It’s astounding to believe a tiny 4-lb. Chihuahua and a hulking 150-lb. Great Dane are the same species. But despite their differences in size, their general behaviors are the same – right?
Not so fast. Scientists studied the link between head shape and behavior, publishing their results in the journal PLOS ONE (Public Library of Science), and the findings may surprise you!
They found that dogs with a brachycephalic head shape (aka snub-nosed dogs like Boxers, Pugs and Bulldogs) were more affectionate than longer-nosed dogs, and that they were more aggressive to strangers.
Now, I don’t need a scientist to convince me that I’m more likely to get bitten by a Bulldog on my exam table than a Pit Bull, but I was surprised by the data that showed short-nosed dogs are the most affectionate dogs out of the 60,000 dogs (and 45 dog breeds) in the study.
This (and their cuteness, of course!) may explain the popularity of brachycephalic breeds. When you stop to consider the added expense of caring for some of these breeds combined with their (on average) shorter life spans, you may be left wondering why anyone would choose a brachycephalic breed to begin with.
That’s because brachycephalic breeds, like French Bulldogs, English Bulldogs, Pugs, Boxers and Pekingese, are all prone to health problems that stem from their unusual anatomy. The very conformation that makes them so unique contributes to respiratory problems so severe that they may impact the poor dog’s quality of life.
The dogs’ shortened airways lead to a narrowed trachea, closed off nostrils and redundant soft tissue in the throat; all of which make it extremely hard for brachycephalic dogs to breathe normally. Corrective surgeries improve airflow, but do a number on a pet parent’s wallet.
Once the airway is corrected, you’re left dealing with skin problems (allergies, skin fold pyoderma), eye problems (dry eye, keratitis, proptosis, distichiasis, tear staining) and joint problems (arthritis, luxating patellas), to name just a few common conditions in these squishy-faced breeds.
The power of love prevails, though, and perhaps it’s the affection these little dogs show their owners that makes up for their “flaws.”
If you’re looking for a guard dog, this study also supports the theory that these brachycephalic breeds might be the right choice, as they were found to be more defensively aggressive to strangers than their larger, longer-nosed cousins.
Whatever the case, if you own a brachycephalic breed, you already know how vast their love is despite their small packaging. And now the rest of us might be convinced as well.