This Underrated European Country Offers A Fun, Unique Spot To Bring Your Furry Friend

Pure in spirit and a true embodiment of "man's best friend," dogs are a joyous gift we don't deserve, more often than not. For pet owners, the quality time spent with their four-legged best friend is a sacred bonding ritual that solidifies these symbiotic relationships. In America, this often takes place in a dog park or on a walk in nature, enjoying the peace of the atmosphere. However, a new, unusual trend is on the rise within the small nation of Finland.

Koirakallion Metsä is a private dog forest specifically curated as a natural outdoor sanctuary for dogs. Located in Jokioinen, nearly two hours north of the nation's capital, Helsinki, this off-leash dog haven is not the only one of its kind in Finland. South of Koirakallion Metsä is a picturesque European island known as Koirasaari (more commonly referred to as Dog Island). Finland's inventive dog parks don't only provide a fun off-leash experience for pet owners to treat their four-legged friends to. These protected areas can also curb behavioral issues in dogs, which are far less common in European nations than in America. The rationale behind this finding stems from more frequent dog walking and the exposure of dogs to different environments, which eases anxiety. 

Koirakallion Metsä: a designated dog forest

Situated on 100 acres of private Nordic property, this outdoor pet oasis takes dog parks to a whole new level. Closed to the public except for those with advanced reservations, it's a sheltered space to relax and unwind in the tranquility of nature. Koirakallion Metsä might just be as fun for pet owners as it is for their furry companions. Located on the forested grounds, paying guests have access to a campsite, grill house, and hammocks for an overnight camping trip. The park managers keep things affordable, with an hour reservation costing €25 (or $27.50). Overnight rates begin at €80 (or $87).

It's not just dogs who benefit from a visit to Koirakallion Metsä. The Dog Rock Fitness Trail encourages pet owners to challenge their bodies through weight-based exercises in an outdoor environment. Socialization is nonnegotiable for the health of dogs and humans alike. Koirakallion Metsä offers guest passes at a reduced rate for paying customers, allowing dog owners to strengthen the social bonds between both their friends and furry companions. Founded by an entrepreneurial couple passionate about embracing quality time in nature with their four-legged family members, their goal of opening Koirakallion Metsä is to enhance the sanctified bond between dogs and humans in an undisturbed and natural setting. 

Finnish dog forests are an increasingly popular trend

With 90% of Finland's territory covered in captivating natural vistas, pet owners may be tempted to ask, "Why pay to visit a dog forest?" Safety is easily at the top of the list. The fenced-in property means owners don't have to worry about dog fights or their pets getting injured. In accordance with the Hunting Act, Finland's government issued a law stating dogs must always be leashed from March through August to protect breeding wildlife. This protective setting allows dogs to embrace their wild-at-heart spirits in an off-leash environment. 

Investing in the companionship you share with your dog doesn't come without physical and mental benefits for you and your pet. Animal interactions can reduce loneliness, decrease cortisol, increase social support, and boost overall mood. The opportunity for dogs to explore off-leash in a woodland setting is believed to enhance natural behavioral mechanisms and increase muscle tone.

2022 study published in BMC Public Health found that dog walking is one of the most common reasons travelers visit European countries. Sixty-four percent of U.K. dog owners achieve the recommended 150 minutes of weekly exercise through dog walking. Regardless of whether you're taking your dog on a stroll through your neighborhood or retreating into the open wilderness, spending time in nature is a scientifically proven antidote to physical and mental stressors.