Press Releases

April 9, 2024: PDF file of this release here



Embargoed until Tuesday the 9th April 2024 at 01:00 CET


The International Collaborative on Extreme Conformations in Dogs (ICECDogs) has released a position paper that helps owners to recognise good innate health (i.e., healthy natural physical characteristics) in dogs. The innate health concept, which has emerged from a decade of research at the Royal Veterinary College, aims to assist animal caregivers and the wider public to objectively predict and assess potential dog health and welfare based on the body shape of the dog. This new position paper from ICECDogs can help owners to determine how likely the dog is to suffer from negative impacts resulting from extreme conformations. Click here to check out the full version.

The increase of extreme conformations and the impact on dog health and welfare

Flat faces, miniature and giant sizes, bulging eyes, deep skin folds, twisted legs, taillessness and other extreme features: have you ever wondered if your currently preferred type of dog is likely to suffer because of their extreme conformations (i.e., body shapes) that we as humans chose to breed into these dogs just because we find them so appealing. Sadly, there is growing evidence that many dogs with extreme conformations endure lifetimes of potential or real suffering from poor innate (i.e. natural) health which can significantly reduce their overall quality of life.

Innate health refers to a dog’s capacity to enjoy the full canine life experience without limitation from health issues linked to extreme conformations. Common examples of such issues include chronic pain (e.g., eye ulcers because of protruding eyes) or physical incapacity (e.g., unable to sleep or exercise fully due to breathing difficulties from being flat-faced).


“The animal health and welfare problems linked to breeding for the brachycephalic (flat-faced) conformation are one of the UK’s leading canine welfare priorities. We all share a societal ethical obligation to promote a good life for dogs under human stewardship.” Dr Dan O’Neill, Chair of the UK Brachycephalic Working Group.


 “The escalation of extreme conformations in animals and the serious harms resulting from them are a priority issue for the CVMA. There is an urgent need for the public to be made aware of the severity of the current situation and to learn how they can contribute to a solution”. Dr Michelle Groleau, Director Animal Welfare, Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA).


How can I tell that my dog has good innate health?

Extreme conformation in dogs describes 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.

The ICECDogs has developed an internationally agreed-upon overview of innate health that can help us all to avoid extreme conformations in dogs and contribute to reversing ownership trends for dogs with extreme conformations that have led to so much suffering in dogs. The ICECDogs position paper will help the general public understand what a generally healthy conformation in dogs looks like so that every dog can start life with a body that does not predispose them to health issues. Owners now have a reference guide to help them avoid acquiring a dog with extreme conformations so that both the dog and their owners can enjoy longer, happier, and healthier lives together.

“I have spent the past decade researching and developing the innate health concept at the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) in London (UK). No owner actively wants their dog to be unhealthy but the huge popularity of dogs with extreme conformations suggests that many owners have not fully grasped the link between their dog’s body shape and the dog’s likely quality of life.

The new ICECDogs position on innate health can help owners understand that extreme conformations are not natural, normal, healthy or desirable for dogs. Innately healthy body shapes can now be the new normal for dogs that we can all celebrate” said Dr. Dan O’Neill, Associate Professor for Companion Animal Epidemiology, RVC.

The new position paper from ICECDogs is intuitively straightforward and helps owners to understand basic innate health functions that all dogs should be able to enjoy without an extreme body shape interfering with this function. These basic innate health functions include the ability to:

·         Breathe freely and oxygenate effectively.

·         Maintain their body temperature within a normal physiological range.

·         Move freely without effort or discomfort.

·         Eat and drink effectively.

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

·         Breeding animals reproduce without assistance.

·         Reproduce naturally.

·         Communicate effectively with other dogs.


Who among all those who love and care about dogs would not wish for every dog to have a body shape that allows all these basic innate health function.



ICECDogs calls on everyone with an interest in improving the welfare of dogs to play their part in protecting dog welfare by not promoting, breeding, selling, or acquiring dogs with extreme conformations.


ICECDogs encourages everyone who cares about canine welfare to consider the 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 norms, the ICECDogs believe we can each play our part to foster the best possible life for all dogs.


Notes to editors

About ICECDogs:

Further information is available at

The International Collective on Extreme Conformations in Dogs (ICECDogs) is a global multi-stakeholder group that works together to minimize welfare issues resulting from extreme conformations in dogs by seeking out and applying evidence-based canine and human approaches.

The current focus of the ICECDogs is to support national/regional multi-stakeholder groups engaged in the issues raised by extreme conformation in dogs, and to act as a leader in the development and dissemination of policy and guidance on minimizing extremes of conformation and promoting moderate, healthy conformation in dogs.

ICECDogs collaborates with (multi-)stakeholder groups in the following countries:

1.       Australia

2.       Canada

3.       Denmark

4.       Germany

5.       Ireland 

6.       New Zealand

7.       Sweden

8.       United Kingdom

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