Turns Out, You’ve Been Calculating Your Dog’s Age in”Human Years” All Wrong

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How old is a one-year-old pup in human years? If you had said seven, until recently, I would have agreed with you. However, a new study from the University of San Diego that looked at how dog DNA changes over time shows that a one-year-old dog is the genetic equivalent of a 30 something-year-old human. The doggy aging process is a lot weirder than we thought. 

The researchers behind the study set out to investigate whether the rate of aging experienced by dogs could be directly compared to human aging. To explore this concept, they gathered genetic data from over 100 Labrador Retrievers of different ages, from older dogs to newborn puppies. By investigating the DNA profiles of these dogs and comparing them to human DNA from 300 humans of different ages, the researchers were able to estimate the dogs’ real genetic age. Specifically, the researchers looked at how the numbers of aging-related molecules (known as methyl groups) present in different ages of dogs compared to their human counterparts. 

From this comprehensive set of genetic information, the researchers concluded that doggy aging goes faster and slower than human aging depending on where a dog is in its life cycle. They found that dogs appear to age much quicker than humans at first (a 3-year-old dog is genetically similar to a middle-aged human), but their aging slows down over time (a 12-year-old labrador is around 70 in human years). 

Speaking to NPR about the research, the study’s senior author Trey Ideker said, “A 1-year-old dog amounts to approximately a 30-year-old human. A 4-year-old dog amounts to an early 50-year-old. And at that point, you’re slowing in terms of the dog aging rate versus humans.”

Ideker also gave some insight into how adopting a rescue dog sparked her interest in conducting the study in the first place. “People at the dog park would always ask me how old she was, and I was never satisfied that I couldn’t tell them how old she was,” she said.

So what about the seven times your dog’s age formula? The researchers have come up with a new, far more accurate method that is, unfortunately, not quite as simple. It entails multiplying the natural logarithm of your dog’s age by 16 and then adding 31. Not something most people can do that easily. Unfortunately for me, I don’t need a calculator to know that my 12-year-old Labrador is no longer in the first flush of her youth.