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Random Thoughts

The Seven Year Switch

Hudson Cooper
Posted 4/1/22

Here is a brief disclaimer. The title of this column does not contain a typo. This column has nothing to do with the movie of a similar name where Tom Ewell watched Marilyn Monroe cool off over a …

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Random Thoughts

The Seven Year Switch


Here is a brief disclaimer. The title of this column does not contain a typo. This column has nothing to do with the movie of a similar name where Tom Ewell watched Marilyn Monroe cool off over a subway grate. That film is Billy Wilder’s “The Seven Year Itch” and it is worth watching if you have not seen it.

This column is for the dogs. More precisely it is about the switch in how we calculate life in “dog years.” Growing up inevitably someone would mention how old they were in dog years. It was a simple calculation. If you were 21 then you were 3 in dog years. Turning 42 meant you were about to be 6 in dog years. It was simple to figure out. Every 7 years as a human was equivalent to 1 in dog years. Well, modern science has discovered that the calculation of dog years needed an overhaul.

There are many theories of when the 7 to 1 ratio developed. In 1268, the monks at Westminster Abbey began to calculate Judgement Day. For some reason they threw a dog’s lifespan into the mix. They could have included cats or parrots, but they stuck with man’s best friend. Based on the lifespans of humans and dogs, they calculated that each year of Fido’s life was equal to 7 of its owner.

That calculation was also supported by Georges Buffon in the 18th century. Buffon was no buffoon. He was a celebrated naturalist and mathematician. But modern science has shown that the 7 to 1 ratio might not hold up. For example, by using the 7 to 1 ratio, humans would hit puberty at age 7 since dogs reach that level at a faster rate. If that were true, parents would have the “birds and bees talk” with their 7-year-old sometime during a commercial break on Bluey or Peppa Pig.   

The problem with the 7 to 1 ratio is quite simple. Humans, dogs and all fauna on this planet come in different shapes, sizes and lifespans. Many studies have attempted to clarify the dog years equation. I googled AKC and began reading how some disgruntled mathematicians were of the belief that Pi is not an infinite number. Then I realized that the AKC I was looking at was the Arithmetic Keeps Changing group. So, I typed in American Kennel Club and found the information about the new formula for calculating dog years.

One of the leaders in devising a new formula was a Frenchman named Lebeau. In the 1950’s he began comparing the stages of life in humans and dogs. He analyzed the stages of puberty, adulthood and expected lifespans. Lebeau surmised that dogs age fifteen times faster than humans in their first year. Then as dogs get older the dog years evaluation diminishes to about 5 to 1.

But although it was a calculation that showed merit it failed to take in one statistic that altered the results, namely the size range of dogs. My family was fortunate enough to have a few dogs in a wide range of sizes. An Irish setter named Vicky was followed by two airedales, Dusty and Ginger. Eventually, we acquired a toy poodle named Brandy who seemingly led a long happy life.

So, the age-old question of “How old are you in dog years?” has varied responses depending on what formula you choose. I find the 7 to 1 ratio easier to use and does not require a calculator and inputting variables such as breed, size and age of the dog.

I am happy whenever I am around dogs. My neighbors have two who, by their reaction of tail wagging and running towards me, enhance my day. They have even learned to bark when they hear my car pull into my driveway, hoping to be let outside so I can scratch their heads. They could care less how old I am in dog years as long as I have a doggie treat in my pocket for them.


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