New figures reveal popularity of flat-faced dogs declining

18 December 2023


Hugely popularised in recent years by celebrities, social media and advertising, Pugs, French Bulldogs and English Bulldogs are now showing large declines in popularity, according to new statistics released by dog registration organisation, The Kennel Club.

While there has been an overall 17% decline in registrations of all dogs so far this year, compared to the same period last year, puppy registrations of all three of these flat-faced breeds have fallen by more than a third – there have been 42% fewer registrations of Pugs, 39% fewer of English Bulldogs and 34% fewer of French Bulldogs. This is the biggest fall in popularity for these breeds in over a decade in the UK and the figures put them in the list of ‘top five fallers’ so far this year.

Brachycephalic breeds – often referred to as flat-faced dogs – can suffer from a number of health problems including issues with breathing, difficulty giving birth, and excessive skin folds. Despite these problems, French Bulldogs, English Bulldogs and Pugs have all become hugely popular pets. In addition, unscrupulous breeders have stepped in to fill the high demand, often through low-welfare high-volume breeding and importing from abroad, creating one of the most pressing welfare issues for dogs in the UK.

The Brachycephalic Working Group (BWG) made up of vets, national animal welfare organisations, scientists, and dog breed clubs broadly welcomes the new Kennel Club figures. The groups aims to raise awareness of the issues that some of these dogs can face and to emphasise the importance of buying a dog from a reputable breeder, who puts health first.

“The drop in puppy registrations for these flat-faced breeds is a welcome step in the right direction, although these should be seen with some caution,” said Dan O’Neill, Chair of the BWG. “We hope this is a sign that more and more puppy buyers, owners and breeders are considering the serious health and welfare implications for flat-faced dogs. This is particularly important if these dogs are bought on an impulse because they ‘look cute’ but without proper understanding of their potential health issues or how indiscriminate breeding to meet demand results in poor welfare.”

Since its formation in 2016, the BWG has engaged with celebrities and advertisers about the harms that can result from promoting these dogs, in a bid to reduce their popularity and encourage owners to ‘stop and think’ before buying a flat-faced dog.

Dan continued: “However, thousands of flat-faced dogs are still being bred by unethical breeders to feed the UK puppy market and are being bought by poorly informed owners. So we must all continue to work together and spread the message: ‘Stop and think before buying a flat-faced dog’.”

Bill Lambert, spokesperson for The Kennel Club and member of the BWG said: “We encourage all would-be owners to think very carefully about any puppy-buying decision, especially if they are thinking of getting a flat-faced dog. We hope the new figures are a sign of this message getting through and that there are now fewer, better-informed owners buying from responsible breeders who are doing all they can to breed healthy puppies.

“A good breeder will health test the parents before they are bred from and will always show buyers the mum, and ideally the dad, so that they can see if they have exaggerated features such as overly short muzzles, partially closed nostrils or excessive skin folds, which are likely to be passed onto the pup and to cause health problems.”