Exaggerated features: how dogs have changed in 100 years of breeding

A sausage dog’s long back. A Bulldog’s wrinkly face. A Bassett hound’s extra-long ears. These are the features that make a dog breed what it is…or are they?

As the photos below show, these breeds have changed a huge amount over the last 100 years. Humans have bred these dogs for the way they look and it’s left many of these breeds suffering from painful health problems.

Take a look at the radical ‘before’ and ‘after’ transformations*.


Bull Terrier

Bull Terrier comparison before and after

These athletic dogs have changed dramatically in 100 years. The changing shape of the Bull Terrier’s skull and chest have led to heart conditions, tooth problems and dry eyes.

About Bull Terriers


Basset Hound

Basset Hound comparison of the past and now

The basset hound is lower to the ground now than it was 100 years ago and their ears have grown much longer. This change in shape can cause back problems and skin infections, especially in their ears.

About Basset Hounds



Boxer comparison between the past and now

Today’s Boxer dogs have much shorter snouts than their great-great-great-great-grandparents. This can leave Boxer dogs struggling for breath and means they can quickly overheat.

About Boxers



Bulldog comparison from the past to now

Bulldogs’ faces have become flatter and more wrinkled. Their short snouts mean that most Bulldogs have trouble breathing and the folds of skin on their face can get infected. Bulldog puppies also have very large heads so it’s difficult for their mums to give birth naturally. Bulldogs need a lot of human help to have puppies.

About Bulldogs



Dachshund comparison between the past and now

Over time, a Dachshunds long back has got even longer. Their legs are also shorter so their bellies are closer to the ground. This can cause back problems. In some Dachshunds this becomes so serious they can’t walk.

About Dachshunds


German Shepherd Dog

German Shepherd comparison between the past and now

German Shepherds now have sloping backs and wider chests. This can lead to a whole host of back problems, such as weakness in their back legs that gradually gets worse.

About German Shepherds




Pug comparison from the past to now

Pugs and other flat-faced dogs have been in the news recently because of their health problems. Their flat-faces lead to breathing problems, skin infections and painful eye ulcers.

About Pugs


Saint Bernard

Saint Bernard comparison between the past and now

Over the years, Saint Bernards have been bred bigger and with excess skin. Sadly, this has led to eye problems, painful joints and heart conditions.

About Saint Bernards

What can we do to help?

Sadly, these problems have been caused by the way humans have chosen to breed dogs. Luckily, that means humans can fix the problem, too.

As a dog lover, there are a couple of things you can do to help make a real difference to these breeds:

  • Spread the word. A lot of dog owners don’t know about the problems that can be caused by their dog’s looks. Share our page to help spread the word.
  • Do your research. If you’re thinking of getting a dog, do lots of research into different breeds. Find out what health problems they might face before making a decision. Our breed information is a good place to start.
  • Don’t get a dog with exaggerated features. We’d always recommend buying or rehoming a healthier cross breed or mixed breed dog. If you’re set on a pedigree, like one of the breeds shown above, choose a puppy with more ‘normal’ features e.g. a Pug or Boxer with a longer snout. Find out more about choosing a healthier pedigree.
  • Encourage responsible breeding. If you’re getting a dog from a breeder then make sure they have your dog’s future health and happiness at heart. Take a look at our advice for getting a puppy and learn about how the ‘puppy contract’ can help you find a responsible breeder.


*‘Before’ images kindly provided by Caen Elegans at Science and Dogs


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