In the study, owners of Chihuahuas, French Bulldogs, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and Cairn Terriers were asked why they chose their dog and about the level of research that they carried out before buying the dog.
Chihuahuas and French Bulldogs have extreme body conformation, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels has inherited health problems not linked to body shape, and Cairn Terriers were chosen to represent a breed in the same size range but without extreme conformation, but with the same level of disease load. Out of the four breeds, French Bulldogs had the most health and behavioral problems, with Cairn Terriers having the least.
The study showed that some people choose these breeds because they are unaware of the health problems prior to purchase or due to more selfish reasons such as convenience, cuteness or fashion. Others regard the worrisome health conditions as “normal” for that breed. Meanwhile, others like the fact that the dogs share some of their own personal traits such as size, appearance and personality.
The study also underscored an owner's strength of attachment to its dog to be linked to appearance, “with those who favored physical characteristics and 'cuteness' having stronger bonds with their dogs.” In this regard, Chihuahua owners were found to be most attached, with Cairn Terrier owners (who were less interested in appearance) being the least.
Finally, a dog’s physical appearance may influence social acknowledgment from other people, the study noted.
The study also noted that except in the case of French Bulldogs, experience of health and behavior problems did not reduce the owners’ desire to get the same breed again.
With these findings, research authors raise the need to find better ways to motivate people to get dogs that do not suffer from health issues related to extreme conformation and inbreeding.
Conducted between 2009 and 2014 in Denmark, the study randomly drew the names of owners of each of the four breeds (750/breed) from a nationwide Danish dog registry and invited them to participate. Of these, 911 responded, giving a final sample of 846.
Source: Sandøe, P., Kondrup, S. V., Bennett, P. C., Forkman, B., Meyer, I., Proschowsky, H. F.,& Lund, T. B. (2017). Why do people buy dogs with potential welfare problems related to extreme conformation and inherited disease? A representative study of Danish owners of four small dog breeds. PloS one, 12(2), e0172091.