Dogs are arguably the greatest animals on our planet. They have a long history of being companions to mankind as we continue to establish our presence on this spinning rock we call home. Throughout history, dogs and humans have evolved together to take on new challenges and improve our quality of life. Whether dogs are man’s best friend or not, they are incredibly important animals with which we have established deep bonds. For this reason, it is terribly sad whenever we lose one of our precious pet dogs to the ravages of time.
One of the first questions a lot of people ask when they are about to get a new pet is how long will it live? While it’s impossible to say how long anything will survive on a case by case basis, there is a lot of information out there regarding average lifespans that can help you get a good understanding of what to expect when it comes to your dog. So…
How Long Do Dogs Live?
A quick Google search will tell you that dogs live an average of 10-13 years but this is only a tiny part of the picture in reality. While it’s safe to assume that most dogs will live to be around 12 years of age, not all breeds are alike. More than that, not all dogs are alike either as some come from very healthy parents and lineages while others are from less healthy lines of ancestors.
Before we get into specific breeds, let’s go over some general facts that hold true regardless of what type of dog you have or end up getting. One of the most important things for all animals on the planet (including us humans) for longevity is a healthy diet and regular exercise. Now, a “healthy diet” is something that can be pretty contentious when it comes to humans due to all the conflicting scientific evidence out there. Despite this, there are some general rules of thumb that will ensure your dog leads a happy and healthy life thanks to their diet.
What is a Healthy Diet for a Dog?
The number one tip for eating healthy applies equally to humans and dogs and that is to always READ THE LABEL. Thanks to laws created to protect us from less scrupulous companies, everything that is made for consumption is required to have detailed labels regarding the ingredients inside the package. In general, the best way to tell if something is healthy is by reading the ingredients on the boxes and picking the one with the least number of ingredients and the highest number of words you can actually pronounce.
This may seem a bit TOO easy, but the reality is that good food is natural food that is minimally processed and made from real, natural ingredients you could grow on a farm. If the ingredient list is full of words like high-fructose corn syrup and butylated hydroxyanisole, it’s probably best to avoid that product and look for an alternative that has words written in a language you actually speak.
Another important thing to understand about food labels is that the ingredients list is written in a particular order, not randomly. The ingredients are listed in order of the percentage of contents. This means there is more of the first ingredient listed in the product than anything else on the list. So, if the first ingredient is sugar, it’s safe to say that you aren’t buying something healthy.
Ignore the marketing hype and look for food that is made from… food. Chemicals belong in the lab, not on your plate or in your dog’s bowl. Having said that, there are certainly some more reliable brands out there that consistently provide high-quality food that’s actually worth the added cost.
When training your dog, treats are a great way to encourage the behaviors you approve of. However, feeding excessive treats could lead to a poor diet. As such, using healthy treats as an alternative to doggy treats is a great way to encourage the behavior while maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Furthermore, healthy snacks like bits of carrot or pieces of an apple are considerably cheaper than dog treats and don’t include any of those pesky chemicals we were talking about earlier.
How much food a dog should eat is entirely dependent on their size and activity level (this ALSO applies to humans!) It’s really easy to keep track of how much food you give your dogs because you can use a measuring cup to dish out their food. Make sure you always feed them the same amount and keep a close eye on their weight. If they are fully grown and they start to put on weight, you’re feeding them too much or exercising them too little. On the other hand, weight loss can be a sign that they aren’t being fed enough. By measuring out food and keeping consistent track of weight, you can keep a close eye on the health of your dog and manage its food and exercise levels. This leads us smoothly into the next section.
What is Healthy Exercise for a Dog?
All types of exercise is healthy as long as you aren’t wearing your dog out to levels of complete exhaustion. Make sure your dog has access to water whenever it needs, but don’t be surprised if your dog has more energy than you do. Different breeds have different exercise needs, but all dogs should get some regular exercise.
Exercise can take many different forms and may not require much time or effort on your behalf. Taking your dog for a light stroll every evening may be enough depending on the breed, but some breeds might need a lot of room to play regularly. If you notice your dog has a lot of nervous energy, it’s likely that the animal isn’t getting enough exercise throughout the day and could use more playtime or longer walks.
