Kennel Club Comment to BBC’s Saving the British Bulldog

Kennel Club response to the BBC 1 programme ‘Saving the British Bulldog’, which looked at the health challenges faced by the breed and how these can be tackled. 

Caroline Kisko, Kennel Club Secretary, said: “We welcome that the programme has raised important issues, which we hope will help to encourage the responsible breeding and buying of Bulldogs. 

The Bulldog is a much-loved breed but we are very aware of the health challenges, which is why we have put into place a number of crucial measures over the years to monitor, protect and improve its health, and to provide the many responsible breeders of Bulldogs with the tools they need to do the same.   

“When it comes to something as important as dog health there is always more that can be done and, as a not for profit organisation, we fund crucial research to improve breed health, such as that being carried out at the University of Cambridge, which aims to help breeders tackle the problems associated with Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway SyndromeWe also amended our breed standards to make it clear that breeding dogs for exaggerated features that are detrimental to health is not acceptable. However, there are very many Bulldogs bred outside our sphere of influence – often imported from overseas - that are bred a certain way because, unfortunately, it is perceived to be cute. 

But it is important to remember that there are healthy Bulldogs out there and careful selective breeding by responsible breeders, using the tools that we are providing, can help us to address the health problems in the breed.  

Outcrossing has been raised as a suggested way forward and whilst the Kennel Club is supportive of outcrossing where this is the best option for a breed, and there are various examples of where this has been done, there is no reliable science to support this in Bulldogs, at this stage. The only science we have about this is based on an unrepresentative sample but our own research shows that the rate of loss of genetic diversity has slowed in recent years and there has even been a modest replenishment. There is likely to always be a demand for the Bulldog, so the crucial thing is that is it bred responsibly. Independent experts agree that it is still possible to balance genetic diversity and breeding for health.” 

Jane Ladlow, Senior Lecturer at the University of Cambridge, co-leading the research into Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome, which is being funded by the Kennel Club Charitable Trust, said: “There are a good number of healthy Bulldogs out there and so it seems very reasonable to believe that we can move away from health problems by removing the worse affected in the breed. We don’t believe that outcrossing is the only solution for the Bulldog. The Bulldog breeders we are working with are very health focused and supportive of our efforts to develop a functional grading scheme, which will enable breeders to assess the risk of breeding from a dog based on its breathing and respiratory function.” 

Nick Blayney, Senior Veterinary Advisor for the Kennel Club, said: “With the best will in the world, all of the steps being taken by responsible breeders will mean nothing if the public continue to buy from those who are not making use of the tools and information provided by the Kennel Club, and who are breeding exaggerated Bulldogs that can’t breathe. 

“We have to address the public demand for Bulldogs that look a certain way because they think it looks cute, as this is where most of the damage is being done. The Bulldogs you will see at dog shows, for example, are largely healthier and less exaggerated than those on the street. 

“Puppy buyers need to understand what to look for when buying a Bulldog puppy and seek out responsible breeders, who are working hard to address the health problems in their breed.”