We measured body composition and resting metabolic rates (RMR) of three dog breeds (Papillons, mean body mass 3.0 kg (n = 35), Labrador retrievers, mean body mass 29.8 kg (n = 35) and Great Danes, mean body mass 62.8 kg (n = 35)) that varied between 0.6 and 14.3 years of age. In Papillons, lean body mass (LBM) increased with age but fat mass (FBM) was constant; in Labradors, both LBM and FBM were constant with age, and in Great Danes, FBM increased with age but LBM was constant. FBM averaged 14.8% and 15.7% of body mass in Papillons and Labradors, respectively. Great Danes were leaner and averaged only 10.5% FBM. Pooling the data for all individuals, the RMR was significantly and positively associated with LBM and FBM and negatively associated with age. Once these factors had been taken into account there was still a significant breed effect on RMR, which was significantly lower in Labradors than in the other two breeds. Using the predictive multiple regression equation for RMR and the temporal trends in body composition, we modelled the expenditure of energy (at rest) over the first 8 years of life, and over the entire lifespan for each breed. Over the first 8 years of life the average expenditure of energy per kg LBM were 0.985, 0.675 and 0.662 GJ for Papillons, Labradors and Great Danes, respectively. This energy expenditure was almost 60% greater for the smallest compared with the largest breed. On average, however, the life expectancy for the smallest breed was a further 6 years (i.e. 14 years in total), whereas for the largest breed it was only another 6 months (i.e. 8.5 years in total). Total lifetime expenditure of energy at rest per kg LBM averaged 1.584, 0.918 and 0.691 GJ for Papillons, Labradors and Great Danes, respectively. In Labradors, total daily energy expenditure, measured by the doubly labelled water method in eight animals, was only 16% greater than the observed RMR. High energy expenditure in dogs appears positively linked to increased life expectancy, contrary to the finding across mammal species and within exotherms, yet resembling observations in other intra-specific studies. These contrasting correlations suggest that metabolism is affecting life expectancy in different ways at these different levels of enquiry.