The conformation of a dog refers to its overall structure and
appearance. Dogs come in many different shapes and sizes.
Having such varied conformation is one of the many fascinating
things about dogs, but ensuring that a dog is bred to have
moderate, and not exaggerated conformation, is important.
Regardless of what each dog looks like, it should be able to lead a
happy and healthy life and be able to breathe, walk, hear and see
freely. Some exaggerated conformations can lead to health
problems, such as skin infections, eye problems or breathing
difficulties. A dog's health and welfare should always be the
most important consideration in any breeding decisions, with good
conformation being one of many important factors that should be
Breeders should always be careful if considering breeding from
dogs with overly exaggerated features. Dogs with proven
health issues caused by over-exaggeration of physical features
should be avoided where possible in a breeding programme,
especially if they may produce health or welfare problems in any
offspring. If any doubt exists, then veterinary advice should
In addition to physical appearance, there are other similarly
important factors to consider when deciding whether two dogs should
be mated together, such as appropriate health test results, the
general health of the dogs, inbreeding coefficients, temperament
etc. Your decision should be well balanced between these factors.
For information on the Kennel Club resources that are available to
help you breed healthy puppies, please visit Mate Select.
How do I know if there are any conformational concerns within
In 2009 the Kennel Club launched the online health tool, Breed
Watch. Breed Watch is a quick and easy reference tool which
provides up-to-date information on breed specific visible health
concerns that may arise from exaggerated conformation.
To see if your breed has any points of concern, please click
Providing information on breed specific visible health concerns
allows breeders, exhibitors and judges to discourage the breeding
of dogs with exaggerated conformational issues that are detrimental
to a breed's health and welfare. Breed Watch now includes a health
monitoring system, whereby every Judge at Championship Shows has
the option to report any emerging issues which may affect their
breed by completing a form provided in the back of their judging
book. More information on health in dog showing is available
Examples of health problems related to exaggerated
Dogs with excessive amounts of skin or excessive skin folds may
develop inflammation, irritation and infection in any large skin
Extreme brachycephalic dogs (dogs with extremely flat faces) may
be more prone to breathing difficulties, which can present as
laboured or noisy breathing. This can impact on a dog's
quality of life, and may make it difficult for them to cool down in
hot weather, or catch their breath during or after exercise.
Additional obstructions, such as narrow nostrils, are likely to
contribute to the problem.
Dogs with extremely prominent eyes maybe more vulnerable to
direct trauma and also may not be able to blink adequately.
Inadequate blink may lead to chronic damage to the eyes, dry eyes,
irritation and the formation of ulcers.
Entropion, a disorder in which the eyelid turns into the eye and
the eyelashes rub against the eyeball, can cause irritation, pain
and redness, and is more likely to occur in dogs with prominent
eyes and/or heavy facial skin folds. Conversely, ectropion, a
disorder in which the lower eyelids roll out and does not fit
closely to the eyeball, can result in dry eyes, discomfort,
irritation and chronic conjunctivitis.
Dogs with extremely tight, inverted or cork screw tails may be
at higher risk of skin infections and may be more prone to problems
with their spine, which may result in difficult and painful
Dogs with excessively long ears and large amounts of hair in and
around them, may be more prone to infection, inflammation and
If you have any concerns that your dog suffers from any of the
above health problems then you should seek veterinary advice.
Breed standards and conformation
The Kennel Club's breed standards describe the typical look,
characteristics and temperament of a breed and are subject to
continual monitoring and review.
In 2009 the Kennel Club's Dog Health Group, conducted a
comprehensive review in conjunction with a large body of experts,
including veterinary scientists and veterinary researchers.
The review was undertaken to ensure that all breed standards
encourage the breeding of healthy dogs. In this review every
description was checked to ensure that it could not be interpreted
as encouraging dogs with features that might prevent them from
breathing, walking or seeing freely. Following widespread
consultation, 78 of the breed standards were amended.
However, problems can still arise with those breeders who do not
refer to the breed standards and who continue to breed dogs with
exaggerated features because there is puppy buyer demand for a
To view, the breed standard for your breed, please go to the Breed Information
Centre and click on the breed standard tab on the right hand
For further information on other health considerations to make
prior to breeding, please see our 'Breeding for Health'