Bernese Mountain dog snuggles up against owner in a park.

Shortest-living dog breeds

Written by:
August 19, 2019

Shortest-living dog breeds

Everyone from grade school students to proud pet owners quotes the statistic that one dog year equals seven human years. It's considered axiomatic. But, as it turns out, that's not accurate. Really, experts say, it's more accurate to compare the first year of a dog's life to 15 years of a human's life, the second year to nine human years, and every year after that to five human years.

The math gets still more complicated when the size of the dog is factored in: Bigger dogs start to age faster than small dogs around 6 years old and the gap increases by year eight. This relationship between body mass and age expectancy baffles scientists. Normally, the larger the mammal, the longer it lives. Yet for every 4.4 pounds of body mass, a dog's life expectancy is reduced by about a month. Theories why abound, from age-related illnesses affecting big dogs sooner to a higher likelihood of abnormal cell growth and death from cancer because of the sped-up growth of large dogs. 

Regardless of how you calculate it, the truth remains that our canine companions won't live anywhere near as long as our human friends. However, some breeds have longer average lifespans than others. To find out which dogs tend to live the shortest lives, Stacker used data from a study published in the journal Genetics and the American Kennel Club dog breed popularity rankings to rank 50 breeds based on their average lifespans. Only breeds recognized by the AKC were considered. When several breeds had the same average lifespan, Stacker used popularity rankings to break the tie.

Read on to find out which large breed lives just over six years on average, and which small dogs can live an impressive 11-plus years.

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#45. English cocker spaniel (tie)

- Average lifespan: 11.8 years
- Popularity rank: #52

These upbeat, energetic dogs make great companions, whether you enjoy outdoor activities or relaxing around the house. They're also stunning to look at with silky coats, elegantly shaped heads, and dark eyes.

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#45. Irish setter (tie)

- Average lifespan: 11.8 years
- Popularity rank: #72

Irish setters are easily recognized by their silky, brick-red coats. Their lovable personalities, sweet tempers, and smarts make them excellent companions.  

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#45. Old English sheepdog (tie)

- Average lifespan: 11.8 years
- Popularity rank: #70

Old English sheepdogs have big mops of hair, but that can't hide their sweet, gentle personalities. Though these dogs are big, they're agile and active, and love to play.

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#41. Cesky terrier (tie)

- Average lifespan: 11.5 years
- Popularity rank: #185

Though this terrier originating in the Czech Republic might be small, the dog can live up to 11.5 years on average. Cesky terriers are muscular, sporty working dogs that are naturally protective of their families and wary of strangers.

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Dmitry Guskov // Wikimedia Commons

#41. Norwegian elkhound (tie)

- Average lifespan: 11.5 years
- Popularity rank: #91

The Norwegian elkhound's silver-gray coat and exceptionally friendly demeanor sets it apart from other breeds. Legend has it that these dogs sailed with the Vikings and are among the oldest breeds in Europe.

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avarand // Shutterstock

#41. Sussex spaniel (tie)

- Average lifespan: 11.5 years
- Popularity rank: #161

Sussex spaniels have attractive wavy, golden coats and big hazel eyes. They're also sweet, mellow dogs with muscular bodies built for strength and endurance.

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Siri Spjelkavik // Flickr

#41. Welsh springer spaniel (tie)

- Average lifespan: 11.5 years
- Popularity rank: #133

The Welshie's bright white coat with golden-liver markings sets it apart from the pack. These friendly, happy sporting dogs would be a great choice for sports enthusiasts and families alike.

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Hans-Jörg Hellwig // Wikimedia Commons

#40. Gordon setter

- Average lifespan: 11.3 years
- Popularity rank: #104

The largest of the setters, the Gordon is an athletic, confident bird dog that likes long days in the field and quiet evenings relaxing with his human companions. A glistening black coat with tan markings gives the canine a dashing look.

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#38. Airedale terrier (tie)

- Average lifespan: 11.2 years
- Popularity rank: #55

You can easily recognize the Airedale terrier by its dense, wiry coat and teddy bear-like head. These highly intelligent terriers can be determined and stubborn at times, but also quite sweet and patient with kids.

