When you are thinking of bringing a new puppy into your home, you want to make sure that he will be with you for the longest possible time.
- Average Dog Lifespan
- Dog Years To Human Years
- Factors Influencing Life Expectancy
- Your Dog’s Diet
- Your Dog’s Breed
- Life Expectancy By Breed
- Life Expectancy Chart
- Longest Living Dog Breeds
- Shortest Living Dog Breeds
- Do Mutts Live Longer
- Your Dog’s Size
- Small Dog Life Span
- Big Dog Life Span
- Your Dog’s Structure
- Inherited Diseases
- Spaying and Neutering
- Genetics and Inbreeding
- Vaccinating Your Dog
- Lifestyle and Longevity
However, the question of dog life span is not one that can be answered quickly.
Dog longevity ranges hugely and depends upon a variety of factors. From their breeding and genetics, all the way through to your lifestyle and the way that you care for them.
Average Lifespan Of A Dog
The average dog has a lifespan of 11 to 12 years.
A study of over 15,000 dogs showed 20% of those sampled living beyond their 14th birthday, but less than 10% made it to their 15th.
But not all dogs, or breeds of dog, make it as far as we would consider to be old age.
Unfortunately, the average life expectancy of dogs in general is not really helpful in determining how long an individual dog may live. Because the differences between breeds, sizes and structures of dog differ so wildly.
If you want to have an idea how long your own pet dog will live, you will need to take a lot more information into account. We will look at this in depth below.
Dog Years To Human Years
When looking at dog life expectancy and ages, a lot of people want to know how to convert dog years to human years.
They are searching for a dog age calculator, or dog age chart, to show them what stage of life their dog is at by our human standards.
There is a general saying that one dog year is equal to 7 human years.
This would mean for example that a five year old dog is the equivalent to a 35 year old human. Which sort of makes sense if you are looking at a breed who lives in total about 12 years. At the end of their life they’d be the equivalent of someone in their early 80’s – the approximate average age for humans to pass away.
Unfortunately this system, whilst fun, does not make a lot of sense. Dogs are different from people. They grow and mature at different rates, and their longevity is linked to their breeding and background in a way which gives dramatically different predictions.
This calculation is incredibly inaccurate when you are looking at a dog whose breed, genetics and environment have him set up to last around 16 years.
Dog age in human years is a bit of fun, but not a serious way of working out how best to understand and manage a canine companion.
Factors Influencing Life Expectancy Of Dogs
We all know that healthy individuals are more likely to live longer than their unhealthy friends.
Your dog’s health is dependant upon his genetics, his structure and his lifestyle.
Your Dog’s Diet
What you feed your puppy from the time you bring him home, will have an influence not just on how healthy he is during his life, but how long that life lasts.
Giving a dog a restricted diet for the duration of their lifetime has been shown to increase their expected life span, as well as their quality of life by delaying the onset of conditions such as osteoarthritis.
One study even suggests that the rate of cancer in dogs is increased by being overweight or obese. Obesity increases the occurrences of several life limiting health problems, such as cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome.
There are no downsides to keeping your dog slim, and potentially life shortening results to him being over weight.
Your Dog’s Breed
Your dog’s breed will have a dramatic influence on his life expectancy.
Several very big studies have been carried out comparing the mortality and longevity of different breeds of dogs, including cross breeds.
Life Expectancy By Breed
One good way of establishing a predicted longevity for a dog is to look at their life expectancy by breed.
For a variety of reasons, some breeds of dog will live considerably longer lives than their peers.
Dog Life Expectancy Chart
I have put together a chart showing life expectancies by dog breed, based upon a couple of big scientific studies.
Longest Living Dog Breed
The longest living dog breeds include the following:
- Bearded Collies
- Border Collies
- Fox Terriers
- Miniature Dachshunds
- Miniature Poodles
- Tibetan Spaniels
- Toy Poodles
- West Highland White Terriers
Shortest Living Dog Breed
The shortest living dog breeds include the following:
- Dogue de Bordeaux
- Great Danes
- Miniature Bull Terriers
- St Bernards
Of course, many dogs are of mixed breed and you’ll often hear people claim that ‘mutts’ live longer than purebred dogs. But is it really true? How long do Mutts live compared with purebred dogs?
Do Mutts Live Longer Than Purebred Dogs?
In a study looking at body weight and breed, scientists analzyed data from both purebred and cross bred dogs. They found that from data of over 23,000 dogs, purebred dogs in the same body weight category as mutts, died younger.
Another study looking at longevity of pet dogs that focused on 5,095 confirmed deaths, found that on average mixed breed dogs live 1.2 years longer than their purebred counterparts.
Your Dog’s Size
How Long Do Small Dogs Live?
When a 2010 study of even bigger numbers looked at canine mortality, it found that of the 14 breeds who lived the longest, 21% were toy, 64% were small and 14% were medium sized dogs.
How Long Do Big Dogs Live?
Of the 11 breeds who lived for the shortest period of time, 55% were giant, 18% were large and 18% were medium.
However the final 18% in medium were made up of just two breeds, whose health has been compromised by their extreme structure.
The dogs in these lowest 11 breeds lived on average less than 8 years each.
Your Dog’s Structure
Your dog’s structure will have a huge impact on his health, and often this will directly impact upon his longevity.
There is a real fashion in recent years for dogs with flat faces. Their profiles given them more human expressions, bigger eyes and a face which many find very endearing and hard to resist.
Unfortunately, flat faces or brachycephaly comes at a high price for the dogs in question.
