Which Dog Breeds Live The Longest?

Everyone wants their dog to live as long as possible but which dog breeds live the longest (on average)? Based on the best available national source of dog information, the American Kennel Club, we have that answer.

In this list, I did not include a dog such as the Shih Tzu because it’s life expectancy stretched from 10 – 18 years. While they can live a very long time, there are clearly enough of the breed that only live to 10 years that they can’t be included on this list. There were more than a few other breeds (Toy Poodle, Pomeranian) that were disqualified from this list because of that.

Manchester Terrier Puppy

The 6 dog breeds that average the longest life span are:

  • Manchester Terrier
  • Chihuahua
  • Havanese
  • Italian Greyhound
  • Toy Fox Terrier
  • Maltese

BreedAverage Life Span (AKC.org)
Manchester Terrier15-17 years
Chihuahua14 -16 years
Italian Greyhound14 -15 years
Havanese14 – 16 years
Toy Fox Terrier13 – 15 years
Maltese12 – 15 years

Why Do These Breeds Live The Longest?

The biggest factor in longetivity is overall size. The smallest dogs live the longest. They put less strain, wear, and tear on their bodies so they don’t age quickly at all.

They also are so small that when they start to have issues that other dogs have their owners will simply do what they can to minimize problems. Have an incontinent little dog? Put him in a diaper. Little dog can’t really walk anymore? That’s okay – they get carried everywhere they go.

How Can I Get My Little Dog To Live Longer?

My little Yorkshire Terrier is roughly 12 years old right now. She was a rescue from a Puppy Mill 5 months ago and she’s come with no teeth and a chronic respiratory problem. I know that I won’t have her more than a few more years no matter how well I take care of her. For most small dog owners, there are many things that can be done before this age that will lengthen your dog’s life span.

Proper Weight

It’s so very easy for a little dog to be overfed. In a bigger dog, the difference between 2/3 of a cup of food and 1/2 cup of food is no big deal but to a tiny dog that’s huge. Make sure you properly measure how much food your dog is supposed to get based on the dog food manufacturer’s recommendation (on the packaging) and your dog’s optimal weight.

Optimal weight conditions are when you can feel your dog’s ribs easily (but they’re not visible) and the chest is larger in diameter than the waist. That’s a general idea of what any dog should look like but I’d recommend checking out your dog’s breed standard which can be found on AKC.org as well as the National Breed Club for your dog.

Because it’s so easy to overfeed tiny dogs, they can easily be 10-20% overweight without the owner realizing it (especially if they’re a thick-coated dog). Your veterinarian can help you determine what your dog’s optimal weight should be and then you can keep an eye on it at home with a simple baby scale.

Good Dental Health

Little dogs have the worst time with their teeth. I blame the following:

  • Crowded teeth
  • Genetics
  • Lack of brushing by owner
  • Lack of chewing by dog

Crowded Teeth

Regardless of what size dog, they all have the same number of teeth in their mouth. Because of this, little dogs’ teeth are very small and very crowded together. That makes it easier for bacteria and plaque to get between the teeth to start creating tartar.

As the tartar builds up between and around little dog teeth, it doesn’t take much of it to push the gum away from the tooth and eventually loosen the tooth. It’s not at all uncommon in my veterinary practice to see a little dog come in at the age of 10 for their first dental cleaning ever and leave later in the day with hardly any teeth left. Without proper care, these little dog teeth can go bad very quickly.

Another issue that you can place in this category is the retention of baby (deciduous) teeth, especially the canines. Any little dog who is being spayed or neutered should have any baby teeth extracted if they are older than 6 months old. If those deciduous teeth are left, they can cause the mature adult teeth to come in at an abnormal position. This makes the crowding even worse.


Just like people, some dogs are more prone to accumulating tartar and plaque in their mouth. When I talk to a dog owner who tells me that their dog chews dry food and bones but still gets a ton of tartar, I usually point to genetics. A few dog breeds that I see that routinely have bad oral hygiene include Miniature Dachshunds and Chihuahuas.

However, genetics are not an excuse for not brushing your dog’s teeth and working to try to keep them as healthy as possible.

Lack Of Brushing By Owner

I totally understand this one. I can’t brush my Yorkie’s teeth without sending her into a coughing fit. This is one area in which you need to start them young to get them used to the idea of you putting your finger in their mouth.

Notice I didn’t say putting a toothbrush in their mouth. You don’t need to use a toothbrush or a fingerbrush to apply the dog toothpaste. It’s not the physical action of brushing (like it is in humans) but rather the frequency and completeness of how you apply the toothpaste. Dog toothpaste is enzymatic. Tartar and plaque are broken down microscopically by simply putting the toothpaste on.

You also don’t need to spend a lot of time. It takes about 15 seconds to take your finger, apply the toothpaste and rub it on the outside of the teeth all the way around. That’s it.

But it needs to be done EVERY DAY. Bacteria and plaque are trying to accumulate every single day. By only brushing once weekly, you’re giving those nasty substances 6 days to do their worst before you get in there. You will only fall behind if you’re brushing less than 4-5 times/week. Just brush every day.

Lack of Chewing By The Dog

It’s pretty uncommon to find a dog under 10 lbs that really loves to chew. There’s a lot stacked against them to enjoy chewing. Most chews won’t fit in their mouth and they may already have an uncomfortable time chewing food due to their dental disease or overcrowded mouth.

The above chews are an example of something that might work for your little dog. You’re going to want to experiment to see what your dog likes.

It’s also quite possible that your dog won’t chew, no matter what you try. That’s okay. That just means that brushing is all that much more important.

At least once per year your little dog is going to get a physical exam by your veterinarian. They may recommend a dental cleaning in order to clean up all the issues in your little one’s mouth. If they end up removing teeth during that dental cleaning, understand that it’s in your dog’s best interests. Loose teeth are painful and don’t do a thing in your dog’s mouth other than cause problems.

Regular Checkups At The Vet

You should be taking your little dog into the vet at least once per year for a good comprehensive checkup. At that time, it’s a very good idea to have them do the following:

  • Show you how bad (or good) your dog’s teeth are
  • Evaluate the overall body condition – overweight or not?
  • Check the heart for murmurs and the lungs for any breathing problems
  • Check bloodwork for heartworm disease as well as liver, kidney, etc

Now your vet is likely to check the teeth, heart, and weight as part of their routine exam. However, you need to know if there’s anything you can do better if you want your dog to live as long as possible. You and your vet are your dog’s health team and you work together to make that possible.