Dog breeding: Why can exaggerated features be a problem?

Last updated at 07:44
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What's the problem with flat-faced dogs?

The UK is a nation of dog lovers. There are dogs of all shapes, sizes, colours and characters, and millions of people love their canine companions as much as friends or family.

But there is one issue with certain types of dogs that has got vets and some animal welfare organisations worried.

They are concerned about dogs that are bred to look a certain way, as these dogs can have health problems that owners might not be aware of.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) has said: "Breeding dogs in order that they will have certain features is still a concern."

We really want to know what you think so read the article below and let us know what you think at the end.

What is dog breeding?

The breeding of dogs - where dogs are specially chosen to have puppies together which will have certain characteristics from each parent - has been going on for an extremely long time.

For example, dogs might have been bred to be good hunters or to protect property.

Nowadays, though, it is very common to breed dogs so that they will look a certain way, as they get physical characteristics from each parent.

Pekingese dogGetty Images
A lot of popular dog breeds have actually been specially bred so that the dogs have certain physical features, like flatter faces or shorter legs

Pugs, for example, are one of the most popular breeds of dog at the moment, but they have actually been bred over many years in order to look the way that they do.

What is the issue?

When dogs are bred to look a certain way over many generations, it can lead to some dogs having exaggerated features, like shorter legs or floppy ears.

While these features might look cute, dogs may have health problems as a result.

It can cause pain for the animals, make them more likely to get certain disorders or even stop them from enjoying everyday activities, like walking and playing.

Shar peiGetty Images
Some dogs with wrinkly skin could have skin problems, so it's important that owners make sure they are happy and healthy

For example, dogs that are bred to have flatter faces - like pugs - often have narrow nostrils and their windpipes don't develop in the same way, so they can have trouble breathing.

Those with folded or wrinkly skin might struggle with skin problems, or those with short or curly tails might have difficulty communicating with other dogs, as they can't wag or raise them.

Which breeds are affected?

Some breeds suffer more than others because of extreme physical features.

Dogs that have been bred to look a certain wayGetty Images
Lots of kinds of dogs have been bred to look a certain way, including all of the breeds in this picture. Check the list below to find out others.

These include: English bulldogs, French bulldogs, mastiffs, neapolitan mastiffs, shar peis, shih-tzus, chow chows, chinese cresteds, pugs, pekingeses, St Bernards, dogue de Bordeaux, dachshunds, corgis, cavaliers and King Charles spaniels.

If you want to know if a certain breed of dog could be more at risk of getting certain health problems because of their breeding, have a chat with your vet.

What should I do if I have one of these dogs?

If you already have a breed of dog that has characteristics that may cause health problems, don't worry!

There are certain things that you can do to make sure they have a happier, healthier life.

  • Learn about the breed: Find out from your vet about any potential health problems for your breed of dog and make sure you're giving them what they need. You might think that your pug snoring and snuffling is cute, but you may want to speak to your vet to make sure that he or she is not struggling with their breathing
  • Take them to your vet regularly for check-ups: Even if you can't see anything wrong, make sure you take your pooch to the vet every now and then, so an expert can make sure that they're as happy and healthy as they can be and there's no sign of anything that you maybe haven't spotted
What if I want to get a new dog?

If you are choosing a new dog, some experts would advise avoiding dogs with extreme features that are known to be more likely to have health issues.

John Fishwick, president of the British Veterinary Association (BVA), said: "[You] need to consider that dogs with exaggerated looks can suffer from a range of health problems. For instance, flat-faced dogs can suffer from eye ulcers and severe breathing difficulties. We would strongly encourage people to choose a healthier breed or a crossbreed instead."

The PDSA, the Royal Veterinary College, the RSPCA and the Kennel Club have also warned against buying these breeds.

Pug at the vetsGetty Images
If you are at all worried about making sure that your dog is happy and healthy, go to speak to your local vet

If you do want to get one of these breeds, have a chat with your vet beforehand about what it might mean.

If you're looking to get a new dog of any kind from a breeder, the best thing you can do is always make sure you get a dog from a safe and responsible breeder.

The BVA also says that you should not look to buy a dog online. It is important that you always see the mother and puppy interacting in person.

If you want advice about the best way to find a responsible dog breeder - or any advice about the best way to go about getting a new dog - you can ring the RSPCA or speak to your local vet.

You might also consider getting a rescue dog from your local rescue centre.

Comment below to let us know what you think about these issues.

  • Did you know that some dogs can have health issues because of the way they look?
  • Do you have to take special care of your dog because of what breed he or she is?
  • What do you think after reading this article?

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