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Why Do Small Dogs Live Longer Than Large Dogs?

Two Small Dogs


Every pup parent knows that having a canine companion by your side is the ultimate joy. Your dog could be your jogging partner, snuggle buddy, or travel pal, and they're always your best friend. But, unfortunately, you only get to enjoy a short time with your faithful friend in the grand scheme of things since humans typically outlive dogs. 

When you're choosing the perfect pup, you might consider the breed's average lifespan. Various dog breeds live longer than others, and in many cases, small dogs seem to live longer than large dogs. But what is it about size that influences the dog lifespan?

Do Small Dogs Live Longer Than Big Dogs?

To answer this question, first take a peek at the average lifespan of some popular small and large dog breeds. The lifespans are according to information from the American Kennel Club (AKC).

Average Lifespan of Small Dog Breeds

10 to 15 years
Bichon Frise
14 to 15 years
Boston Terrier
11 to 13 years
14 to 16 years
12 to 16 years
French Bulldog
10 to 12 years
Jack Russell Terrier
12 to 14 years
Lhasa Apso 
12 to 15 years
12 to 15 years
12 to 16 years
Poodle (Toy)
10 to 18 years
13 to 15 years
Shih Tzu
10 to 18 years
West Highland White Terrier (Westie)
13 to 15 years
Yorkshire Terrier (Yorkie)
11 to 15 years


Average Lifespan of Large Dog Breeds

Afghan Hound
12 to 18 years
10 to 12 years
10 to 12 years
11 to 13 years
10 to 12 years
German Shepherd 
12 to 14 years
Golden Retriever
10 to 12 years
Great Dane
7 to 10 years
Great Pyrenees 
10 to 12 years
10 to 12 years
9 to 10 years
Old English Sheepdog
10 to 12 years
Poodle (Standard)
10 to 18 years
9 to 10 years
Siberian Husky
12 to 14 years

Which Dogs Live Longer?

When you look at these charts, you can see that none of the smaller dog breeds' lifespans go below 10 years. Plus, more of the smaller breeds have higher top numbers than the larger breeds.

However, there are still some large breeds that can reach 18 years, while some small breeds max out at 12. Therefore, just because a dog is a small breed, it doesn't necessarily mean it will have a longer lifespan than a large breed. 

Conversely, just because a dog is a large breed doesn't mean it will have a short lifespan. But, on average, it does appear that most smaller dogs have the probability of living longer than many large dogs. So, if you have a small dog, you can reasonably expect to enjoy more time together with your canine companion.

Interestingly, some of the dogs with the shortest lifespans are also the largest, like the Great Dane and Newfoundland. But, the reasons behind why small dogs live longer than large dogs are still being studied.

small dogs

What Influences a Dog's Average Lifespan?

So, what is it beyond the breed that influences a dog's lifespan? Consider that certain breeds are more susceptible to various health conditions. This quality could factor into their overall lifespan.

However, it truly depends on the specific breed as well as things like health conditions and lifestyle. Also, large dogs grow faster, leading scientists to believe that the age-related illnesses in these pups can also materialize sooner.

Other considerations have to do with what dogs do. Many larger dogs are working breeds that could end up dying in an accident. However, the overarching reason for large dogs’ shorter lifespans seems to be their faster-aging process. But, the precise reasons for why and how they age faster are still being determined.

How Does a Dog’s Age Compare to a Human’s

You probably already know that humans and dogs don’t age the same way. You’ve also likely heard the term “dog years'' used often. But, what exactly does it mean? The typical number that people throw around is 7 years. In other words, every one year of human life equals 7 dog years.

However, it’s a little bit more involved than that. Yes, 7 years is a good, quick rule of thumb, but the numbers get a bit more precise. 

On average, when a dog is one, they have reached a maturity level akin to a 15-year-old human. After that, the number drops a bit, and when a dog is two, it adds about another 9 years of human life. Therefore, a two-year-old pup is about 24 years old in human years.

Then, after two years old, a dog’s years start to get higher in human years the bigger the dog. For example, a small 10-year-old dog is roughly 56 in human years. However, a large dog would be 66 in human years, and a giant breed would be 79.

Some of the Oldest Dogs in the World

Of course, a pup's average lifespan is only that, an average. It doesn't mean your dog can't live longer than their expected average years. Just look at these five dogs that show pups can live long, full lives.

  • Bluey—The oldest dog on record, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, is an Australian cattle dog from Victoria, Australia. Bluey lived 29 years and 5 months, working with cattle and sheep, until passing away in 1939.
  • Funny Fujimura—This miniature Dachshund was born in Sakai, Japan, in 1999. Funny is the oldest pup alive today at 21 years old.
  • Bramble—A Border Collie in the United Kingdom lived 25 years and 89 days. Interestingly, Bramble apparently did not eat meat, enjoying a diet of veggies, rice, and lentils.
  • Butch—Until more info about Bluey was uncovered, this Beagle held the title of oldest dog ever. Butch, from Virginia, was 28 years old when he died.
  • SnookieThis Pug from South Africa lived just under 28 years old.

Tips for Helping Your Dog Live Longer

If you’re inspired by these examples of dogs living into their 20s, consider these ways you can help your pup live a longer life.

  • Stay on top of your dog’s dental care, including annual cleanings. One study showed that annual dental cleanings could reduce a dog’s risk of death by 20%.
  • Monitor your pup’s weight and feed them a nutritious diet in the correct daily portions. Dogs with a healthy weight tend to outlive their obese companions.
  • Make sure your pup gets ample exercise, either by taking them for daily walks or engaging in fun play sessions.
  • Use appropriate heartworm, tick, and flea prevention medications.
  • Puppy-proof your home to ensure your dog doesn’t experience any accidents or injuries.
  • Get your pal micro-chipped, so if they get lost, you can get them home to you as fast as possible.
  • Provide your dog with healthy and engaging ways to stay mentally stimulated and relaxed. For example, you can use products like lick mats or fun toys like the Rolly Cannoli.
  • Keep up with regular veterinary well visits and vaccinations.

Practicing good nutrition, adequate exercise, regular grooming, and dental care can go a long way in helping your dog live longer. But, you also need to show your pup lots of love and affection. Check out our blog for more tips on how to take care of your pooch. When you love and care for your pup, you give them essential tools to help them live a long, happy life.


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