What are the UK’s most popular brachycephalic dog breeds, and why?

What are the UK’s most popular brachycephalic dog breeds, and why?

Breed Facts

Whilst not everyone in the UK (including many dog lovers) are familiar with the term “brachycephalic”, brachycephalic dogs are really popular today, and some of the country’s best-loved and most commonly seen dog breeds have brachycephalic faces.

Brachycephalic dogs are dogs with flatter than normal faces, which also comes accompanied by a shortened muzzle and soft palate and often, prominent or protruding eyes too.

Whilst not every dog lover appreciates the brachycephalic look, many have a real soft spot for dog breeds with those unique flat faces, and every year, tens of thousands of puppy buyers pick a dog from a brachycephalic breed as their pet of choice.

However, brachycephalic dogs inherit more than just an unusual facial conformation and unique looks, and extremely brachycephalic traits can in some cases result in health problems in the dogs that exhibit them.

This is something that any prospective buyer of a brachycephalic dog needs to understand and learn about in detail before making a purchase, and this can make all the difference between choosing a happy, healthy pup that is fit for life, and one that may be plagued with a lifetime of expensive health problems.

If you are thinking of buying a brachycephalic dog, there are a great many options to choose from, and brachycephalic dogs are becoming ever-more popular year on year, and are now a very common sight in the UK.

However, if you’re not sure what dog breeds are classed as brachycephalic and how to identify a dog of a brachycephalic breed when you see one, narrowing down your options to find the right breed can be difficult.

Often, the dog breeds that are most commonly seen and most in demand with other buyers are those that posses a lot of versatile traits that make them desirable to many different types of owners, and this means that they might be the right pick for you too.

Naturally just because a certain dog is the right fit for someone else doesn’t mean that it will necessarily be the right choice for you. But knowing what dogs are in the greatest demand can provide you with a good starting point to learn more about brachycephalic dog breeds in general, and the individual traits of some of the breeds that you might want to consider.

That said, ask any group of dog owners what type of brachycephalic dogs are the best or the most popular and you would probably return with a range of different answers that won’t be much help – and there is an easier way to go about things!

Pets4Homes is the UK’s largest and most popular pet classifieds website, and we host more adverts for dogs of all types for sale than any other pet website in the UK. This provides us with exclusive access to real data that enables us to build up a definitive picture of the popularity of different dog breeds compared to others of a similar type, to determine the most popular breeds in the UK overall.

With this in mind, we’ve drawn up a list of the five most popular brachycephalic dog breeds in the UK, along with a range of valuable information about each of them including their average prices, the number of dogs advertised each year, and the popularity of pedigree versus non-pedigree dogs of each breed.

Within this comprehensive brachycephalic popularity guide we’ll begin by explaining in more detail what makes a brachycephalic dog, the special considerations to bear in mind when choosing a dog of a brachycephalic breed, and how we determined the popularity ranking. Finally, we’ll share the popularity list itself.

Read on to learn more about the most popular brachycephalic dog breeds in the UK.

What is a brachycephalic dog?

A brachycephalic dog is one that exhibits a visible physical trait called brachycephaly, and this means that the shape of the dog’s head and skull is shorter than the norm for the animal species in question. The “norm” is considered to relate to the species as a whole, being dogs in this case; rather than the expected or common appearance of a dog of a specific breed. Some brachycephalic dogs may have a protruding lower jaw that is noticeably longer than their upper jaw, due to the shortness of the dog’s soft palate.

The word “brachycephalic” comes from the Greek language, and translated literally, means “short head,” which is much easier to understand for most of us!

Brachycephaly occurs in the first instance due to genetic mutations, which can develop naturally in individual dogs of any breed as an unusual anomaly – and in fact, the presence of such anomalies in some breeds has become so widely spread from the first presentations of the condition as to have become the breed norm, and recognised as present or desirable within the breed standard.

The extent of brachycephaly in any given dog can be variable, and this results in different degrees of acuteness to the flatness of individual dog’s faces. Selective breeding to reproduce and reinforce these traits, or even to make them more extreme, is how brachycephaly becomes established within a breed.

Dogs with brachycephalic faces have a flattened appearance to the front of their faces which can be most clearly viewed side on in profile, and they have shortened muzzles as well. Brachycephaly affects the development of the dog’s entire skull, and results in the skull being wider in shape and shorter in length than the norm.

