Kennel Club revises breeding guidelines on French bulldogs to avoid ‘extreme features’

·3 min read
 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

The Kennel Club has updated breed guidelines for French bulldogs over concerns the dogs are being bred with “extreme features” that exacerbate health problems.

The brachycephalic (which means “flat-faced”) breed typically faces health problems such as poor breathing, eye and skin-fold issues that are made worse by irresponsible breeding, said the Kennel Club.

French bulldogs have exploded in popularity over the last decade, and have been one of the UK’s most popular dog breeds since 2018.

Demand for the French bulldog has risen by 1,682 per cent since 2010, fuelled by celebrity owners such as Reese Witherspoon, Lady Gaga, Chrissy Teigen and John Legend, and David and Victoria Beckham.

But, amid soaring demand, the Kennel Club has warned that irresponsible breeders and buyers of the small dog has led to “extreme features”, particularly a shortened nose that many people see as “cute”.

According to the PDSA, the breed’s flat features can lead to health conditions such as brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome (BOAS), which can cause severe breathing problems, dental and eye issues, and skin fold dermatitis, which means the skin in their wrinkles get inflamed or even infected.

Bill Lambert, health and welfare expert at the Kennel Club, said: “Certain health problems in French bulldogs have been impacted by their huge increase in popularity, and we continue to be extremely concerned that exaggerations which are perceived to create a ‘cute’ look or sound, have gradually become seen as normal and even desirable.

“All breed standards are regularly reviewed, informed by ongoing breed-specific health data, and are explicit that any physical exaggerations should be avoided.

“These changes to the French bulldog breed standard aim to ensure it cannot be misinterpreted and that dogs are bred with their health and welfare as the absolute priority.”

Revisions to the guidelines include that a well-defined muzzle should “be clearly viewed in profile” and the dog’s nostrils should be “visibly” open.

Lambert added that the guideline amendments aim to “send a strong message” to buyers about the importance of ensuring any French bulldog puppy they buy does not have exaggerated features.

The Kennel Club hopes the new guidelines, as well as more research into the health of brachycephalic breeds, will help to “improve and protect the breed’s health”.

Dr Laura Hamilton, veterinary surgeon and French bulldog breed health coordinator, said: “Many people love owning French bulldogs, but it’s crucial that the public are aware of the breed’s complex health concerns and prioritise health over what they might think looks ‘cute’, and that breeders do all they can to produce healthy puppies.”

She warned that social media may influence the way the dogs are bred to look and urged potential owners to thoroughly research the breed before making any decisions and to find a responsible breeder who health screens their dogs.

The Brachycephalic Working Group (BWG), an organisation that works to improve the health and welfare of flat-faced dogs, was among other groups that reviewed the changes to the guidelines.

Dr Dan O’Neill, chair of the BWG, said the group welcomes the changes, “having worked collaboratively to put forward suggestions based on scientific evidence”.

“These changes show that all breeds can, and must, evolve to redress any serious health issues associated with conformation,” he added.

“We encourage would-be owners to place good health, welfare and temperament above human desires when choosing a breed and we urge more people to ‘stop and think before buying a flat-faced dog’.”

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