Flat-Faced Dog Breeds 101
Written by Ella White
Flat-faced, or Brachycephalic, dogs are some of the best loved breeds in America. From adorable French Bulldogs and Pugs to imposing Boxers and Bulldogs, these short-snouted pups have seen increased popularity thanks to their wrinkled faces that make them hard not to love.
But owners of Brachycephalic dogs should be aware of the extra care their pets might need as a result of their cute, flat faces. Here, we’ll look at all the brachycephalic dog breeds and how to look after them.
The Most Popular Brachycephalic Dog Breeds
The fun, loyal, and friendly Affenpinscher makes a brilliant family pet. They love their people, are great with children, and their small size means they can fit easily into almost any household.
They can experience breathing problems in hot weather and should be kept in the shade, but otherwise are healthy pets that need moderate exercise and are happy to play by themselves.
Boxers are beloved for their loyal and energetic nature, which makes them a perfect match for active families that spend lots of time outdoors. They’re fun and often goofy, but when they’re not playing Boxers are alert and intelligent.
Boxers make excellent pets as they’re affectionate with their owners and love children. But they are prone to some health conditions including hip dysplasia, some cancers, heart conditions, thyroid deficiency, and degenerative myelopathy. They also don’t cope with extreme high or low temperatures.
The muscular Bulldog has been a popular pet for decades. Loyal, affectionate, and easy-going, they make wonderful pets for families that can give them regular exercise and a healthy diet to control their weight – as they can gain pounds easily if their calories aren’t controlled!
Bulldogs are especially susceptible to overheating in hot weather. They should always be kept indoors in the heat of summer and never left in the car alone. If you notice their tongue has gone blue rather than pink, help them to cool down by soaking in cold water with ice.
Because the Bulldog is often loud in its breathing, snoring, and when moving in general, it can be harder for owners to spot when this is an indication of breathing issues. So owners of Bulldogs should be fully aware of the possible conditions relating to Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS) that leads to respiratory distress.
4. Brussels Griffon
Don’t let the tiny size of the Brussels Griffon fool you – they have a huge personality that can sometimes seem almost human. Fun and affectionate, they make playful pets. But they’re also alert and intelligent, making them an easier breed to train.
The Brussels Griffon is prone to some eye and heart conditions as well as luxating patella and hip dysplasia. Like all flat-faced breeds, they can struggle with their breathing especially in hot weather. And while they sleep, they’re likely to snore.
The imposing Bullmastiff is one of the largest brachycephalic dog breeds. Often used as guard dogs, they have strong loyal and protective instincts. Intelligent and alert, they require socialization and training from an early age. But they’re also wonderful household pets that are loving and affectionate with their family including children.
Their large, heavy build means they can be prone to joint issues like dysplasia as well as hypothyroidism and heart conditions. Like many flat-faced dogs, the wrinkles in their face can collect oil and debris and cause infections around the eyes, so owners should be careful to clean their Bullmastiff’s skin regularly.
6. Boston Terriers
The popular Boston Terrier loves to be with people, and their small size makes them easy companions even in smaller living spaces. Boston Terriers are lively and energetic despite their stature so are best suited to owners than can give them plenty of exercise. They’re also curious creatures that love to explore the outdoors.
Boston Terriers are prone to eye conditions and irritation in the wrinkled skin of their face. They can also struggle to breathe in hot weather so should always have access to shade and water. Brachycephalic dog breeds are prone to Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS), and popular breeds like the Boston Terrier are often bred specifically for their adorable flat face, which can exacerbate the issue.
Owners should be aware of symptoms of issues like obstructed airways and other respiratory distress, including excessive difficulty breathing or louder breathing than usual.
7. Cane Corso
The Cane Corso dates back to the Roman Empire where they were used as guard dogs, as many still are today. They are confident, protective, and loyal but can also be playful and affectionate at home. Early training and socialization is essential for Cane Corsos, as their willful personalities can become hard to control. The Cane Corso is also large and muscular, requiring plenty of exercise with owners that can keep up with their energy levels.
Overall, Cane Corsos are healthy dogs that are prone to few health conditions. However, large muscular breeds can develop hip and elbow dysplasia in their joints, and bloat in their stomachs. Owners should also check their eyes and ears regularly to avoid infections.
