How Long is a Dog's Life?

Posted by Lianne McLeod D.V.M. on

how long is a dog's life

As devoted dog owners, we all share a common wish – to keep our furry companions by us for as long as possible. After all, dogs truly are man's best friend. It's only natural to want to cherish those tail-wagging moments, heartwarming stares, and endless displays of loyalty for as many years as we can. But how long do dogs really live? It's a question that tugs at the hearts of dog lovers worldwide.

The importance of comprehending dog lifespan goes far beyond mere curiosity. Knowing the factors that influence your dog's longevity equips you with the knowledge needed to provide them with the happiest and healthiest life possible.

In this article, we will look at various dog breed life expectancy, shedding light on various factors that impact the time we get to spend with our beloved four-legged friends. From genetics and nutrition to exercise, healthcare, and breed-specific traits, we'll uncover the secrets to helping your dog live a long and fulfilling life.

The Average Lifespan of a Dog

The average lifespan of a dog is a subject that tugs at the heartstrings of every dog owner.

Let's start by acknowledging that there's no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. A dog's lifespan can vary significantly depending on factors like breed and size.

Generally, smaller breeds tend to outlive their larger counterparts. The average age of most breeds is anywhere from 10 to 13 years. Smaller breeds can often surpass this range, while giant breeds may need to catch up to it. To fully grasp the intricacies of a dog's lifespan, we need to explore the elements that influence it.

How exactly do you calculate the age of a dog? For the longest time, it was widely believed that one dog year equated to seven human years. However, this is not accurate. A DNA test can provide a more accurate estimate by examining their genetic markers.

older dog laying down in the grass

Factors Influencing Dog Lifespan

There are several factors that determine how long our loyal companions live. Let’s take a look at factors influencing the average lifespans of most dogs.


Different dog breeds come with their own set of breed-related genetic predispositions, which can impact their health and life expectancy.

Certain breeds are hardy and long-lived, while others may have a higher susceptibility to certain health conditions. Many brachycephalic breeds have health conditions that make their lifespan shorter than some other breeds. Other breeds, like Shih Tzu on the other hand, have a longer life expectancy. Additionally, purebred dogs do not live longer than mixed breed dogs, as they may be predisposed to hereditary diseases.

Knowing your dog's breed can provide valuable insights into potential health concerns and inform your approach to their care. Contact a responsible breeder to find out more about different dog breeds' expected lifespan.


Just like us, dogs are what they eat. A well-balanced diet is not just about filling bellies; it's about providing the right nutrients to fuel a healthy, happy life. Overfeeding can lead to obesity and its associated health issues while underfeeding can deprive your dog of essential nutrients. A carefully planned diet tailored to a dog's age, size, and breed is crucial in extending their average lifespan.


Regular physical activity is the elixir of life for dogs. Exercise keeps them fit, maintains a healthy weight, and enriches their mental and physical faculties. Whether it's a daily game of fetch, a brisk walk, or agility training, exercise is the key to a longer and healthier life.


The role of healthcare in a dog's lifespan cannot be overstated. They help catch health issues early, ensuring timely treatment and a higher chance of recovery. Vaccinations protect against dangerous diseases, and preventive care, such as flea and tick control, is essential to safeguard your dog's health.

Additionally, practices like neutering reduce the risk of certain diseases and behavioral issues, potentially extending a dog's life. Neutered females are less likely to have mammary tumors and uterine infections, while neutered males have a diminished chance of testicular cancer and are less likely to have behavioral issues like roaming and aggression.

Environmental Factors

Lastly, we must consider the environment in which our dogs live. Living conditions, exposure to hazards, and stress levels can all have a profound impact on their health and longevity. Providing a safe, comfortable, and loving home is important in helping your dog live longer.

dog looking out, older dog

Breed-specific Lifespan

The spectrum of canine average lifespans is as diverse as the dog breeds themselves. Dogs come in all shapes and sizes, and each dog breed carries its unique genetic blueprint, which directly impacts their longevity. In this section, we'll look at the lifespans of small dogs, medium-sized dogs, and large dogs, offering examples and statistics that provide insight into the incredible diversity of canine lifespans.

