What are ‘Dog Years’? (And Frankie’s 21st)

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Yes, I went to a dog 21st, and yes, this post is partly an excuse to share my photos of said 21st.

BUT, I have some interesting and potentially life-changing information for all you dog owners out there. Your canine bae is probably not the age you think she/he is!

Frankie the Japanese Spitz turned 21 last week. Most of you will know that this means she has lived 3 human years, as it is commonly accepted that 1 human year equals 7 dog years. Although this method of ageing is used throughout the world, no one actually knows where it came from, and there doesn’t even seem to be any vague scientific evidence to back it up. The theory is probably based loosely on the human lifespan, but it doesn’t compare difference in the ageing process between dogs and humans.

Firstly, most dogs reach sexual maturity between the ages of 8 and 18 months. If the 1:7 year ratio is at all accurate, that would mean humans could breed from a minimum age of 4 and a half years. I’ll let you picture that for just a second….

Here’s best friends Taco and Frankie to remove that image from your mind:

 

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Feel better?

Secondly, most puppies will stop crawling on their bellies and start walking sometime in their third week of life, whereas most humans won’t start cruising on their feet until about 9 months.

It is these first years of life that are the most problematic in living up to the 1:7 year ratio, and most dog breeds will age more or less in the same way during this period. Due to the rapid growth rate during these years, many professionals are now suggesting that the first and second year of a dog’s life equates to about 16 to 24 years of a human’s!

Things get a little more complicated after those first 2 human years (or 24 dog years). The ageing process in an adult dog depends considerably on its breed, and especially its size. For example, medium to large breeds, like a Rottweilers,

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generally have a shorter lifespan than smaller breeds, like Jack Russell Terriers.

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Among other reasons, this is thought to be because of the strain put on a larger dog’s muscles and joints as it gets older. Larger dogs are much more likely to develop arthritis and obesity than smaller dogs, but they also just seem to mature more quickly in general, and are less capable of strenuous activity later on in life.

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But size is by no means the only influence on a dog’s lifespan – breeding purpose has a huge part to play. The oldest known dog, ‘Bluey’, lived to 29 years old, and she was not small. She was an Australian Cattle Dog, Like Taco.

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Two girls tie in second place as the oldest known dog, and they were both Border Collies. The Australian Cattle Dog and the Border Collie are both working dogs, bred to be able to work almost until their dying days, and selected with the least genetic health conditions. It makes sense that these breeds would likely live longer than a breed selected only traditionally for its aesthetic traits, like a Pug.

But what does this all mean for Frankie? How old is she really?

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It’s hard to say with a great deal of accuracy, but she’s probably closer to 29 dog years. But who’s to say she can’t celebrate? After all, it is kind of silly to try and understand a dogs age by relating it to human age – it doesn’t really mean anything anyway. It shouldn’t stop us celebrating our dogs lives and giving them an excellent life.

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