The appearance of a dog with a brachycephalic face can be very variable from breed to breed, and even across dogs of the same breed, with the level of flatness or exaggeration and the structure of the eyes and the dome of the skull all being variable too.

Brachycephaly is a spectrum of appearances rather than one cookie-cutter shape, and how this manifests in different breeds can be variable. Some dog breeds that few of us would immediately identify as brachycephalic are considered to fall within the brachycephalic scale, whilst in other breeds, this trait is almost always self-evident.

The appearance that brachycephaly creates can produce a dog with very large-looking or prominent eyes that are widely set within a rounded face, which gives them almost the appearance of a human baby that pulls on the heart strings and is considered attractive by many dog lovers.

Brachycephalic faces can also result in the dog’s nostrils being narrower than normal, or pinched together providing little room for the dog to inhale and exhale without mouth breathing, and brachycephaly can result in a range of health problems for some dogs that inherit the trait.

Brachycephalic dog breeds get a lot of attention in the media as a whole and within dog circles in particular, with organisations ranging from the British Veterinary Association to the Kennel Club to the Blue Cross sharing information on such breeds, and cautioning prospective buyers about the potential problems that can accompany brachycephaly.

To further compound matters, whilst brachycephaly affects the face and head rather than the conformation as a whole, some of our best-loved brachycephalic breeds also inherit other traits that can impact upon their health in other areas of the body too. This, in combination with brachycephaly, make choosing such a dog quite a gamble if you’re not well informed about the issues they can cause, and the other unrelated breed-specific health challenges that may be present within brachycephalic dogs.

Brachycephalic dog health

It would be irresponsible to talk about brachycephalic dog breeds and their popularity with puppy buyers without shining a spotlight on the health of brachycephalic dogs as a whole and more specifically, how the trait of brachycephaly can impact individual dogs.

The health of brachycephalic dogs is a really hot topic amongst dog owners, breeders, vets and formal organisations like the Kennel Club, and whilst just because a dog is brachycephalic doesn’t necessarily mean they will inherit health problems, it does increase the risks – particularly if the flatness of the face is very exaggerated.

What do we mean by an exaggerated face?

As mentioned earlier on, brachycephaly isn’t so much a binary yes or no issue, but rather a spectrum or sliding scale determined by the shape of the skull, degree of flatness of the face, and the acuteness of the traits that this causes. The spectrum often varies a lot between individual dogs of the same breed, and more so, from breed to breed.

When we talk about exaggeration in this context, we are talking about the degree of flatness of the dog’s face, with a dog that is only mildly brachycephalic being referred to as moderate, and one with a very flat face being referred to as exaggerated.

A brachycephalic dog whose face is considered to be very exaggerated is apt to have a face that when viewed in profile, is almost completely flat with the nose protruding only a little if at all, and such dogs are also apt to have very prominent eyes, a very short muzzle and soft palate, protruding lower jaw, and narrow nostrils.

A very moderate brachycephalic dog, on the other hand, might not even appear to be brachycephalic at all at first glance unless you are very familiar with the breed in question.

Understanding what is meant be exaggeration and the degree of exaggeration is vital for prospective buyers of brachycephalic dogs, because the level of exaggeration present is directly correlated to the potential risk of health problems associated with the trait.

Judging the degree of exaggeration to choose a healthy dog

Identifying the degree to which any given brachycephalic dog’s face is exaggerated is the key to choosing a puppy that has the best possible chances of being healthy, and you can do this by picking a dog with a moderate face and build and avoiding those with exaggerations in one or more areas.

The degree of exaggeration of a dog’s face can be very variable, and within some breeds, exaggerations are so prevalent as to have become more or less the norm, or are considered to be highly desirable, despite the health problems that can accompany them.

It is a better idea to judge the degree of exaggeration based on the healthy norms for dogs as a species rather than compared to other dogs of the breed in question for this reason.

In order to learn to judge how brachycephalic a dog is, you need to take into account several factors and be able to assess them objectively. Looking at pictures of dogs and of course, dogs that you see out and about can help, and over time you will begin to get a feel for a moderate face versus a highly exaggerated one.

