Animal Welfare

Investigation of ‘breed loyalty’, reacquisition and owner recommendation of Bulldogs, French Bulldogs and Pugs

Brachycephalic (flat-faced) breeds are increasingly popular despite a significantly shortened lifespan and severe breed-related health problems including brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome (BOAS), eye, skin and spinal problems, difficulty giving birth and high risk of heat related illness. The tendency to prioritise aesthetics over health is a concerning animal welfare trend. This study investigated ‘breed loyalty’, that is positive attitudes towards a specific breed leading an owner to want to buy that breed again in the future and recommend others do the same.

Owners of pugs (n= 789), French bulldogs (n=741) and bulldogs (n =638), predominantly from the UK, USA and Canada, were sampled via online forums and social media. Despite many of the dogs having severe health problems, the majority of owners would still buy the breed again. The majority (93%) of participants would choose to own their current breed again (reacquisition desire) in the future and 65.5% would recommend their current breed to a first-time dog owner. Breed loyalty was associated with beliefs about positive behavioural traits, entertainment value, lifestyle factors and emotional closeness. Very low proportions of owners appeared concerned by breeding practices and health problems. The authors suggest that brachycephalic dog owners’ understanding of what is normal dog function may be skewed. For example, increased breathing noise was perceived as ‘funny’ or ‘cute’ rather than indicative of BOAS, a significant health problem.

Odds of reacquisition decreased with expense of ownership, maintenance requirements, undesirable behaviours, increasing awareness of BOAS and number of conformation-related surgeries. The authors recommend that information about the drivers and barriers to brachycephalic dog acquisition and breed loyalty be incorporated in behavioural change programs.

Packer RMA, O’Neill DG, Fletcher F et al (2020) Come for the looks, stay for the personality? A mixed methods investigation of reacquisition and owner recommendation of Bulldogs, French Bulldogs and Pugs. PLoS ONE 15(8), e0237276.