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How Long Do Dogs Live? (Dog Lifespan)

By Michele Welton, Dog Trainer, Breed Selection Consultant, Author of 15 Dog Books

Typical lifespan of small dogs

Smaller dogs typically live to be 13 to 16 years old. Smaller dogs generally live longer than large dogs because they don't suffer as many serious skeletal and cardiovascular diseases as larger dogs do.

  • The bones and joints of smaller dogs don't need to support as much weight, so don't break down as quickly.
  • Their heart doesn't need to pump blood through a large body, so doesn't wear out as quickly.
  • Smaller dogs have proportionately fewer "growth hormones" than larger dogs, and studies suggest that growth hormones may shorten life.


Not all small breeds are long-lived. A few small breeds have serious health problems that shorten their life expectancy:

  • The Pug, Pekingese, Shih Tzu, and Brussels Griffon are deliberately bred with deformities in their facial structure and respiratory system, making them vulnerable to many health problems.
  • The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and its cousin, the English Toy Spaniel, suffer from a severe form of inherited heart disease and two inherited neurological diseases. Many Cavaliers, especially, are lost in middle age to these devastating diseases.
  • The Norwegian Lundehund suffers from severe inherited intestinal disorders that are embedded in the breed's gene pool.

Most other smallish dogs typically do enjoy a long life. However... they're not necessarily healthy throughout their longer life. On the contrary, many small breeds are vulnerable to a long list of health problems. It's just that their particular health problems tend to affect their QUALITY of life, rather than its length.

question markIs there anything you can do to help your small dogs live not only a long life, but a healthier  life?

Yes! Click here to learn about keeping your small dog healthy and longer-lived.

Typical lifespan of giant dogs

Giant breeds, unfortunately, have short lifespans.

Giant breeds are rambunctious puppies/teenagers for their first three years. Then dignified adults for a couple of years.

Then their bones and joints break down, their heart weakens, or they develop cancer. Or all of the above.

Giant breeds are elderly at six or seven, and gone by age ten. Not all individuals, of course, but the majority.

  • The typical lifespan of an Irish Wolfhound is 6-8 years.
  • Typical lifespan of an Old English Mastiff, Great Dane, Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, or Leonberger is 6-10 years.
  • Typical lifespan of a Bloodhound or Bullmastiff is 7-9 years.
  • Typical lifespan of a Dogue de Bordeaux, Newfoundland, or St. Bernard is 8-10 years.
  • Typical lifespan of a Cane Corso, Great Pyrenees, Neapolitan Mastiff, or Scottish Deerhound is 8-11 years.

question markIs there anything you can do to help your giant dog live a longer, healthier life?

Yes! Click here to learn about keeping your giant dog healthier and longer-lived.

Typical lifespan of medium to large dogs

Most dogs in this size range live 10-13 years.


In certain medium to large breeds, there are serious inherited health problems that can drastically shorten their lifespan. In these breeds, many dogs only live to 6 or 7 years old.

  • Akita – bloat (gastric torsion); autoimmune diseases; cancer
  • Bernese Mountain Dog – inherited cancer
  • Boxer – inherited cancers; inherited heart diseases
  • Chinese Shar-Pei – inherited kidney disease
  • Dalmatian – inherited urinary disease
  • Doberman Pinscher – inherited heart disease
  • Flat-Coated Retriever – inherited cancer
  • German Shepherd – bloat (gastric torsion); severe joint diseases; autoimmune diseases
  • Golden Retriever – inherited cancers; heart diseases
  • Labrador Retriever – inherited cancers; heart diseases
  • Rottweiler – cancer; autoimmune diseases; severe joint diseases; bloat (gastric torsion)
  • Standard Poodle – autoimmune diseases; bloat (gastric torsion)
  • Weimaraner – bloat (gastric torsion)
  • Welsh Springer Spaniel – inherited epilepsy
  • and others

question markIs there anything you can do to lengthen the lifespan of medium to large breeds and protect them from some of these health problems?

Yes! See below.

To find a healthy dog and KEEP him healthy. . .

  • You need to avoid GENETIC health problems. Your dog inherits some health problems from his parents. When you're looking for a dog, there are ways to tell whether a particular puppy is likely to have inherited a serious health problem, or not. should know how to do this before you go looking for a dog.
  • You need to avoid ENVIRONMENTAL health problems. Your dog's health is affected by everything he puts in his mouth, everything he breathes, everything you put into or onto his body... other words, virtually everything your dog comes in contact with can affect his health – for better or for worse. Many things you wouldn't even think of cause health problems in dogs.

    If you want a long-lived and healthy dog, you need to know how to raise your dog so all of these environmental problems are avoided.

Two of my best dog books can help increase a dog's lifespan.

If you already have your dog, book cover11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy will help you keep him healthy for a lifetime. Environmental health problems can be avoided by raising your dog in all the right ways.
If you don't yet have your dog, book coverDog Quest: Find The Dog Of Your Dreams will help you find a dog with the best chance of growing up healthy. Many genetic health problems can be avoided if you know what to look for before you buy a puppy.

Michele Welton with BuffyAbout the author: Michele Welton has over 40 years of experience as a Dog Trainer, Dog Breed Consultant, and founder of three Dog Training Centers. An expert researcher and author of 15 books about dogs, she loves helping people choose, train, and care for their dogs.

Check out my other articles on health & feeding

Dog Health Care – The Sensible Way

The Best Dog Food

Kibble or Canned Dog Food

Vaccinations and Booster Shots: Are They Needed?

Think Your Veterinarian Is Good? Here's How To Tell

Spaying Your Female Dog: Pros and Cons

Neutering Your Male Dog: Pros and Cons