Study highlights breed loyalty for flat-faced dogs, despite health risks

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flat-faced dogs health risks

According to a new UK study, 93 per cent of owners of flat-faced dogs—including the pug, French bulldog and English bulldog—would opt for the same breed again, despite experiencing common and severe health problems in their pets. 

The research, led by the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) in collaboration with the University of Edinburgh and Nottingham Trent University—and published in PLOS ONE—also revealed that two-thirds of owners would recommend their flat-faced breed to others. 

The development of ‘breed-loyalty’ towards flat-faced breeds is very concerning because it promotes the proliferation of these breeds despite their substantial health risks.

Flat-faced, or ‘brachycephalic’ dog breeds suffer many severe and often lifelong health issues, including eye ulcers, breathing problems and heatstroke, relating to their typical body shape— particularly their characteristic flattened face.

Despite the heightened risk of such welfare problems, which are often painful and distressing, the popularity of flat-faced breeds has dramatically increased over the last decade, with the French bulldog now the UK’s most popular breed registered with the Kennel Club.

Although previous RVC studies found that owners are initially attracted to brachycephalic breeds due to their distinctive appearance, this latest study has revealed that behaviour traits are a core component of why owners ‘love’ their breed and would recommend them to others; essentially, owners come for the looks, but stay for the personality.

“With a multitude of stakeholders trying to tackle the current brachycephalic boom in the UK, our results are of real concern to these efforts,” study leader Dr Rowena Packer said. 

“Understanding how breed loyalty develops towards brachycephalic breeds, and whether it can be changed once established, is key to reducing the popularity of short-muzzled breeds.

“If first-time owners of flat-faced dogs choose these breeds for the rest of their lives, then the current crisis could continue for decades.”

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