How Old Is My Dog In Human Years?

We’ve all heard the saying: “multiply your dog’s age by seven to get the human age.” Like most simple rules, there’s a lot wrong with that:

  • Dogs age at different rates to people depending on how old they are. They age much faster when young and slower when old.
  • The number ‘seven’ has been chosen to match our lifespan to an arbitrary dog age of eleven. No vet would consider 11 an accurate dog lifespan any more.

Here is a more modern and less simplistic view:

Dog YearsHuman Years

after this add 3 human years for each dog year. This approach is an amalgamation of several modern theories first proposed by Lebeau (1953). The wikipedia page on dog ageing gives a good summary.

The two methods only agree around middle age, as you can see by the age lifespan

Even if more accurate, the new approach brings up two questions:

Do Large Dogs Age Faster?

Everyone says it, but what is the evidence? There isn’t much. All people are doing is observing that certain large breeds have shorter lifespans. That’s not the same thing.

Later I’ll show you the best data we have on how long individual dog breeds live. It’s correct that the larger breeds are known for shorter lives. I want to show you some good news from our clinic that changes what we think.

The dog breeds famous for short lifespans are the giant breeds like Great Danes and Wolfhounds. I think that the diseases they are known for (bone cancer and dilated cardiomyopathy) take them while they are still in the prime of life. If we look at the large breeds, like Golden Retrievers for example, it’s not at all clear that they live any shorter lives than small dogs.

When Is A Dog Considered Old?

Airedale terrier beachBritish is an Airedale terrier who inspired this blog. By the old method he’s 63 years old and even the new way says he’s 57. Most importantly, in his head he’ll always be a teenager.

Dogs are only as old as they feel. I don’t think we should talk about ‘old age’ in dogs the way we do about people being retired or pensioners. True, knowing the equivalent human age is helpful in thinking about healthcare but it says nothing about their state of mind.

When I wrote about how to know when to go to the vet I said all change is meaningful. Old age is just the sum total of separate diseases. If we keep them under control our dogs can feel and act young right up to their senior years. We don’t see much sign of dementia in most dogs until they reach around 15.

How Long Will My Dog Live?

We all know that different dog breeds can have very different lifespans. At the end is a table showing the best data we have from two recent English studies. Please read this first to help you understand the figures.

Problems with breed lifespan data

  1. The figures quoted are median lifespans. Juvenile deaths are included which lower the median. For example, a six year old dog having already survived that long will therefore expect a higher median lifespan than these figures suggest for all dogs from puppyhood. The ages should still be valid as a comparison between breeds.
  2. Studies use self-reported data and often get response rates of only one in four. This will tend to create reporting bias where people are more likely to send back data for atypical results such as early deaths. The data below doesn’t include breeds with very low numbers or response rates.
  3. dog lifespan data

    Dogs less than 10kg and over 20kg at Walkerville Vet. Ages are shown as a percentage of the total for that group.

    These studies use old data. All three studies use data for dogs who died before the study date and therefore didn’t have access to many recent advances in veterinary care. This may mean modern lifespans are generally older but it may also explain the idea (myth?) that large dogs die sooner. Look at this recent data from our clinic on 800 living patients. If you can see any difference between large and small dog lifespans you’re doing better than me. Read why I think old dogs now live longer than they used to.

Lifespans Of Dog Breeds

Dog breed longevity in the table below comes from three UK studies, which are the most recent and probably most similar to Australian dogs. Also visit our page on the genetic diseases of different dog breeds.

Next week: How to help your dog live longer.

