We determined total arterial compliance from pressure and flow in the ascending aorta of seven anesthetized dogs using the pulse pressure method (PPM) and the decay time method (DTM). Compliance was determined under control and during occlusion of the aorta at four different locations (iliac, renal, diaphragm, and proximal descending thoracic aorta). Compliance of PPM gave consistently lower values (0.893 +/- 0.015) compared with the compliance of DTM (means +/- SE; r = 0.989). The lower compliance estimates by the PPM can be attributed to the difference in mean pressures at which compliance is determined (mean pressure, 81.0 +/- 3.6 mmHg; mean diastolic pressure, over which the DTM applies, 67.0 +/- 3.6 mmHg). Total arterial compliance under control conditions was 0.169 +/- 0. 007 ml/mmHg. Compliance of the proximal aorta, obtained during occlusion of the proximal descending aorta, was 0.100 +/- 0.007 ml/mmHg. Mean aortic pressure was 80.4 +/- 3.6 mmHg during control and 102 +/- 7.7 mmHg during proximal descending aortic occlusion. From these results and assuming that upper limbs and the head contribute as little as the lower limbs, we conclude that 60% of total arterial compliance resides in the proximal aorta. When we take into account the inverse relationship between pressure and compliance, the contribution of the proximal aorta to the total arterial compliance is even more significant.