Scientists discover new precise way to calculate dog's age in human years / new research in DNA methylation and genetics / how old is my dog in human years / Perfect cocker spaniel blog / breed and puppy guide, grooming tips, diet and nutrition, cocker spaniel puppy training / canine nutritionist, dog dietician, pet nutrition coach / (C) Natalia Ashton

Science discovers a more precise way to convert dog’s age into human equivalent

Remember being told that you can convert your dog’s age into human years by multiplying the former by 7?

Well, the latest research published in the Cell Systems magazine tells us that it’s not as straight forward and our dogs may, in fact, be older in human years than we previously thought…

This time the scientists took blood samples from 104 labs spanning a 16-year age range to follow the changes that occur within the dog’s DNA sequences over lifetime. They then compared them to 320 human samples taken from people aged between birth and 103.

The aim of the study wasn’t simply finding out the most perfect age conversion. Instead, the researched wanted to compare the changes that occur in dogs’ and humans’ genes as we age, see how these changes can be utilised to improve the quality of life, and learn whether or not “the methylome* can be used to quantitatively translate the age-related physiology experienced by one organism (i.e., a model species like dog) to the age at which physiology in a second organism is most similar (i.e., a second model or humans)”.

These changes tend to occur at certain milestones of our lives showing as new attachments of the DNA structure (called DNA methylation), thus allowing the researches to use the DNA and these alterations (also referred to as the “epigenetic clock”) as a reliable estimate of a person’s age.

The dogs were chosen for the study because they are the species we tend to share our lives, diet, chemical exposure and environment more than any other animals.

The highest similarities in sequence changes were noted in young dogs and young adults, as well as senior dogs and older people. The results of the analysis also showed that an 8-week old puppy is likely to be equal to a 9-month old baby, will be similar to a 31-year old by the time he turns one, and the 12-year old lab can be compared to a 70-year old adult. The adolescent stage was less predictable, possibly due to the fact that dogs have a shorter lifespan.

For me, another fascinating discovery was the dramatic age jump during the first year of dog’s life (from birth to being 31!) yet how the process slowed down once the dog celebrated his third birthday.

The geneticists did come with an algorithm for calculating the age, which was a bit more challenging than multiplying our dog’s age by 7.

human_age = 16 ln(dog_age) + 31

If you fancy doing it yourself, you first need to multiply your dog’s natural logarithm by 16, then add 31.

However, I did the maths for you to keep things simple…

Dog’s age = 1 years old / Human age = 31 years old

Dog’s age = 2 years old / Human age = 42.1 years old

Dog’s age = 3 years old / Human age = 48.6 years old

Dog’s age = 4 years old / Human age = 53.2 years old

Dog’s age = 5 years old / Human age = 56.8 years old

Dog’s age = 6 years old / Human age = 59.7 years old

Dog’s age = 7 years old / Human age = 62.1 years old

Dog’s age = 8 years old / Human age = 64.3 years old

Dog’s age = 9 years old / Human age = 66.2 years old

Dog’s age = 10 years old / Human age = 67.8 years old

Dog’s age = 11 years old / Human age = 69.4 years old

Dog’s age = 12 years old / Human age = 70.8 years old

Dog’s age = 13 years old / Human age = 72 years old

Dog’s age = 14 years old / Human age = 73.2 years old

Dog’s age = 15 years old / Human age = 74.3 years old

Dog’s age = 16 years old / Human age = 75.4 years old

So how old is your cocker in human years? I am still struggling to process the fact that Coop is already over 50 and my little Fred is same age as me, if not a bit older. Quite a shock to the system, mainly mine, of course.

* the activity within the DNA that changes during our lifetime


Photo source: image by athree23 from Pixabay

Separation anxiety in English cocker spaniels / How to prevent separation anxiety when staying at home at coronavirus Covid19 Lockdown rules / Cooper, sable English cocker spaniel by Natalia Ashton (C) Perfect cocker spaniel pet blog and cocker spaniel book guide grooming, training, health, puppy

Separation anxiety as a side-effect of COVID19

For me, there is nothing better than self-isolating in a company of dogs. Spaniels, to be precise, for I adore them so. They are the light, the warmth, the soul and comfort. They know when I am down or happy, and do their ultimate best to be in the right place at the right time (besides, there’s always a chance of a biscuit!).

I know that many people feel exactly the same about their pups. I’ve heard so many say that they are having the time of their lives because it’s like a dream to be with their dogs 24/7.

And this is where I casually pop into your life to get you out of this reverie and unceremoniously bring you back to earth with a flashing lights that spell two words.

Separation Anxiety.

It has been one of my main concerns since the lockdown started. I knew that suddenly a lot of cockers will find themselves in a situation where they camp with their much loved family for many days and nights, finally living in what any cocker would refer to as “the perfect world”.