Dogs with very exaggerated faces will tend to have several or all of the following traits, and each trait individually should be considered carefully, because an exaggeration in just one area even if the others are moderate can still have a significant impact on health:

  • Viewed in profile from the side, the dog’s nose appears almost flush to the face, or even completely flat. The longer the nose protrudes, the more moderate the dog’s face is.
  • Viewed from the front, the dog’s nostrils will be very narrow, and appear pinched or even closed. Such dogs are likely to breathe nosily or wheeze after even light exertion.
  • Significant skin folds around the face (referred to as “nose ropes” within some breeds like the English bulldog) can occlude the muzzle and nostrils, and are considered to be an exaggeration.
  • The dog’s eyes will appear particularly large or prominent and protruding, and their eyelids may appear to turn inwards or outwards in some cases too.
  • The dog’s ears may be deeply set with noticeable folds of skin or pockets at the bases.
  • The dog’s skull will be very wide and highly domed, looking out of proportion with the rest of their conformation.
  • The dog may have crowded teeth, dental problems, a very uneven bite, or even be unable to close their mouth fully.
  • Very exaggerated dogs will often breathe noisily most of the time, will commonly snore, and may pant more than normal or show other signs of being unable to get enough air.

When you’re viewing a litter for sale, it can be hard to tell what the pups’ heads and builds will look like when they are fully grown and so, the level of exaggeration that they will display. For this reason it is vitally important to asses the parent dogs to get an idea of the traits their pups have inherited, and for brachycephalic breeds in particular it is worth making a special request to view the litter’s sire as well as the dam for this reason.

You should also talk to the breeder about the health of their dogs in general, any issues within their breed lines, and if any of their dogs have had problems due to the shape of their faces or have had to have surgery to correct an acute issue.

How we determined the popularity order of our brachycephalic dog breeds

Now that we’ve explained in more detail what constitutes a brachycephalic dog and added a caution on brachycephalic dog health and exaggerations, we’ll explain how we determined what dog breeds to count within the brachycephalic dog breeds popularity list, and how we calculated their respective rankings.

What counts as a brachycephalic dog breed?

As we’ve referenced a couple of times already, brachycephaly isn’t so much a binary trait where the dog either is or is not brachycephalic, but more of a spectrum that is judged on a sliding scale. Some dogs breeds are considered to exhibit a degree of brachycephaly to a very mild extent, to the point that many people do not know that they are brachycephalic at all and their appearance doesn’t make this self-evident – like the Staffordshire bull terrier.

Due to this, we have only considered breeds that are undeniably brachycephalic and are universally recognised a such, and discounted breeds that the vast majority of well informed dog lovers would not consider to share the trait; which are also breeds that are almost never associated with any health issues within individual dogs as a result of their head shapes.

Our selection criteria includes dogs that have an obviously flattened face and other key brachycephalic traits to some extent, and not breeds that are borderline or questionable in terms of their inclusion or recognition.

How we ranked brachycephalic dog breeds by popularity in the UK

Pets4Homes is the UK’s largest and most heavily trafficked dedicated pet classifieds website, and we host more adverts for dogs for sale every year than any other website.

By collating information from the adverts placed here by people selling dogs and puppies, we can build up a picture of the trends within different dog breeds and breed types, based on the number of adverts placed each year, their pricing, and the type of dogs offered for sale.

The information we collate is exclusive to Pets4Homes and you won’t find it anywhere else – and it is important to bear in mind that our position as the largest pet classifieds website allows us to provide an accurate snapshot of the current state of play and dog sale trends in the UK, but does not reflect a comprehensive analysis of the wider market for sales via other portals.

We use real information supplied to the site by advertisers to determine the popularity ranking of the various brachycephalic dog breeds, such as the breed in question, their pedigree status, and asking price.

This information allows us to collate listings of dogs in popularity order based on metrics such as breed type, size type, or another shared trait like brachycephaly – which is what we have done here.

We have only considered dog breeds that are recognised by the Kennel Club in the UK as eligible for pedigree registration here, but we have included both pedigree and non-pedigree adverts for dogs of these breeds to determine the total figures.

How to interpret the brachycephalic dog breeds popularity list

To create the 2019 brachycephalic dog breeds popularity list, we’ve worked with the full year’s data collated over 2018, being the most up-to-date full set of data we have available.

