The English bulldog is one of the most instantly recognisable of all dog breeds, and remains very popular in the UK as a virtual symbol of all things British, and a kind of national mascot. However, the English bulldog is also a breed that has changed in conformation and appearance since the breed’s origins to the point that they are almost recognisable today, being shorter, more stocky and flatter faced, often with dental malocclusions or problems with the bite too.
Whilst the breed standard for the English bulldog rejects overtyped or highly exaggerated bulldogs, a significant number of dogs of the breed still suffer from health problems that are either hereditary or connected to their unusual conformation, and which can pose a significant risk to the health and viability of the breed as a whole.
For this reason, the Bulldog Breed Council in the UK introduced a breed council health certification scheme in 2006, which is designed to improve the health of the breed, penalise breeders producing unhealthy dogs and not attempting to improve their breed lines, and to promote responsible ownership and breeding of the English bulldog in perpetuity. The scheme has since been revised to take into account the changing evolution of the bulldog itself and what constitutes desirable breed standards, and is available to the owners of Kennel Club registered pedigree English bulldogs in the UK
In this article, we will look at the Bulldog Breed Council Health Certification Scheme in more detail, including what the scheme does, how it works, and what it means for bulldog owners and potential owners. Read on to learn more.
The aims of the Bulldog Breed Council’s Health Scheme (as stated within their mission statement) are:
The health scheme awards bulldog owners and breeders with one of three levels, depending on how their dogs are assessed, being bronze, silver and gold respectively. A certificate is awarded to each dog at the appropriate level depending on their results, and this certification is strongly advised for any bulldog breeder, and particularly those enrolled in The Kennel Club’s Assured Breeder scheme.
The health assessment required for certification must be carried out by a vet that is approved by the Bulldog Breed Council, and as well as a copy of the results being provided to the dog’s owner, a copy is also registered with the Bulldog Breed Council’s health coordinator, and one retained by the examining vet.
In order to receive bronze certification, dogs must fulfil the following criteria:
The dog will then be measured and weighed, and undergo a full non-invasive examination of the eyes, breathing structure, heart, muzzle, eyes, skin, spine and tail and patella, as well as the legs and temperament, with each different element returning a binary result of pass or fail.
If the dog is found to have any heart abnormality, spinal malformation or eye conditions that are considered to be detrimental to the dog’s health, a certificate cannot be issued; and vitally, if the dog’s temperament is considered inappropriate or if the dog shows any signs of aggression, they will be rejected as well.
Appeals and grey areas can be taken before the Bulldog Breed Council for consideration, and this is performed anonymously without any identifying details for the dog or owner provided.
Silver certification is the next level up, and in order to be given silver certification, the dog must first of all have received their bronze certificate.
As well as meeting the criteria of the bronze award, the dog will also need to undergo a specialist, non-invasive eye examination, and received a grade of zero or one in the Putman Test (a grading system for the dog’s patella) and to be DNA tested for the presence of hypouricosuria, returning a status of either clear or carrier (but not affected).
Additionally, the tail of the dog will be assessed and must be problem-free, with an inverted or missing tail leading to a fail at silver level.
Whilst the Bulldog Breed Council plans to introduce a gold level certification scheme, the parameters for this test have yet to be determined, and so currently the silver award is the highest level of the scheme.
If you breed or show English bulldogs, having them assessed as part of the scheme can be very valuable in terms of ensuring that you choose the right breeding match, and produce healthy puppies. This provides an additional layer of peace and mind for buyers of your pups, and also reflects your own commitment to breed improvement.
Additionally, whilst having one of your dogs fail to meet the certification standards can be distressing, it can also be informative and helpful in its own way-such as by helping you to avoid an inappropriate mating match, and allowing you to tackle any health or conformation problems found.
In order to get your own English bulldog assessed, first of all you need to purchase a certificate from the Bulldog Breed Council using their online form, and then book your assessment with an approved vet. Take the certificate along to the assessment with you (the certificate is provided in triplicate) and then send the middle copy back to the Bulldog Breed Council for entry on the database.
Once the database has been updated, your dog’s results will appear within the Council’s health results list, often used by puppy buyers and breeders to search for healthy dogs for sale or stud.