Highly recognizable and beloved, brachycephalic breeds make up some of the most popular dogs in the United States, and include charismatic pups like the French Bulldog, Bulldog, and Boxer.
Brachycephalic breeds of dogs can be identified by their shortened snouts or faces that appear flat and, as a result, have narrow nostrils and smaller airways. The term Brachycephalic originates from the Greek words “short” and “head.” The breeds’ wrinkled muzzles and smooshy faces have made them increasingly popular in recent years. But if you’re thinking of adding one to your family, there are certain things you need to take into account.
Because of the unique shape of their faces and airways, brachycephalic dogs sometimes need help with regulating their temperatures during hot and humid weather. Brachycephalic breeds have uniquely structured heads and can struggle to pant enough to cool off, which means they can easily overheat. Access to cool water, fans, and/or air conditioning in hot climates is very important. In addition, some brachycephalic breeds are predisposed to certain skin, eye, or oral health conditions related to the shape of their skull, and the folds or rolls of skin.
Because of these concerns, it is extremely important to seek out a responsible breeder when looking for a flat-faced puppy. Responsible breeders do health testing and breed healthy, happy brachycephalic dogs with little to no issues.
Brachycephalic breeds can be more prone to medical emergencies while flying on planes than other types of dogs. Not only are they more sensitive to humidity and warm temperatures, but they also can struggle to breathe when stressed or during altitude changes. Some airlines have begun putting bans or limits on brachycephalic breeds for their safety and protection. If you are planning to travel with your brachycephalic dog, talk with your veterinarian and your airline in advance of your trip.
There are special considerations to keep in mind when it comes to exercise for brachycephalic breeds. Some flatter-faced dogs do struggle to self-regulate their temperatures during and after exercise. Talk with your dog’s breeder and vet about what activities are a good fit.
You want to be especially cautious to not overexert these dogs, especially in warm or humid weather, but exercise is still important to make sure they remain fit and healthy. Many brachycephalic breeds excel in dog sports and are successful and happy competing in fast-paced activities such as Agility and Fast CAT.
List of Brachycephalic Breeds
Here’s a quick rundown on the different types of brachycephalic dogs:
Sometimes called “monkey dogs,” Affenpinschers are confident, curious, and often seem almost humanlike. These small dogs resemble Star Wars Ewoks and Wookies. Affenpinschers have a reputation for being both loyal and entertaining.
Active and loyal, Boxers are naturally protective of their home and families and need positive socialization with lots of people and other animals early in life. Boxers are often known to be a bit silly, but are also alert and energetic.
This is one of the most easily identified breeds. The Bulldog’s rolling gait, wrinkled head, pushed-in nose, flat face, and undershot jaw make them an endearing companion.
Weighing in at 5-15 pounds, the Brussels Griffon is a tiny but fun dog. Known for its big personality that’s also very humanlike, this breed is alert, social, energetic, and very trainable.
One of the largest breeds, the Bullmastiff is a strong guardian that is highly protective of their home and family. Bullmastiffs were developed by crossing Bulldogs and Mastiffs. This intelligent and alert dog is very trainable and loyal.
Easily identified by their classic “tuxedo” coat pattern, the Boston Terrier is curious and mischievous. This people-oriented breed is a lively and active companion that boasts the nickname “The American Gentleman.”
Bringing together the athleticism of sporting spaniels and the gentleness of a toy breed, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is a popular companion dog. Cavaliers are known for their sweet expressions, but these are active little dogs who are always ready for a good time.
Assertive and confident are two words often used to describe the Cane Corso. This breed is a natural protector that dates back to the Roman empire. Alert and powerful, Cane Corsos are loyal and extremely trainable. This large guardian breed will naturally be very protective of its home and family, making early training and socialization important.
Originating in ancient China, the Chow Chow is a distinctive breed known for its blue-black tongue and lion-like mane and coat. Chow Chows are clean and fastidious dogs that are aloof with strangers and loyal and devoted to their families.
This giant breed was first developed in France and has the proportionately largest head of all dog breeds. Known as sensitive and yet stubborn, the Dogue de Bordeaux is loyal and protective and excels with training.
In England, the English Toy Spaniel is called the King Charles Spaniel, not to be confused with the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, a separate breed. English Toy Spaniels have a flatter face than their Cavalier cousins.
One of the most popular breeds, the charismatic French Bulldog has a distinctive appearance. With large, bat-shaped ears and a sweet temperament, the French Bulldog is alert, affectionate, playful, and adaptable. These dogs do well living in cities, which has only increased their popularity.
As the name implies, this breed originated in Japan. With a silky coat and big eyes, the Japanese Chin is known for its perpetual “look of astonishment” and is an affectionate lapdog. This is a dog who loves spending time with their people and is known to be quiet, graceful, and easy to live with.
This breed dates back more than a thousand years to Tibet. The Lhasa Apsos are known for their long floor-length coat and require regular grooming. Originally, they were indoor guardians in the palaces and monasteries. Still maintaining those alert tendencies, this confident and small breed is known to be aloof with strangers but very affectionate with families.
Charming and confident, this is a confident, small dog that bonds closely with family. Originally developed to live in palaces, the Pekingese is a regal dog with a lion-like mane. Pekingese are excellent watchdogs and known for being very opinionated.
A highly recognizable breed, the Pug was originally bred to be a companion to the Chinese emperors. Pugs are extremely expressive and are known to amuse their families with their mischievous antics. These little dogs are very playful and active by nature, and bond closely with their people.
Lively and affectionate, the Shih Tzu was also bred to live within royal palaces. A loyal companion, the breed is ideal for small homes or apartments. Friendly dogs that do well with children, Shih Tzus are ideal lapdogs and known for their loyalty and sweet expressions.