The seven year itch: another dog myth bites the dust

Article about dog years equivalence in human age
By Laure-Anne Visele, July 2012

One dog year = seven human years = zero truth

If a rule of thumb is too convenient, it’s just too good to be true. The ‘seven-year rule’ is no exception.

Here’s a more intelligent way to estimate your dog’s maturity in human years.

seven-year itch, geddit?

Before we dive in: bear in mind this is not hard science. It’s just a little trick to help you estimate your dog’s social maturity. Also, these periods are not written in stone, and there will be quite a bit of variation from dog to dog

This is particularly relevant around the 12-month mark, when many owners think they are dealing with a sweet puppy when it’s more like a raging teenager.

The following rule was given to me by Stan Rawlinson, the original Dog Listener. It is one of my favourites:

  • Between 0 and 16 weeks in dog years = between 0 and 5 years in human years
  • 12 months = 15 human years. Think teenage attitude and all that goes with it.
  • 24 months = 25 human years.
  • Every 1 year thereafter = add 4 human years per year
This might help you visualise it:

Click on the graph for full display - ©2012 Canis bonus - please do not reproduce without permission

Sexual versus social maturity

These two concepts are quite important when discussing the maturity of dogs:

  • Sexual maturity = physiological ability to procreate. It ranges between 6 to 15 months, with most dogs reaching it between 7 and 10 months (Houpt, 1991). This may be later larger breeds.
  • Social maturity = age around which the dog’s temperament has stabilised, the age by which it has reached its adult social maturity. It begins between 18 months and 24 months, give or take, depending on the breed.

Breed differences

Of all animal species, dogs are by far the most varied among themselves in terms of size and weight. The average weight of a chihuahua is 40 times lighter than the average weight of a St Bernard (and a mere 20 times lighter than that of a Great Dane).


Larger breeds take longer to reach their full size and sexual maturity. Larger breeds will also show signs of ‘wear-and-tear’ sooner. So their life expectancy is often in the region of 10 years, as opposed to 15 for smaller dogs.

My point is: adulthood (between the childhood and the geriatric period) is much reduced for large breeds. But again, this rule of thumb is mainly concerned with behaviour, not physical maturity.

Other methods

A contact of mine pointed out this method as an alternative. Looks good to me!

Courtesy of the German Shepherd Dog Community on Facebook


I love to read your comments, so leave me your thoughts any time. I’d particularly like to hear from you if you have a view to share about:

  • Social and sexual maturity in canids; and/or
  • Another formula for estimating a dog’s maturity; and/or
  • A story about your sweet 12-month-old ‘puppy’.

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  1. Posted 22 July 2012 at 13:19 | Permalink

    Being the scientific-genius-girl you are, I fully expected a comment about how dogs are dogs and comparing their aging process to human aging process is just short of silly. (I think it is!)

    The article is very interesting though, because while we can’t argue with the fact that the aging process happens differently with the size of the dog – and perhaps the breed, as well – we don’t always stop to think “If A = B and B=C, then A=C” is true and “A does not = B” then the entire statement is false.
    (One thing I hate about written mathematics…Grammar. I had to say “then” in a statement without using proper grammatical protocols and it about killed me dead.)

    So, if the aging/sexual maturation of the dog is relative to the size of the dog, and we are throwing in our “mathematical” equation of 365 1/4 days = 7 years for all dogs… Well, it can’t be true, can it?

    I’ve always used the 1 yr to 7 yr “equation” because it helps me to get a relative idea of the dog’s age, life span/expectancy, and possible road bumps (juvenile stages of fear or the “terrible twos” phase)….but I’d never really sat down and analyzed it.

    I like that you pointed this out, though. It’s so common sense to realize that another method would be much more useful that …. Well, we never stop to think that another method would, in fact, be much more useful.

    At the end of the day, though, I assert that throwing the whole idea in the garbage can would be the most beneficial to humans. My only reasoning behind that is, without it, it would be just that tiny bit harder the anthropomorphize the dog. If, say, a dog ages by dog standards and dog standards alone, it’s just that much harder to compare what they do to what humans do.

    And dog “aging” processes are easier to understand as dog aging processes. Like, a puppy is “neonatal” for a time, and then enters a “transitional” period, and then a “socialization” period. Nowhere in there did I have to compare the pup to a human. “Neonatal,” I suppose, is a lot like being an infant. “Transitional” might be getting to a toddler stage, but it’s hard to compare a creature whose eyes and ears are opening up to a being whose eyes and ears were functioning at birth.*

    *I know nothing about baby humans. o_____o I’m sure it shows.

    I honestly wish that, rather than trying to draw comparison and understanding of the nature of dog from our understand of the nature of ourselves, we could push humans to draw an understanding of the dog from actually understanding the dog.
    After reading this, it made me think of how senseless it really is to draw aging comparisons from our understanding of the way we age. Yes, it certainly is something to relate to….but, at its conclusion, it seems to me to be much more tedious and time consuming (assuming that we are trying to be somewhat accurate in our understanding) than it is beneficial.

    *goes back to sipping coffee* Feel free to throw things. =] But I blame you, cause your article made my brain kick start and really think about it. So, truly, thank you. ;]

    • Posted 22 July 2012 at 22:19 | Permalink

      Julie, you are officially the world’s best commenter! You’re also kick-starting my brain every single time. Am always looking forward to reading them. I wish I could return the favour but I am such a technophobe that, after the 3rd attempt at commenting on your post, I gave up (password stuff…). It’s on my long list of ‘get over your fear of computers’ tasks.

      This one was supposed to be a quick one before breakfast whilst looking after my 2-year old. Shows I also know NOTHING of human babies, but that’s another story…

      I like the overall point you make: senseless, and potentially misleading to even try to compare dog to human maturity. But I do think most people universalize their feelings and context and find it a lot easier to make sense of something if compared to the human experience. So I find it a useful tool for that. One of the most critical one is the “my 10 month-old dog is a baby” vision. This feeling that there’s plenty of time to redress any (budding) wrongs and that time will heal all when the dog matures.

      P.S. At least I was expecting a congrats on not making it Tolstoiesque in length, young lady! ; P

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