per week online or watching TV, and another 5.8 hours on mobile devices! These digital-age habits contribute to a new malady: nature-deficit disorder.

What is nature-deficit disorder? Richard Louv coined the term and described its characteristics in his groundbreaking book, Last Child in the Woods, in which he proposed that modern childhood ailments and health problems, including attention and behavioral disorders, anxiety, depression, and even obesity, can be attributed to the lack of nature in children’s lives. In his newest book, The Nature Principle, he extends this analysis to adults, and prescribes a number of remedies (in addition to spending less time with our digital tools). One is to increase our dose of Vitamin N — “N” for nature, or the mind/body/nature connection.

From Bark’s point of view, the best way to get a daily dose of Vitamin N is to walk with our dogs in natural settings, where there are trees aplenty. Parks and forests are not only wonderfully calming places, they also have a restorative effect on our immune function. Scientists have discovered that phytoncides, airborne chemicals emitted by plants to protect themselves from bacteria, fungi and insects, contribute to stress reduction in others. These same researchers suggest that time spent in plant-filled environments lowers our pulse rate, blood pressure and concentration of cortisol (which is released in response to stress), among other things. Add that information to studies that have found similarly beneficial effects from the company of dogs, and dogs’ joyful inspiration to be more regular in our nature-walking habits, and we have an easy way to obtain a true V-N high.

Even better, getting out and exploring the natural world gives our co-pilots a chance to exercise their ancestral senses — a reminder of the time when we first started out on our amazing shared journey.

This article first appeared in The Bark,
Issue 65: Jun/Aug 2011
Claudia Kawczynska is The Bark's co-founder and editor in chief. thebark.com
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Submitted by Fred Rodriguez | October 29 2012 |

This is very true! We need to get connected with nature and the best way is to do activities together with our dogs – walking them and playing with them. By doing so, we are able to socialize as well – people will approach us easily and talk to us about our dogs. Dogs will be good talking points with strangers. Of course, when we walk our dogs, we should not forget to put dog collars or leashes on them, in case they become aggressive towards a particular person. Also, when you bring your dogs out, try to put on fancy dog collars or leashes. You can find these in many new pet supply stores, colorful and fancy ones for puppies or fully-grown dogs. This way, you and your dog are walking in style.

Submitted by Dr. M | July 19 2013 |

Deep nature connection through knowing and touching dogs is also awareness that a dog is an animal with needs specific to his nature, not a doll to be dressed up or carried like a baby. I like the idea of the dog drawing us closer to their world of nature -like smelling intricate smells, rolling in wet grass, splashing in mud puddles! If only modern people in the hustle and bustle surrendered to their True Nature and became dog-like, rather than force dogs to live in our modern world of fashion and style. I want to develop natural instincts like the dog; to be alert and aware of changes in air currents and weather patterns. I like that dogs are authentic. They don't care what they are wearing or how they smell. They can bring us to understand our own True Nature if we let them. Appreciation of nature isn't a life style; it is a way of life.

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