12 Flat-Faced Dog Breeds That Are Just So Precious
From Boston terriers to bulldogs, these sweet pups—instantly recognizable by their short muzzles—will land a spot in your heart.
One of our favorite things to do with our pups is boop their noses. However, you might’ve noticed that some dogs have shorter snouts than others. From pugs and Pekingese to bulldogs and Boston terriers, these dogs fall into the brachycephalic breed category (brachycephalic translates to “short head” in Greek). So, what does that mean? Put simply, these are breeds with short muzzles that are often prone to a unique set of health issues.
The most common issue that flat-faced dogs experience is brachycephalic airway syndrome (BAS), which can lead to a range of respiratory problems. For example, BAS can make breathing difficult and cause snoring and a higher risk of heatstroke. Brachycephalic dogs are also at a higher risk for other health issues, such as corneal ulcers, ocular trauma, skin cancer, fungal skin disease, sleep apnea, and pneumonia. Some of these issues are caused by the dogs’ face shapes, while others are caused by the inbreeding that was required to give them flat faces.
Still, we can’t deny that these pups are majorly cute. Ahead, we’ve rounded up the sweetest dogs with flat faces that will win your heart. If you love exploring dog breeds by their most famous features, don’t miss our roundups of the cutest dogs with long noses, dogs with floppy ears, and dogs with beards.
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Who could resist these pint-sized, flat-faced cuties? These affectionate lapdogs were initially bred as companions for Chinese emperors. However, it didn’t take long for the rest of the world to fall in love with the 13-inch tall, 18-pound pups. The dogs are mischievous, charming, and often have startlingly human-like expressions that make bonding with them a breeze.
One of the oldest dog breeds—experts can trace the Chinese breed’s lineage back some 2,000 years, according to the American Kennel Club (AKC)—these pups make ideal modern-day pals for families with kids, singletons, the elderly, and everyone in between. Because of their flat faces and their resulting occasional breathing problems, they do best in moderate climates and would rather lounge on the couch than head on a hike.
Dignified. Friendly. Chill. Those are just a few ways to describe a bulldog. Members of the non-sporting group, these pups were likely created in England in the 13th century for dog-fighting purposes. However, you’d never guess that violent history if you met a modern-day bulldog—the breed is now the national symbol of England (thankfully, the country banned blood sports in 1835) and perfectly refined.
Today’s bulldogs are the fifth most popular dog breed in the United States, beloved for their distinctive flat faces, loyalty, and adaptability (they can live in cities or more rural areas). The breed loves to relax but also enjoys a brisk walk. Because of their short muzzles and stature, they prefer more moderate temperatures and should never be left alone around stairs or water.
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3. Boston terrier
The Boston terrier is another breed that originated in England’s blood-sport arenas. Just like the bulldog, they rose above that violent past and became one of the most popular companion dogs in the world; they’re the 21st most popular in the United States.
The pups, which are a cross between the bulldog and the now-extinct English terrier, are small in size—they stand up to 17 inches tall and weigh up to 25 pounds—and big in personality. Known for their friendly and lively dispositions, Bostons make fabulous city dogs and are always up for a walk in the square or an afternoon at a cafe. According to the AKC, their manners have even earned them the nickname “the American Gentleman.” Their handsome tuxedo-jacket markings probably didn’t hurt.
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There’s no breed more regal than the tiny Pekingese. These toy breeds have a famous lion-like mane—one Chinese legend says the Buddha created the breed by shrinking a lion to a dog size—and charming demeanors. The flat-faced breed is loyal and independent and develops tight, loving bonds with its people.
So how did they get so sophisticated? Well, for centuries, the lapdog was favored by members of the Chinese nobility. British troops stole Pekingese pups from the Chinese emperor’s family during the Opium Wars in 1860 and gifted them to Queen Victoria. From there, the dogs gained popularity throughout the West. Fun fact: A Pekingese was one of only three dogs to survive the Titanic.
5. Lhasa Apso
This loyal dog breed is the favored breed of the Dalai Lama. For centuries, Lhasa Apsos have stood sentry at the palaces and Buddhist monasteries in the Himalayan mountains. Tibetan Buddhists believe that the souls of priests are frequently reincarnated as the sacred Lhasa Apso. The breed made its way to America after the Fourteenth Dalai Lama gifted several of them in the 1940s.
Every Lhasa Apso owner will tell you their pup is the silliest and most beloved member of their family. The dogs are stubborn and intelligent—a blend of personality traits that makes them best suited for more experienced owners. Lhasa Apsos love fast walks and mentally stimulating games. Their gentle natures make them exceptional therapy dogs.
