Determining Dog Age: How Old Is My Dog?

old dog on a bed

External factors like grey hairs help to estimate your dog's age.

If you get a puppy from a breeder, they mostly know your dog's age to the very day. In contrast, animal shelters or animal welfare associations usually cannot give precise information about the dog's age. In such cases, it has to be estimated based on different indicators. We will show you how you can determine dog age.

There are different features that you can use to guess your dog's age. Certain features of the teeth can give an indication. However, changes to the coat are helpful too for determining dog age.

Dental age

A dog's teeth change significantly over its lifetime. You can make the most of this to determine your dog's age thanks to these constant changes.

The following factors are used for determining dental age:

  • The breakthrough and wearing of milk incisors
  • The change of certain groups of teeth
  • The wearing of the tooth tips
  • The loss of teeth

Milk teeth

You can assess the age of supposedly young dogs with their milk incisors, which can be recognised by their small size and typical blue-white colour. Moreover, unlike permanent teeth they are very pointy with a lily-shaped crown. 

3 to 4 weeks Breakthrough of the milk incisors
1 to 2 months Growth of the milk incisors
2 to 3 months Outgrowth of the milk incisors
3 to 4 months Wearing of the milk incisor lobes
4 to 5 months Change of the milk incisors
5 to 6 months Change of the milk molars
German shepherd's milk teeth

Determining dog age with the remaining teeth

The dog's remaining dentition consists of 42 teeth, which are covered by what are known as lobes when they have just broken through. However, these lobes gradually wear down. You can read the estimated age in the following table based on this wearing process.

½–1 ½ years Wearing of the molar lobes (lower jaw)
2 ½ years Wearing of the premolar lobes (lower jaw)
3 ½ years Wearing of the molar lobes (upper jaw)
4 ½ years Wearing of the premolar lobes (upper jaw)
5 years Wearing of the canine lobes (lower jaw)
6 years Wearing of the canine lobes (upper jaw)
6 to 10 years Incisor surface is round to oval
From 10 years Loss of the incisors

Changes to the coat

A dog's physical appearance also helps to estimate its age. Whilst puppies and young dogs have a particularly thick, shiny coat, the coat of older dogs often looks dull and lacklustre. As a rule of thumb, dog hairs in the head area in particular start to turn grey from around six to seven years of age.

How exactly can dog age be determined?

It's important to know that every dog is an individual. This means that some dogs go grey earlier than others.

Since the tips of a dog's teeth can also be worn down by chewing hard objects or retrieving stones, you can only make a guess at its age.

In any case, the outlined ways of determining a dog's age can only be approximations. For instance, the exact date of birth cannot be found out from physical features.

Have you just worked out that you probably have a senior dog at home? Then our article on ageing in dogs may interest you too.

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