years. An equivalency of years
based on the relative life-spans of dogs and humans. This is a mildly
fascinating concept, based on an if you-were-a-dog or if-your-dog-were-human,
then how-old-would-you/your-dog be?
The calculation is typically done on the basis of seven to one, the premise being that the average life span of a human is seven times that of the average life-span of a dog. Of course, the “average life span” of a human is not exactly evenly distributed, nor is it a fixed number. Is it based on the figures for human men or human women? Are we speaking of the life expectancy of those in the so-called developed countries, or those in the global south? Perhaps those doing the calculation use the psalmist's three score and ten? In any case, this level of assumption is rarely examined. The life expectancy for dogs appears to be even less considered and even more variable than that of humans. As you can see in the following chart adapted from the work of Fred L. Metzger, DVM, life expectancy appears to drop in an almost direct proportion to the weight of the canine in question. On second thought, maybe that is not so different than in humans.
1. Metzger, Fred L. 2003. Senior Page. Metzger Animal Hospital. Accessed Feb 22 2005 from http://
||DOG'S AGE (Red indicates “human years” equivalent)
|Wt. in lbs
|Humans being who we are, this level of nuance does not seem to enter our thinking about dog years. There are calculators all over the web to tell you how old you are in “dog years.” Most take your age and multiply it by seven, giving an age in years that few creatures achieve. So why add another such calculator? Well, that's not how I think about dog years. Instead, mine divides by seven, giving you the age you would be if you were a dog at an equivalent stage of life that you are as a human.
||Dog years calculator
Accessed from http://
As I said, the concept is mildly fascinating.
Okay, so it is probably only truly interesting
if you are enamored of dogs. What is fascinating is that the
concept is widely known and used. Children will proudly figure your
dog age for you as if they were performing a demanding magic trick.
Nobel Prize winning authors name their books Dog Years. Dogs,
as they often do, provide a familiar reference point, if not necessarily
a comfortable one. As Patrick Martin notes in his poem, “In Dog-Years,”
sometimes this idea only serves to remind us that “Humans live
long in proportion to what they don't do.”
Martin, Patrick. 1989. In Dog-Years. Paris Review. Accessed Feb 12 2008 from: http://
About the illustrations: Figure 1:
I'm 54...In dog years I'm dead. I made this animation to show what I
am (or am not) doing in my life. The calendar illustration
is a clip from one of the famous card playing dog paintings by Cassius
Figure 2 is the cover of Mark Doty's Dog Years. This image is of a book cover, and the copyright for it is most likely owned either by the artist who created the cover or the publisher of the book. It is believed that the use of low-resolution images of book covers to illustrate an article discussing the book in question qualifies as fair use under United States copyright law.
|3. Doty, Mark. 2007. Dog Years: A Memoir. 1st ed. New York, N.Y.: HarperCollinsPublishers. cover.
|see also: dog's age; bird dog minute
||Last updated: July 5, 2008