There is no easy way to put it, we out live our dogs and many times we have to say good-bye to our dogs long before we feel it is time. Whether they are 2 or 16, it is not an easy thing to do.
As a breeder I get several phone calls and emails weekly from people that have recently lost their Golden and are starting the research process looking for their new family pet. Many of these families have lost their dog at 10-12, and are looking for long-lived pedigrees in hopes of increasing chances of having their next Golden live longer.
What you are about to read may seem harsh, disdainful, or even flippant, it is not meant to be.
Golden Retrievers as a breed are considered Large Breed dogs; as such life expectancy is lower when compared to smaller breeds. We have an average life span of 10-11 years within the breed (which applies to both the ‘English’ and ‘American’ style of Golden Retriever), many make it or even surpass that average, and unfortunately many do not. This 10-11 year average, contrary to a few select vocal veterinarians, is not new information, it is actually decades old.
All of us know someone who has owned, or maybe have been lucky enough to have owned, a Golden Retriever that has lived until their mid to late teens (16-17), while I truly believe it would be wonderful if we could be guaranteed that, we have to realize that may not be the most realistic expectation.
As we all know, our canine companions age at a much faster rate than humans, to further break that down, a dogs life expectancy is different based on size and breed. The human life expectancy in North America is 78.4 years (Canada’s average is 81.23 years, the USA average is 78.11 years, and Mexico has an average of 76.06 years); this human average is comparable to a 15.5-year-old small breed dog (under 20lbs), or a 13.5-year-old medium breed dog (21-50lbs), or a 10.2-year-old large breed dog (50+ lbs, or a Golden Retriever). To look at this further, a 16-year-old Golden Retriever would be comparable to a 120+-year-old human.
In my opinion, responsible breeders do not find the average life span of Golden Retrievers ‘acceptable’ (for lack of a better term), most try everything in their ability to stack the odds in favour of producing dogs that will live beyond that, but we try to remain level headed with each litter we plan and realize we may very well have a dog or two live until 16, we may also loose a dog or two under the age of 8, and the rest will be lost in-between, all within the same litter.
As I wish every Golden Retriever got to celebrate their 13th birthday, I also wish every human got to celebrate their 100th.