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We all want our dogs to share our lives for many years. Whether that happens depends in large part on factors such as great nutrition and veterinary care, not to mention protection from accidents such as being hit by a car, but genetics play a role, too. Some breeds seem to be programmed for long lives.
In my more than 30 years as a practicing veterinarian, I’ve made note of the breeds that seem to take a licking and keep on ticking year after year. If you want a dog who could keep you company for a good long time, consider one of these breeds. Even if you acquire an adult dog, you may still share many years of love with him.
Chihuahua: This breed has a reputation as the “armpit piranha,” but I sure do love the Chihuahua. They’re sassy and smart, with a fearless nature. These tiny dogs (which usually weigh 4 to 6 pounds, although some can be larger) can have an outsized life span of up to 20 years. Viva la Chihuahua!
Dachshund: Famously described as “a half dog high and a dog and a half long” by H. L. Mencken, the Dachshund is noted not only for his long, low body but also for his brains, loyalty and longevity — 12 to 17 years and sometimes more. At least one Dachshund, a wirehaired, is known to have lived 21 years. The breed comes in two sizes (standard and miniature); three coat types (smooth, longhaired and wirehaired); and many colors and patterns, including solid, dappled and brindle.
Pomeranian: This bright-eyed dog may be small in stature, but he thinks big — rule-the-world big. He’s spunky and active, and greets his minions with a happy smile, secure in the knowledge that he’s the cutest thing around. You stand a good chance of living 15-plus entertaining years with this pint-size Spitz breed.
Lhasa Apso: Sometimes it’s hard to know which Lhasa Apso to expect. Will you be greeted by a dapper and dignified dog or a curious and mischievous — some might even say manipulative — charmer? Whatever the case, life with the “bark lion sentinel dog,” as his name translates in his homeland of Tibet, can be long and prosperous. This breed usually lives at least 12 to 15 years, with a rare few living 20 years or longer.
Toy Poodle: People make fun of these dogs, and I don’t know why. They are smart, smart, smart and cute, cute, cute. And they are perennially popular, not only because they are devoted and easy to train but also, I’m sure, because of their long life spans. A Toy Poodle can live a good 14 to 18 years, with some even making it to 20. I bet it’s because of their highly developed sense of humor. You know what they say: Laughter is the best medicine—and the Toy Poodle dispenses it liberally.
Shih Tzu: Despite being bred to be companions of Chinese emperors, Shih Tzus are amazingly down to earth. This prince among dogs is a real sweetheart who wants only to love and be loved. You can expect him to be your playful and mischievous friend for as long as 18 years in some instances.
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