21 Healthy & Long Lived Dog Breeds

Trying to choose a puppy breed? There are lots of great reasons to choose certain dog breeds over others. Health should be one of these.

Of course, I would say that, wouldn’t I? I’m a vet after all.

Here’s the problem: if you go and Google “healthiest dog breeds,” those lists you get are just opinions. When I read them, my experience makes me wonder at some of the choices.

Here’s what I’ve done instead: I’ve tried to use the available evidence. That gets me off the hook of being accused of bias and hopefully closer to the truth. I’ve used two different indicators:

1. Dog Breed Health Costs

I’ve used online insurance quotes and plugged in every breed we see in Adelaide. The trick here is simple: insurance companies charge different amounts for different breeds, based on their expected payouts.

I assume (and it’s a safe assumption if a company doesn’t want to go broke) that their costs reflect actual costs at the vet, and therefore health.  Using one insurance company, I selected only the 42 breeds that cost less than $65 a month to insure.

2. Dog Lifespan Studies

For my second indicator, I’ve used the three latest studies on how long dogs live. I’ve averaged them and selected only the 42 breeds that lived 12.5 years or over. These numbers are lower than your dog’s expected lifespan as they start from birth, but they are useful for comparison purposes.

Both these charts can be found below. For my final step, I selected only the 21 dog breeds that appear on both charts. I call this…

The Healthiest Dog Breed List

21 Healthy Dog Breeds
Australian Silky Terrier
Basenji
Bichon Frise
Border Terrier
Brittany
Cairn Terrier
Cross Breed
Dachshund (all coats)
English Springer Spaniel
Fox Terrier (Smooth)
Jack Russell Terrier
Miniature Dachshund
Miniature Poodle
Schipperke
Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier
Swedish Vallhund
Tibetan Terrier
Toy Poodle
West Highland White Terrier
Wire Haired Fox Terrier
Yorkshire Terrier

Interesting list isn’t it! You could do a lot worse than choosing one of these dog breeds. I don’t disagree with any of the selections, but I do think quite a few other good ones are missing.

Read more about each one on our Dog Breeds guide.

Problems With This List

I can immediately see three problems with this list:

  • It biases against larger breeds as they are more expensive at the vet for the same health problems. You can look up how they scored individually using the links found below.
  • It’s unfair to American Staffordshire, Australian Terrier, Chihuahua, Irish Terrier, Japanese Spitz, Lakeland Terrier, Miniature Pinscher, Papillon, Schnauzer, Shiba Inu, and Tenterfield Terrier. All were under $65 to insure but didn’t appear in any of the lifespan studies. I think they would have qualified.
  • ‘Cross Breed’ is a very generic concept that includes Poodle crosses as well as mongrels and rescue dogs. Lifespans should be higher than average but health will depend on the specific crosses involved.

Why Breed Choice Matters

In the midst of sad moments, I often find myself saying, “pet ownership shouldn’t be like this.” Too many dreams of a perfect family pet are shattered by chronic health problems. Some of that could be avoided by using the knowledge of vets.

I dream of a time when a part of everyone’s breed selection process is to ask the local vet for advice. Most will happily give this for free. It won’t be perfect, but it’s the best there is.

Related: Do Large Breeds Live Shorter Lives?

By Andrew Spanner BVSc(Hons) MVetStud, a vet in Adelaide, Australia. These blogs are from a series regularly posted on email and Twitter. Subscribe via email here to never miss a story!
Have something to add? Comments are welcome below and will appear within 24 hours of lodging.

Appendix

42 Low Cost Dog Breeds
American Staffordshire Bull Terrier
Australian Silky Terrier
Australian Terrier
Basenji
Bichon Frise
Border Terrier
Brittany
Cairn Terrier
Chihuahua
Chinese Crested
Cocker Spaniel
Dachshund
English Springer Spaniel
Finnish Spitz
Fox Terrier (Smooth)
Havanese
Irish Terrier
Jack Russell Terrier
Japanese Spitz
Lakeland Terrier
Lhasa Apso
Manchester Terrier
Miniature Dachshund
Miniature Pinscher
Miniature Poodle
Miniature Schnauzer
Papillon
Pomeranian
Schipperke
Schnauzer
Scottish Terrier
Shiba Inu
Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier
Standard Poodle
Swedish Vallhund
Tenterfield Terrier
Tibetan Terrier
Toy Poodle
Welsh Corgi
West Highland White Terrier
Wire Haired Fox Terrier
Yorkshire Terrier

You can view the whole table of 145 dog breed costs here and an explanation of pet insurance here.

