One of the things that affect future pet owners' decision about adoption is dog lifespan. Some people looking to make a long-term commitment may be discouraged by shortest lifespan dog breeds and how long the pet will stay with them.
Science on Shortest Lifespan Dog Breeds
There are some studies on the subject of dog lifespan, allowing us to understand how and why some breeds live longer, especially among dogs hailing from England, North America and Japan (1, 2, 3, 4, 5). While genetics play a role in how long a dog lives, the biggest contributor to short lifespan in dogs are diseases, and in particular cancer.
According to the largest dog life expectancy study from 1999, average lifespan of a dog that passes due to natural causes was 12 years and eight months (6). Out of 3,000+ dogs studied, only 8% lived beyond 15 years, and 64% died due to some kind of disease.
Gender does not play a role in a dog's lifespan, as both male and female dogs were found to have similar life expectancy (7). Interestingly, it was also found that dogs are more likely to die in winter rather than any other time of year, with a significant difference in mortality rates (8).
In the most recent 2018 Japanese study with 12,039 toy, small and medium breeds (no giant breeds), researchers found median age to be 13.7 years (9). Shiba had the longest lifespan while French Bulldog was the shortest lifespan dog breed in the group.
Why Do Some Dogs Live Longer than Others?
Large dog breeds have shorter lives because their bodies age faster. Giant breeds reach geriatric stage at around 7 years old, while medium and large breeds at 9-10 years, and small breeds at 11 years old (12, 13). Big dogs use up more of their body's “growth energy,” causing base damage to cells as a result of increased oxidative stress (14, 15).
However, findings from a small 2013 study with Rottweilers suggest that breed size and rate of growth isn't the only factor (18). Scientists propose that dog breeds with longest lifespan might have a genetic resistance against life-threatening diseases, which may be the reason these dogs live longer, and might not have anything to do with size.
Gathering all the available scientific data, below is a list of shortest lifespan dog breeds. We've broken them down into three categories: 5 to 10 years, 8 to 12 years, and 9 to 12 years lifespans.
5 Shortest Lifespan Dog Breeds
(5 to 10 year lifespans)
Dogue de Bordeaux
5 to 7 years
The “DDB” is one large dog that can be happy living in an apartment. They don’t have a lot of energy, and they don’t need a lot of exercise. Protective and courageous, they make great watch dogs.
These drooling giants need socialization and obedience training starting at a young age to avoid becoming aggressive. They can accidently hurt people because of their size alone.
6 to 8 years
Loving and loyal, Great Danes get along great in houses with kids and other pets. These giants are very active and playful, so they fit right in with the active family that is always on the go.
Just make sure you never push a Dane past its limits. You need to schedule break times to avoid injuries. Make sure they get obedience training while they are young, once grown they can easily hurt someone by jumping on them and knocking them down.
This wooly dog needs cool temperatures to be healthy. Originally a working breed, “Berners” still love to work and enjoy learning tricks and playing sports. Intelligent and wanting to please, these giants are easy to train.
Dogs in this breed are fast and strong. Some people even call them the “Greyhounds of Ireland”. Very friendly, Irish Wolfhounds get along with everything and everyone, although their size is a deterrent to trespassers.
These are not only one of the shortest lifespan dog breeds, but they are also the tallest dog registered with the AKC. Like other large dogs, they need obedience training while still small. They are healthiest in colder climates.
7 to 10 years
These gentle giants are nothing like their ancestors – the dogs of war. In fact, if socialized and trained properly, they make great family pets. Mastiffs have low intelligence and are a little stubborn, so they need an experienced trainer.
These pooches are known to drool, fart, and snort. They are not delicate animals, but they do have easy to care for coats, and minimal shedding. While they are one of the dogs with short life spans, there are a lot of advantages to owning this breed.
7 Shortest Lifespan Dog Breeds
(8 to 12 year lifespans)
Greater Swiss Mountain Dog
8 to 10 years
A working breed, the “Swissy” still loves to perform tasks, whether they are actual chores around the house or learning new tricks. Pictured above, these shortest lifespan dog breeds make great companions for walks or participating in dog sports.
Staying busy will help your pup from becoming destructive or aggressive. These pooches are full of energy and will need daily exercise.
8 to 10 years
Calm and independent, these canines aren’t hyper or overly playful. They don’t mind being alone, and do better in a home where the owner isn’t terribly overbearing and needy.
Dogs in this breed usually do not like kids or other animals. They are territorial, and socialization training must begin in puppy-hood. Like other breeds with the “smushed” facial structure, they cannot tolerate temperatures that are too hot or cold.
8 to 10 years
Powerful and muscular, these pets are ready for any activity you desire. Bred for cold weather, the “Newfie” can be clipped short in summer to help with the heat. Patient and kind, these pups actually prefer the company of children.