We’ve then ranked the brachycephalic breeds in reverse order from five to one, based on the total number of adverts placed for each breed over the course of 2018. One thing that it is important to understand is that our figures are exactly that – the number of adverts placed within the given timeframe, and not the actual exact number of individual dogs.

This is because most puppy sellers will use just one advert to showcase all of the pups within the same litter, instead of placing individual adverts for each of them. For this reason, we refer to “number of adverts for dogs and litters” within our list to outline the hard figures, and the list is best viewed as an accurate if broad snapshot of each breed’s popularity in relation to each other, rather than as a definitive assessment of the number of dogs of each breed around to buy at any given time.

Supporting information

As well as the popularity ranking of brachycephalic breeds that we’ll provide, we will also provide a number of other unique and exclusive insights into each breed too, sharing information that can be hard for prospective puppy buyers to find, but that is very useful if you can access it.

This includes the average asking prices for dogs of each breed based on the information submitted by their advertisers, the split between pedigree and non-pedigree dog numbers, and the pricing difference between the pedigree versus non-pedigree offerings for each breed.

To ensure that the pricing information we supply is meaningful to prospective buyers, we’ve installed some parameters to ensure that our averages are accurate. To do this, we discounted brachycephalic dogs that were advertised for free or with no price stated, and dogs advertised at under £100 or over £8,000 respectively to ensure that errors and obvious anomalies do not artificially skew the true picture.

Finally, knowing what brachycephalic breeds are the most popular in the UK today is of limited use to prospective puppy buyers unless they can also determine why such breeds are popular, and what makes them in such demand with prospective buyers.

In order to ensure that our information is truly useful to people trying to choose a brachycephalic dog breed, we’ve also shared details on what makes the top five breeds so popular, why so many people chose them, and the core traits that each breed possesses – both the good and the bad!

Finally, we’ll also include mention of which Kennel Club umbrella group each breed falls within too, to provide some direction on finding out more about the traits of different dog types.

With this all explained, here is the list of the five most popular brachycephalic dog breeds in the UK in 2019, presented in reverse order.

Number 5: The Pomeranian

The Pomeranian is a small, fluffy and rather feisty small dog breed of the spitz type, which is notable for its proud stance and prolific fur! The Pomeranian breed as a whole is one of the more moderate brachycephalics with a delicate face that is rarely highly exaggerated, although there are exceptions.

Facts and figures

  • The Pomeranian is the 5th most popular brachycephalic dog breed in the UK for 2019, based on the number of adverts for dogs and litters placed on Pets4Homes in 2018.
  • The Pomeranian is also the 12th most popular dog breed in the UK overall.
  • Over the course of 2018, a total number of 3,595 adverts for Pomeranian dogs and puppies were advertised for sale on Pets4Homes.
  • The average asking price for Pomeranians in the UK for 2019 is £1,059 per dog.
  • Of the total number of Pomeranian adverts placed here in 2018, 1,007 of them were for Kennel Club registered pedigree dogs.
  • The remaining 2,588 adverts making up the total were for unregistered or non-pedigree Pomeranian dogs and litters.
  • The average asking price for pedigree Pomeranians in 2019 is £1,536 each.
  • The average asking price for non-pedigree Pomeranians in 2019 is £887 each.
  • The Pomeranian dog falls within the Kennel Club’s toy dog group.

The Pomeranian’s personality and popularity

The Pomeranian is a petite dog breed that is classed as a toy dog, and these small and very affectionate little dogs make for excellent lapdogs and companions for many owners. Dogs of the breed have Spitz dog origins and display these in miniature, with their plush, very dense fur, small pointed ears, curled tails, and proud stance.

The Pomeranian has a fine build under all that fur, with a muzzle that is petite delicate, with a notable dome to the head and large, bright eyes.

Pomeranians are one of the smaller brachycephalic dog breeds, weighing on average no more than 2.5kg and standing between 13-28cm tall.

Pomeranians are not just popular brachycephalic dogs, but popular in general, being the 12th most populous breed advertised on Pets4Homes in 2018 based on advert numbers. They are also a fairly expensive dog breed to buy despite their small size, with the breed’s average being over £1,000 and the average for pedigree dogs being particularly high at over £1,500 each.