Having a fenced-in yard is a great way to ensure that you can get your dog plenty of exercise without having to make much special effort in that regard. Teaching your dog to fetch a ball or stick can lead to many hours of entertainment for the both of you and exercise for your pup. If you are also the energetic type, many dogs make great companions on runs or long walks.
Just make sure you bring a bag to pick up their poop with and it is also a good idea to bring water with a small, collapsible bowl if you plan on going on longer excursions. Your pup will surely appreciate taking a sip of water occasionally just as much as you would.
Basically, eating well and moving often are the main ingredients for a healthy, happy, and long life for both you and your dog. Now you might be wondering what to expect from certain breeds of dogs in regards to longevity.
Which Dog Breeds Live the Longest?
Not all dog breeds are created equal and while not every dog within these breeds is guaranteed to live out their full expected lifespan, they do have a higher chance of living longer healthier lives. Some of the longest living dog breeds are as follows:
This breed tends to live an average lifespan of 15 years with the females generally living a little longer than the males. They are generally healthy animals who suffer from very few serious genetic issues.
Beagles are a classic favorite of many thanks, in part, to their longevity. One famously long-lived Beagle named Butch lived to the age of 27! A standard life expectancy for Beagles is 15 years.
These pups are known for their capabilities as sheepherders and are up there on the high energy scale for dogs. They generally live for about 15 years on average.
Shih Tzus are another long-lived breed of dogs. These guys originate from China and have ties to nobility dating back centuries. They tend to live for about 15 years as well.
Lhasa Apsos are great watchdogs thanks to their suspicious nature towards strangers, but they can also live for quite a while. In fact, there is a record of a Lhasa Apso living to the age of 29. Don’t expect your Lhasa Apso to live quite that long as they clock in at an average lifespan of 15 years.
Jack Russel Terrier
Renowned as great family dogs, Jack Russel Terriers have high energy levels and adorable little faces. They tend to live for about 16 years on average.
Known for being a bit yappy and also loving Taco Bell, the Chihuahua is a dog that boasts a long lifespan with an average of 17 years of happy living.
Which Dog Breeds Live the Shortest?
This list isn’t nearly as fun as the one before, but it’s important to understand that not all dogs live as long as others. Typically, smaller dogs live longer than the biggest of dog breeds due to internal issues. While these dogs may not live as long, they still have a whole lot of love to give during their stay on our planet. Here are some of the dog breeds with the shortest life spans on average:
These dogs are known for being quite expensive to own thanks to their health issues, but they are powerful animals that tend to go between complete laze-about to an utter whirlwind of energy. They live on average for about 9.5 years.
These big boys are perhaps most famous for starring in Stephen King’s Cujo as evil mastiffs, but they are really quite gentle in nature. They can weigh in at a staggering 180 pounds of adorable fluff but tend to only live for roughly 9.5 years.
These pups have a fairly low energy level but they do well in homes with large yards they can lope around in. They live for about 9 years on average.
The Great Dane is another massive animal. They hold the record for tallest dogs and are known for the loving nature and playful attitudes. These animals live for about 8.5 years on average.
These animals have been around for thousands of years and can weigh up to 220 pounds. Their enormous size plays a large role in their short life spans however and they tend to only live for about 8 years.
Hailing from Ireland, Irish Wolfhounds are large dogs that have a lot of love for their owners. Their size also contributes to shorter lives as these animals typically live for about 7 good years.
Bernese Mountain Dog
Berners are amazing animals with highly intelligent natures. They are loving, eager to please, and intensely loyal. However, they have a fairly limited gene diversity which results in them having numerous health problems. The result is that these dogs only tend to live for about 7 years.
A Dog’s Life
While not all dogs live as long as the rest, they can all make wonderful pets and partners in life. Death is a natural part of the cycle of life and it can be really difficult to cope with the loss of our best friends, but the joy of owning a dog is well worth the pain of losing them. Whether or not you have a dog with a long or short life span, it’s imperative that you feed them healthy meals and make sure they get regular exercise to help them make the most of the time they have left.
Dogs can be constant companions for many years of our lives and ensuring they are happy and healthy will help increase your own enjoyment of these wonderful animals. Keeping your dog healthy is also a great way to increase your own health and enjoyment of life. Instead of worrying about how long your dog will live, worry about how WELL they’ll live.