We have seen that smaller dog breeds tend on average to live longer lives. So you may be surprised not to find any flat faced breeds in the list of longest living dogs, as these are often smaller sized breeds to.
This is because their brachycephaly causes them life limiting problems. The lack of oxygen and associated problems that results in mean that these dogs do not often survive to anything approaching old age.
You can find out more about brachycephaly and the problems it causes for our dogs here: Puppy Health – Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome
Inherited Diseases & Health Testing
Some dog breeds are more predisposed to certain inherited diseases which can shorten their lifespans.
Fortunately, many of these genetic diseases now have health screening tests available for them.
Before you buy any breed of puppy, research the relevant health tests that their parents should have had, and ask your potential breeder to show you evidence of their certificates before you invest your time, money and love in one of their pups.
Spaying & Neutering
Many people want to know what the effect of neutering a dog is on their longevity. Do neutered dogs live longer or shorter lives?
Unfortunately the evidence here is not clear cut.
Neutering is so common in the US as to be normal. In the States, unless you are a dog breeder, only irresponsible people fail to neuter their dogs.
This impacts upon the conclusions we can draw from retrospective studies. Because the dogs owned by more irresponsible owners are more likely to have accidents or pick up / suffer from avoidable diseases.
So while one study showed that neutered dogs lived longer, it also showed that the entire dogs were dying from accidents and disease (both avoidable with responsible ownership) while the neutered dogs were dying from cancer
Here is the limited amount that we do know for certain:
Neutering Female Dogs
Neutering will prevent pyometra and mean that you don’t have to deal with seasons. However, pyometra is curable if treated promptly, and seasons are at most semi-annual.
Neutering will also make a female dog more likely to suffer from certain incurable cancers, and from orthopedic problems. It may also lead to spay incontinence.
Neutering Male Dogs
Neutering male dogs may make them more susceptible to some incurable cancers, and more likely to have orthopedic problems.
It is also worth noting that neutering will probably not actually improve an existing behavioural problem, and may even make it worse.
Genetics & Inbreeding
When you buy a puppy, it pays to know who their parents were.
This is one of the big benefits of Kennel Club registered puppies. You can see several generations back who the puppies parents were, and in many cases even find things out about their temperament, health and even age of death.
You can also find out what their coefficient of inbreeding (COI) is. The COI is a percentage which shows you how many of the dogs in the past few generations were the same.
The lower the percentage, the less inbred the dog.
In a study on Dachshunds it was shown that the higher the level of inbreeding in a dog, the fewer puppies it had in each litter. Not only this, but of those litters more puppies were stillborn to those who were more inbred.
Whilst stillbirth won’t impact upon the puppy you bring home unless you plan to breed from her yourself, it does suggest a health attribute when it comes in inbreeding. As do a couple of studies which have been carried out on wolves and wild dogs, that showed inbred populations have reduced longevity.
When you look for a puppy, search for one with a low COI value. This will be easier in some breeds than others, for example very numerous dogs like Labrador Retrievers will give more possibilities for matings and therefore have the potential for less inbred pedigrees.
Vaccinating Your Dog
There are a lot of misconceptions and concerns surrounding vaccination for puppies. Concerned owners not wanting to subject their dogs in case their choice backfires.
However, vaccinating dogs save lives.
Thirty years ago puppies died in their droves from diseases which are now totally avoidable, thanks to vaccinations.
If you vaccinate your puppy, he will be protected from some scary conditions which could potential cut his life off in its prime.
Lifestyle & Longevity
How you treat your dog once he has joined you will have an influence on his longevity.
Such as the likelihood of your puppy getting into an accident. Having her ride in a secure part of the vehicle, such as a dog crate, or using a doggy seat belt, will keep her safer during a crash.
Great training will also help to prevent accidents. A rock solid recall command can avoid opportunities for your dog to go missing and encounter traffic or other dangerous scenarios.
Dogs who are well treated stay healthier. Keeping your puppy at the right weight, giving them the correct amount of exercise and making sure that routine health care is kept up to date are important.
Not just vaccinations, but worming, flea treating and regular check ups at the vet can help your dog to stay healthier for longer.
Dog Life Expectancy
Dog life expectancy depends upon a large number of factors.
These include his breed, size, genetics, structure, diet, exercise, vaccinations and your own lifestyle.
How long do dogs live?
The answer to the question “how long do dogs live” is anything from 5 to 15 years depending on the breed of dog you have chosen, but you do have a choice.
This wide difference between the lifespan of different breeds is largely due to the health issues that we humans have created in our dogs. And you can influence your dog’s lifespan by picking the breed of dog you bring into your life based on health.
Take good care of your dog and pick a breed with a healthy genetic background, and you can hope to have around 13 happy years together.
Academic Papers Referenced For This Article
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, 512-524.
Greeks, C., Hamann, H., Distl, O. (2005) Influence of inbreeding on litter size and the proportion of stillborn puppies in dachshunds. Berliner und Muncher Tierztliche Wochenschrift. 118 (3-4) 134-139
Laikre, L. & Ryman, N. (2005) Inbreeding Depression in a Captive Wolf. Conservation Biology. 5 (1) 33-40.
O’Neil, 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.
Spidering, P.A., Gunther, M.S., Somers, M.J., Wildt, D.E., Walters, M., Wilson, A.S., Maldonado, J.E. (2010) Inbreeding, heterozygosity, and fitness in a reintroduced population of endangered African wild dogs. Conservation Genetics. 12 (2) 401-412