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People use some rather odd measurements for time. On the short end, we have the shake and the jiffy (both less than a single second) and galactic years on the long end (many, many millions of years). Somewhere in between rests the "dog year," that commonly held belief that one year of physical and mental development in humans is equivalent to seven years in dogs.
Casually passed down through the generations, this one-to-seven ratio persists to this day, suggesting dogs age much more rapidly than humans, but the truth is a bit more complicated. If we're making cross-species comparisons, we find that dogs actually age at varying rates, depending on breed and even the dog's own level of development and maturity.
Most canines rocket from toddler to teenager in just the first year. They're ready to graduate from college by the end of the second. After receiving a driver's license and a diploma, the years begin to pass by more slowly at approximately 4.5 dog years per calendar year, again varying by breed and size. Larger dogs tend to age much quicker than their smaller brethren. These differences have given rise to a number of online charts and calculators meant to help curious canines (and their bipedal companions) calculate their age.
While you can't control a dog's breed or size, other factors, such as diet and veterinary care, can contribute to a long and active lifestyle. Healthy, age-appropriate meals and regular check-ups will ensure a canine remains fit at any age.
We go to great lengths to identify with our pets, and age is just one more trait we share. But how did such a simple measure as the "dog year" come about, given the variety and complexity of the truth? Probably just easier than saying, "Subtract two from the age, multiply that by four and add twenty-one."