Crufts to introduce health entry requirement for popular brachycephalic breeds from 2025

RFG assessment at Crufts with the scheme's cheif assessor Dr Jane Ladlow. Credit Emily Arundale The Kennel Club
RFG assessment at Crufts with the scheme's chief assessor Dr Jane Ladlow. Credit Emily Arundale | The Kennel Club

To continue to ensure that dog shows remain an effective platform to monitor and improve dog health, The Kennel Club has announced it is introducing health-related entry requirements for some brachycephalic breeds for Crufts 2025.

All eligible Pugs, Bulldogs and French Bulldogs will need  to have a valid Respiratory Function Grading scheme assessment result to compete at Crufts 2025. Assessments must be undertaken every two years and those assessed as ‘grade 3’ will not be able enter the competition.

The Respiratory Function Grading Scheme, developed by the University of Cambridge and The Kennel Club, assesses Bulldogs, French Bulldogs and Pugs for a breathing disorder called brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome (BOAS). The assessment, which can be carried out by specially-trained assessors located across the UK, involves listening to the dog’s airway both before and after an exercise tolerance test. Assessors then use a pre-defined protocol to grade the dog from zero to three. Dogs graded as zero will be free of respiratory signs of BOAS, while dogs graded as three will show severe respiratory signs of BOAS, indicating that further veterinary examination is advised.

Following an increase in the popularity of some brachycephalic dogs and the launch of The Kennel Club’s report: ‘Play Your Part: Breeding, Buying and Bringing up Brachycephalic Dogs Better’, which urges collaboration to address health issues, this new requirement for Crufts 2025 is part of The Kennel Club’s commitment to improving brachycephalic dog health.

Charlotte McNamara, Head of Health at The Kennel Club, commented: “Protecting and improving the health of brachycephalic breeds remains one of our top priorities and while the role of dog shows in shaping the purchasing trends of the wider general public is minimal, they do provide a platform to educate breeders and the wider dog owning public.

“We hope that introducing a health-related entry requirement for Pugs, Bulldogs and French for Crufts 2025 will influence a wider positive impact on dog health. Crufts is a great opportunity to showcase good examples of each recognised breed, and celebrate the work being carried out by responsible breeders and breed clubs to protect and improve health. The Respiratory Function Grading Scheme is the strongest mechanism currently available to improve and protect the breathing of these breeds, collect data on Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS), and demonstrate the commitment of the show community to tackling BOAS within these breeds.”

Dr Laura Hamilton, veterinary surgeon and French Bulldog Breed Health Coordinator added: “Some brachycephalic breeds, including French Bulldogs, are hugely popular, with little to no awareness amongst puppy buyers of any health concerns, and many rogue breeders producing puppies simply for profit. And whilst Crufts can and does educate people about important issues around dog ownership and health, and this new entry requirement for the 2025 event is welcome and we hope will have a positive wider impact, realistically social media and celebrity culture tends to have a bigger influence. It’s absolutely crucial that any would-be owner fully researches the breed before making any decisions, speaks to experts, and finds a responsible breeder who health screens their dogs using the RFG scheme.”

More about The Kennel Club/University of Cambridge Respiratory Function Grading scheme for Bulldogs, French Bulldogs and Pugs is available here and more information about what The Kennel Club is doing to protect and improve brachycephalic dog health can be found at The Kennel Club website.

The Kennel Club is also expanding its Breed Watch system, which enables anyone involved in the world of dogs to develop their knowledge and identify, monitor and report any breed-specific conformational issues which may impact on health. The changes, outlined below, will ensure more extensive monitoring of health and welfare concerns that are detrimental to a dog’s wellbeing.

From September 2024, Breed Watch will introduce:

  • A new digital judges’ health monitoring form – which will be integrated into judging contracts, judges’ training and Breed Appreciation Days – and a reminder process;
  • Updated guidance for veterinary health checks at dog shows;
  • Updated points of concern wording for all breeds to ensure consistency and clarity, following consultation with breed clubs;

The changes should help not only judges, but also breeders, exhibitors and owners, to secure the future of healthy and happy pedigree dogs, and is part of The Kennel Club’s continued commitment to education about how to protect and improve health.

Ian Seath, Chairman of The Kennel’s Club’s Breed Standards and Conformation Health Group, commented: “The show ring can, and should, be a force for improving dog health, and all those involved – from judges and exhibitors, to vets who perform checks – have an important role to play.

“The decision to introduce these changes was made by The Kennel Club Dog Health Group, which is made up of independent vets, dog experts, canine researchers and welfare organisations, following a recommendation from the group’s Breed Standards and Conformation sub-group, and approval from The Kennel Club Board.” 

More information about Breed Watch can be found at The Kennel Club website.