6. Chow Chow
Want a large, lion-like dog? The Chow Chow might be what you have in mind. One of the world’s oldest dogs, the Chinese breed is depicted in artifacts from 206 B.C. Throughout their history, these muscular dogs have been employed as guarders, haulers, and hunters. They became well known in the West after Queen Victoria acquired one in the late 19th century.
Chows bond intensely with their favorite humans; however, they aren’t well suited for families with small children or other pets and can be somewhat aloof with strangers. Owners often describe them as serious and dignified. They come in five colors: red, black, blue, cinnamon, and cream, and can have either rough or smooth coats. Invite one into your home for a loyal friend for life.
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The eleventh most popular dog breed in the United States, the boxer is athletic, affectionate, and intelligent. They’re also large: male boxers can stand up to 25 inches tall and weigh up to 80 pounds. In addition to being a flat-faced dog, they’re one of our favorite dogs with pointy ears. Boxers require lots of exercise and playtime each day; because they’re so high-energy, they tend to excel at agility, obedience, and herding training.
So where did these cute companions come from? Experts guess the breed is a descendent of the larger German Bullenbeisser breed. German nobles bred the Bullenbeisser to hunt big game such as bear, bison, and wild boar. Since their development, boxers have been similarly hard-working dogs, taking on jobs in police departments, militaries, and farms.
Another large, flat-faced breed, the bullmastiff is a dog with a purpose. A cross between the bulldog and the mastiff, these giant dogs were bred to protect the vast country estates and game preserves that belonged to English aristocrats in the 18th century. Interestingly, those grounds were frequently targeted by poachers, which led the owners to want to develop a dog breed to patrol them.
The bullmastiff’s large size, intelligence, and trainability made them the perfect dogs for the job. However, those traits also make them ideal companions and protectors. Bullmastiffs are loyal, loving, alert, and confident. Socialize one early and you’ll have an affectionate pal who will act as your faithful guardian till the end.
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The pomeranian might be everyone’s favorite smiling lapdog. The tiny pups—adults grow to seven inches tall and weigh just seven pounds—pack a lot of personality. Vivacious, charming, and alert, Pomeranians make fabulous family dogs and watchdogs (that’s because of their bark; don’t expect these pups to guard your house).
This is another flat-faced dog breed that owes its popularity to Queen Victoria. The royal discovered the dogs on a visit to Florence, Italy; however, the breed descended from larger spitz-type breeds native to Poland and western Germany. Poms rose to fame after the queen brought one back to the U.K. It’s no wonder people fell in love with these perky pups. They have a fluffy double coat that comes in almost two dozen colors, as well as adaptable personalities that make them suitable for city and rural life.
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10. Shih Tzu
These pampered pups lived in the lap of luxury for centuries—and some might argue they still do. Created by imperial breeders in the palace of the Chinese emperor, these little dogs were the pups of choice for royals. Of course, that means they still make exceptional lap dogs (nobles only wanted the best companions). Shih Tzu’s are affectionate, playful, and cute, and are perfectly suited for small-scale apartments or homes.
Don’t expect your Shih Tzu to be up for hours of physical exercise. As the AKC notes, these dogs were bred to be house dogs. At 10-inches tall and nine to 16 pounds, Shih Tzu’s are happiest curled up at your feet or in your lap. They’re great with kids and have beautiful coats that will cause strangers to stop you on the street for compliments. Get yours into puppy school ASAP—these dogs have a reputation for being charmingly difficult to train.
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11. Cavalier King Charles spaniel
The Cavalier King Charles spaniel is a blend of all sorts of toy spaniel breeds. Members of the toy group themselves, these little guys are named after King Charles II of Brittain, a monarch who was notoriously obsessed with his spaniels. The small-scale dogs make great companions: they’re affectionate, gentle, and elegant.
Plus, these dogs are cute. They have long floppy ears, wide puppy eyes, and come in a range of colors, including black and tan, black and white, Blenheim, and ruby. They’re graceful, athletic, and even-tempered, and can adapt to both energetic and laidback lifestyles. Engage your King Charles in an activity like obedience, rally, or agility training to keep them from becoming too much of a couch potato.
12. Japanese chin
Ever thought you’d meet a dog that’s described as distinctively feline-like by the AKC? Well, the Japanese chin is that dog. These pups stand up to 11-inches tall, weigh up to 11 pounds and make the ideal indoorsy companions. Easily identified by their silky coats and aristocratic demeanors, Japanese Chins will wriggle their way into your heart with their expressive dark eyes and cuddly personalities.
Unfortunately, historians don’t know much about these dogs’ history. Experts debate whether they originated from China, Korea, or somewhere else entirely. They do know that the breed’s ancestors arrived in Japan between 500 and 1,000 years ago and that Japanese nobles bred those dogs into the Japanese chin we know today.