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Converting Dog Years To Human Years: The New Math

Updated on November 17, 2016
Bob Bamberg profile image

With 30 years in the pet supply industry, Bob's newspaper column deals with animal health, nutrition, behavior, regulation, and advocacy.

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Forget The "7 to 1 Rule" Regarding A Dog's Age

The rule of thumb in most pet owner circles is that 1 human year equals 7 dog years. I don’t know how that ever got started, and I’m especially curious as to why so many people blindly accept that equation.

If you give it just a little thought, you’ll quickly see how simplistic that “rule” is. Case in point: your 7 month old baby is adorable; he smiles at you, chuckles at your goofy faces, is maybe attempting to drag himself across the floor, but other than that, he’s absolutely helpless.

Your 7 month old dog is capable of reproducing! And he has all his permanent teeth, too. That’s why new parents need to be very diligent when bringing a puppy into the home so the baby and the dog can “grow up together.”

In that first year, the dog will leave the baby in the dust developmentally, and the baby may be the only pack member the dog is able to dominate.

No matter how much the dog “loves the baby,” parents can’t become complacent.

At the other end of the spectrum, 70 year old humans aren’t frequent contributors to the world’s population, but 10 year old dogs are.

So, the 7 to 1 calculation just doesn’t seem valid, but for several other reasons as well.

Take the dog’s size, for instance. Small breeds usually live longer and may be approaching 10 years of age before they’re considered elderly.

Medium breeds might be considered elderly at 7 or 8, and large and giant breeds may be considered senior citizens at 5 or 6 years of age.

The past couple of generations have seen impressive advances in our knowledge of animal health, nutrition and behavior, and that progress has not only added to the quality of life of our “furry family folk,” it has extended their life as well.

And that’s another reason why they can’t come up with a specific mathematical formula for converting human years to dog years.

THIS IS ONE OF A NUMBER OF DOG AGE CALCULATION CHARTS
THIS IS ONE OF A NUMBER OF DOG AGE CALCULATION CHARTS | Source
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There are variations in the aging timetables I’ve seen, but most resources agree that a 1 year old dog is the equivalent of a 15 year old human, a 2 year old dog is the equivalent of a 24 year old human, and a 5 year old dog is the equivalent of a 36 year old human.

After that, the pace of aging slows, and a divergence of the aging factor develops between the size categories of dogs.

For example a 7 year old small breed may be considered the equivalent of a 44 year old human, a medium sized dog the same age may be considered the equivalent of a 47 year old human, while a large breed would be the equivalent of a 50 year old human.

In the case of adopted dogs, where the age may not be known, veterinarians use a number of factors to arrive at a “probable age” determination.

Among these are the condition of the teeth (i.e. how worn they are, plaque/tartar presence), agility, skin condition, graying haircoat, condition of the eyes, and other indicators picked up in a physical exam or medical tests.

The fact remains, dogs age much faster than we do. While our doctors may not see many changes in our condition from one year to the next, there can be significant changes in your older dog’s condition in just one year.

Depending on your dog’s breed, once they hit 5 to 7 years of age is a good time to start scheduling 6 month vet checks.

One thing a dog owner doesn’t want to hear is the vet say, “If only we had caught this 6 months ago, we could have hoped for a much better outcome.”

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    • Bob Bamberg profile image
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      Bob Bamberg 16 months ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Nice to see you, ladyguitarpicker. Yeah, things happen quickly in an aging dog and sometimes the sooner you catch it, the better the chances are of fixing it. Thanks for stopping by.

    • ladyguitarpicker profile image

      stella vadakin 16 months ago from 3460NW 50 St Bell, Fl32619

      Dogs at 6 years of age need to see a vet 2 times a year is very good advice. They are like people after a certain age we seem to get many different problems with are health.

    • Bob Bamberg profile image
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      Bob Bamberg 2 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Hi peachpurple, Happy New Year! For the first 10 years or so, cats age a little faster than dogs. For example a 3 yr old cat is the approximate equivalent of a 40 yr old human while a 3 yr old dog is the approximate equivalent of a 27 yr old human. Up to the 10th year, the cats gradually close that gap, then begin to age slower than dogs by the time each species reaches their mid teens. If you Google cat and dog age charts, you'll see a variety of them, but they're all pretty close in their estimates. Thanks for stopping by.

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 2 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      is dog age same as cat age? My cat is old, i was wondering how old she is her cat years

    • Bob Bamberg profile image
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      Bob Bamberg 3 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Thanks for stopping by and for the votes, Adrienne. I suppose decades ago, when dogs didn't live much beyond 10 and our human actuarial tables weren't as generous, and old person was 70 and an old dog was 10. Now, 70 is the new 50, it seems.

      But, dogs have always been capable of breeding at 6 months or so while humans have never been capable of breeding until 12 or 13 years of age. I don't know how that supported the 7 to 1 rule! Thank you for the votes and the comment.

    • alexadry profile image

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 3 years ago from USA

      Thanks for enlightening dog owners on this important topic. I not sure how the 7 to 1 year rule evolved, but it's sure a myth that likes to linger around. Voted up!

    • Bob Bamberg profile image
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      Bob Bamberg 3 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Thanks for stopping by grand old lady, glad you enjoyed the hub. I appreciate you taking the time to comment.

    • grand old lady profile image

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 3 years ago from Philippines

      This article is quite an eye opener. I never realized that the 7 years to one year old dog is not that reliable. The advice to see a vet twice a year after six years of age is also very helpful.