We have this joke at the shelter where I volunteer. Every dog that comes in is one of the following ages:
- 10 months
- 1.5 years
- 5 years
Always. Never fails. Every dog that comes in gets labeled with one of these age groups. So every time a potential adopter asks how old the dogs are, we chuckle a little, because we obviously have no idea.
August 1st is the universal birthdate we give shelter and rescue dogs, and it got me thinking about these arbitrary labels we give to dogs. We rarely know their stories and human nature says we must make it up. I think that’s fantastic.
It got me thinking about why we apply these three age groups to dogs. Here’s my very, very humble opinion.
10 months – Statistically, this is the most common age for dogs to be returned to the shelter. Dogs start their adolescent period around this time. Imagine having an unruly teenager in your house who doesn’t speak your language. That’s hard for a lot of people to handle, so they are often relinquished. Vets and shelters know this, so when they don’t have any other guesses, this becomes the best estimate.
1.5 years – Often you can determine the age of a dog by looking at its teeth. Newly adult dogs usually have all their full-grown molars, and they are super white. They don’t stay white very long, thus 1.5 years. When a dog is past adolescence and still has white teeth, this is a pretty good guess. However, you could easily be off by 6 months depending on the actual dog, breed, and any other circumstance that might come up.
5 years – It’s incredibly hard to get the age of an adult correct, especially if you know nothing about the dog. From an adopter’s perspective, 5 is a great age. The dog has enough years to no longer act like a puppy, but it’s still young enough to get a good, long life with its new family. The only downfall is the potential to be multiple years off target.
But in the long run, who really cares? After all, age is just a number.
Photo courtesy of Josh Feeney Photography.