Dog BreedAdams et al
O’Neill et al
Afghan Hound11 y , 11 m12
Airedale Terrier10 y , 9 m11.2
Akita9 y , 11 m
Alaskan Malamute10 v , 8 m
American Cocker Spaniel10 y , 4 m12.5
Australian Cattle Dog11 y , 8 m
Australian Shepherd9 y
Australian Silky Terrier14 y , 3 m
Basenji13 y , 7 m
Basset Hound11 y , 4 m12.8
Beagle12 y , 8 m13.3
Bearded Collie13 y , 6 m12.313.7
Bedlington Terrier13 y , 5 m14.3
Belgian Shepherd12 y , 6 m
Bernese Mountain Dog8 y7
Bichon Frise12 y , 11 m12.7
Border Collie12 y , 3 m1313.5
Border Terrier14 y13.812
Borzoi9 y , 1 m
Boston Terrier10 y , 11 m
Bouvier Des Flandres11 y , 4 m
Boxer10 y , 3 m10.410
Briard11 y , 2 m
British Bulldog6 y , 3 m6.78.4
Brittany12 y , 11 m
Bull Terrier10 y12.911.2
Bullmastiff7 y , 6 m8.6
Cairn Terrier14 y13.213.4
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel11 y , 5 m10.79.9
Chinese Crested10 y , 1 m
Chow Chow13.5
Cocker Spaniel11 y , 2 m11.811.5
Cross Breed13.213.1
Dachshund12 y , 8 m12.2
Dalmatian12 y , 6 m1313.3
Dobermann10 y , 6 m9.89.2
Dogue de Bordeaux3 y, 10 m*5.5
English Setter11 y , 7 m11.2
English Springer Spaniel12 y1313.3
Finnish Lapphund7 y , 4 m
Finnish Spitz11 y , 2 m
Flatcoated Retriever9 y , 10 m9.5
Fox Terrier13 y , 2 m
French Bulldog9 y
German Shepherd Dog10.311
German Shorthaired Pointer12.3
German Pinscher11 y , 5 m
Golden Retriever12 y , 3 m1212.5
Gordon Setter11 y , 1 m11.3
Great Dane6 y , 6 m8.46
Greyhound9 y , 1 m13.210.8
Griffon Bruxellois12 y
Havanese10 y, 3 m*
Hungarian Vizsla12.5
Irish Setter12 y11.8
Irish Wolfhound7 y6.2
Italian Greyhound13 y , 6 m
Italian Spinone9 y
Jack Russell Terrier13.613.4
Japanese Chin9 y , 3 m
Keeshond12 y , 2 m
King Charles Spaniel10.112
Labrador Retriever12 y , 3 m12.612.5
Lhasa Apso14 y , 4 m913
Lowchen10 y
Maltese12 y , 3 m
Manchester Terrier12 y , 10 m
Maremma Sheepdog10 y
Miniature Dachshund14.413.5
Miniature Poodle13 y , 11 m14.814.2
Miniature Schnauzer12 y , 1 m8.5
Newfoundland9 y , 8 m
Norfolk Terrier10
Old English Sheepdog10 y , 9 m11.8
Pekingese11 y , 5 m13.3
Polish Lowland Sheepdog9 y , 7 m
Pomeranian9 y , 8 m
Portuguese Water Dog11 y , 5 m
Pug Dog11 y
Rhodesian Ridgeback11 y9.1
Rottweiler8 y , 11 m9.88
Rough Collie12.212
Saluki12 y
Samoyed12 y , 6 m11
Schipperke13 y
Scottish Terrier10 y , 3 m1212
Shetland Sheepdog12 y , 6 m13.312.5
Shih Tzu13 y , 2 m13.413.3
Siberian Husky12 y , 7 m
Smooth Collie13
Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier12 y , 6 m
St Bernard74.1
Staffordshire Bull Terrier12 y , 9 m1010.7
Standard Poodle12 y12
Swedish Vallhund14 y , 2 m
Tibetan Spaniel14 y , 5 m
Tibetan Terrier14.3
Toy Poodle14 y , 8 m14.4
Weimaraner11 y , 2 m1012.6
Welsh Corgi Cardigan12 y , 2 m11.3*
Welsh Corgi Pembroke12 y , 3 m11.3*
Welsh Springer Spaniel12 y , 7 m11.5
West Highland White Terrier12.813.5
Whippet12 y , 10 m14.3
Wire-haired Fox Terrier13
Yorkshire Terrier12.813.0
* very low numbers*Corgis merged

References & Comments

Adams, V. J., Evans, K. M., Sampson, J., & Wood, J. L. N. (2010). Methods and mortality results of a health survey of purebred dogs in the UK. Journal of Small Animal Practice, 51(10), 512-524. This study used data from questionnaires sent to members of breed clubs in the UK. Breeds were only included when the response rate was at least 15%. Cross breeds were not included.

Michell, A. R. “Longevity of British breeds of dog and its relationships with sex, size, cardiovascular variables and disease.” The Veterinary Record 145.22 (1999): 625-629. Data came from questionnaires sent to owners of UK dogs insured with a large pet insurance company.

O’Neill, D. G., Church, D. B., McGreevy, P. D., Thomson, P. C., & Brodbelt, D. C. (2013). Longevity and mortality of owned dogs in England. The Veterinary Journal, 198(3), 638-643. This study accessed UK veterinary clinic databases.

Lebeau, A. (1953). L’âge du chien et celui de l’homme. Essai de statistique sur la mortalité canine. Bulletin de l’Academie Veterinaire de France, 26, 229-232. The matching of human and dog ages in this visionary study from 1953 has stood the test of time and become the basis for modern approaches to assessing dog age.

Have something to add? Comments are welcome and will appear within 24 hours of lodging.

By Andrew Spanner BVSc(Hons) MVetStud, a vet in Adelaide, Australia. These blogs are from a series regularly posted on Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest. Like or follow our page or subscribe via email to read the latest.