Demand for ‘flat-faced’ puppies such as the French Bulldog and Pug has soared during the coronavirus pandemic, according to the UK Kennel Club.
This has prompted a group of leading dog health and welfare experts to issue a warning urging the public to ‘stop and think’ before buying a dog of this type.
Brachycephalic dogs, also known as ‘flat-faced’ due to their short muzzle, can suffer from a number of health problems including breathing, eye, spine and skin issues.
The Brachycephalic Working Group (BWG) says the rise in demand for these dogs is creating one of the most pressing welfare issues for dogs right now in the UK.
The French Bulldog is currently the most popular breed in the UK with the highest puppy registrations of any breed from January to March 2020, BWG said.
The demand for French Bulldogs (pictured) and other flat-faced breeds had started to go down in 2019 but lockdown measures saw this trend reverse and demand increase again
Brachycephalic dogs – such as the Pug (pictured) – also known as ‘flat-faced’ due to their short muzzle, can suffer from a number of health problems including breathing, eye, spine and skin issues
The group have urged people considering buying one of these animals to ‘think again’ and said those with a flat-faced puppy should be aware of health problems.
FRENCH BULLDOG TOPS THE LIST OF DOG BREEDS IN THE UK
- French Bulldog
- Labrador Retriever
- Cocker Spaniel
- Golden Retriever
- German Shepherd
- English Springer Spaniel
- Staffordshire Bull Terrier
SOURCE: Kennel Club top ten registered breeds from January to March 2020
Dog health and welfare experts including vets, rescue organisations, scientists and breeders make up the BWG.
As well as an increase in registrations, searches for ‘getting a dog’ reaches an all-time high during COVID-19 lockdown, with ‘french bulldog’ among the top searches.
The demand for French Bulldogs and other flat-faced dogs had started to go down in 2019 but the pandemic and lockdown measures saw this trend reverse and demand increase again.
New statistics from PDSA and released by the Brachycephalic Working Group (BWG) show that Google searches for ‘buying a puppy’ increased by 175 per cent in just one month of UK lockdown compared to the average.
Searches for French Bulldog puppies via the Kennel Club’s ‘Find a Puppy’ tool also increased by 225 per cent during April and May 2020, as people stayed home, compared to the same time last year.
Brachycephalic breeds, such as French Bulldogs, Bulldogs and Pugs – often referred to as flat-faced dogs due to their short muzzle – can suffer from a number of health problems such as breathing, eye, spine, dental and skin-fold issues.
In addition, unscrupulous breeders and traders are cashing in on the high demand by farming them in huge numbers and often poor conditions – whether bred in the UK or imported from abroad.
These twin problems have created one of the most pressing welfare issues for dogs right now in the UK, said the BWG.
The BWG warns that this increased demand for flat-faced puppies fuelled by the pandemic could worsen the already serious health and welfare crisis faced by these breeds, and are asking the public to ‘stop and think before buying a flat-faced dog’.
‘We are concerned that some puppy buyers might not be fully considering, or be aware of, the long-term responsibility and commitment that comes with getting a dog, especially a flat-faced dog,’ said Dan O’Neill, Chair of BWG.
‘It’s vital that people stop and think’ before getting one of these dogs, he said.
O’Neill said getting a flat-faced puppy without being aware of the potential health and welfare issues they might face will have a devastating impact long-term.
‘Especially if they are bred indiscriminately to meet demand,’ he added.
He said rather than make an impulsive decision or choose a dog breed because it is ‘popular, cute or fashionable’ people should ‘do their research first’.
The Brachycephalic Working Group (BWG) says the rise in demand for flat-faced dogs – such as the English Bulldog (pictured) – is creating one of the most pressing welfare issues for dogs right now in the UK
‘It is true that some flat-faced breeds often have lovely characters, but do you really want to contribute to a welfare crisis where thousands of puppies are bred in appalling circumstances just to satisfy the huge demand for these breeds,’ he said.
‘Our message could not be clearer: Stop and think before buying a flat-faced breed.’
If you are committed to buying a puppy, aim to find an experienced and responsible breeder and be prepared to wait for the right dog, the group warned.
While French Bulldogs, bulldogs and Pugs were all flat-faced breeds in the top ten, the remaining seven weren’t with second and third place going to Labrador retrievers and Cocker spaniels.
The Brachycephalic Working Group includes the major stakeholders in dog welfare in the UK including the Kennel Club, PDSA, Dogs Trust, RSPCA, the Royal Veterinary College, the University of Cambridge, the British Veterinary Association, the British Small Animal Veterinary Association, DEFRA, and breed clubs.
DOGS FIRST BECAME DOMESTICATED ABOUT 20,000 to 40,000 YEARS AGO
A genetic analysis of the world’s oldest known dog remains revealed that dogs were domesticated in a single event by humans living in Eurasia, around 20,000 to 40,000 years ago.
Dr Krishna Veeramah, an assistant professor in evolution at Stony Brook University, told MailOnline: ‘The process of dog domestication would have been a very complex process, involving a number of generations where signature dog traits evolved gradually.
‘The current hypothesis is that the domestication of dogs likely arose passively, with a population of wolves somewhere in the world living on the outskirts of hunter-gatherer camps feeding off refuse created by the humans.
‘Those wolves that were tamer and less aggressive would have been more successful at this, and while the humans did not initially gain any kind of benefit from this process, over time they would have developed some kind of symbiotic [mutually beneficial] relationship with these animals, eventually evolving into the dogs we see today.’