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Scarlett2308 // Flickr

#38. English setter (tie)

- Average lifespan: 11.2 years
- Popularity rank: #95

At first glance, you'll notice the English setter's markings—their coats display speckled patterns of lemon, liver, and orange—that are known as "belton." Though these dogs look quite showy, they're also athletic, merry pets that love to play.

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Biser Yanev // Wikimedia Commons

#25. Akita (tie)

- Average lifespan: 11 years
- Popularity rank: #47

Bred to be the ultimate hunting dog, Akitas were once owned only by the imperial family of Japan and their court. These dignified, noble dogs with a dense double coat and curled-over tail are quiet and reserved with strangers, but silly and affectionate with people they know.

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Bennett Walker // Shutterstock

#25. American water spaniel (tie)

- Average lifespan: 11 years
- Popularity rank: #167

Native to the lake country of the Upper Midwest, American water spaniels were bred to work in icy and marshy waters. They have a dense, waterproof coat, webbed feet, and a small body that allows them to jump in and out of a boat without tipping it over.

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Fugzu // Wikimedia Commons

#25. Basenji (tie)

- Average lifespan: 11 years
- Popularity rank: #84

The Basenji as best known as Africa's "barkless dog," though they do make their feelings known through an odd sound that sounds a bit like yodeling. These highly intelligent, fastidious dogs aren't common, but have a cult following among their owners.

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Senior Airman Kayla Newman

#25. Belgian Malinois (tie)

- Average lifespan: 11 years
- Popularity rank: #44

These hard-working herding dogs are so smart and trainable, they're often used as K-9 officers for the police and military. Belgian Malinois are people-oriented, but need plenty of exercise to stay happy.

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Max Pixel

#25. Borzoi (tie)

- Average lifespan: 11 years
- Popularity rank: #102

Aristocratic and striking, the Borzoi makes an immediate impression with its long, thin frame and luxurious, silky coat. These dogs can be stubborn and almost cat-like in temperament, but are affectionate, if reserved, with their owners.

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Tatyana Kuznetsova // Shutterstock

#25. Bouvier des Flandres (tie)

- Average lifespan: 11 years
- Popularity rank: #85

The Bouvier des Flandres has a special look, thanks to its tousled coat, barrel-chested frame, and pointy ears. These strong-willed dogs make excellent guardians and watch dogs—in fact, they require a job to do to feel content.

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Dardeche // Wikimedia Commons

#25. Briard (tie)

- Average lifespan: 11 years
- Popularity rank: #127

The Briard is such a sweet, loving breed that it's sometimes described as a "heart wrapped in fur." This animal's wavy coat of gray, tawny, or black parts over its eyes to create a peek-a-boo look.  

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Keith Rousseau // Wikimedia Commons

#25. Chesapeake Bay retriever (tie)

- Average lifespan: 11 years
- Popularity rank: #43

This American dog was bred to hunt ducks in the Mid-Atlantic states. Though the Chesapeake Bay retriever is best-known for his waterproof coat and powerful build, these dogs are also tender and affectionate with their owners and make great guard dogs.  

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Paul Kounine // Wikimedia Commons

#25. Giant schnauzer (tie)

- Average lifespan: 11 years
- Popularity rank: #80

The giant schnauzer is bold in both appearance and personality: This dog stands as high as 27.5 inches at the shoulder, weighs nearly 100 pounds, and has a distinguishing beard. These pets also make excellent guard dogs.

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Lydie Heritier // Wikimedia Commons

#25. Ibizan hound (tie)

- Average lifespan: 11 years
- Popularity rank: #165

The Ibizan hound's tall, lean physique and upright ears give it a quizzical, curious look. These dogs were bred to chase down rabbits, so they need lots of exercise and room to run.

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Max Pixel

#25. Irish water spaniel (tie)

- Average lifespan: 11 years
- Popularity rank: #164

Playful and hardworking, the Irish water spaniel loves long walks, trips to the dog park, and games of fetch. These dogs are smart and eager to please, but need rewards-based training to work well with their owners.

