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News Article

Brachycephalic dogs: UK study explores why and how they are purchased

Flat-faced dogs are rapidly increasing in popularity, despite increasing evidence linking brachycephalism with chronic and severe health conditions.

A study conducted by the Royal Veterinary College (RVC), in collaboration with Plymouth University, sought to find out what influences owners to purchase a flat-faced breed, and once this decision has been made, how they go about acquiring a puppy. The study surveyed owners of the top 10 most popular Kennel Club registered breeds in the UK, to compare how influences upon breed choice and purchasing processes differed between owners of flat-faced breeds and popular longer faced breeds. The findings are published in Animal Welfare.

Appearance was found to be the number one reason owners purchase flat-faced breeds. Perceived health of the breed was of less concern in owners who purchased a brachycephalic dog such as the Pug or French Bulldog, compared to owners of longer faced breeds, such as the Labrador Retrievers and Cocker Spaniels.

Key influencing factors associated with the choice of a brachycephalic breed include:

  • The size of the breed being suited to owner lifestyle, as owners of flat-faced dogs were more likely to live in apartments
  • The breed being perceived to be good with children and for companionship as owners of flat-faced dogs were more likely to live with children
  • Owners of the breed were more likely to be younger and buying that breed for the first time - this may reflect increased media influence among younger people, with flat-faced breeds commonly used in the media and advertising


The study raised concerns over how the owners of brachycephalic dogs purchase their desired breed, with owners of flat-faced dogs:

  • More likely to use puppy selling websites to find their dog
  • Less likely to see either parent of their puppy
  • Less likely to ask to see any health records


Recommendations from the study include:

  • Identifying and promoting breeds with fewer health conditions that fit the lifestyle niches associated with flat-faced dog owners
  • Moderating the use of flat-faced dogs in the media
  • Educating the public regarding the consequences of breeding animals based on looks rather than health
  • Promoting responsible puppy-buying practices for all breeds of dog


Dr Rowena Packer, lead author of the study and Research Fellow at RVC, said: “With their small size and baby-like features, some people cannot resist the looks of a brachycephalic dog. With growing evidence that these breeds are faced with a range of chronic and severe health conditions directly linked with their appearance, it is of huge concern that many people drawn to these breeds prioritise a dog’s looks over their long-term health and wellbeing.

“Potential puppy buyers attracted to the appearance of these breeds should seriously consider whether they are emotionally and financially prepared to take on a breed with high risks of health complications, and consider whether alternative, lower-risk breeds would better fit their lifestyle.”

Co-author of the study and Associate Professor of Animal Welfare at Plymouth University, Dr Mark Farnworth, said: “Owners must be aware that as puppy-buyers, they are consumers, and their choices affect not only the health of the puppy they purchase, but also the health of the breed more widely. If owners do not follow recommended processes when purchasing a puppy, for example those set out in BVA AWF & RSPCA ‘Puppy Contract’, unscrupulous breeders will be kept in business, and continue to profit from the breeding and sale of unhealthy dogs. Without consumer awareness, breed health improvements are not possible and the overall health of these breeds will likely decline.”

Article: Purchasing popular purebreds: investigating the influence of breed-type on the pre-purchase motivations and behaviour of dog owners by RMA Packer, D Murphy and MJ Farnworth, published in Animal Welfare (2017) vol. 26, no. 2, pp. 191-201, doi: 10.7120/09627286.26.2.191

Article details

  • Date
  • 25 May 2017
  • Source
  • Royal Veterinary College
  • Subject(s)
  • Dogs, Cats, and other Companion Animals