What is a physical trait that almost half of the top 20 most popular dog breeds, according to the American Kennel Club (AKC)1 share? Pups like the French Bulldog and Boxer have flattened faces with shorter muzzles, called brachycephalic. They differ from what you see in other canines like the German Shepherd or Golden Retriever with their longer snouts. The degree varies across the board.
The number of pet owners of these brachycephalic breeds has soared in recent years. There’s a lot of speculation about what is driving it. Some think it’s the shape of the face, which gives their dogs an almost human-like appearance. There’s no denying that a Pug puppy is adorable, especially when you combine his looks and personality.
However, it’s essential to understand that the genetic mutations behind the face profile of these pups carry health risks. They have an increased risk of upper respiratory tract disorders, heat intolerance, and eye conditions.2 The smart pet owner will research the breed’s history carefully and only buy from sellers who conduct the recommended health screenings and DNA testing. Here are the 25 brachycephalic dog breeds you should know:
Top 25 Brachycephalic Dog Breeds
The Pug is likely the first dog you think of when discussing this physical feature. Interestingly, Chinese emperors preferred their dogs with this flat face and encouraged the pup’s selective breeding.3 This pooch makes a delightful pet. He is affectionate and quite loving. He’s also a character and will have you laughing at his antics with his adorable head turns and facial expressions.
2. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel also rubbed paws with nobility, which his name reveals. This pup’s sole purpose in life was—and still is—to be a companion. It helped that he is so darn cute, too. That explains his other moniker, the “Comforter” spaniel. As playful as he is, this pet still embraces his regal character. While not as prone to many brachycephalic complications, he has a higher risk of heart conditions.
The Pekingese also enjoyed his status as a royal favorite. His history goes back to 200 BC. Like other related dogs, the popularity of these pups skyrocketed around 800 AD, bringing this breed to Europe and beyond. He retained the gentle and affectionate traits that have endeared him to so many people. However, he isn’t as vulnerable to brachycephalic issues. Be sure to choose a pet with wide nostrils.
There are so many good reasons to fall in love with a Boxer. He’s playful and loving, with seemingly boundless energy. He strikes a handsome figure, too, especially if you monitor his diet and body condition closely. As sweet as he is, it’s hard to believe he served in war and hunted big game like bears. However, it explains his strength and endurance on long walks.
5. Brussels Griffon
In many ways, the Brussels Griffon looks like the Pug with whiskers. The two are related from a cross with the Belgian Griffons d’Ecurie. This pup started as a ratter before he won the hearts of Europeans who couldn’t resist his adorable pouting face. This pooch shares a lot of the traits of this toy-companion dogs. He is loyal and sweet. He’s also easy to train.
6. Boston Terrier
The Boston Terrier is a firecracker that is intelligent and, therefore, makes it easy to teach him new tricks. He’s appropriately named since that’s where enthusiasts selectively bred him to the pup we see today. Unfortunately, he is prone to many of the brachycephalic conditions, particularly eye problems. As with all pets, regular veterinary care is imperative.
7. Lhasa Apso
The Lhasa Apso is another ancient breed with a history that stretches back to 800 BC. You may find it hard to believe that one of his first jobs was as a watchdog. This pup is loving with his family, making him a joy to own. However, he is somewhat reserved with strangers until he makes friends with them. He has a willful streak, which isn’t unexpected. Luckily, brachycephalic conditions are not a major problem.
8. French Bulldog
Just one look at the French Bulldog, and you’ll know why this pup ranks number four on the list of the American Kennel Club’s (AKC) most popular breeds. He makes it so darn easy to fall in love! He started as a working-class dog with the English lacemakers. It wasn’t long before he was walking the streets of Paris and hobnobbing with the wealthy. This one is a keeper!
Americans love this type of dog, which explains why the Bulldog is right after the French Bulldog in popularity. Both breeds are calm, which makes them excellent pets in quiet households. This pup often has one of the serious brachycephalic conditions involving respiratory issues. His energy level is fitting because he can quickly become overheated if playtime becomes too intense.
10. Shih Tzu
The Shih Tzu has many of the qualities that make him an ideal lap dog. He is charming and so loving. He’s also a clown that may insist on getting his way, sometimes. It might explain why one of his nicknames is the lion dog. This pup is lively, so it’s essential to curb bad habits like nipping early. While he loves people, socialization as a puppy is an excellent way to cultivate good canine manners.
Just looking at an Affenpinscher is enough to make you smile. This pup is adorable—and he knows it, too! His curious features are part of his charm. He endeared himself to the ladies back in the day by protecting their homes from rats. The Germans selectively bred this dog in a smaller size and with a distinctive flat face. It wasn’t long before this outgoing pooch made his mark.
There’s no mistaking a Mastiff when he enters a room. For as big as he is, he carries himself well. He is a gentle dog with an easygoing personality. As you may surmise, he began as a guard dog, with a history going back to 4500 BC. Like the Boxer, he also served in war, both with the ancient Celts and during the last century’s world wars. Selective breeding nurtured the desirable qualities this pup has today.
