CLOSE

Fuzzy Math: How Do “Dog Years” Work?

My next-door neighbors have a little terrier named Melvin (not pictured). My old neighbor had a very big Bernese mountain dog (also not pictured). I didn’t know its name, and usually just referred to it as The Big Dog or The Beast. Ten Melvins, soaking wet and carrying a few dollars in change in their mouths, would probably weigh about the same as The Big Dog. The Big Dog could probably eat all ten of those Melvins, and the change, and still be hungry.

In other words, no two dog breeds are created equal, even if all dogs go to heaven. They come in different shapes and sizes. They reach maturity at different ages and time takes its toll on their bodies differently. On average, smaller dogs like Melvin have longer lifespans (14-16 years) than big ones (12-13 years), which have longer lifespans than certain “giant breeds” like the Bernese (7-10 years).

Age is an important piece of social information and can tell you a number of things about a person. Since dogs are social creatures and are part of many of our social circles, it’s nice to have that information about them, too. With the way different breeds mature and age at different rates, though, things can get confusing. A five-year-old terrier isn’t at the same point in its life as a five-year-old Great Dane. In fact, the two dogs are pretty much at opposite ends of their lifespans.

To work around this snag, people have long followed the rule that “dog year” is equal to seven human years and multiplying a dog’s age by seven gives you its age in the context of the human lifespan. The x7 trick is easy enough to do, but it’s no more helpful than just giving the dog’s age in dog years.

A five-year-old terrier and a five-year-old Great Dane are not only unlike each other in age, neither is similar to a 35-year-old human.

The dog year to human year conversion is especially inaccurate with very young dogs. A dog that’s one year old would be seven years old in human years. Most dog breeds are sexually mature and fully capable of reproducing when they’re one year old, while most seven-year-old humans are not. One just wants a puppy, but the other can make puppies.

Crafting a simple, proportional relationship between Rover’s age and yours might seem convenient, but it’s not doing anyone good. While no one formula for dog-to-human age conversion is scientifically agreed on, we can at least say that there are some better alternatives to multiplying by seven.

New Math

The folks at The Dog Guide suggest that when we think about “dog years,” we have to consider the breed and calculate accordingly. Across the board, they say, you can consider the first year of a dog’s life as equivalent to 15 or so human years. By that time, dogs and humans are approaching their adult size and have reached sexual maturity. On their 2nd birthday, you should add about 3-8 more years to your dogs “human age,” depending on size, and value each dog year as being worth 4-5 human years from that point on.

Stanley Coren, psychologist and author of How Dogs Think, The Pawprints of History and other dog books, uses a similar system. The way he sees it, one-year-old dogs and two-year-old dogs are like 16-year-old people and 24-year-old people, respectively, regardless of breed. For the next three years, each birthday tacks on five human years, and from age five and beyond, everything depends heavily on the dog’s size. Coren suggests adding four years of human life to the age of small dogs after age 5, and six years for large breeds.

When you’re crunching these numbers for your own dog, you should also keep in mind individual characteristics like weight, diet, exercise and veterinary care. If you have a terrier that weighs the same as a Bernese mountain dog, it’s a safe bet that the little porker’s lifespan is going to be decreased. If you keep your dog healthy, lean and on a quality diet, though, then they’ll skew a little younger in human years when the conversion system provides a little wiggle room.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
Animals
Atlanta Shelters Give Pups a Temporary Home for the Holidays
iStock
iStock

The holidays are looking a little brighter for adoptable dogs from two animal shelters in Atlanta, Georgia. As ABC News reports, a new program called Home for the Pawlidays is providing temporary homes to longer-term residents of Fulton County Animal Services and DeKalb County Animal Services for the week of Thanksgiving.

The initiative was organized by Atlanta's LifeLine Animal Project, a local group dedicated to providing healthcare and homes to shelter dogs. The dogs that were chosen for the project may be older, have special health needs, or other issues that make it more difficult to find them forever homes.

But from November 18 to 25, the dogs are getting to spend time away from the shelter and in the homes of loving foster families.

“We were thinking, everyone gets a break from work, and they should get a break from the shelter,” LifeLine’s public relations director Karen Hirsch told ABC News.

Some caretakers have already fallen in love with their four-legged house guests. Foster Heather Koth told ABC that she hadn’t been considering adoption, but after meeting Missy the shelter dog, she now plans to foster her until she has a permanent home or possibly adopt the dog herself.

And for the dogs that can’t be kept by their temporary owners, just a week of quality playtime and sleeping in a real bed can make a huge impact. You can check out photos of the pets who are benefiting from the program this week below.

[h/t ABC News]

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
Animals
Owning a Dog May Add Years to Your Life, Study Shows
iStock
iStock

We've said that having a furry friend can reduce depression, promote better sleep, and encourage more exercise. Now, research has indicated that caring for a canine might actually extend your lifespan.

Previous studies have shown that dog owners have an innate sense of comfort and increased well-being. A new paper published in Scientific Reports and conducted by Uppsala University in Sweden looked at the health records of 3.4 million of the country's residents. These records typically include personal data like marital status and whether the individual owns a pet. Researchers got additional insight from a national dog registry providing ownership information. According to the study, those with a dog for a housemate were less likely to die from cardiovascular disease or any other cause during the study's 12-year duration.

The study included adults 40 to 80 years old, with a mean age of 57. Researchers found that dogs were a positive predictor in health, particularly among singles. Those who had one were 33 percent less likely to die early than those who did not. Authors didn't conclude the exact reason behind the correlation: It could be active people are more likely to own dogs, that dogs promoted more activity, or that psychological factors like lowered incidences of depression might bolster overall well-being. Either way, having a pooch in your life could mean living a longer one.

[h/t Bloomberg]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios