Why is the French Bulldog so popular?
The popularity of the French Bulldog and other flat-faced brachycephalic dogs in the UK continues to rise. The French Bulldog is set to become the most registered dog in 2017, overtaking the Labrador Retrievers’ 27-year reign at the top. But why is the French Bulldog so popular?
New research shows that appearance is the number one reason owners purchase flat-faced breeds. They are attracted by their large, round, wide-set eyes, and flat rounded faces. However, such characteristics are linked with a variety of inherited diseases.
Flat-faced dogs often suffer from lifelong respiratory, eye and skin problems, and a reduced lifespan compared with longer faced breeds. The study, which was conducted by the Royal Veterinary College (RVC), in collaboration with Plymouth University, found that the 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.
The study 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.
Key influencing factors associated with why is the French Bulldog so popular include:
- The size of the breed being suited to owner lifestyle as owners of flat-faced dogs was more likely to live in apartments.
- The breed is 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.
Dr Rowena Packer, the 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”
Paula Boyden, Dogs Trust Veterinary Director, said: “The increased popularity of breeds such as Pugs, French Bulldogs and English Bulldogs is a huge welfare concern, particularly as this research indicates that the health of the breed was not a major consideration for potential puppy buyers. Many people mistakenly believe that the breathing sounds these breeds often make are endearing traits, rather than an indication of respiratory problems associated with their conformation. Dogs Trust urges anyone thinking of getting a puppy to look beyond the appearance of a breed, understand the impact on health, research the seller and buy responsibly.”
The research paper is published in the Universities Federation for Animal Welfare (UFAW) scientific journal, Animal Welfare: Packer RMA; Murphy D; Farnworth MJ (2017) Purchasing popular purebreds: Investigating the influence of breed-type on the pre-purchase attitudes and behaviour of dog owners. Animal Welfare 26: 191-201UFAW has an extensive web-based information resource on genetic welfare problems in dogs and other companion animals see Genetic Welfare Problems of Companion Animals.