Non-pedigree dogs of the breed cost a little less on average at just under the £900 mark, but this is overall one of the most expensive brachycephalic breeds to buy, and reflects the likelihood that demand for dogs of the breed potentially exceeds the current level of supply.

In terms of the Pomeranian breed’s health and how acutely they are apt to suffer from health issues as a result of their brachycephaly, Pomeranians have an average lifespan of around 12-16 years, and they’re not one of the breeds that tends to have a high population of dogs suffering from the ill effects of facial exaggerations.

However, syringomyelia and Chiari-like malformation of the skull can result in a number of painful and debilitating health issues in some dogs of the breed, which are painful and have a serious impact on the dog’s quality of life, and so this in particular is something to look out for and research in more detail if you are considering buying a Pomeranian.

The Pomeranian is quite a versatile toy dog for many reasons, and this versatility helps to ensure that they appeal to a broad range of different types of owners, further ensuring and cementing their popularity.

First of all, their small size makes them a viable choice for lots of different types of owners, regardless of the size of their home. The breed as a whole also tends to be good with children, not overly challenging to exercise, and able to be left alone at home for moderate periods of time without becoming destructive.

Another advantage of the breed is that they’re actually one of the smarter dog breeds, and despite being classed as a toy breed, fall in 28th place out of a total number of almost 140 different dog breeds on the Coren scale of dog breeds ranked by working intelligence. This means that Pomeranians can often learn and retain a wide range of different commands, and can learn tricks too!

One potential downside to the breed is caring for their incredibly dense fur coats, and even parting the coat right down to the skin can be a challenge as it is just so thick and plush. This means that dogs of the breed need to be brushed and groomed on a more or less daily basis to keep their skin and coats healthy and in good condition, and to prevent knots and mats from forming.

Despite this, Pomeranians are not actually a particularly heavy shedding dog breed, and although they are apt to shed more fur than normal in the spring and autumn, this is not usually excessive at other times of the year.

There is a lot to recommend the Pomeranian to prospective owners of a new brachycephalic dog – their size makes them versatile, they’re not hugely challenging to exercise, they’re smart, and they tend to be loving and nicely mannered – and they’re also not prone to having highly exaggerated flat faces.

However, the Pomeranian is an expensive dog breed to buy, and their coats do need a lot of attention – and like all brachycephalic breeds, you must never lose sight of the potential risk of conformation issues.

Pomeranians are also a breed that is generally considered to be a good choice for even a first-time dog owner, and one that tends to be a pleasure to have around.

Number 4: The Shih Tzu

The Shih Tzu is a petite, very regal-looking small dog breed whose coat grows incredibly long if left to its own devices, and which can reach all the way to the floor and even cover the dog’s face if it is not tied up out of the way!

Facts and figures

  • The Shih Tzu is the 4th most popular brachycephalic dog breed in the UK for 2019, based on the number of adverts placed on Pets4Homes in 2018.
  • The Shih Tzu is also the 9th most popular dog breed in the UK overall.
  • During 2018, a total number of 5,737 adverts were placed on Pets4Homes for Shih Tzu dogs and puppies for sale in the UK.
  • The average asking price for Shih Tzus in the UK in 2019 is £558 per dog.
  • Of the total number of Shih Tzu adverts hosted here in 2018, 1,003 of them were for Kennel Club registered pedigree dogs and litters.
  • The remaining 4,734 dogs and litters making up the total were for unregistered or non-pedigree Shih Tzu dogs and litters.
  • The average asking price for pedigree Shih Tzus in 2019 is £785 each.
  • The average asking price for non-pedigree Shih Tzus in 2019 is £510 each.
  • The Shih Tzu is included within the Kennel Club’s utility dog group.

The Shih Tzu’s personality and popularity

The Shih Tzu is a petite and very distinctive looking dog with a delicate build and naturally long, flowing coat, and the breed’s size and appearance alone often leads many people to assume that this is another toy dog breed. However, the Shih Tzu actually held a historical working role in their native China, where they lived alongside of Buddhist monks and served as sentinels and watchdogs on the monastery walls, barking to alert their handlers of any approach or threat.

This warrants the Shih Tzu’s inclusion within the utility dog group, which encompasses dog breeds with a historical but not usually current working purpose.