BreedLifespan
Toy Poodle14.6
Tibetan Spaniel14.4
Miniature Poodle14.3
Tibetan Terrier14.3
Australian Silky Terrier14.3
Swedish Vallhund14.2
Miniature Dachshund14.0
Bedlington Terrier13.9
Basenji13.6
Whippet13.6
Cairn Terrier13.5
Chow Chow13.5
Italian Greyhound13.5
Jack Russell Terrier13.5
Shih Tzu13.3
Border Terrier13.3
Fox Terrier13.2
Bearded Collie13.2
West Highland White Terrier13.2
Cross Breed13.2
Beagle13.0
Schipperke13.0
Smooth Collie13.0
Wire-haired Fox Terrier13.0
Dalmatian12.9
Border Collie12.9
Brittany12.9
Yorkshire Terrier12.9
Bichon Frise12.8
English Springer Spaniel12.8
Shetland Sheepdog12.8
Siberian Husky12.6
American Cocker Spaniel12.5
Belgian Shepherd12.5
Hungarian Vizsla12.5
Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier12.5
Dachshund12.5
Labrador Retriever12.5
Pekingese12.4
German Shorthaired Pointer12.3
Golden Retriever12.3
Maltese12.3

Again, you can read the whole table of dog lifespans here.

Andrew

4 Replies to “21 Healthy & Long Lived Dog Breeds”

  1. Hi Andrew – i recently discovered your posts and I’ve found them very informative.
    Our family consists of two working parents and seven year old twins. We’d love to bring a dog into our home as our fifth family member but we are having difficulty deciding which breed would be right for our lifestyle and, importantly, which breed we can offer a great lifestyle!
    We are an active family – on weekends we are either walking through the hills or along the beaches and we’d love a dog that is affectionate, but has also has some energy to run, fetch and generally be active with us.
    Having said that, we are conscious that such a breed would need In this new COVID world, there is likely to always be someone working at home 2-3 days a week and we would also consider a day a week of doggy day care so he/she has plenty of stimulation.
    We are interested in breeds such as Brittanys, Springer Spaniels, Visla’s and the kids adore the look of Labradoodles. We don’t ‘need’ a non-shedding dog, but we would prefer a ‘low’ shedding breed.
    Most of all, we are looking for a breed that is healthy and has a family friendly happy temperament.
    Do you have any advice we could follow? With thanks
    Catherine

    1. Hi Catherine. For the purposes you mentioned, almost any dog will be active enough. Therefore, you may not want to get a dog known for activity (like a Vizsla). You can choose smaller breeds as well, as you’ll be surprised how much more stamina they have than the average person. That would give the additional benefit of the kids being able to hold the dogs if they want to. Of course this would be something to be taken very carefully from a behavioural standpoint. My personal situation with a Jack Russell terrier shows that even a breed not normally known to be affectionate can be so if raised that way. The breeds you have discussed are good choices, and I would also add German shorthaired pointer as a breed much like a Vizsla in being low shedding but possibly quieter although both energetic. Labradors are good too, as are Labradoodles, but you will of course have grooming requirements to offset the lack of shedding.

  2. Hi Andrew, great & very interesting article – thank you sooo much. We have had numerous pets all our lives – in latter years 4 cats – 1 a Tortie lived to 2 wks off 23 YEARS! Yes, she was a legend!! Always wanted a Russian Blue cat however – got 2 from the same litter (reputable breeder???) – boy developed Hypo- Eosynophilic disease at about 17 months – died 5 months later; 2nd boy (replaced first – same breeder) had Lymphoma – dead at 9 yrs, and now 3rd – the only girl – aged 14 yrs has combo liver/kidney/pancreatitis/HES/chronic synositis etc – vet says “old age” – guess par for the course with the breed.

    Query – have fallen in love with Brussels Griffons!!! Contacted reputable breeder (who won’t let pups go till 12 weeks old). Am I going to purchase more trouble? Want a toy breed, NOT a digger (so, no terriers), we are older couple/no children/grandchildren – will walk it in adjacent park. What do you think? Would love your comments please. look forward to and thank you in advance for your reply. Jenny

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