Small Breed Dogs

Smaller dogs often prove to be the marathon runners of the canine world. On average, smaller dog breeds tend to outlive their larger counterparts. These darlings boast lifespans that frequently range from 12 to 16 years, sometimes even longer. Their small stature seems to be a secret to their longevity.

Notable Small Breed Dogs

  • Chihuahua: These dogs live for 15-17 years.

  • Yorkshire Terrier: Small in size but lives for 12-15 years.

  • Pomeranian: These lovely dogs live for 14-16 years

Medium-Sized Breed Dogs

Medium-sized dogs enjoy a fair balance between the pint-sized and the giants. Larger dog breeds typically live anywhere from 10 to 13 years. While they may not set records for longevity, they're known for a robust and active life.

Notable Medium Breed Dogs

  • Beagle: These charming dogs typically reach 12-15 years.

  • Bulldog: Bulldogs may be stocky, but they're known to live a good 10-12 years.

  • Poddie: They live for about 12-15 years.

  • Australian Cattle Dog: They have one of the longest lifespan, living to 12-15 years.

  • Border collie: Have one of the longest life expectancy, living for 12-15years

Large Breed Dogs

Large dog breeds, while majestic and impressive, tend to have shorter lifespans compared to their smaller counterparts. On average, larger dogs live around 8 to 12 years, with some giant breeds falling on the lower end of that range. However, they fill our lives with immense joy during their time with us.

Notable Large Breed Dogs

  • Golden Retriever: They often live to 10-12 years.

  • Great Dane: These gentle giants often live around 7-10 years.

  • Rottweilers: Can live up to 9-10 years.

  • Irish Wolfhound: This breed lives for 8-10 years

  • Newfoundland: Often live to 10-12 years

It's essential to remember that these statistics are general guidelines and individual dogs may vary. Regardless of size, each breed brings its unique charm, and it's our responsibility as pet parents to provide them with the best care and love throughout their journey.

older dog laying down, grey face hairs

Ways to Extend a Dog's Average Life Expectancy

Every dog lover wishes for more years with their four-legged friend, and fortunately, there are numerous ways to help your dog live longer. Here, we'll share tips and tricks and figure out how we can achieve longer life expectancy.

  1. Proper Nutrition and Portion Control

A balanced diet tailored to your dog's age, size, and breed is paramount. Avoid overfeeding, as obesity can lead to various common diseases. Be keen to consult your vet for dietary guidance.

  1. Regular Exercise and Mental Stimulation

Exercise isn't just about keeping your dog physically fit; it's also a mental workout. Daily walks, playtime, and puzzle toys are excellent for maintaining their mental acuity and physical health.

  1. Preventive Healthcare

Regular vet check-ups are your dog's lifeline. Early detection of common diseases increases the chances of successful treatment. Some breeds, like golden retrievers, may benefit from routine imaging as they age to monitor for certain types of cancer.

Always stay up-to-date on vaccinations and essential preventive care, such as flea and tick control, to keep your dog healthy.

  1. Dental Care

Oral health is a window to overall well-being. Dental issues can sometimes lead to an increased risk of developing systemic health problems.

Therefore, adopt practices like brushing your dog's teeth regularly and providing dental treats or toys to promote oral hygiene. Also, visit your vet for consultation if you notice any worrying symptoms.

  1. Managing Stress and Anxiety

Dogs can experience stress and anxiety, affecting their health. It is important to create a calm and comforting environment, ideal for your dog's well-being.

Offer plenty of affection, and positive reinforcement, and, if needed, consult with a professional trainer or veterinarian.

  1. Weight Management

Maintaining a healthy weight is crucial for your dog's overall health and longevity. Work with your vet to develop a weight management plan if your dog is overweight.

  1. Avoiding Toxins and Hazards

Keep your dog safe by removing toxic plants, chemicals, and dangerous items from their reach. Be vigilant during walks and outings to protect them from potential hazards such as foxglove, azaleas, lilies or even pesticides and harmful mushrooms. Research what harmful plants for your specific breed may be in your locale.

