Dog Years - What Do They Mean?

How Old is Your Dog? What Dog Years Mean

You�ve heard the rumors. Dogs age much faster than humans. In fact, your dog will age approximately seven years per one human year. That�s a lot, but did you know that it is not true? While dogs do age faster than humans, how much faster they age depends on their weight and breed. Consider the following points.

1. The First Two Years

Most dogs reach sexual maturity within their first year. If one dog year were equal to seven dog years, this would mean that your one-year-old dog was as sexually mature as your seven-year-old child. Obviously this is not the case. It is now thought that the first 365 days of your dog�s life is equal to somewhere between 10 and 15 human years. At the end of your dog�s first calendar year your dog is in the early stages of his 'teenage' years, so to speak. Obviously teenagers are not fully-grown. They still need to grow physically and mentally, and the same is true for one-year-old dogs. It is believed that in her second human year, or in the next 365 days, your dog will age another 3 to 8 human years. For every 365 days after her second year your dog will age about 4 to 5 human years.

2. Estimated Longevity Depends on Estimated Weight

In general (although there are exceptions, i.e. the English Bulldog) small dogs tend to outlive big dogs. Such a claim is based on what your dog's estimated adult weight will be. Dog experts tend to break dogs down into small, medium, and large categories. A small dog would be something like a Miniature Dachshund, a medium dog would be something like an English setter, and a large dog would be something like a Bernese mountain dog. Dog experts say their estimates for the average life span of these breeds, and other dog breeds, is based on the average weight and size the dogs are expected to reach as an adult. Keep in mind, however, that a 'large' dog could easily outlive a 'small' dog. The idea that small dogs usually outlive big dogs is calculated according to the average life spans of small dogs and big dogs. If a Boston terrier is sick, or is not taken care of, she could easily have a shorter life than a healthy, average Great Pyrenees. At the same time, a large dog like a Great Dane, could easily outlive their average expected life span of 8 years.

3. Why Do Small Dogs Live Longer Than Big Dogs?

While there are no absolutes as to why small dogs outlive large dogs, there is one very compelling reason for a large dog's shorter expected life span � their heart. A large breed dog's heart has to work exponentially more than a small breed�s heart. Imagine the amount of energy that it takes to pump blood in a Scottie�s body as opposed to the amount of energy it takes to pump blood throughout a Bull Mastiff's body. Most large dog's hearts wear out faster than small dog�s hearts. Large dogs also tend to have joint problems. Bernese mountain dogs were bred to pull loaded carts. Pulling a heavy cart is hard work. It causes strain and stress on a Bernese mountain dog's joints. Not only that, but large dogs, regardless of the work they are doing, put a lot of stress on their joints simply because they are so big and weigh so much. As a result their joints break down faster and large dogs become arthritic and less agile much quicker than small dogs.

4. There Are No Absolutes

Remember, your dog, let's say she is a collie, your collie's expected life span is estimated from the average life spans of other collies. Such a number is just an estimate. There are things you can do to increase the likelihood of your dog living longer. One thing you can do is keep your dog inside. Animals that live outside tend to have a shorter life than those who live inside. There are a medley of reasons as to why this is true, but it boils down to the same reasons we as people live inside. We are less prone to disease, injury and infection. We are able to stay cleaner and warmer, and we get a better variety of nutrients when we live inside. Keeping your dog inside will keep her healthier. Regular vet visits will increase your dog's life span as well. Vets have tips on how to better care for your dog. They also provide vaccinations, medications, and early detection for potential problems. Feeding your dog properly will also increase their longevity. If you feed your senior dog puppy food, your dog is not getting the nutrients she needs. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, providing a safe, loving home for your dog creates the social, physical and mental bonds that she needs to live a happy, healthy, long life.