So if one day (and this day will eventually come) this world comes to an end, many dogs  will find themselves alone, without the company and attention they’ve been indulging in for weeks, if not months. For a dog who is naturally prone to separation anxiety, this will come as an unbearable life-changing blow… and potentially the starting point of a psychological condition that can be very difficult to resolve.

What is SA? The long explanation would be “a psychological syndrome” consisting of many symptoms with several potential psychological and physiological underlying causes, which are not always easy or straight forward to diagnose or treat. In short, it’s a panic attack. You know the one when your brain shuts down, you are struggling for breath, feel limp and the ground starts to spin? That’s the one. If you’ve ever experienced it you know what I am talking about (and for the sceptics – yes, I get them myself, the worst happening a few years ago at, wait for it, the tower inside the Sacre Coeur – so no dome panorama for me, thank you very much). The worst thing about SA in dogs is that it takes hours and days for the poor pooch to return to normal, with every new episode adding up to the mighty cocktail of emotions and hormones – not simply happening as a single occurrence.

You might have seen the symptoms already without even knowing what SA really is. They can develop gradually and take many forms, but most common include excessive barking, whining, howling, destructive behaviour (think ripped carpets, chewed shoes, furniture and skirting boards etc.), changes in toilet habits (the dog starts to eliminate indoors), self-mutilation by excessive licking, chewing or biting (typically paws or rear end) and signs of stress (salivation, pacing, heavy breathing, “blowing bubbles (when the cheeks move in and out), enlarged pupils, red eyes as if the dog hasn’t slept, changes in body posture and position of the ears, elevated pulse and heart beat). The dog exhibits these signs as soon as he senses that you are about to leave – and continues getting worse whilst alone.

By the time you return, he is a hyperventilating wreck because ultimately, he is attached to you so much that if you, as his point of love, care and safety, are not there, he is broken physically and emotionally. In most families this form of dog to person attachment is stronger than the other way around, that is why it can be hard for people to comprehend the seriousness of the problem unless they look at it from the dog’s perspective.

Naturally, I have my concerns and fears that dogs who have never experienced SA may develop SA in one form or another, when their families can resume their normal activities and return to work.

If you are one of them and dreading the moment of leaving your spaniel alone, here are a few things you can do now to prevent potential problems.

What is separation anxiety in dogs? How to prevent separation anxiety in english cocker spaniels? Mummy will be back soon cartoon by Off The Leash (C)

Stick to the routine 

Dogs love routines and schedules, especially the ones who are particularly sensitive and prone to SA and hyper-attachment. They know the time you get up, can read the signs for departure (putting on make up, or wearing high heels, or picking up a certain bag or set of keys) and remember your habits and even certain body language.

Try to mimic this to a degree. Put on mascara, wear different shoes, jacket, or pick up keys a few times a day as if there’s absolutely nothing special about it. Then walk around the house, sit down with a cup of tea or watch a movie. Repeat until your dog absolutely does not care about his mum waltzing around the house in her PJ’s yet the prettiest and most inappropriate footwear.

Spend some time apart

You can put on proper clothes, get outside and sit in a car with a book or a movie as if you went to work. You can stop the dog from following you to the toilet, sitting nearby when you are having a bath or taking out the bins.

If you work from home, shut the door to the room for an hour or two (the timing will depend on your dog’s behaviour because you must make sure that he is absolutely content and relaxed at all times!).

If you have a garden, dedicate some outside time to your plants – and leave the pooch at home.

Time these activities to imitate your regular “work away” schedule whenever possible.

Build up on separation time.

If your spaniel absolutely cannot be alone, build up the distance gradually. You can still do all of the above, but stop your dog from following you with a help of a free-standing barrier. This way the dog can see you, yet cannot follow you, but he knows you are there and it’s ok. Calmly praise him with words and a treat when you return even if it was a minute or two.

It is very important to vary the length of your departure when you first begin to part with your pup. This will help to avoid predictability of the routine and expectations. As you leave your dog, return within a few minutes, then (and only if he is definitely fine with not being with you) – 10 or 20 minutes, next time – come straight back within seconds, followed by a longer departure… If you notice any signs of stress in your dog, switch to a pleasant and fun activity that involves both you and the dog to help him relax.

Next – and only when he is calm, you can leave him with a stuffed Kong toy or a few bits of kibble scattered around the floor to be occupied and pleased with himself. However, when you do this, make sure that your spaniel knows that you leave and come back – don’t just sneak out!

You can even roll out the good old friend Furbo at this point. It’ll let you observe your cocker – and shoot out treats whenever necessary.

Stay calm!

Never ever make a big deal of any of the above activities. You don’t have to fuss when you leave the house. Act as if it’s nothing special, as if you simply walk from one room to another.

Do the same when you return – as tempting as it is to fall down to your knees and get covered in kisses – don’t. Quietly say a few words to your pooch, stroke him gently if he calmly sits down waiting for attention – and carry on.

The only exception to this rule is when your dog has already been accustomed to jumping up, doing “the wiggle bum” dance, cuddling with you, and kissing you as soon as you return. If you suddenly stop and change to someone indifferent, it will not only confuse the dog, but can make him anxious and stressed.

