The vast majority of people who own bulldogs, French bulldogs, and pugs say they would own these breeds again and would recommend them to prospective dog owners, according to a study published by PLOS. Such widespread loyalty to brachycephalic, or flat-faced, dogs suggests that the popularity of these breeds will persist despite some shocking health risks.
The demand for brachycephalic dogs has exploded in recent years, even though these breeds are strongly predisposed to a range of serious health conditions such as pneumonia, respiratory disease, heat stroke, eye disease, and spinal disease. Compared to other breeds with longer muzzles, bulldogs and pugs have shorter lifespans by about four years.
Some veterinarians consider these health concerns to be too risky to continue breeding flat-faced dogs. To make matters worse, owners of pets with chronic illnesses often experience psychological distress and have a lower quality of life.
Researchers led by Rowena Packer of the Royal Veterinary College set out to investigate breed loyalty among brachycephalic dog owners to gain a better understanding of why the dogs are so popular. The team also wanted to know whether the popularity of bulldogs and pugs is likely to persist.
“Although dog breed popularity often follows a boom and bust pattern, our results are of real concern as they indicate that this ‘brachy boom’ is here to stay,” wrote the study authors. “Owners are becoming hooked on the loving personalities of these sweet dogs, but also accepting and normalizing their shocking health issues.”
The researchers surveyed more than 2,000 owners and found that 93 percent would choose to own their current breed again in the future. About 66 percent of the respondents said they would recommend a bulldog or pug to a potential first-time dog owner. Owners often said they would recommend their breed as a great companion dog or for households with children.
“Five themes described why owners recommended against their breed: high prevalence of health problems, expense of ownership, ethical and welfare issues associated with breeding brachycephalic dogs, negative effects upon owner lifestyle, and negative behavioral attributes,” wrote the study authors.
“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 study is published in the journal PLOS ONE.