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Just How Old is Your Dog in Human Years?

Dog in Human Years

Even if only playfully, everyone has at one time or another wondered – how old is my dog in human years. In fact, we’ve all heard the popular expression “one human year is equivalent to seven dog years.” And we frequently use this method to determine our dog’s age in human years.

But no one even knows the real origins of the 7-to-one ratio. Some have deduced that it dates back to an inscription at Westminster Abby dating back to 1268. But that inscription calculates a 9-to-1 ratio. So that can’t be it, right?

Is it true that you can calculate a dog’s years to human years with a simple 7-to-1 calculation? If you could, would it even matter?

Regardless where this myth orientates, it’s incorrect. But that hasn’t stopped it from becoming part popular culture. In fact, by the 1950’s it had become so popular that it was accepted by dog owners, food companies, and even veterinarians. Likely because of it’s simplicity and usefulness in marketing. However, modern veterinarians and scientists agree – it’s not accurate and not particularly useful. 

Should we Know the Age of a Dog in Human Years? 

It’s obviously important to understand your dog’s age for medical reasons. But do you need to know how old your dog is in human years? Probably not. The research into a dog’s aging process, however, continues as a way to help us better understand a dog’s lifecycle and improved medical care and overall wellness.

Nonetheless, for pet owners, thinking of your dog’s age in terms of human years may help you understand your dog’s life-cycle as it relates to pet health care needs, and that could be a useful. For example, even a rudimentary relationship of human-to-dog years can help one recognize when their dog is becoming a senior dog – even the 7-to-1 rule.  Given that a dog, depending on bread and size, starts to become a senior dog between 5-10 years, if your think of a five-year-old dog as being the equivalent of a 65-year-old human, it may help adapt your dog’s diet, exercise, and pet health care appropriately.

Pro-tip:

All dogs, not just senior dogs, benefit from a good, regular health care plan that ensures your dog receives the necessary health care. Pet insurance can help you afford the best care possible for both old and young dogs. In fact, it is possible to get insurance plans customized to fit your needs and your budget.

Understanding Your Dog’s Aging Cycle 

Maybe it’s not terribly useful to know how old your dog is in human years, but you should have a basic understanding of the dog’s aging cycle. First, it’s important to remember that a dog’s size, breed and general health will play a key role in your dog’s lifespan. Fundamentally, dogs will mature at a faster rate than humans – this is determined by life expectancy. More specifically, however, is the need to understand you dog’s developmental trajectory on a molecular level – that’s how one accurately measures the aging process.

How do dog’s age?

Researchers, have discovered that dogs age much more rapidly early in life, but the rate of aging will slow significantly after the first year. Just think about that first year puppy. After you brought home your puppy you notice that they mature rapidly – much faster than a human baby.

In fact, in the fist year of life, a puppy’s growth rate is equivalent to the first 12-15 years of an adolescent human. However, after the puppy’s first year of rapid growth, the difference in dog-to-human years develop at a much slower rate. Moreover, the rate of aging will depend on your dog’s breed and size. Smaller dogs have a longer life expectancy than larger dogs.

It’s noteworthy to point out, dogs are the only species to age at different rates. In fact, humans also have different life expectancies and will age at the different rates. That’s right, scientists have discovered that some people simply age faster others. It is not completely understood why humans age differently, it is believed that factors like genetics, stress, early trauma and lifestyle play a role. 

Why do we like to know the age of our dog in human years?

There is no real answer to this question, maybe it just makes us feel more bonded with our dog. Dog’s hold a very special place in the owner’s heart, and to us culturally, so it’s easy to understand how powerful that need to bond with your dog can be. While bonding is one way to understand the need to assign human years to a dog’s age, other have hypothesized that it’s a form of anthropomorphism – ascribing human characteristics to animals or objects. This wouldn’t be anything new, however, researchers have uncovered Paleolithic art from as far back as 40,000 years depicting humans in animal form and vice versa.

The bottom line

Whether you want to use the convention of 7-to-1 method, or a more scientific understanding of your dog’s age. Ultimately, your dog’s age is just a number. What’s really important is that you spend quality time with your dog. Enjoy each and every year – both the human and dog variety – enjoying each other’s company and love.

If you’re interested in helping your dog live a health life, maybe a pet health insurance plan can help you afford top notch care. Not sure how much pet insurance costs, you can get an online quote in just minutes.


References: Information from the articles below were used to create this article.

1 Horowitz, A. C., & Bekoff, M. (2007). Naturalizing Anthropomorphism: Behavioral Prompts to Our Humanizing of Animals. The Humane Society Institute for Science and Policy.

2 Loos, S. (2020, July 1). How to Convert Dog Years to Human Years. Retrieved from PetMD: https://www.petmd.com/dog/general-health/pet-myths-dog-years-human-years

3 ScienceDaily. (2020, July 2). How old is your dog in human years? New method better than ‘multiply by 7’. Retrieved from Cell Press: www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/07/200702113649.htm

4 Staff, A. (2019, November 20). How to Calculate Dog Years to Human Years. Retrieved from American Kennel Club: https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/how-to-calculate-dog-years-to-human-years/

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