In our world of social media, celebrity endorsements, glossy adverts and next day delivery, it doesn’t take long for a trend to catch on. Usually, these trends are military coats, metallic jackets or pleated skirts, but in recent years, an increasingly popular accessory is not the leather handbag, but instead, designer dogs.
Walk into any popular clothing store at the moment, and it is highly likely you will find at least one item depicting a French Bulldog, whether it be a shirt, dress or handbag. Although this new trend may seem harmless, there is a hidden danger behind the seemingly cute accessory.
In recent years, there has been an increase in the popularity of certain, small dog breeds, such as the French bulldog, pug and dachshund. Take a look at the Kennel Club’s annual breed registration numbers. In 2006, the pug took the number 20 space with 2681 dogs registered, and the French bulldog didn’t even make it on the list. Now compare this to 2015, only 9 years on, and the change is dramatic. The French bulldog has raced to the top, taking third place with a staggering 14,607 dogs, and the pug takes 5th place with 10,087.
So, what’s wrong with these dogs increasing in popularity? 2 words. Puppy Farms. A puppy farm (or mill) is an establishment which breeds dogs purely for financial gain, where the mothers and their litters are usually kept in poor, unsuitable conditions and have very little interaction with people, compered to dogs raised with dedicated breeders in a home environment. The mothers churn out as many puppies as their bodies allow before the strain becomes too much, at which point, being no further use to the breeder, they are usually thrown away and abandoned. Puppies from a farm usually suffer from behavioural problems due to a lack of socialisation, genetic illnesses from in-breeding, and diseases or parasites due to lack of vet treatment and medication.
Many prospective dog owners may not know about the dangers of puppy farms, or the do’s and don’ts’s of buying a puppy. Instead of checking rescue shelters or finding a dog through the Kennel Club’s Assured Breeders Scheme, they will take to sites such as Gumtree to try and find their dream dog. A quick search for “French Bulldogs” into “Pets for Sale” on Gumtree comes back with nearly 300 results (Correct as of 30th December 2016), highlighting just how easy it could be for inexperienced owners to unknowingly support the puppy farm industry.
However, puppy farms are not the only problem with these dogs, and in fact, there are many other breeds which also suffer from a common pedigree problem. The very characteristics of the French bulldog and the pug, mainly their square heads and folding skin, are associated with health problems such as Brachycephalic Airway Obstruction Syndrome, where excess tissue in the airways causes a variety of breathing problems, and bacterial infections in skin folds. In fact, the pug is listed with the Kennel Club as being a category three breed.
“These breeds have been considered to be more susceptible to developing specific health conditions associated with exaggerated conformation; in particular problems that involve the eyes, skin, dentition, movement and respiratory function (breathing).” Kennel Club
These health issues mean these beloved dogs are far more likely to die prematurely, as well as costing their owners a lot more than mixed breed dogs.
There is also the problem of dogs being purchased irresponsibly without owners properly considering whether they have the time, money or commitment to look after an animal, especially if they purchase a puppy that could live around 15 years. Buying a dog as a spur of the moment purchase, or people giving a dog as a gift often leads to the dog being resold or in some cases abandoned, which has led to an increase in so called ‘fashionable breeds’ ending up in rescue centres.
Dogs becoming fashion accessories leads to many problems; puppy farms, behavioural problems, medical problems and abandonment. Owning a dog, or indeed any animal, is a big responsibility, and it’s a decision that shouldn’t be rushed. The best place to start is rescue centres, where staff can help pair you up with a dog that suits your lifestyle, a dog that really needs a home.