The appearance of individual Shih Tzus can be quite variable – the long, straight flowing coat we mentioned earlier on is the natural appearance of the breed, but many owners of pet Shih Tzus prefer to have the fur clipped off much shorter, so that it is more practical and easy to manage – and which can confuse the uninitiated at a glance!

The Shih Tzu is a hugely popular brachycephalic dog breed and one that can once more be quite variable in terms of the degree of flatness or exaggeration to the faces of individual dogs of the breed. Whilst this is not a breed that is commonly bred for a very flat face, these dogs do have fine, delicate muzzles and bones in general, and just a light degree of exaggeration may have quite a significant impact.

Additionally, problems with the bite and dentition and particularly, a very undershot lower jaw and dental overcrowding related to the brachycephalic trait can be seen in a reasonable number of dogs of the breed.

Shih Tzus tend to be hardy and healthy dogs despite their delicate build, with an average lifespan of anywhere from 10 and 16 years. Like all pedigree dog breeds, there are a number of health conditions that present more commonly within this breed than most others, but the key brachycephalic health issues that cause the largest problems aren’t overly common across the breed population as a whole.

One thing you might notice in particular from our Shih Tzu facts and figures is that non-pedigree dogs of the breed outnumber pedigrees in advert numbers by well over four to one, which is quite an unusual split and indicates that most Shih Tzu buyers are simply seeking a good pet, rather than a dog to show or breed from.

The average advertised price of Shih Tzus is quite low too, being £558 per dog, which is rather below the norm even for small dog breeds. However, the proportion of non-pedigree adverts compared to pedigree adverts helps to lower the overall average, and pedigree dogs of the breed tend to have pricing more in line with equivalent small dog breeds, being around the £785 mark.

The reasonably low prices across the breed as a whole indicates that there are plenty of Shih Tzus available for sale at any given time, and that supply might outweigh demand to an extent, although less so for pedigree specimens.

So, why is the Shih Tzu such a popular brachycephalic dog breed? The fact that they’re quite competitive to buy certainly helps here, and means that few people will be priced out of choosing a Shih Tzu themselves.

Like the Pomeranian, the Shih Tzu’s small size opens up the range of homes that they suit and makes them more viable for some people than a larger dog, and the fact that the breed tends to make for good watchdogs (although not guard dogs) is important for some people too, although Shih Tzus can be somewhat yappy and vocal as a result of this!

The Shih Tzu coat in its full flowing beauty often attracts people to the breed too, but this type of coat is quite high maintenance and requires daily brushing and grooming and regular baths, which is why a great many people who own pet Shih Tzus prefer to have their dog’s coats clipped instead. The breed doesn’t shed a huge amount regardless of their coat length, and so this is another point in their favour too.

Shih Tzus can be quite playful and feisty, but they tend to expend lots of energy in short bursts between periods of rest, and so they’re not a hugely challenging breed to provide with walks. A couple of brisk, half hour long walks each day is usually perfectly sufficient.

There are a few potential downsides to the breed too, depending on what you are looking for from your dog – they can be somewhat unpredictable with younger children and strangers, and need to be properly socialised and taught appropriate behaviour from an early age.

The breed is also not hugely intelligent and can be quite stubborn and wilful, which can make training doubly challenging as it can be hard to tell if the dog doesn’t understand what you are asking of them, or is just ignoring you!

The Shih Tzu might be the right choice of brachycephalic dog for you as long as you are prepared to do plenty of research into the breed’s health and the implications of choosing a brachycephalic dog, and understand their care requirements and core traits.

If you are considering buying a Shih Tzu, don’t rush into a decision, and talk to any breeder you are considering in detail about the health and temperament of their breed lines.

Number 3: The English bulldog

The English bulldog is of course one of the best-known dog breeds in the UK, and one that most dog lovers would instantly recognise as a brachycephalic breed.

Facts and figures

  • The English bulldog is the 3rd most popular brachycephalic dog breed in the UK for 2019, based on the number of English bulldog adverts placed one Pets4Homes in 2018.
  • The English bulldog is also the 7th most popular dog breed in the UK overall for 2019.
  • Over the course of 2018, a total number of 8,288 adverts were placed
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