Imagine if the human population of the UK suddenly disappeared or got wiped out but animals were left untouched; would your dog survive without you? Would they actually prove adept at navigating this strange new human-free world and even thrive, or would they fail to make it through their first winter?
This article will take a theoretical and largely light-hearted look at five dog breeds that wouldn’t survive if left to their own devices in the wild in the UK, and why.
The French bulldog is the UK’s most popular dog breed, and they’re also really expensive to buy. The costs involved in French bulldog ownership don’t end when you take your dog home, however; keeping any dog in a responsible manner (such as investing in preventative healthcare, feeding them a good quality diet and so on) costs more than many first-time dog owners think it will.
However, French bulldogs tend to cost more in vet’s fees over the course of their lifetimes than most other dog breeds, and as a breed, they have what is known as complex health. There are a lot of hereditary and conformation traits that work against the French bulldog when it comes to health and longevity, and many of these same traits mean Frenchies would not as a breed be likely to survive in the wild in a sustainable population of dogs.
Why? French bulldogs might be able to scavenge food, but they’d be competing with far larger and fitter dogs so might not do so well in this respect. In terms of their ability to hunt for food, they’re even less well equipped; they don’t have a huge amount of stamina, a fast running speed, and often have breathing difficulties if they over exert themselves.
They would also struggle to keep up or add value in a pack situation, which relies on teamwork and every dog in the pack bringing something to the table.
But the main reason that the French bulldog breed wouldn’t survive in its current form in the wild is far simpler than any of these things; very few dogs of the breed can reproduce without assistance. The vast majority of Frenchies need assistance to mate, and 85% or more of bitches require delivery by caesarean section. A breed that cannot reproduce in meaningful numbers on its own won’t survive past the initial generation!
The English bulldog is another hugely popular dog breed in the UK, and while they look very different to their Frenchie cousins, they share many of their traits; including many that mean they would be unable in the breed’s current form to survive in sustainable population numbers in the wild.
English bulldogs might well do better holding their own digging through the bins than French bulldogs when it comes to defending something they had scavenged from other dogs; and their guarding tendencies mean they might have a place in a pack, which could help them to survive.
However, as hunters, the English bulldog can’t outrun virtually anything, suffering from the same conformation limitations as the French bulldog.
They’re also not a hugely smart or streetwise breed, and so would not tend to be too good at looking after themselves, although when it comes to defending themselves they would definitely hold their own.
But like the French bulldog, English bulldogs tend to require both mating assistance and caesarean delivery in the vast majority of cases; which means that even if some dogs of the breed survived this theoretical imaginary event that resulted in our pets returning to the wild, they would be unlikely to be able to reproduce and ensure the breed’s survival.
The Chihuahua is the world’s smallest dog breed, and they’re very finely built and delicate; this might then seem like a breed that would very obviously not survive in the wild in the UK. But while the Chihuahua does make the list, they’re not actually as simple an addition as they might seem!
Dogs of the breed might survive in hotter climates better suited to their fine coats than the UK, despite the dog’s small size. Additionally, Chihuahuas were originally used and valued for their skills in keeping rodent populations under control, and so they might do quite well hunting their own small prey.
However, they’re not hardy enough to weather British winters, and their large, domed heads can cause reproductive limitations that would tend to mean the breed could not sustain itself.
The Shih Tzu is a petite toy dog breed that is very pretty to look at as well as high maintenance to own; which does not bode well for a dog theoretically doing well in the wild!
Their coats would soon become matted and not only uncomfortable but also potentially cause them health and functional problems, and they’re not generally thought to be good hunters, nor very street wise. However, Shih Tzus can be good watchdogs albeit not guard dogs, and so if they did manage to form a pack with other breeds, they could fulfil this role in the cooperative.
The pug is the UK’s third most popular breed, and one we commonly see out and about in dog parks. However, in the event of an extinction event that wiped out dog owners, it is unlikely many pugs would survive past the first generation without human care.
They’re not fast runners, they don’t have a lot of stamina, and they’re highly unlikely to be good hunters. While it is not such an acute problem with the pug as for the French and English bulldogs, pugs too sometimes need reproductive assistance at a higher rate than most other breeds.
The pug coat too means that the breed isn’t cold-hardy, and so they would be unlikely to make it through a harsh winter without a pack to keep them warm. That said, they are social and friendly dogs, and might well find a place in a pack that could help them to make it through.