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#25. Samoyed (tie)

- Average lifespan: 11 years
- Popularity rank: #57

These white, fluffy dogs look perpetually happy, thanks to their curling tail and smiling mouth. In fact, Samoyeds are usually joyful dogs who love playing with their human companions and other dogs.

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Shleiderbmx // Wikimedia Commons

#25. Welsh terrier (tie)

- Average lifespan: 11 years
- Popularity rank: #109

Though they are calmer than many other terriers, Welsh terriers still require lots of exercise to stay happy. This high-energy breed makes a great choice for owners who love to hike, run, or enjoy the great outdoors.

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Mário Simoes // Wikimedia Commons

#24. Cavalier King Charles spaniel

- Average lifespan: 10.7 years
- Popularity rank: #19

The markings, silky-soft coat, and gentle personalities of the Cavalier King Charles spaniel have attracted quite a fan club. These toy spaniels once owned by British royalty and noblemen make excellent family pets, and like a good romp in the backyard as much as a cuddle on the couch.

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#23. Boxer

- Average lifespan: 10.4 years
- Popularity rank: #11

Boxers' bright eyes and pointy ears show off their alert, fun-loving, and sometimes goofy personality. This highly popular dog breed is patient and protective, which makes boxers a great choice for families with small children.

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#22. German shepherd

- Average lifespan: 10.3 years
- Popularity rank: #2

The second most popular dog breed in the United States doesn't live for a long time: German shepherds live, on average, just over 10 years. Still, these super-smart dogs, known for their loyalty and devotion, make wonderful pets for many.

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#21. Greater Swiss Mountain dog

- Average lifespan: 10.2 years
- Popularity rank: #75

The personality of the Greater Swiss Mountain dog is faithful, loyal, and dependable. This breed has a short coat with distinctive black, tan, and white markings.

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#15. Dogue de Bordeaux (tie)

- Average lifespan: 10 years
- Popularity rank: #67

This ancient French breed has a fawn-colored coat and wrinkly, droopy face. These gentle giants are sweet and sensitive, but still make good guard dogs thanks to their large, imposing physiques.

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#15. French bulldog (tie)

- Average lifespan: 10 years
- Popularity rank: #4

The French bulldog has become increasingly popular in the past few years, especially among apartment dwellers who don't have a lot of space. Frenchies are playful and smart, and their bat ears and smushed faces are downright irresistible for many.

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Alicja // Flickr

#15. Newfoundland (tie)

- Average lifespan: 10 years
- Popularity rank: #36

Tipping the scales at 150 pounds or so, Newfies are one of the largest breeds out there—though it's hard to tell how much of their weight lies in their long, fluffy coats. These dogs are also among the sweetest of breeds, and love nothing more than swimming or playing outdoors with their owners.

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#15. Norfolk terrier (tie)

- Average lifespan: 10 years
- Popularity rank: #128

Although the Norfolk terrier is tiny—about 10 inches tall and 12 pounds—the dog has the confidence of a much larger canine. Portable and adaptable, these dogs are great travelers and form an unbreakable bond with their owners.

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Darren Flinders // Flickr

#15. Staffordshire bull terrier (tie)

- Average lifespan: 10 years
- Popularity rank: #82

Staffordshire bull terriers once worked as fighting dogs, but it would be a disservice to the breed to still see it as an aggressive brawler. These rock-solid, muscular dogs are sweet and family oriented, but must be socialized early so they don't become aggressive with other dogs.

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#15. Weimaraner (tie)

- Average lifespan: 10 years
- Popularity rank: #34

This sleek, gray-coated dog hails from Germany, where it was bred for big-game hunting. Weimaraners' loving temperament and can-do attitude makes them great family dogs.

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#13. Doberman pinscher (tie)

- Average lifespan: 9.8 years
- Popularity rank: #16

The Doberman pinscher's keen intelligence makes it attractive as a working dog in many police departments, but it can be stubborn and willful from time to time. These animals also make excellent guard dogs and are deeply loyal to their owners.

