English Cocker Spaniel lying on bed

Though it’s not easy to think about one day facing a life without your loving pup at your side, it’s common for dog parents to wonder how many years they’ll have with their pooch. To answer this question, we need to take a look at lifespan averages and a variety of other factors. A dog’s average lifespan differs by breed and circumstance, and in this post, we explore this in more depth.

What’s the Average Lifespan of a Dog?

A dog’s lifespan is based on a variety of factors, but the average lifespan is between 10 and 15 years old for small breeds, between 10 and 13 years for medium breeds, and between 8 and 12 years for large and giant breeds according to the American Kennel Club. The chart below shows the lifespans of some of the most popular dog breeds in the U.S.

Breed Average Lifespan
Labrador Retriever 12 years
French Bulldog 9 years
Golden Retriever 12 years
German Shepherd 10 years
Poodle 12 years
Bulldog 6 years
Beagle 12 years
Rottweiler 8 years
German Shorthaired Pointer 11 years
Dachshund 13 years
Pembroke Welsh Corgi 12 years
Australian Shepherd 12 years
Yorkshire Terrier 14 years
Boxer 9 years
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel 11 years
Doberman Pinscher 10 years
Great Dane 7 years
Miniature Schnauzer 12 years

Why Do Some Dogs Live Longer Than Others?

With some dogs having short lifespans and others making it as old as 18–20, it can leave many wondering why some dogs have longer lifespans. The truth is that so many factors can determine a dog’s lifespan, ranging from their breed to their living environment. Let’s explore the contributing factors in more detail.

golden retriever dogs lying on the floor with their owner at home
Image courtesy of Shutterstock


Dogs that are fed a high-quality, nutritious, breed-appropriate diet measured out into accurate portion sizes are more likely to live a longer life and have a better quality of life. Dogs require six basic nutrients in their diets, which are proteins, fats, carbohydrates, water, minerals, and vitamins.

Feeding a poor-quality diet or feeding too much or not enough food can result in health issues that may shorten your dog’s lifespan. Dogs also need permanent access to fresh, clean water.

Environment and Conditions

Just like humans, dogs need a safe, clean, and comfortable living environment to thrive. Dogs kept in such an environment are more likely to live longer, as there’s less risk of illness caused by unclean spaces, neglect, and otherwise improper care.

Living Quarters/Housing

This is closely tied in with “environment and conditions.” A dog should live in a clean and safe home where they can move around freely, with access to food and water. They should not live outdoors or be cooped up in small spaces and dog owners should meet their dogs’ daily walking and exercise needs.

Dogs need a comfortable space to rest and sleep, like a bed or crate that they feel safe in. It’s also important to be aware of any potential hazards around your home, like toxic plants.


Large and giant dog breeds are wonderful and provide their families with a great deal of affection, which makes it even sadder that larger dogs have a shorter lifespan on average. As we can see from the table above comparing the different lifespans of dog breeds, small and medium breeds typically live longer than large breeds.

According to Professor Mark Elgar from the University of Melbourne’s School of Biosciences, there is more pressure on large dog breeds physiologically, which causes them to “wear out faster.”


The results of one study demonstrated that spayed female dogs live longer than males, but unspayed females have a shorter lifespan than males. A second, independent study had similar results, though not completely identical. The conclusion was that spayed females are longer-lived on average.


Some dog breeds are more prone to genetic conditions that could shorten their lifespan. Some of the most common congenital and inherited conditions include neurological defects, skeletal muscle defects, eye defects, and heart defects. It’s possible to have your dog’s DNA tested to get a better insight into their genetics and which conditions to be on the lookout for.

Breeding History

When you first get a dog, it’s a good idea to find out as much as you possibly can about the dog’s parents and breeding history. This can give you a better insight into the potential health conditions they may be genetically predisposed to.


It’s important to honor a vaccination and preventative treatment schedule to give your dog the best chance of avoiding certain conditions and diseases that could shorten their life. Even dogs that are otherwise healthy should still get a veterinary checkup at least once per year to make sure they’re in good health. Ignoring a dog’s healthcare needs can have heartbreaking and disastrous results.

white puppy lying on grass
Image courtesy of Pixabay

The 4 Life Stages of a Dog


The puppy phase of your dog’s life begins when they’re born and ends between 6 and 9 months of age, which is the end of the rapid growth period. In this stage, dogs are likely to be at their most active, playful, and curious as they’re developing and finding their way in the world.

Young Adult

A dog becomes a young adult after the 6–9-month puppy phase ends and lasts up until the age of 3 or 4 years. At the end of this stage, dogs are considered to have completed their maturation.

Mature Adult

From the age of 3 or 4 years up to the last 25% of the breed’s estimated lifespan is when a dog is considered a mature adult. For example, if you have a Labrador Retriever with an estimated lifespan of around 12 years old, this phase would last from the age of 3 or 4 up to around 8 years old.


The senior dog is one in the last 25% of their breed’s estimated lifespan. For example, if you have a Labrador Retriever, they would be considered senior from around 8 years old. It’s normal for senior dogs to slow down a little and become less active.

How To Tell Your Dog’s Age

If you’ve adopted a dog and don’t know for sure how old they are, the best way to get an age estimate is to look at the teeth. At around the age of 7 months, a puppy’s teeth will be nice and white, but they may start to become duller when they reach 1 or 2 years old. By the age of 3 to 5, the teeth may appear more worn down and you may spot tartar.

Between 5 and 10 years old, the teeth appear more worn down and signs of disease may or may not be evident. Between 10 and 15 years of age is when your dog’s teeth may have a heavy tartar buildup and appear significantly worn down. In some cases, teeth may be missing.

If your dog’s eyes are cloudy or they have gray hairs, stiff legs, or loose skin, it’s likely that they’re in their senior years. By doing a physical examination, your vet can give you the best estimate as to how old your dog is if you’re unsure.


To sum everything up, larger breeds tend to live shorter lives on average, whereas smaller breeds typically live longer. That said, just because a dog is small doesn’t necessarily mean they will have a longer lifespan. Bulldogs, for example, aren’t the largest dogs but have some of the shortest estimated lifespans due to health issues.

Likewise, dogs kept in unsanitary or otherwise unsafe environments or that fall victim to neglect and abuse are more likely to have a shorter lifespan. You can improve your dog’s chances of living a longer, happy life by keeping them in a stress-free, clean, and safe environment, feeding them a quality diet, keeping up with their vet checkups, and, of course, giving them lots of love.

Featured Image Credit: Pixabay