When you fall in love with your darling puppy, the unreasonable and unspoken expectation is that you'll be together forever. It is unfortunate that our pets' life spans aren't as long as ours. Not all dogs have the same life expectancy and different factors influence how long a dog can live.
The Big and Small of It
The type of breed your dog is and her size will help you determine what her life expectancy will be. Typically small dogs live longer than larger ones. Small breeds like Yorkshire terriers and Chihuahuas have an average lifespan of about 14 years, with some living as long as 20 years. Larger breeds like the Great Dane or bloodhounds average between 8 and 11 years. Mixed breeds and mid-size dogs fall somewhere in between, but they also have a tendency to live longer lives than purebred dogs because mixed-breed dogs usually don't have to contend with the genetic problems of purebreds.
Another factor that can affect the lifespan of your dog is its gender. Female dogs tend to live longer than male dogs -- two years longer on the average. Other influencing factors can include lifestyle, how much exercise the dog gets, whether or not the dog has been spayed or neutered, and health care or lack of it.
Calculating Your Dog's Age
A basic and very general way people have attempted to calculate their dog's age in "people" years is by simply multiplying the dog's chronological age by seven. This has found to be inaccurate because dogs age more quickly during the first few years but the aging process slows down after about two years. A more accurate calculation put forth on the VetInfo website is to consider a dog's first year to equal about 15 human years, with the dog being roughly 24 years old at the end of her second year. After the second year, adding 4 human years for every dog year will give a closer to true age for your dog.
Even though you can't compare it year for year, dogs and people age similarly. You and your dog will both go through the stages of youth and middle age before becoming senior citizens. And just like with people, there are preventative measures you can take to extend your dog's life. Feeding her quality food that provides good nutrition is a start. Spaying or neutering dogs contributes to their longevity, as does keeping up with vaccinations and regular medical checkups. Making sure your dog gets enough exercise and loving, supportive interaction will enhance her physical health as well as her mental health.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
Elle Di Jensen has been a writer and editor since 1990. She began working in the fitness industry in 1987, and her experience includes editing and publishing a workout manual. She has an extended family of pets, including special needs animals. Jensen attended Idaho and Boise State Universities. Her work has appeared in various print and online publications.