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#13. Rottweiler (tie)

- Average lifespan: 9.8 years
- Popularity rank: #8

This large, muscular working breed would be a formidable enemy, but its affable, gentle personality makes the dog a total cuddle bug with its owners. The Rottweiler's tough appearance hides a silly side that's hard not to love.

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#11. Flat-coated retriever (tie)

- Average lifespan: 9.5 years
- Popularity rank: #96

As the name implies, the flat-coated retriever has a silky, straight coat in colors of black or liver with feathering at the tail. These dogs are at home on the hunting field, but can be satisfied anywhere: Their happy-go-lucky attitude makes them puppies at heart well into old age.

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Adam Singer // Flickr

#11. Scottish deerhound (tie)

- Average lifespan: 9.5 years
- Popularity rank: #168

The Scottish deerhound is the royal dog of Scotland, and evidence suggests that these large, deer-hunting dogs have been wandering the Highlands for longer than some of the Scottish clans. These huge, shaggy hounds are majestic, but live less than 10 years on average.

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#10. Rhodesian ridgeback

- Average lifespan: 9.1 years
- Popularity rank: #41

The ridge in the Rhodesian ridgeback's name is actually a stripe of hair that grows backward in a thin line down the dog's back. These fast, athletic dogs can be strong-willed and independent, but also make faithful companions for their owners.

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#8. Saint Bernard (tie)

- Average lifespan: 9 years
- Popularity rank: #48

One of the world's best-known breeds, Saint Bernards, are huge dogs with fluffy coats, wrinkled brows, and gentle temperaments. They make great nanny dogs for families with children, and also have worked as rescuers for lost travelers in the Alps.

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#8. Chinese Shar-Pei (tie)

- Average lifespan: 9 years
- Popularity rank: #64

With their wrinkly muzzles, teensy ears, and blue-black tongues, Chinese Shar-Peis are quite unusual-looking dogs. Regal and strong, these dogs are famous for their dedication and loyalty to their owners.

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#7. Bullmastiff

- Average lifespan: 8.6 years
- Popularity rank: #51

These massive working dogs hailing from England were once used to catch exotic game: poachers. Bullmastiffs are reliable family pets that make excellent guard dogs, although they don't live very long.

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#6. Bloodhound

- Average lifespan: 8.5 years
- Popularity rank: #50

Bloodhounds are known as the world's best tracking dogs, thanks to their keen sense of smell and long, droopy ears. When it comes to following human scents, they're still regarded as more effective than any security device on the market.

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#5. Great Dane

- Average lifespan: 8.4 years
- Popularity rank: #14

Not only are Great Danes taller than most other dogs, but when they stand on their hind legs, they're also taller than many people. Though these dogs are giant, they are known to have sweet, gentle souls and are incredibly friendly.

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Michal Ninger // Shutterstock

#4. Mastiff

- Average lifespan: 7.5 years
- Popularity rank: #28

Broadly speaking, Mastiffs have been around for thousands of years—though the officially recognized breed developed in medieval England. While the dogs are patient and loving with their families, they tend to be wary of strangers.

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#3. Bernese Mountain dog

- Average lifespan: 7 years
- Popularity rank: #25

The Bernese Mountain dog's striking markings, fluffy coat, and giant body make it instantly captivating. Because of the amount of fur, these dogs thrive in cold temperatures, and their sweet, gentle personalities make them social butterflies.

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#2. Bulldog

- Average lifespan: 6.7 years
- Popularity rank: #5

Friendly and courageous, the bulldog has a bold personality. The dog's signature face, with droopy lips, a pushed-in nose, and a furrowed brow, is irresistible to the canine's enthusiasts.

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#1. Irish wolfhound

- Average lifespan: 6.2 years
- Popularity rank: #73

The tallest breed recognized by the AKC also has the shortest lifespan. The larger-than-life Irish wolfhound is known for its super-fast running speed, fierce guardianship, and, of course, massive size.

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