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Relatives of mine have had dogs for most of their lives. They have been without a canine companion for a few years now and would like another, but they are in their upper 70s with the beginnings of mobility issues.

They have always taken their dogs for walks at least twice daily, but are concerned that this might become increasingly difficult over the next several years. They also have a large, fenced yard with plenty of room for a dog to run. Of course, a fenced yard does not provide the dog with the chance to "get the news of the neighborhood", so to speak. (At least I've been told that this is basically what they're doing when they sniff at things when out on walks.)

They prefer medium-to-large dogs -- golden retrievers, collies, and similarly-sized dogs. (Their dogs are rescues, not purebreds, so treat this as an approximation.) Their dogs live inside the house and get plenty of "people time"; they aren't kept in a yard or barn full-time. If they got a dog they would get one, not two, and would adopt an adult, not a puppy.

How important are walks to a dog's physical and mental well-being? Can a large yard meet a dog's needs?

  • What about a powered wheelchair or electric bike? – Ian Ringrose Apr 7 '16 at 17:32
  • @IanRingrose interesting idea about the electric bike (i didn't know about those). My relatives are at the "using a cane sometimes" stage, not the walker/wheelchair stage, so I don't think they'd want to get a wheelchair for this purpose. – Monica Cellio Apr 8 '16 at 0:59
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Optimally every dog would get a couple of hours of walk time every day. Also optimally there would not be any dogs in the shelter.

As long as the yard is large enough for the dog to get up to speed and run in circles it should have the opportunity to get all the exercise it wants. For a dog with a big yard, walks are more about social time than exercise.

In the situation you describe, the dog is going to get lots of social time, as your family is going to be spending all their time with the dog.

Many shelters have seniors for seniors programs, where older pets are specifically looking for the calmer setting of a retired persons life. Ultimately it comes down to finding the pet that is looking for the home you have. A Dalmatian puppy would probably not be a good fit, for your relatives home, but an older, big, lazy dog would fit perfectly.

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    +1 for the senior for seniors program. I was thinking the same thing: Give a loving home to a dog that is not very mobile anymore itself! And slow, short walks they still CAN do would benefit all involved immensely; neither human nor dog seniors would be tempted to push each other too far. – Layna Dec 15 '15 at 13:57
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Walks aren't just exercise. Dogs can run around a garden and blow off steam, but what they get from a walk is the quality time with their human.

This makes them happier and more receptive and likely to bond.

You can reduce the amount of walking by having space for them to run, play and toilet, but not omit them entirely.

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Large yards can definitely still keep a bigger dog happy, even if they aren't getting walks. Just make sure the dog is actually exercising when they are outside! It sounds like the most viable option for this situation would be to throw the ball or other chew toy around etc. Dog bones can also keep them occupied for a while and keep them entertained.

As for psychological aspects, I don't know exactly, but I have had dogs that only went in the backyard to play and socialize etc. They still got plenty of entertaining stimulus by chasing squirrels and sniffing where different animals had visited. It wouldn't hurt to still occasionally take the dogs to a dog park if they are very social animals, but usually dogs are still very happy to be social with their owners.

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Though having a large yard to run around in is great for a dog there are many benefits to walking your dog besides exercise. Walking your dog regularly helps maintain a sense of routine which most animals thrive on. It also reinforces dominance within your relationship helping the dog to remember you are the "pack leader". You'll find that dog walks will pay off in many different ways.

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    There is nothing intrinsically wrong with this answer, but it doesn't add anything to the existing answers to the question - could you please edit your answer to add more detail that adds to the answers others have already made? – Kate Paulk Apr 4 '16 at 11:45

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