It’s remarkable that all dog breeds (over a thousand breeds to date!) come from one root, many tens of thousands ago. Diverging from several wolf species in the times of the earliest hunter-gatherers, dogs then became domesticated as long as 14,000 years ago.
But whether you’ve owned dogs previously or are considering getting one, you’ll be aware that differences between breeds can be substantial. Whether you want a very energetic or chilled-out fido, a tiny pup or massive heffalump, a dog completely dependent on its owner or one that acts quite independently – there are traits within each breed that tend to indicate how your dog may grow and act, both psychologically and physically.
Lifespans across dog breeds
One of the most important things to consider can be the length of life your chosen dog breed might be predicted. Of course, it is not only the breed of your dog that impacts its potential lifespan, but also the care they are given, whether they are large or small (larger dogs tend to live shorter than their smaller counterparts), whether they are in-bred or cross-bred (cross-bred dogs tend to live longer) and whether they are spayed/neutered (this can allow your dog a longer lifespan).
From the tiny six-year average lifespan of a Great Dane to the seventeen-plus years a Chihuahua could live, different breeds have different average lifespans, so it’s important to have a feel of what might be normal for your chosen breed.
Of course, the dogs with the longest life expectancies are often the mongrels, as many pedigree dogs suffer some inherited physical weaknesses due to inbreeding, which only strengthens existing traits. A 2013 study suggested that mongrels live, on average, 1.2 years longer than pedigree dogs.
Health risks in pedigree dog breeds
Because pedigree dogs are chosen from a limited gene pool, problems that can be presented by recessive genes come to light, as parents share too much genetic material. A thoroughly well mixed mongrel is always likely to be genetically healthier, as it is very unlikely that its parents shared any genetic material at all.
Some of the genetic problems you might come across when looking into pedigree breeds include:
– Breathing problems (for breeds like English and French Bulldogs, and Pugs).
– Back weaknesses (in breeds such as the Dachsund).
– Difficulty giving birth (in breeds such as Boston Terriers, English Bulldogs, Pugs and Scottish Terriers, as their heads are bred to be much larger than the maternal pelvic canal, so births often require surgical intervention).
We will explore some popular breeds and their lifespans below.
Popular dog breeds with the shortest lifespans:
French Mastiff (5-8 years)
French mastiffs or Dogue de Bordeaux have one of the shortest average lifespans for a dog breed, lasting on average between five and eight years. They have a lovely temperament though and are easy dogs to keep.
Great Dane (6-8 years)
Great Danes are another popular (and large) breed that don’t tend to have a long lifespan. These gentle giants are known for being sweet and affectionate.
Irish Wolfhound (6-10 years)
Considered the largest breed (height-wise), the great, wild-looking Irish Wolfhound may not live long but will overwhelm his owner with kisses in his short lifetime!
Saint Bernard (8-10 years)
The Saint Bernard is originally a working dog from the western Alps. Bred to help with rescues in the Alpine passes, their name comes from the Great and Little Saint Bernard Hospice, two hospices on the dangerous Great and Little Saint Bernard Passes. They are generally calm, patient and sweet natured.
Other popular breeds which tend to live under 10 years:
Scottish Deerhound, Rottweiler, Newfoundland, Great Swiss Mountain Dog, Bull Mastiff, Mastiff, Neapolitan Mastiff, Leonberger, Bernese Mountain Dog, Bloodhound.
Popular dog breeds with medium lifespans:
Dachsund (14-17 years)
Dachsunds were bred as hunting dogs, to flush out burrow-dwelling animals such as badgers. These persistent little characters are playful but can be stubborn, and have a really decent lifespan. Trouble can come from their length – they are said to be half a dog high and a dog and a half long, and sometimes this can result in back problems.
Beagle (12-15 years)
A small hound similar in appearance to the larger foxhound, the beagle is single-minded and intelligent, and noted for its lack of inherited health problems, thus its medium lifespan.
Golden Retriever (10-12 years)
Golden Retrievers were bred as gun dogs, to collect shot fowl. They have an instinctive love of water. Their natural obedience and highly trainable natures make them a great fun breed, as well as the perfect choice for a family.
Labrador (10-12 years)
The Labrador is one of the most popular breeds in the UK. Although breeding practices can play their part, the breed have been bred to be athletic and strong, with no shortened skulls, excessive skin or thick fur to deal with, so tend to be relatively healthy as a breed.
Other popular dog breeds which tend to live 10-15 years:
Bearded Collie, English Setter, English Cocker Spaniel, Border Collie, Border Terrier, Whippet.
Popular dog breeds with the longest lifespans:
Pomeranians (14-16 years)
These little bundles of foxy-faced fluff are well known for being active and knowing their mind! They tend to be sturdy and healthy little dogs.
Scottish Collie (15-16 years)
The Scottish Collie is a slightly larger dog with a contrastingly long lifespan. Descended from the pastoral dogs of England, Scotland and Wales, these dogs were bred for function over looks, unlike so many of the more aristocratic dog breeds, and are thus generally healthy dogs with few innate health issues.
Lhasa Apso (15-20 years)
The little Lhasa Apso is a non-sporting dog which originates from Tibet. Whilst they may look cuddly and perhaps comical, the Lhasa Apso is in fact one of the most sturdy, tough and strong-willed breeds of dog you can come across.
Other popular dog breeds which tend to live over fifteen years:
Australian Shepherd Dog, Shih Tzu, Toy Poodle, Jack Russell Terrier, Chihuahua.
Although a lifespan is no way to judge man’s best friend, it is always good to know what you are signing up for – in terms of both brevity and longevity. A shorter number of years does not inhibit the amount of joy and pleasure both you and your pup can enjoy, whilst a couple of decades does not naturally ensure a happy, well-adjusted dog – the only thing we can do is offer our dogs the best lifestyle choices for their breed (be that food, exercise, veterinary care etc) and give them a whole lot of love, whatever length of life they have to look forward to!