If you see any signs of stress in your dog just before you leave – do not get frustrated, raise your voice or punish him. Just think how you’d feel if you had a panic attack and people shouted at you instead of helping you to calm down.

Remember that dogs can smell our emotions and raise their stress hormone levels in response. If you are truly calm – they are likely to remain content, too.

If necessary break any of the above steps into smaller portions and steps measuring the “dose” carefully and always making sure that your dog is relaxed.


Don’t postpone this until the last moment. The sooner you start, the better chances you have to have everything back to normal, the old normal, just the way your dog remembers… 


Image credits: Coop photographed by me, Off the Leash via Facebook official page

How to train your dog positively, study research, tips / perfect cocker spaniel / english cocker spaniel training, grooming, advice, puppy / world kindness day blog post / (C) Natalia Ashton / dog paw in human hand photo

Having a dog without regrets

What do you write about after sharing a post dedicated to the dog you miss so very much? Honestly, I tried to sit down and string a few words together, but it simply did not work…

Then, a few days ago I came across a survey done by Sainsbury’s Pet Insurance. According to the findings over 50 per cent of Southern dog (and cat) parents did not research the breed of their puppy before getting one, and only 21 per cent spent more than a week (a week, seriously?!) to find “the right breed for their lifestyle”. Worse, every sixth pet parent had regrets of getting a dog of that specific breed.

Think how many dogs you would normally meet during a walk with your pooch? Now imagine that every sixth dog is actually a burden to the person who walks him at that very moment – and try not bleed inside your heart.

For me, my dogs are my life. And I admit, I am, by my own admission, really is all about my dogs. I live and breathe for the happiness of my boys and feel terrible if I believe they didn’t have a good enough day (by my standards). I am not perfect at all, but I do everything I can – and a little bit more. No matter what.

As somebody who spent years researching dog breeds, reading books and attending courses to learn about taking care of a puppy, I simply cannot fathom how it is even possible to decide that one is ready for a dog and knows enough about a dog after a week of “research”… And then proceed by getting a puppy – not a fluffy toy, but an actual living being who needs his human mum to help him live, learn and thrive!

I’ve seen those people. I did. And I helped a few, too. Not because I cared much for them, but because I cared too much for the little pup who ended up in a household that was totally unprepared for him or her.

Do you ever wonder why we still have the heartbreaking reality of puppy farms? This is a good example how and why these disgusting businesses flourish. Every day they offer pups to these “owners” (because I cannot even refer to these people as “parents”) who visit them to get a dog without knowing much simply because they felt like having a puppy here and now, or choose to buy a puppy in a pet shop while stoping for coffee!

These are the people who end up with a dog suffering from illnesses or psychological problems. These are the people who had every chance of giving that puppy a wonderful  life, but instead give him up as an unwanted regret.

I tried to stay “cool and content” and find reasons to justify these people’s actions. I went online looking for opinions on forums and social media looking for solid reasons of regret… The truth was painful to learn:

“I didn’t realise dogs are such a hard work…”

“I am so annoyed because I cannot travel now like I used to…”

“He is such an inconvenience…”

“He chewed my furniture and went to pee all over the house…”

“He pulls the lead so hard, I can’t walk him, so I decided to rheum…”

“Having a dog is so expensive!”

“I only realised this breed wasn’t for me after I got a puppy…”

“I live in a cream house but this dog makes it dirty and leaves hair everywhere…”

“I can’t sleep at night because he keeps crying in the other room…”

“I feel stuck with him for years now…”

There were very, very few exceptions who had regrets because they were seriously ill, injured or suffered from severe allergy. Ironically, this group of people actually did their very best to try and keep the dog no matter what.

How can I possibly stay indifferent to this situation if it shows that the nation of dog lovers is clearly lacking the three fundamental pillars of dog parenthood: knowledge, commitment and responsibility? And worse, do very little to improve on any of these?

You may notice I did not mention love… I believe it’s important but love is nothing if it does not inspire you to become a better person, a better pup parent – and learn, learn everything you can before and during your life with one of the most wonderful beings we ever managed to tame… yet forgot the obvious “You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed…” from the Little Prince. But then how many of those people would even read Exupéry?

And since this wonderful author also said that “a goal without a plan is just a wish”, here are a few things everyone who dreams of having a cocker spaniel puppy should read as the essential minimum before they even launch their search for the dream dog… As the very first step to make sure that every dog is wanted… now – and forever, for the rest of his life and beyond.

Misleading facts about English cocker spaniels you need to know

How to find a perfect cocker spaniel puppy

How to find a cocker spaniel puppy online and avoid puppy farms

Why is it so important to ask a breeder about health tests before choosing a puppy?

5 good reasons to have a cocker spaniel puppy

Perfect cocker spaniel: the ultimate guide to the breed including puppy guide, tips on grooming, diet, health, training and more