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Interactive video lesson plan for: Is A 'Dog Year' Really 7 Years?

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You may have heard that dogs age differently than humans. But is it true? Get the facts on your pooch without having that ever-awkward “so… how old are you really?” conversation.

Calculate your dog's age:

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You may have heard that dogs age differently from people – it’s the old notion of a “dog year,” right? The idea that one year for humans equals about seven years for a pooch. But is this true, or just some tall tale – a shaggy dog story, if you will?

Well, yes and no. Mainly, no. First, let’s talk about aging. Age isn’t just some hard-and-fast measurement of chronology. It’s also a measurement of how time affects our bodies. Animals all age, but at different rates. By way of example, let’s look at this seven-year myth.

By that logic, a 15 year old dog would be, in equivalent years, a 105 year old person. But why do so many dogs live to or past 15 years old, and so few people live to 105? It doesn’t add up.

And this is because we can’t make a simple one-to-one comparison. First, dogs don’t all have the same life expectancy, and they don’t age at the same rate, either.

Think about it this way: a Chihuahua can live to be over 15 people years old (yipping at us the entire time). However, a larger breed, like a Great Dane, has a shorter life span, on the order of 7-8 years.

The size of a dog affects its life expectancy, as does its breed and expected adult weight. Generally we can make a good guess at a dog’s age range based on these factors.

Back to the rate of aging. So, dogs undergo a maturation process, just like people. A puppy’s first year on the planet equals about more than a decade of people years, but this rule doesn’t apply for every year of a dog’s life afterward.

After about two years on Earth, a puppy is officially mature, able to sexually reproduce and, if it were a person, heck, it could buy booze, vote and register for the draft.

In biological terms, dogs also fall victim to the ravages of age, just like humans. As a pooch ages she or he may begin to develop arthritis, poor hearing or vision, and other ailments common in elderly humans. And they appear to age more quickly in the early years, while their aging slows in later years.

But, if you’d like to gauge your dog’s age and life expectancy, never fear! While it’s true that there’s no simple multiplication exercise applying to all dogs, you can use handy estimation charts like this one to make an educated guess about your pup’s lifespan.

Interesting side note - if this whole “7 years” thing is a myth (and it is!) then where did it come from? In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, veterinarian William Fortney speculated that this may have originated as a “marketing ploy,” meant to encourage pet owners to bring their dogs in for check-ups once a year.


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