Newfoundlands do not do well when left alone. If the house is often empty, this is not the pet for you. Another shedder/drooler, make sure you are up to the commitment this bred takes.
8 to 11 years
An affectionate and friendly breed, the Saint Bernard is great for homes with kids and other pets. Saints don’t need a lot of exercise; just make sure that they get a daily opportunity to go outside and stretch.
These shortest lifespan dog breeds cannot tolerate the heat well, preferring colder temperatures. In order to perform their job, these animals were bred to be independent. They will try to get their own way when training, and need a strong trainer.
8 to 12 years
French Bulldogs have short hair that is easy to keep clean – great if you don’t want to spend a lot of time at the groomers. They are loyal and protective. Make sure that your pet is properly trained and socialized so they don’t become aggressive.
Playful and loving, these dogs are great for homes with children. At one time, dogs in this class were known as “nanny dogs”. Make sure your furry family member comes from a docile family line.
8 to 12 years
Shetland Sheepdog (aka “Shelties”) are extremely smart, and they love to please. This means they are ready to learn any activity you throw at them.
These pooches have lovely hair that requires frequent conditioning and brushing to stay free of clumps and mats. These dogs with short life spans also shed quite a bit. Just like its television counterpart, Lassie, these dogs are quite vocal and will need training to stop excessive barking.
8 to 12 years
This breed is considered more of a “statement piece” than a family dog. They are very independent and do well with time spent alone. Territorial and aloof, they are not good with kids and other pets.
Most dogs in this breed are quiet, rarely barking. Many owners describe their personality as more feline than canine. These regal dogs can be aggressive (especially around the food bowl), so they need an experienced trainer.
8 Shortest Lifespan Dog Breeds
(9 to 12 year lifespan)
9 to 10 years
Pictured above, these dogs are calm and laid back. Often compared to Hercules, these muscular dogs are strong and true, loyal and brave. Dogs in this breed are not hyper and needy.
Smart and attentive, they make excellent working dogs. Despite their reputation, they are gentle and family friendly unless trained to be otherwise. Like every massive dog, they need a strong, experienced trainer.
9 to 10 years
Boxers may look mean with their muscular bodies, but nothing could be farther from the truth. This affectionate dog is very friendly with people and other animals. Boxers are intelligent and easy to train.
Boxers like mild climates, so care must be taken when going outside in cold or hot weather. These shortest lifespan dog breeds may retain some prey drive and will chase and terrorize small, furry animals.
Scottish Deer Hound
9 to 11 years
Gentle and calm, these canines are great for homes with children. However, they are hunting dogs and may not do well in homes with other pets. Dignified and independent, they can be a little harder to train than other breeds.
They are a tad lazy, but still make great hunting dogs. These canines need a tall, sturdy fence to keep them from roaming the countryside and chasing everything that runs.
9 to 11 years
Mainly used as a guard dog, this breed must be socialized properly and trained in pack-leader practices to avoid becoming aggressive. But don’t let that scare you, these dogs are affectionate and playful with their family, their temperament just needs respect and acknowledgement.
These shortest lifespan dog breeds do better if they are raised with children, not so well if they are the “child”, and then you bring a human child into the home. They are not for novice owners.
9 to 11 years
Another Mastiff-type dog, these creatures are strong and imposing. While they are known to do well with cats, they don’t usually do well with other dogs. Territorial and fearless, they are traditionally used as guard dogs – against people and wild animals.
They need “jobs” to do to keep from becoming aggressive and destructive. These fur babies love to be the “alpha dog.” they will need pack leader training.
9 to 12 years
After being bred to perform its job alone for days, these traditional livestock guards are capable of much decision making and independent thought. This means they need a strong, experienced trainer.
Active and intense, these canines love the outdoors. These serious pups do not get along well with kids, strangers, or other animals. Lacking in social graces, this breed is truly a diamond in the rough.
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
9 to 12 years
This little dog defies the life-span rules. The only small dog on this list, the “Cavalier” is susceptible to at least 25 genetic disorders. Affectionate with everyone and everything they meet, dogs in this breed are social and outgoing.
These pups do not like to be alone. They can be loud and destructive if not with their humans. Sensitive and gentle, they must be corrected gently to avoid becoming timid and fearful.
10 to 12 years
Intelligent “work” dogs, German Shepherds are used as police dogs, guide dogs, and farm hand dogs. They love play time, but are calm and restrained as well. You will need to have chew toys and puzzle boxes because these pups love to chew. German Shepherds are suspicious of strangers. They need socialization and “pack leader” training.
All the dogs on this list, and other dogs, have shortened life spans due to some pretty common reasons. There are ways that you can extend the life of your pet, so you can have their love around for as long as possible. Here are the reasons: