If you adopted a shelter dog, chances are you have a rough estimate of how old your dog is based on what you were told at point of adoption, but no definitive answer. And we get it - you want to figure out your dog's age because knowing their age helps you better care for them (and lets you celebrate things like birthdays.) While it's impossible to know your dog's age with 100% accuracy, there are some physical indicators that you can use to help figure out your dog's age.
Quick disclaimer - it's going to be a bit of a black box if your dog is between 2 and 8 years old: The truth is that the time from when your dog outgrows the puppy stage until the time they start to become a senior dog is really a black box. This is because dogs actually age much faster than humans do in the early years of their life, and then their aging plateaus in their middle years. Meaning you'll notice the most changes in your dog in the first year or two and then very little change if at all in that interim, middle life period. They've essentially reached maturity and day to day differences don't really appear. The old adage that one human year is equivalent to 7 years to a dog isn't exactly 1:1.
But if you're looking for clues, start with your dog's teeth: Your dog's teeth are a super simple way to assess aging and that's because your dog uses their teeth every day. You can start to figure out the progression of aging on their teeth. Your dog usually has all of their adult teeth by the time they're 6 months old. At around 3 years old, many dogs' teeth will have yellowed and started to show plaque. Dogs around five start to have lots of tartar, their teeth become less pointed or start to wear down and they start to be at risk of dental disaeases. If your dog is older than 10 years old, then you will start to see loose, cracked or missing teeth.
Their eyes tell you a thing or two: As your dog starts to age, their pupils begin to get less bright white and start to get a little cloudy. This cloudiness is a sign of lenticular sclerosis, an age-related phenomenon that causes the lens to become opaque and a little hazy. It's not something to worry about though because it minimally affects vision.
Look for any possible signs of arthritis: If your dog seems to be experiencing joint pain or stiffness out of nowhere, he may have arthritis. Arthritis, like in humans, is often an indicator that your dog is getting up there age. But again, it's going to be super hard to conclusively determine your dog’s age range solely based on whether he has or doesn’t have arthritis symptoms.
Take a look at their activity level: If your dog is starting to be less energetic or is less likely to jump or run around, it's a sign that they're starting to get up there in years. Older dogs begin to prefer staying indoors and resting over long play sessions, but all of these changes should be gauged against their normal activity levels before. It may also be worth a visit to the vet to rule out anything more serious in their health beyond typical signs of aging.
Like we said, figuring out your dog's exact age is going to be challenging without a birth certificate, but using these couple of indicators can help you start to ballpark your dog's age, allowing you better care for them and know what they need as they get older.