Brachycephalic (flat-faced) dogs continue to grow in popularity internationally despite their well-documented health challenges. This study explores two questions: (1) Do brachycephalic-outcrosses exhibit improved respiratory and ‘innate’ health characteristics compared to their extreme-brachycephalic parent-breed?; (2) Do brachycephalic-outcrosses meet the aesthetic preferences of people who desire extreme-brachycephalic purebreds?
Demand continues to rise for brachycephalic (flat-faced) dog breeds in the UK. Evidence documenting links between extreme flat-faces and the risk of severe, chronic disease (e.g. breathing and eye problems) has failed to lead to conformational-changes (e.g. increased muzzle length) required to protect canine welfare. Breeders continue to select for extreme show-ring standards, and puppy-buyers continue to favour extreme-brachycephalic breeds (e.g. French Bulldogs, Pugs, English Bulldogs).
Educational efforts have not resulted in substantial changes to owner attitudes, with normalisation of health problems pervasive. Alternative evidence-informed strategies to change demand are urgently needed to protect canine welfare. Leveraging the current popularity of ‘designer crossbreeds’ (intentional crosses of purebred-breeds) offers one route to shifting demand towards more-moderately shaped dogs. However, the health-status and public attitudes towards brachycephalic-outcrosses are poorly understood. To-date, just one small study documented improved respiratory health in Pug-crosses (n=8) compared to purebred Pugs (n=42).
This proposal poses two questions:
- Do brachycephalic-outcrosses exhibit improved respiratory and ‘innate’ health characteristics compared to their extreme-brachycephalic parent-breed?
- Do brachycephalic-outcrosses meet the aesthetic-preferences of people who desire extreme-brachycephalic purebreds?
These questions will be addressed by:
- Conducting health assessments of Pug-crosses (selected based on current popularity/availability for study) using validated respiratory assessments, questionnaires and conformational-health metrics (e.g. skull shape, tail length/shape, skin folds), to compare against existing data on purebred-Pugs.
- Conducting a large-scale, online survey of aesthetic preferences and perceptions of the health, behaviour and ethics of brachycephalic-outcrosses more broadly, in current/prospective owners of extreme-brachycephalic purebreds.
Funders: Animal Welfare Foundation, RSPCA, Blue Cross