You’ve probably heard that seven years is equivalent to roughly (ruffly?) one dog year. But how accurate is that equation?
Some veterinarians would say your math is a little off.
Dr. Mary Becker says 1-year-old dogs may have a little bit of growing to do, but they’re sexually mature by that age.
“They still have a little filling out to do and they’re not completely mentally mature, but they’re full adult size and capable of reproducing,” Becker told the Associated Press.
Dr. Lisa Radosta says a 1-year-old dog is more like a 13-year-old boy. So, your dog goes through plenty of development in that first year on Earth. The first four to five months are when a dog is more open to new situations and people.
“If I keep my human baby home for the first year of her life, it doesn’t matter,” Radosta says. “I have a lot of time before she gets to kindergarten age at 5. “But if you wait with a dog, you now have a teenager on your hands — a teenager who’s never seen a UPS truck, never seen a man in a hat, never seen a dog who barks at him.”
Radosta also suggests you look out for the next stage which takes place between five to eight months into a dog’s life. This is when new fears may kick in.
“Your dog might be perfectly fabulous with men with hats, and then at 6 months old he says no, they’re frightening,” Radosta says. “You have to work through it.”
The Ruff Days
The next stage is what some dog trainers compare to a person’s adolescent years. During this time, your dog may begin to act out.
“Dogs seem to go through a period between usually 6 to 10 or 11 months in which a lot of their impulse control falls apart, a lot of their training falls apart, a lot of their interest in paying attention to you and doing what you ask falls apart,” says Patricia McConnell, a trainer and certified applied animal behaviorist.
But don’t fret. This stage will pass. Many dogs become socially mature between ages one and three.
“Think of that as age 13 to maybe 21, 22, 23 — the age when parents say that their kids are normal again,” says Radosta. “Then from 3 to about 10, you’re cruising.”
At this stage, maintaining your dog’s health becomes very important.
Dog’s Health and Age
Dogs tend to age differently depending on their breed size.
“With giant-breed dogs, we have to consider them senior citizens after the age of 5,” says Becker. “With a Lab it might be 7, with a small-breed dog it might be age 9.”
As your dog ages, it’s important to keep its weight down as bones become weaker. Several issues can also be linked to obesity. These illnesses include heart and respiratory issues. The risk of cancer can also increase with age.
Some older dogs can also suffer from a type of dementia veterinarians call Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome. Behavioral symptoms linked to this illness may include housetraining accidents, disrupted sleep patterns, and changes in social interactions.
About one quarter of dogs start showing at least one sign of dementia when they reach age 11 or 12, Radosta says. Visit her website for a checklist.
Speak to your vet about any changes in your dog’s behavior.