Calculating Your Dog’s True Age

Various theories abound on how to convert human years to dog years – the 1 to 7 formula being the best known. However, the formula must be adapted to make allowance for the fact that the first couple of years represent a period of faster development in a dog. Adulthood is clearly established by the 24-month mark, which would indicate a 10 or 12 to 1 conversion in the first two years.

In addition, the breed-size also affects the rate of ageing and longevity. Smaller breeds age slower and therefore live longer than large breeds.

Here’s a chart that converts human years to dog years, and makes allowance for the two factors we’ve discussed. Use the “large dog” numbers for your German Shepherd. E.g., 12 years = 84 years. Note: You may need to zoom in and magnify the chart, to see the numbers clearly.

Illustration used by permission of Quirk Books. Authors Dr. David Brunner and Sam Stall. Illustration by Headcase Design (
Illustration used by permission of Quirk Books.                       Authors Dr. David Brunner and Sam Stall. Illustration by Headcase Design (

Good Decisions Early = Great Results Later

No guarantee; but most of the time you’ll greatly improve the quality of a dog’s future by your good practices in his or her earlier years. Good diet, exercise and home health care, including a regular teeth cleaning regimen contribute to the likelihood of your dog reaching a good age and enjoying life to the end. In addition, a dog that has been well socialized will be emotionally better equipped for the long haul.

Adjusting to the Later Years

Your senior dog will change physically and emotionally. There is equivalency in the human world, some of which you will likely recognize as your dog ages.
Physically, even a healthy dog will slow down. He will tire more easily and his desire and need for exercise will diminish, while the requirement for rest will increase.
Emotionally, your pooch will become more attached to daily routines. He’ll take comfort in the familiar things of his life, and his enthusiasm for adventure will likely diminish.

 WAYS to HELP Your Senior Dog


As your German Shepherd ages, his frame can become more delicate. And, given the breed’s proneness to hip dysplasia, owners need to be mindful at all ages not to overwork his frame, protecting the bones and joints from overmuch stress. For those of you whose location allows, swimming can provide your older German Shepherd with an excellent workout, at the same time reducing weight and strain on the joints.

Assisting Wobbly Legs

In the event your German Shepherd gets shaky in the hind quarters, use steps. You can buy dog steps, or let the handyman/woman in the household dream something up. The steps can be very handy for your dog when getting into a vehicle, in particular a higher one such as a truck or SUV.

Stairs can be intimidating at an advanced age. You can help your dog by slinging a scarf under the belly area, and gripping the ends together. As you walk the stairs you’ll have your dog on a leash, guiding and steadying the front end, while applying upward force on the scarf to take weight off the back end. A senior dog in my family with joint problems in her hind legs, wags her tail continuously while going down stairs, while being assisted in this way. Apparently she knows she’s getting exactly the help she needs!


I’d recommend you look at our healthcare article for some guidance concerning diet for a senior dog, along with other health-related advice. Scroll down towards the end of the article.

If Age Turns to Suffering

My hope for you and your special GSD is that his or her sunset years will be a joy to the whole family, human and canine. I’d hope for your dog to stay healthy, and pass on peacefully when the time comes. Happily, this is the experience in many households.
However, you and I know that things happen sometimes outside our control. Should you be in the place one day that your dog is advanced in years and suffering each day from physical challenges, you’ll need to consider your options, and what is the best and kindest course for your dog. Consult with your vet, and take the time you need to make the right decision – to intervene and put him to rest, or to keep going, while you make life as comfortable as possible for him.

Fresh Seasons and New Life

 As your dog ages, it’s a good time to think about some next steps, as your aged dog gets older. A new puppy can be introduced as a companion to the older dog, and to ease the transition and introduce fresh life and fun for the family. Just be mindful that you’ll need to be sensitive to how the rambunctious one is viewed by the dignified old timer – you’ll need to look for the right fit, and supervise the introductions and new relationship until the pup is accepted and welcomed. A return arrangement for the pup will cover you just in case things don’t work out.