These tips and practices are just a few of the things that can extend the joyful chapters of your dog's life. Each moment spent together is a treasure, and with the right care, you can make those moments last a lifetime.

senior dog staring out, outdoors

Recognizing Signs of Aging

As our dogs journey through life with us, it's crucial to recognize the signs of aging so we can provide the care and attention they need during their golden years. Dogs develop problems that are less common at younger ages, therefore we should identify and address them early.

  • Changes in Behavior: One of the most telling signs of aging in dogs is a shift in behavior. You might notice your once-vibrant pup becoming more subdued or less interested in play. They may be more irritable or anxious. While these changes can be normal, sudden or severe shifts in behavior should be discussed with a vet.

  • Mobility and Energy Levels: Aging dogs often experience a decrease in mobility and energy. They may struggle to get up or lie down, have difficulty with stairs, or move more slowly. Reduced activity is typical, but it's vital to maintain regular, low-impact exercise to keep their joints and muscles in good shape.

  • Age-Related Health Factors: As dogs age, they become more susceptible to certain health concerns that affect their life expectancy. Arthritis, a painful joint condition, is common in senior dogs. Additionally, dental issues, including gum disease and tooth loss, may affect their ability to eat comfortably. Keep an eye out for these changes and consult your vet for appropriate care.

Senior Dog Care

Caring for senior dogs is a rewarding journey that requires attention to their unique needs. As our furry companions age, it's essential to adapt their care routine to ensure they are comfortable and live longer.

  • Diet: A senior dog's nutritional needs change. Consider switching to a diet that caters to their reduced activity levels and specific health concerns. The right diet can help manage weight, support joint health, and address dental issues.

  • Living Environment: Make your home senior-dog-friendly. Ramps or stairs can aid mobility, while slip-proof rugs provide traction. Ensure they have a cozy, comfortable space to rest, away from drafts.

  • Regular Vet Visits: In a dog's old age, the importance of regular vet check-ups cannot be overstated. These visits are vital for detecting and addressing health risks early. Keep an eye out for signs of pain or discomfort and communicate these concerns with your vet.

  • Health Monitoring: Conduct regular health checks at home, including dental inspections and grooming routines. Remember to pay attention to changes in their appetite, thirst, and behavior.

Embracing your dog's golden years is a privilege, and with the right care, they can continue to enjoy a happy and comfortable life.

really sweet senior dog looking at the camera


A dog's average lifespan is influenced by a multitude of factors, each playing its unique role in determining the years we get to share with our beloved companions.

Small dog breeds often outlive their larger counterparts, while medium-sized and large breeds each have their own lifespan. And, as we've learned, statistics only paint a part of the picture, as genetics, nutrition, exercise, environmental factors, healthcare, and other factors all influence a dog's life expectancy. Understanding how these factors contribute to the general health of your dog, and making your puppy live longer empowers you as a pet owner.

Dogs are not just pets; they're family. To truly honor the bond we share with them, it's crucial to commit to providing the best possible care, love, and attention. With every walk, every meal, and every wagging tail, let's cherish the moments we have with our furry friends.


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  3. Alt K. (November 29, 2022). Dog life expectancy charts: how long do dogs live? Canine Journal.

  4. Teng, K.Ty., Brodbelt, D.C., Pegram, C. et al. (2022). Life tables of annual life expectancy and mortality for companion dogs in the United Kingdom. Sci Rep 12, 6415.

  5. Lindner, L. (2010). Good Old Dog: Expert Advice for Keeping Your Aging Dog Happy, Healthy, and Comfortable. HMH. https://books.

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Lianne McLeod, DVM, is a former writer for The Spruce Pets, contributing articles for 11 years. Before Dr. McLeod began writing about pet care, she worked several years in small animal practice. She has written extensively about the care and keeping of exotic pets and pet health care. She now researches water quality and chronic disease at the University of Saskatchewan. Lianne McLeod earned her Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from the Western College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan. She also received a Bachelor of Science degree in biology from Simon Fraser University. She continued her education and received a Ph.D. in Epidemiology from the University of Saskatchewan. Now, she splits her time between her family, research and writing about pet health for all the animal lovers out there.
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