Brachycephalic dog health and welfare crisis

Some brachycephalic (also known as flat-faced) breeds, including the French Bulldog, Pug and Bulldog, have unfortunately become hugely popular. This has led to a health and welfare crisis for these breeds, related to their breeding, sourcing and also some serious intrinsic health problems related to extreme conformation.

BWG message to the wider public

The BWG strongly encourages anyone considering getting a brachycephalic breed to “Stop and think before buying a flat-faced dog”. Do your research carefully on the health and welfare issues before deciding what type of dog to acquire.

The BWG maintains that the most fundamental criterion underpinning any decisions in relation to dogs is that ‘Maximising good health, welfare and temperament overrides all other considerations for dogs’.

Extreme conformation

Extreme conformation in dogs describes a physical appearance that is so exaggerated that affected dogs suffer from poor health and welfare, with negative impacts on their quality and/or quantity of life.

BWG supports all welfare-focused activities that aim to protect the health and welfare of dogs from the adverse impacts of brachycephaly as an extreme conformation in dogs. 


Brachycephalic dog breeds encompass several breeds that all have one major physical feature in common: they have shortened heads and more specifically they have especially shortened noses. Examples of brachycephalic breeds include the Pug, French Bulldog and English Bulldog, but there are several others also such as the Shih Tzu, Pekingese and Boxer. There is now substantial evidence that the brachycephalic (flat-faced) conformation is associated with several health issues for these dogs including breathing difficulties, skin fold infections, eye disease, difficulty giving birth and spinal disease.

In recent years, the popularity of some brachycephalic breeds has risen hugely in the UK, to the point where the high demand for some brachycephalic breeds has itself  imposed further welfare problems around poor quality breeding practices and both legal and illegal importation of puppies to supply a booming UK market for these dogs. Realisation by owners of the reality of owning one of these breeds, along with waning novelty value often means that these dogs are relinquished to recue centres which further fuels a growing welfare concern.

This complex phenomenon involving inherent health issues of individual dogs, welfare issues around high-volume breeding and importation practices, and high levels of relinquishment have conspired to create a brachycephalic welfare issue that is now recognised as one of the most pressing welfare issues for dogs in the UK.

In response, all of the major stakeholders in dog welfare in the UK have formed a single body called the Brachycephalic Working Group (BWG) to try to improve the welfare of these dogs.

French bulldog