Dog Age in Human Years

As a veterinarian I am often asked “What age is my dog compared to human years?” This is especially relevant as dogs age or become “senior pets.” Dogs will age by several factors, but breed (or size) is the most important factor. Giant breed dogs age faster than small breed dogs for example. Other factors (just as with humans) can affect aging, such as: body weight, general health, exposure to toxins or high risk factors, diet and genetic predisposition.

The important age categories or changes are when a pet leaves childhood to become an adult and when a pet becomes a senior.

Dog Age Categories

  • Infancy will last only a few weeks, until about 6-8 weeks of age.
  • Childhood will last from 2 months until approximately 4 months for small breeds and 2-9 months for large breed dogs.
  • Teen years again will also vary by breed, with small dogs lasting from 4-9 months of age and large breeds typically from 9-18 months old.
  • Adulthood starts at 9-12 months for small breeds and 18-24 months for large breeds.
  • Senior years can start as early as 7 for giant breeds and not until age 11-12 for smaller breed dogs.

For example: a 9-year-old Great Dane is a senior citizen, while a Chihuahua would need to be 12-14 years old to be a senior given good health and proper nutrition.

The following chart will help to determine your dogs biological age to human years.

Dog Age in Human Years

Training Tip for After Adopting a Puppy

The following excerpts from an article by Dr. Rolan Tripp of the Animal Behavior Network will greatly assist you in having a positive long-term relationship with your newly adopted dog. For more information, please visit for online behavior training courses.

Never use physical discipline. Dogs don’t hit each other and do not understand the behavior. Striking a dog will result in the wrong behavior as the dog ages. It causes a loss of trust.

Help the puppy to succeed. New puppies should be either on leash or confined when indoors. The leash is tethered to you as you move about the house. Take the puppy out every few hours to the toilet area. Use food or praise as rewards for correct elimination.

Keep accidents hidden. Don’t let the puppy see you cleaning up any accidents, since the human attention may be a social reinforcer of the habit.

Begin socialization early. Isolation may adversely affect the puppy. Enroll in puppy classes at 8 weeks of age or thereafter. Allow to meet and greet other humans and dogs as much as possible.

Day Care. Enroll the puppy in a day care program at least once a week between 3-6 months of age, then one day a month until two years of age to improve socialization, intelligence, exercise and reduce chance of separation anxiety later in life.

Begin “gentling’ exercises daily. A combination of handling to develop the puppy’s personality into a calm, trusting, friendly and compliant pet. It establishes a positive human leadership without fear or domination. You may want to give a small treat before and after each session.

Do You Have Time for a Pet?

Before you adopt or acquire a pet is the best time to reflect on how much time you can devote to a pet. Too often people get pets because they are cute, or because a friend has recommended a certain breed, or maybe because they just want to be a good Samaritan and save a shelter pet’s life. But if you’re too busy to give them the attention they need, you’re not doing them a favor.

Make sure to choose the type of pet that is right for you and your situation.

Time allotted for a pet can vary dramatically; goldfish, for example, need relatively little time and effort (but remember that no pet is maintenance-free). A large dog, on the other hand, will require plenty of exercise and attention to keep from being bored. Lonely pets, especially dogs, can be very destructive.

One nice thing about cats is that they don’t need as much attention as dogs. You won’t have to walk them on a leash—usually indoor cats are fine with the workout they get simply from playing or using a scratching post. Outside cats typically limit their exercise to honing their hunting skills. Cats can be kept in apartments much easier and tolerate being alone longer than dogs. That is not to say they don’t need human interaction, but they usually don’t exhibit destructive behavior as often as dogs that are left alone too long.

Because they are pack animals, dogs are more social and depend on interaction with others. Without it, they can become self destructive—for example, by licking themselves excessively they can cause a skin infection known as a “hot spot” which may develop into a “lick granuloma.” However, in most cases the destruction is focused on the pet’s environment: your house and yard. Dogs (and even some cats) can become territorial and aggressive when isolated for too long, damaging furniture and walls by clawing and chewing. Dogs may dig and bark excessively in the house and yard. Some breeds tend to bark more than others, just as some breeds will naturally dig more than others.

Certain breeds of dogs need more exercise (and some require strenuous exercise every day) to avoid becoming bored and destructive. Retrievers, setters, terriers and herding dogs, for instance, need lots of exercise or a “job” that keeps them busy. Toy breeds, giant breeds and others may require less exercise, but will still need social interaction with other dogs or humans daily.

Be fair to your pet and yourself by asking, before you adopt, about the amount of time and attention they will need. You should strongly consider owning two pets so they have companionship and can entertain one another if you are often gone from the house more than a few hours every day.

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How to Select a Dog to Adopt

First, be prepared at home. Make sure you have the time and space for a dog. If you are adopting a large dog, be sure you have a yard with a fence. And, that your fence is in good shape with no holes for escape and high enough to prevent your newly adopted dog from jumping over it.

Newly introduced dogs may panic and will “bolt” with noises, strangers or at the least provocation. It takes a dog a while to understand that this is it’s new home. Do not adopt a dog with the intention of tying or chaining it up in the back yard. This is cruel to the dog and they will develop behavior problems.

Outdoor dogs need a warm dry dog house to get out of the weather and away from the sun. They need a cool place in summer, just as much as they need a warm place in the winter. Summer can be more deadly than winter for large long haired dogs, which are not suited for hot weather. Imagine wearing a long fur coat in the heat of summer! Be sure there is shade, plenty of water and a cool place, preferably with a breeze for your dog in the summertime.

If adopting a small house dog, make sure you have a private space for them that is quiet and secluded. Puppies need nap time and a place to go for time outs. A crate is a must and should be utilized from the first day of adoption for time out, sleep and when you are away for short periods. Do not allow them to roam the house, place them in the crate for short periods.

Second, know what type of dog you want to adopt and be patient. Patience is very hard, especially when you see how many dogs need and deserve a home. Touring a shelter can be very emotional and easily lead to guilt if you find a dog that seems scared and overwhelmed by their experience.

I have a very hard time touring a shelter and not wanting to save them all. But start with one and one that will work out for your situation, so that it is a long lasting relationship and not one where a short term emotional decision leads you down a path of a bad pet relationship and eventually returning the pet. Remember, your selection will be one you live with for years.

If you live in an apartment, it is best not to adopt a large or active breed that requires space, unless you can commit to long walks at least twice a day. Different breeds have different requirements for space, activity and companionship. Adopt a breed that is more suitable for an apartment and avoid a huge, future problem. Understand that adopting a puppy will require much more time and management than an older dog for at least a year or more in large breeds.

Third, observe the dog in their surroundings before selecting which dog to adopt. Watch how they play or interact with other dogs. What happens when you approach? Do they eagerly come up and want to be petted? Or do they cower away into a corner? The one that cowers away will require much more work and understanding of behavior to overcome. Are they unruly, jumping up on you and everyone? If so, an obedience class is a necessity and possibly some home training in-between classes. This will be the best time you ever spend with your dog in having a long lasting and wonderful relationship.

Understand that if you are unwilling to commit the time to an obedience class and the needs of your new dog, you are not ready to adopt a dog.

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