8. Chow Chow
Fluffball Chow Chows date back to early Chinese empires and are best known for their blue-black tongue. Though often aloof with strangers, this loyal breed is affectionate and loving with their own family – but needs plenty of early training and socialization.
Chow Chows are generally healthy dogs that need moderate exercise. They can be prone to eye issues like entropion, and like many larger breeds they can develop joint issues like dysplasia.
9. Dogue de Bordeaux
The giant Dogue de Bordeaux is loyal and intelligent, making them one of the easiest breeds to train. Highly active, this mastiff breed needs plenty of exercise and mental stimulation. But don’t let their energy levels and protective instincts fool you into thinking they’re scary. They make loving and affectionate pets.
They’re known for being the breed with the largest head, and their size can also make them susceptible to joint issues, heart conditions, bloat, and some cancers.
10. French Bulldog
Fast becoming one of the most popular dog breeds in the USA, the French Bulldog – or Frenchie – is recognizable by its flat face and large bat-like ears. Adaptable, easy-going, and easy to train, the Frenchie has become especially popular with busy, city-dwelling families as they’re happy to go along with whatever their owner is up to.
Their front-heavy stature means that French Bulldogs can’t swim and should never be left alone near water. Their squashed snouts also mean they are more likely to suffer from a range of respiratory issues including BOAS, and are not well suited to hot or humid climates that make it harder for them to breathe. Frenches are also prone to eye conditions like entropion, cherry eye, and cataracts.
11. Japanese Chin
Known for their gorgeous silky coat, the Japanese Chin was bred as a lapdog. Their big eyes and flat faces make them an adorable and endearing breed, and their quiet nature makes them easy to live with. Japanese Chins get on well with other dogs and thrive off the affection of their owners.
Japanese Chins are generally healthy dogs, though they are prone to cataracts and luxating patellas. If you’re buying a Japanese Chin from a breeder, do your research and make sure they are reputable, as the breed can be genetically predisposed to GM2 gangliosidosis, a fatal neurological condition. Dogs known to carry this disease should not be bred from.
12. Lhasa Apso
The regal Lhasa Apso dates back thousands of years, when they were bred in the Himalayas as guardians in palaces and monasteries. Their proud, confident, and alert nature lives on in their modern descendants who can be aloof with strangers. Their luxurious coat needs plenty of grooming but otherwise this small, loving breed makes an easy-to-care-for family pet.
The only major health concern affecting Lhasa Apsos is a genetic kidney dysfunction that can be inherited at varying degrees of severity. Owners should also look out for dry eye, cherry eye, retinal atrophy, and hip dysplasia.
An ancient Chinese lapdog, the Pekingese is recognizable by its coat which is longest around the neck, its rolling gait, and its cute flat face that’s wider than it is long. Though small, the Peke is confident and independent, and has been used throughout history as a watchdog. With their family they are loving and affectionate though with strangers they can be disinterested.
The face of the Pekingese is so wide and flat that it doesn't act as an effective barrier to protect their eyes. This means they’re more at risk of eye irritation or injury. Where possible, select a Pekingese with a medium sized nose with wide, open nostrils to prevent any difficulties breathing that might be caused by their flat muzzle.
The Pekingese’s long, thick coat also means the breed prefers cooler temperatures. Avoid heat, and consider investing in ice packs or cooling pillows to allow your Peke an extra level of comfort.
Another ancient Chinese breed, the Pug was the pet of emperors, which might be where they develop their persona as entertainers. Expressive and playful, Pugs love the attention of their owners and can often be mischievous as a result.
Pugs can suffer from the conditions associated with brachycephalic breeds like BOAS, so owners should be aware of symptoms and always avoid hot weather conditions. Pugs are also prone to some eye conditions like corneal ulcers and dry eye.
15. Shih Tzu
The loyal and loving Shih Tzu is another ancient Chinese breed that was bred to live among royals in their palaces – but these days they get on just as well in small apartments. Friendly and calm, they get on well with children and other animals and are happy to relax on the sofa with you for hours.
Like all flat-faced breeds the Shih Tzu can suffer from breathing difficulties and is not well suited to hot weather. They are also unable to swim and should be kept away from water. Shih Tzu are prone to blinking improperly which can lead to inflammation in the eyes. They’re also susceptible to other eye conditions including cataracts, dry eye, progressive retinal atrophy, and retinal detachment.