The Pros And Cons Of Long Faced Dogs (dolichocephalic)

Much has been written about flat faced dogs (brachycephalic) in the media, a lot of which is detrimental to the various breeds. But you won’t see much regarding our ‘long snouted friends’, but these dogs do have their own set of problems, as well as some outstanding qualities.

Pointers, scent hounds, irish wolfhounds, greyhounds and whippets, borzois, salukis, afghan hounds, collies, poodles and many more, including groups such as terriers (namely Airedale, Scottish terriers).  Dachshunds also qualify as dolichocephalic. So how do you know if your chosen breed is on the list?

What is the cephalic index?

It doesn’t matter what breed of dog you have, including any cross breeds, all dogs in terms of head and face shape are measured on the cephalic index. Measurements are judged on the width of the head compared to the length of the nose. If your dog has a low cephalic count, it will be considered as dolichocephalic, and likewise, if the count is high on the index, they will be classed as brachycephalic.

A dog with a count below 75 on the scale, is generally considered as dolichocephalic. Wolves are the earliest example of these dogs, with their elongated jawbones giving a pronounced muzzle. Dogs believed to have descended directly from their wolf ancestors such as Alsatians and German Shepherds also fall into this category, as do Siberian Huskies.

There is not a 100% definition despite the scale, but as a rule, the width of the head will be 75% or less of the length on a dolichocephalic breed. With breeding being a complex issue, some dogs may not quite meet the expected levels, whilst others if cross bred, will surprisingly make the scale.


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What are the pros of a dolichocephalic dog?

To a certain extent, their purpose is more specific, in that hunting as a pursuit is more likely, and generally they are physically equipped to the chase. Due to the length of their noses, their sense of smell is usually more pronounced. Another feature is the positioning of their eyes, once again most suited to hunting down unsuspecting prey. However, this doesn’t quite explain the dachshund being in this classification – they are not the speediest of breeds!

One would anticipate that the shape of the nose would determine a dog’s worth for a specific task. Despite numerous scientific tests, this is still not completely proven. However, with bloodhounds having over 500 million scent receptors as an example (a human only as 25 million) no wonder they are better at smelling things that we cannot – everything from food to prey, finding lost people and bodies!

The breeds mentioned earlier also have a good tendency towards just simply being a family dog, able to be left without separation anxiety and less aggressive towards human beings or objects (including other dogs).

Probably their best attribute is they are less likely to suffer from as many ailments as their brachycephalic counterparts, but there are certain illnesses particularly related to nasal problems, that they are more susceptible to, to be discussed in the ‘cons’ section to follow.

What are the cons of a dolichocephalic dog?

Firstly, just to point out whether it matters to you or not, long faced dogs have lost an incredible amount of kudos over the last 10 years, losing out to those that are flat faced, particularly those that have become known as ‘designer dogs’ (French bulldogs are a classic example of this). This isn’t exactly a con, but it has affected their popularity enough for sales to be less prolific than in the past. If you love your dog, or love any of these breeds and are keen on outdoor pursuits, it doesn’t matter, but if you are after popularity stakes, it will.

The most significant fact gained from studies in the US, Canada and New Zealand is that long nosed dogs don’t come out well in the training process, coming lower down than either brachycephalic or mesocephalic (medium head and medium nose). These words are all derived from Ancient Greek, which proves they had dogs around in those days!

In terms of health, they have a reasonable record, but certain issues of nasal problems should be pointed out, but not considered a massive risk. Just like humans, all dogs will have susceptibility towards certain illnesses due to their shape or physiology, but it is worth taking into consideration that due to size of nose, it can cause problems.

What kind of illnesses are dolichocephalic dogs susceptible to?

The most likely illnesses or diseases that long nosed dogs can contract are:

  • Aspergillosis
  • Oronasal fistula
  • Nasal cancer
  • Dog equivalent of ‘the common cold’

All dogs are at risk of aspergillosis, as we know how many places they bury their noses in! Due to the expanse of snout in long nosed dogs, dolichocephalic breeds are obviously going to be more likely to catch a nasal disease. Even humans can catch aspergillosis, as it is found both inside and outside in the form of spores which create mould. If left untreated it can spread into the lungs and other parts of the body. Symptoms are a runny nose, perpetual sneezing and potential nose bleeds which can be heavy, all due to inflammation of the nasal passages. If left untreated, it can cause complications. Early stages are like ‘dog cold’, so diligence is needed.

Another of the worse complications can be damage to the bones in the nose.

An oronasal fistula can be caused by infection and is demonstrated by a hole in the roof of the mouth. If food or other items that your dog picks up by mouth get lodged in the hole, it may be necessary to remove the item and perform surgery to close the hole and prevent any further infection.

With the size of dolichocephalic noses on breeds, it stands to reason that with a larger expanse of area, dogs will be more exposed to pollution or allergies caused by pathogens and carcinogens, resulting potentially in tumour formation. Again, this would need surgery, which is a delicate operation and quite difficult.

Doggie colds – just watch for this and don’t dispense with it just being a cold or rhinitis. It could be the onset of aspergillosis, which needs quick attention.

All in all, dolichocephalic breeds are fun, well behaved and loyal, and don’t come with many health issues at all. Just watch out for their noses!


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