Your pet clearly ages faster than you do, but new research is giving us a much clearer idea of just how old your dog really might be.

If your dog has been alive and kicking its paws about for a decade, the widely held belief is it has aged as much as a human would have done over 70 years. This conversion factor – each year of a dog’s life accounting for seven human years – comes from dividing human life expectancy of around 77 by the canine life expectancy of around 11.

The underlying assumption is that each calendar year a dog lives through is equivalent to seven human years at any stage of a dog’s life. But new research suggests that things aren’t so simple. And if we look at some basic developmental milestones, it’s clear why.

For example, most dog breeds reach sexual maturity between the ages of six and 12 months – the upper end of that range corresponding, by the traditional conversion, to a human age of seven. And at the other end of the spectrum, although unusual, some dogs have been known to live for over 20 years. Under the “factor-of-seven” conversion rule, this would equate to an unfathomable 140 human-equivalent years.

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