Why are flat-faced dogs popular despite severe health problems
In the past decade, the popularity of brachycephalic (flat-faced) dogs has dramatically increased in the UK and internationally, despite growing evidence surrounding the health challenges these breeds face. Brachycephalic breeds are strongly predisposed to a range of disorders intrinsically related to their conformation, including respiratory disease, eye disease, dystocia, spinal disease, heat stroke and pneumonia, and their lifespan is reduced by 4.1 years compared to dogs with longer muzzles.
Indeed, some veterinarians consider Bulldogs, Pugs and French Bulldogs as having “health and welfare too compromised to continue breeding”. Their disease burden is likely to negatively impact animal welfare, and also has the potential to impact human wellbeing, given that owners of pets with chronic illnesses report greater psychological distress and a lower quality of life. As such, it is important to understand decision-making around dog breed choice to avoid the future proliferation, or perpetuation, of breeds that are prone to substantial health risks.
Owners of Bulldogs, French Bulldogs and Pugs dogs are highly likely to want to own their breed again in the future, and to recommend their breed to other owners. The development of breed-loyalty towards brachycephalic breeds may lead to their continued proliferation, and perpetuation of a high level of popularity, despite their substantial health risks. Although owners are initially attracted to the distinctive appearance of brachycephalic dogs, perceived breed-related behavioural traits are a core component of why owners perceive their breed positively, alongside the strong emotional bonds they inspire and perceived suitability for sedentary lifestyles. Understanding how breed-loyalty develops, and whether it can be attenuated will be key to controlling the current population boom in brachycephalic breeds in the long term.
The researchers concluded that there are three reasons why owners recommend their breed: positive behavioural attributes for a companion dog, breed suited to a sedentary lifestyle with limited space, and suitability for households with children. Understanding how breed-loyalty develops, and whether it can be attenuated, will be key to controlling the current population boom in brachycephalic breeds in the long-term.