A dog’s lifespan varies widely by the type of breed, and also its size. All dog breeds belong to the same species, evolved from the wolf, yet they age at very different rates and no one understands why there is such a variance. Some dog breeds live to be 16 to 20 years old, whereas breeds like the Irish Wolfhound have a life expectancy of only 6 to 8 years.
Around 40% of small breed dogs live longer than 10 years. In contrast, only 13% of giant breed dogs will live that long. The average 50-pound dog has a lifespan of 10 to 12 years, while a giant breed like the Great Dane is considered senior or elderly at 6 to 8 years of age. Dogs that weigh less than 30 pounds live the longest.
In a study involving more than 700 dogs and 77 different breeds, researchers found that a dog’s weight and size are the chief determining factors in a dog’s lifespan. It’s not unusual for a miniature poodle to live for 16 or 17 years, while a 12-year-old Labrador Retriever is considered an old dog. Giant breeds that weigh more than 100 pounds are considered geriatric when they reach 6 to 7 years of age.
A good rule of thumb is the larger the dog, the fewer years it will live. If you want a dog that will live for a long time you may want to consider adopting a mixed breed rather than a purebred, which on the whole usually have shorter lifespans than most mixed breeds.
When deciding between a male or female dog, remember that females tend to live a little longer than males, mimicking the human condition in this respect.
If you’re considering a purebred dog, it’s a good idea to research the types of ailments and diseases specific to the breed before deciding. Many large-breed dogs like Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds and Doberman Pinschers will develop hip dysplasia and the condition can become so serious that the dog will have to be euthanized.
Cancer is a common disease that can significantly shorten a dog’s lifespan, and some breeds like Boxers, Rottweilers, and Golden Retrievers have unusually high rates of cancer. Cancer is the most common cause of death in older dogs and nearly 42% of those dogs die from some form of cancer.
Flat-faced dogs such as Pugs and Shih Tzus, are predisposed to breathing problems that can cause overheating and even death. Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are likely to develop a heart condition called mitral valve disease. Cocker Spaniels are susceptible to recurring ear and eye infections.
Being a responsible pet owner means seeing that your dog has the correct type and amount of nourishment, and proper exercise. Very important for a dog’s lifespan is the prevention of obesity which will help your dog live a longer, healthier life.
The American Kennel Club has published a list of the most popular dog breeds and their average life span:
Beagles — 12 to 14 years
Boston terriers — about 15 years
Boxers — 11 to 14 years
Bulldogs — 10 to 12 years
Chihuahuas — 15 years or more
Dachshunds — 12 to 14 years
Doberman Pinschers — 10 to 12 years
German Shepherd dog — 10 to 14 years
German shorthaired pointers — 12 to 15 years
Golden retriever — 10 to 12 years
Labrador retriever — 10 to 14 years
Miniature Schnauzers — 15 years or more
Pomeranians — 13 to 15 years
Poodles — 10 to 15 years
Pugs — 12 to 15 years
Rottweilers — 10 to 12 years
Shetland Sheepdogs — 12 to 14 years
Shih Tzu — 11 to 15 years
Yorkshire terrier — 12 to 15 years