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How to Tell How Old a Dog Is: The Truth in Their Teeth, Eyes, and Coats

While some of us get our sweet dogs at just eight weeks old with their exact date of birth available, when we adopt, we may be left wondering if our new dog is 3 or 7. Learn how to tell how old a dog is in dog years with our simple visual guide.

A Dog's Age and Lifespan: How Long Do Dogs Live?

Our dogs become like children to us, with an unbreakable bond over their sweet life. 

Unfortunately, our dogs don't live as long as us – most tend to live 10 to 13 years, while certain breeds may live 20 long years, or a measly 3 or 4. 

Here are all the phases experienced over any dog lifespan.

  • The Puppy Stage. This growth stage usually lasts around 12 months but can be as short as 9 months for small breeds and as long as 2 or 3 years for larger ones. 
  • The Adult Stage. The adult dog stage is the prime of any dog's life - it's fully grown and not yet in declining health. Generally, it lasts from right after puppyhood until the age of 6 to 8 years old. 
  • The Senior Stage. This is the point after adulthood that a dog's health slowly and naturally declines, eventually leading to death.

Dog Age Calculator: How Old is My Dog?

If you know how old your doggo is in human years, you can easily use some math for a simple calculator to switch those dog years to human years. 

  • If you own a small dog, multiply your dog's age in human years by 6 to get its age in dog years. 
  • If you own a large dog, multiply your dog's age in human years by 8 to get its age in dog years. 

So a 6-year-old German Shepherd would be: 6 x 8 = 48 years old.

Determining a Dog's Age By Physical Indicators

Some of us end up with dogs from unknown pasts, like adopted or rescue pups, and we have no idea how old they are with no records to prove one way or another. 

At every stage of a dog's life, some physical indicators can help you to get a better estimate of how old your dog might be. The estimates aren't perfect by any means, but they can be reasonably accurate when used correctly.

#1: The Teeth Tell All

The teeth are one obvious way to tell the old dogs from the young pups. 

A dog will have no teeth until their baby milk teeth come in at eight weeks. Around the 3.5 month mark, they get their adult teeth in and lose the babies, meaning if your puppy is toothless, they're a young babe themselves!

Once a puppy develops its adult teeth, they'll be white and beautifully clean for around a year before they start to dull. After the 1-year mark, a dog will have noticeable ridges and bumps over the tops of their four front incisor teeth. 

At the age of three, a dog's teeth start to show some wear and tear, tartar build-up, and dullness. Between 3 and 5 years old, the tartar increases, thickens, and darkens. Anytime after age five, a dog's teeth tend to look well-worn, and the bumps on the incisors wear to a smooth finish.

#2: The Eyes See All

The eyes are the window to the canine soul, and you can tell how old that soul is by the state of those peepers. 

Young doggos will have bright clear eyes as a pup, and many puppies even have lighter-colored eyes for a time. Brand-new puppies with light blue or grey eyes haven't yet developed enough melanin in their bodies - over time, their eyes will darken. 

A puppy's eye color fully matures after 12 weeks, so if your pup has bright blue eyes, they're very young. 

As dogs age, we see some eye changes come along with it. Some older dogs develop cloudiness or thickening that may only be noticeable to you. If you notice either of these traits, your dog is likely a senior already.

#3: The Ears Hear All

Dogs tend to lose much of their hearing as they get older and enter the senior stage of life. If your dog still has sharp hearing, he's likely not a senior yet, though, in some dogs, the decline is slower than in others. 

#4: Dogs Get Grays Too

Like humans, dogs get gray hairs as they age, though they seem a lot less bothered by it than their human counterparts. 

If you notice some gray hair in your dog's coat, the pup is likely 7 to 10 years old and beyond. You'll likely see the grays start to develop around the muzzle and chin areas. Gray hair can be genetic and stress-related, so you may see some younger dogs develop grays a little earlier if they've had a tough life. 

Once your doggo has grays on his chest, face, legs, ears, and paws, he's likely a full-blown senior citizen.

#5: General Energy and Activity Levels

It takes all of a young pup's massive willpower to resist the urge to play and chew on you all day. Young puppies have huge spikes of energy followed by many daily naps. 

An adult-aged doggo still has plenty of energy and still has plenty of playful spirit, but you'll notice their energy is a little more even-keeled as they can sustain high daily energy without the need for naps. 

Senior dogs have a slow and steady decline in general energy levels, and they'll likely engage less in that goofy youthful playtime, too.

#6: Lumps and Bumps

You can feel one of the signs that your dog is getting old with a gentle pat. As dogs age, they begin to develop lipomas on their body, which are little lumps containing fat that are generally entirely harmless. 

If you start to notice lumps on your dog's body, it's critical to get them checked by the vet to rule out cancer, but it's likely that your dog entered their senior stage of life.

#7: Suddenly-Developed Fears

Puppies are often fearful of plenty of strange things, and we don't blame them - they're living in a brand new world and unsure about what's a real threat to them and what isn't!

Adult dogs tend to grow out of most of these fears, besides the occasionally strange one they hold onto - some dogs never get used to the vacuum. 

In the senior life stages, older dogs may once again start to develop sudden fears they didn't have before, which can be made worse by their worsening eyesight and hearing. A dog may be easily disturbed by people if they can't see or hear them coming.

At What Age Do Dogs Become Seniors?

There isn't one specific age point that every dog becomes a senior – instead, a dog becomes a senior when it enters the last quarter of its expected lifespan. 

If a breed typically lives to 10 years, it's a senior at the 7.5-year mark. The Chihuahua has an average lifespan of 16 years, so it becomes an official senior on its 12th birthday – no old age checks to collect, sadly. If you have a senior dog at home, consider getting a bed ramp for dogs to help take the strain off their old joints.

Final Notes on Determining a Dog's Age

Whether you're calculating your dog's age with our human year calculator or checking a new doggo's body and personality for age indicators, trying to determine the age of a dog is a pretty fun game to play. 

Beyond entertainment, knowing the approximate age of your dog can help you prepare for any potential health issues that could be ahead as they reach their golden years. Enjoy your puppy detective work!

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