Position Statements

Position Statement April 9, 2024: Reducing the Negative Impacts of Extreme Conformations on Dog Health and Welfare  

Download Position Statement Infographic

Reducing the Negative Impacts of Extreme Conformations on Dog Health and Welfare

9th April 2024


This position statement was developed by the International Collaborative on Extreme Conformations in Dogs (ICECDogs), an international multi-stakeholder group committed to welfare-focused breeding, ownership, and promotion of healthy conformations in dogs.

Further information on the work of ICECDogs is available at https://www.icecdogs.com/ ____________________________________________________________________________________

Our shared human ethical commitment to dogs: All dogs, regardless of role, type, breed or cross breed status, should be able to experience good innate health[1] that enables these dogs to perform all of the activities necessary for their health and welfare within the anatomical, physiological and behavioural evolutionary norms for the species, and the dog’s stage of life.  While there are dogs with moderate conformation within each breed, sadly some conformations (body shapes) have become extreme and more common, and these can negatively impact a dog’s health and welfare.


The ICECDogs defines extreme conformation as:

A physical appearance that has been so significantly altered by humankind away from the ancestral natural canine appearance that affected dogs commonly suffer from poor health and welfare, with negative impacts on their quality and quantity of life

Good welfare in dogs requires both good mental and physical health. Published documents[2] are available to assist animal caregivers and the wider public in objectively assessing innate health and determining whether a dog is already suffering from, or is likely to suffer from, negative impacts resulting from extreme conformations.

For anyone contemplating the purchase, adoption or acquisition of a dog for any purpose, the following section offers information on necessary body shape criteria that will maximize the likelihood that the dog will experience good innate health and, conversely, not be subjected to harms associated with extreme conformations.

Specifically, ICECDogs believes that no aspect of a dog’s conformation should restrict the dog from engaging fully in activities that are evolutionarily and biologically normal for the species and are necessary for good mental and physical health of the species including interactions with people, other animals, and their environment.

In order to experience good welfare - which can be assessed using the Five Domains of animal welfare – a basic requirement is that a dog must have good innate health and its conformation must not interfere with its ability to:

·         Breathe freely and oxygenate fully without effort at rest and with exercise.

·         Breathe freely and oxygenate fully without the need for conformation-related corrective surgical interventions.

·         Maintain body temperature within a normal physiological range for the species.

·         Move freely without conformation-related impediment.

·         Eat and drink effectively and without constraints or frustration.

·         Hear, smell, see, self-groom, eliminate and sleep effectively.

·         Ability to reproduce (breeding animals).

·         Communicate effectively with other dogs by using species-specific auditory and physical cues (tail, ears, grimace and other facial cues, stance, etc.)


Some examples of extreme conformations in dogs include:


o   Flat-faces (brachycephaly) commonly lead to health issues including difficulty breathing and eye ulcers.

o   Clearly overshot or undershot jaw can affect ability to eat and promote dental disease.

o   Large and protruding eyes pose increased risk of eye damage and infection.

o   Shortened twisted legs (chondrodysplasia). Affected dogs with excessively short legs and a disproportionately long body frequently suffer spinal and neurological problems.

o   Facial and body skin folds commonly lead to skin infections and pain.

o   Bulging or domed skull is associated with brain diseases such as hydrocephalus and brain herniation.

o   Eyelids turned-in (entropion: eyelashes or hair rubbing on cornea) or turned-out (ectropion: drooping eyelids so the front of the eye is not cleaned with each blink) commonly lead to a lifelong painful eye problems such as infections and corneal ulcers.

o   Tailessness at birth. Affected dogs communicate less effectively with other dogs and may be predisposed to spinal problems.

o   Disproportionately broad head and shoulders when combined with a narrow pelvis often results in inability to deliver puppies without surgical intervention.

o   A sloped back with excessively low rear end and excessively flexed hind legs are commonly associated with locomotion problems.


ICECDogs remains committed to educating the public and to working with stakeholders to improve the lives of dogs, such that no dog is produced (bred), sold, purchased or promoted with an inability to experience good innate health as a consequence of an extreme conformation.  

ICECDogs calls on policy makers and regulators to enforce existing animal welfare legislation, promote public education and support measures such as mandatory permanent identification and mandatory storage of breeding records that can support effective reduction in extreme conformation in dogs.


ICECDogs calls on all stakeholders in dog health and welfare including breeders, breed clubs and national kennel clubs, brokers, buyers, owners, veterinarians, marketers and marketing sites, regulators, influencers, as well as the general public, to recognise and understand the importance and the responsibility of their role in improving the health and welfare of all dogs by not promoting, breeding, selling or purposely acquiring dogs with extreme conformations.

o   Breeders and kennel clubs should take an increasingly evidence-based approach to recognising and acknowledging disorders associated with extreme conformations that are linked to serious health disorders and to actively breed away from such extreme conformations.

o   The buying/adopting public should educate themselves on what innately healthy conformation looks like and support those breeders effecting welfare-positive change to the conformation of a breed or cross breed.  

We encourage everyone who cares about canine welfare to promote good innate health in dogs by considering issues relating to extreme conformations before taking a final decision on what type of dog to acquire. By understanding the criteria for good innate health and insisting that every dog must meet these innate canine health norms, we can all foster the best possible life for that dog with their owner.

 [1] http://www.ukbwg.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/220512-BWG-Innate-health-in-dog-populations.pdf

[2] http://www.ukbwg.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/220512-BWG-Innate-Health.pdf




Press Releases

Position Statements

Extreme Conformation

About Us and Our Members


In the News

For more information about the ICECDogs, and to inquire how to become a member, partner organization or member of the expert panel, please contact an ICECDogs board member here.