13. Dogue de Bordeaux
You’ll find many Mastiff-like dogs on this list. The Dogue de Bordeaux has the distinction of being one of the oldest French breeds. He was—and probably still is—a watchdog par excellence. He is loyal and loving with his family, even if he isn’t chasing off poachers. Unfortunately, the breed has several potential health issues involving joint development and life-threatening bloat.
14. Japanese Chin
You know to expect the unexpected when you meet a Japanese Chin. This pup has an exotic-looking appearance and an almost feline-like manner. Curiously, this dog’s origins lie in China instead of its namesake. He has all the boldness and spirited behavior you’d expect in a pet that lived with the nobility. He was unknown to the Western World until Commodore Matthew C. Perry brought them to America.
15. Chow Chow
The Chow Chow is another ancient Chinese breed that resembles a lion more than a dog. His personality also reflects that similarity. He even lacks the typical puppy behavior of rushing to greet everyone he meets. However, he is a loyal and affectionate pet. He’s merely selective about with whom he shares his love. As you may expect, he’s also a wee bit stubborn at times.
One thing you notice when you see these types of dogs side-by-side is how different they look. The Bullmastiff is a bit smaller with more brachycephalic features. That means he’s more susceptible to respiratory issues that are imperative to monitor. This pup has a presence that shows his fearless nature. After all, his job involved tracking down poachers to give them a fright but not hurt them.
The Rottweiler is an imposing figure. It’s one reason that he has had so many roles guarding and protecting. He walked the battlefield and patrolled the pastures against predators of all types. Owning a pup is a serious endeavor, given his strength and courage. He is not a wise choice for the first-time pet owner. With proper training, he’ll make an outstanding addition to the right home.
18. Neapolitan Mastiff
The Neapolitan Mastiff is probably the most unusual of this type with his wrinkly skin and long face. He is a bit more muscular with a larger head. He is reserved with strangers and has a rebellious streak. These traits make early socialization and training essential, especially given his size. This pup requires more attention to grooming his skin. Also, this pooch drools.
19. Cane Corso
The Cane Corso is another of the Mastiff type, with a history going back to the Romans. He had similar jobs as others of this group. The personality of this pup is worth noting. Few dogs can match the fierce loyalty and hence, the protective nature of this breed. As with any giant canine, prospective owners must take an active role early. Like other broad-chested dogs, bloat is a health concern with this one.
The Chihuahua packs a lot of dog in such a little body. He’s feisty and often forgets he’s a toy breed. Brachycephalic conditions are primarily a concern with the so-called apple-headed pups when it seems disproportionately large compared to his torso. Eye and heart issues are other things to know about upfront. However, this dog is long-lived and will provide years of enjoyment.
21. Chinese Shar Pei
The Chinese Shar Pei demands your attention with his unusual body shape and wrinkles. Even his coat feels different, and, thus, his name, which means “sand-skin.” His exact origins are unknown but likely go back thousands of years. He is another example of a dog that is loyal to a fault, making him aloof around strangers. It also explains his propensity for separation anxiety.
22. American Staffordshire Terrier
Few breeds have endured the bad rap that the American Staffordshire Terrier. Research has shown that dogs such as Collies are more likely to be aggressive. This pup is a sweetheart when raised in a loving home. It’s essential to understand that he is muscular and quite strong for a dog of his size. That means early training is critical to establish yourself as the pack leader.
23. Yorkshire Terrier
The Yorkshire Terrier may seem dainty, but you’ll probably describe him differently once you get to know him. He has an unmistakable stubborn streak and an attitude more fitting for a large dog than this member of AKC’s Toy Group. The breed’s history reads like a Cinderella story with rats instead of fireplace ashes. His beautiful coat and cute face have put him in the top 10 dogs for a reason.
24. Tibetan Spaniel
You may not recognize the Tibetan Spaniel at first glance, but you are undoubtedly familiar with his cousin, the Lhasa Apso. This pup is calmer than many breeds of his size. It’s a result of his early history with the Buddhist monks of Tibet. It’s part of what has made this dog such a popular companion animal. Of course, it also helps that he is intelligent and eager to please.
The best way to describe the Newfoundland is sweet. Despite his size, he is probably one of the gentlest dogs you’ll meet. He takes life at a slower pace with his easygoing attitude. He makes training easy with his intelligence and keen responsiveness. This pup also makes an excellent family pet, even if you have small children.
Final Thoughts About Brachycephalic Dogs
As you’ve seen with our lineup, the appearance of these brachycephalic dog breeds varies from extremely noticeable in pups like the Pekingese to those only mildly affected, such as the Yorkshire Terrier. That’ll give you an indication of how likely the risk of complications is. We suggest that you monitor your pet’s health closely and make sure he gets his annual vet exam. It’s the smart way to care for your best friend.
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