How a Dog Can Benefit Your Addiction Treatment and Recovery

Pet-friendly rehab facilities are becoming more common as experts in addiction, mental health, and recovery recognize the benefits dogs and other animals provide patients. With dogs in treatment, patients may feel safer, steadier, and experience boosts in mood. After treatment, caring for and living with a dog in recovery is helpful for staying sober and avoiding relapse. Dogs give their owners a sense of purpose and responsibility, boost self-confidence and mood, and help facilitate positive social engagement.

Dogs provide numerous benefits to their human companions, from providing an excuse to get up and go for a walk to being a source of unconditional love during a difficult time. If you are struggling with addiction and are thinking about treatment, your dog can be an important part of that journey. Look for a pet-friendly rehab that will accept your furry friend as a positive, supportive, and necessary part of treatment. And, if you don’t have a dog, consider adopting a new friend in recovery to help save two lives.

4 Reasons to Choose a Pet- Friendly Rehab

It’s not news to anyone who has loved a dog that having a pet is beneficial for mental health. Research has even proven that dogs and other pets improve mood and reduce stress. It isn’t a stretch to assume that with all the benefits having a pet can provide, a dog in treatment can make the process easier, more relaxed, and more productive. Here are just a few of the many reasons you might want to consider seeking out a pet-friendly rehab and bringing your dog to treatment with you.

1. Dogs Provide a Sense of Security, Stability, and Meaning.

Going to rehab is scary. It means stepping into the unknown, giving up your security blanket of drugs or alcohol, and making a major life change. It’s the right thing to do, but this doesn’t mean going to rehab is easy. What can ease the transition and provide you with greater security and purpose is having your dog by your side.

A study that investigated the impact of pets on people living with mental illnesses found that most reported their dogs as being the most important to their functioning and improved mental health. Many placed dogs ahead of close family members. The researchers concluded that owning a pet helped these people feel and benefit from a sense of security, routine, and of being in control of their lives.

These are all important factors that can help you as you enter rehab. Your dog can help you feel safer in treatment and more confident and in control of your future. Caring for your dog as you care for yourself can bring order and sense to the chaos of addiction and the challenges of treatment.

2. Dogs Boost Mood.

If there is anything you really need in rehab, it’s something to lift the frustration, depression, anxiety, and other negative moods you experience. Dogs are proven mood-boosters. Petting, playing with, walking, and just being around a dog can reduce depression and anxiety, reduce stress, and improve overall mood.

Even if you don’t have a dog to take with you for treatment, going to a pet-friendly rehab means you can benefit from the pets brought by other patients. Imagine having a few dogs around to play with on break times outside or to pet while in a difficult group session.

3. Dogs Improve Your Physical Health.

Heading into rehab, your health is probably poor. Repeated drug and alcohol abuse does a lot of damage to the mind and the body. A good treatment center will include a focus on physical health along with therapy and other treatments. You’ll learn about nutrition and diet, the importance of exercise, and making healthy lifestyle choices.

Having a dog with you in treatment can help jumpstart your healthy new life and begin improving your overall physical health. Dogs are known to help reduce blood pressure and increase physical activity. By playing with and walking your dog during treatment, you’ll start getting fitter and more energized. There is even evidence that dog ownership is linked with better cardiovascular health and lower cholesterol levels.

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4. Let Your Dog Be Your Motivation.

There are many things that motivate patients in treatment, but many also struggle to find that push to do the hard work and get better. You may be thinking of your family or yourself, but too often it’s easy to come up with excuses for letting them down.

It’s harder to consider the prospect of disappointing your dog. What would he do without you? Who would care for him? It may seem silly, but the power of a dog to motivate your actions is strong. And, having your dog actually there, by your side for treatment, is a constant reminder of this animal that depends on you and loves you unconditionally.

Should I Adopt a Dog in Recovery?

Maybe you’re already out of treatment and met some nice dogs while there. You may be considering adding a furry friend to your family. Adopting a dog is a big responsibility. Whether or not it is one you are ready for is an individual choice. Before adopting, consider how much care and time the dog will need and talk to friends and family to get their opinions. Your support network may be willing to help you if the responsibility of pet ownership becomes overwhelming at times.

The ultimate reason to adopt a dog in recovery is to make your recovery more successful. Having a furry companion can provide a number of benefits, all of which lead back to helping you stay strong in sobriety and avoid relapse:

  • A dog is a non-judgmental companion. The kind of support you need in recovery cannot always be reliably provided by your family and friends. They have lives, too, and as hard as they may try, judgment, anger, and resentment will sometimes bubble to the surface. A dog, though, can provide a constant, steady source of companionship and support that is completely judgment-free.
  • Dogs encourage social interaction. Socializing in positive, sober environments is a crucial part of successful recovery. It can be challenging, though, as you make this big life transition, to make new friends. A dog is a great way to get involved with pet groups or even just to talk to other dog owners in the park.
  • Dogs give structure to your days. Routine, structure, and schedules are important for recovery. Having a daily routine leaves you with less free time to get bored, angry, and frustrated, all of which can lead to a relapse. With a dog, you are forced to stick to a schedule. They have to eat and go outside at certain times. Dogs love routine and their well-being depends on it.
  • Dogs force you to get exercise. Regular exercise is good for your physical and mental well-being. It provides an outlet for excess energy, something to do when cravings strike, and a way to relieve stress and anxiety. When the depression and hopelessness of trying to stay sober in recovery strikes, it’s easy to make excuses and sit on the couch. Your dog will give you a reason and motivation to get up and go for a run or walk.
  • Relieve stress, just by petting your dog. Numerous studies have found that being around a dog and petting a dog, very simple actions, can quickly reduce physiological stress. It drops heart rate, cortisol levels, and the feeling of stress. When the burdens of trying to function sober become too much, being with your dog can provide instant and significant relief.

The evidence that dogs are beneficial for mental health is overwhelming. Being around dogs, owning a dog, petting a dog, and walking with a dog can help you feel happier, more relaxed, and crucially for recovery, less inclined to relapse. If you are on the path to treatment for addiction, choose a pet-friendly rehab. And if you don’t have a dog, consider adopting a friend who will stay by your side and help you in recovery.

Alta Mira offers comprehensive treatment for people struggling with drug and alcohol addiction as well as co-occurring mental health disorders and process addictions. Contact us to learn more about our renowned Bay Area programs and how we can help you or your loved one start the journey toward lasting recovery.