Translating a dog’s age into human years depends upon several considerations. You may have heard that one year in a dog’s life is equal to seven years in a person’s life. This is not actually true. In the first year of life a dog grows and changes very quickly. On his first birthday, your dog has all the physical abilities that a human who is sixteen years old will have, and his thought processes have also entered the canine equivalent of the teenage years. When the dog is two years old he is at the same stage as a twenty-four year old human. After that, we can say that each year adds about five human years in terms of the way your dog’s body (including his brain and nervous system) is changing.
This method to compute a dog’s age is complicated by its breed. Generally speaking, bigger dogs have shorter lives than smaller dogs.
Even within certain size ranges there are other complications. For example, the shape of your dog’s face can help predict how long he will live. Dogs with sharp, pointed faces generally have longer lives while dogs with very flat faces, such as bulldogs and pugs, often have shorter lives. Of course, dogs that are well cared for can often live much longer than average.
The same kind of considerations play a role in the mental age of dogs. It is important to recognize that there is a large degree of variability even within a single breed. In some respects the process of mental aging seems to be related to the individual’s behaviors. People who remain mentally active, who read more, take courses, do puzzles, and engage in games that require problem solving seem to slow the aging of their brains. This also seems to be the case for dogs. For the mind and brain the key phrase is “Use it or lose it!”
So, how old are your dogs?