Most dog owners have heard the rule of thumb that one “human year” equals seven “dog years” when trying to figure out their pooch’s age. But just how accurate is that math, really? According to the American Animal Hospital Association, dog ages can be broken down into six life stages: puppy, junior, adult, mature, senior, and geriatric. That said, those definitions can change based on a dog’s size and breed.
Jesse Grady, a clinical instructor of veterinary medicine at Mississippi State University, revealed in a blog post for The Conversation that our four-legged friends' real age actually depends on their size. The seven-year belief is based on the observations of an “average-sized” dog’s lifespan and the milestones they reach as they age. Of course, not every dog is “average” sized. Our precious pooch pals can range from Yorkies and Chihuahuas that might weigh under seven pounds, to giant mastiffs and Great Danes potentially tipping the scales at 250 pounds.
“Dog breed and its associated size is one of the largest contributors to life expectancy,” Grady explains, “with nutrition and associated weight likely being the next most important factors for individual dogs.” With that in mind, larger dogs who have shorter life expectancies of about 8 to 10 years can reach their 40s in “dog years” at four years old. Smaller dogs who can make it to their teens and above, however, would enter their 40s at around eight years old.
Figuring this out for your own pooch can be fun to think about while wondering what similar life stages they might be hitting if they were human. For example, we’ve all met a dog who is clearly going through a "ruff" teenage angst phase at one point or another. But more importantly than that, knowing their actual “dog years” can help your veterinarian better understand how to treat and prevent health issues at all stages of their lives.
If you’re still having trouble figuring out how old your canine buddy is in “dog years,” especially if you adopted them with little information about their past, your vet can help you find the approximate answer that fits best. Then, you'll know for sure how many candles to put on their doggy birthday cake.
Now check out some cuties reacting to being told what good dogs they are in the video below!