As a nation, we all love our animals and who could be closer to our hearts than man’s best friend; the dog. Dogs have been at our sides for centuries, but we are starting to see some pretty drastic changes in what they look like. Gone are the dogs who have those beady eyes and a long snout, now, the flat-faced, big eyed breeds are melting our hearts and finding themselves in our homes. They may look cute, but life is certainly not all fun and games for these puppies!

As a veterinary student, the mentions of pugs and French bulldogs in my lectures are now innumerable, being that they are one of our most common patients! With their so-called “squashed-up” faces and which constrict their nostrils, these dogs are, in short, an anatomical nightmare: they cannot breathe properly. Not breathing properly leads to them suffering from hyperthermia and sleep apnoea. Flat faces mean that they are prone to dental problems thanks to the limited space for jaw bones; and they are very often morbidly obese. It’s a high price to pay for being cute!

So why are we breeding these dogs? If you’ve ever seen a pug, French bulldog, Boston terrier or similar breeds, this question is not hard to answer; they are adorable, and according to a study by the Vet Record, looks are the number one reason for buying flat-faced puppies. Something about their small size and baby-like features seems to make them completely irresistible to people who see them! The same study suggested other factors featuring in the decision to buy a pug or French bulldog could be their small size seeming to fit with the owner’s lifestyle, and the perception that they are friendlier and safer to have around children, than bigger breeds. Interestingly, the study by the Vet Record also found that younger owners looking for their first dog are more likely to go for a small, flat-faced breed. This makes perfect sense considering the huge role breeds like pugs and French bulldogs play in the media. We are constantly seeing them in everything from televised advertisements, to videos on social media, to photographs of celebrities. French bulldogs in particular are famously owned by the Beckhams, Lady Gaga, and Hugh Jackman, something which has spread their fashionable public image far and wide. Now, they are so popular that they have even managed to push the Labrador off the podium as the UK’s ‘Top Dog’ in 2018, a position the breed had held for almost 30 years.

So, what’s being done to help these dogs? The British Veterinary Association (BVA), as well as the Kennel Club, have been fighting this cause for years and more recently they have come through and started to make some changes to safeguard the future welfare of flat-faced breeds. For example, the judges at ‘Crufts’, the well-known U.K. dog show, this year started looking for traits we saw in the old pug breed, with a more developed snout and less bulging eyes. As we have seen through flat-faced breeds used in advertising, the power of television and media is incredible in terms of how people perceive animal welfare, so this change at ‘Crufts’ should work wonders in showing the world that these cute flat-faced pets are not healthy animals. As a further push for promoting healthy breeds in media, there has been a campaign championed by the BVA to stop using pugs and French bulldogs in advertising. If we see less of them, we will never forget about them, but we will instead begin to remember the popular, healthier breeds of past.

There are so many features that make a dog a brilliant pet, but it’s time to stop choosing our furry friends based on their looks. Pugs, French bulldogs, Boston terriers and all their flat-faced friends may be irresistibly cute, but their baby-like faces are just not compatible with a happy, healthy, dog-like lifestyle. To find out more about the wellbeing of these beautiful animals, head over to ‘The Kennel Club’ Website, and start to make more conscious and informed decisions about what you really want in a dog.