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There are different types of dog heads (skulls) and this is due to the fact that we have selectively bred dogs leading to an extensive range of skull shapes and sizes. 

For instance, did you know that a dog's skull can range in length anywhere from 7 centimeters to 28 centimeters?

To help sort through the vast array, dog skulls have been traditionally categorized into three different categories.

Such categories are distinct enough to allow us to rather easily differentiate one category from another. 

Discover more about the three different types of dog heads (skulls). 

Pugs are know for their short heads and protruding, wide- distanced eyes. 

Pugs are know for their short heads and protruding, wide- distanced eyes. 

1) The Brachycephalic Dog Head 

This dog head is characterized by a distinctively short and wide skull. Many describe dogs in this category as having "pushed-in" or "smudged-in" faces.

Brachycephalic dogs have flat faces because their muzzle is flat and their bottom jaw is longer, making it appear as if the lower jaw is sticking out (prognathism).

Their shortened skull comes with eyes that are forward-facing, widely spaced and blessed with great central visual acuity. 

Did you know? This type of head shape has been known for being attractive to humans due to its infant-like resemblance. Intrigued? Discover more about neotenous traits in dogs

Problems In Brachycephalic Dogs

As cute as these dogs may seem, brachycephalic dogs are prone to a variety of medical problems. 

This type of head shape is usually accompanied by abnormalities of the eyes and airways. 

Brachycephalic dogs are prone to overheating and may collapse after exertion due to their poor cooling system.

Brachycephalic dogs also have shallow orbits of the eyes make them susceptible to eye prolapse.

Their soft palate may also be too long for their short face which can lead to obstruction of the back of the throat.

Other issues with brachycephalic dogs include spinal problems. For instance, French bulldogs and pugs often have vertebral malformations called hemivertebrae which causes instability in the spinal column which may lead to pain and incontinence.

Not to mention, brachycephalic dogs have an increased risk of skin problems. 

The deep folds of their skin provide an ideal breeding ground for bacteria and yeast. These microscopic organisms can cause infections. 

Did you know? Studies suggest that brachycephalic dogs have a higher incidence of Caesarean sections compared to other dog breeds.

What Dog Breeds Have a Brachycephalic Head?

Examples of dog breeds with a brachycephalic head include the following:

  • English bulldog
  • French bulldog
  • Boxer
  • Pug
  • Boston terrier
  • Pekingese
  • Japanese Chin
  • Lhasa Apso
  • Neapolitan Mastiff
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Borzoi featuring a distinctive dolicocephalic head 

Borzoi featuring a distinctive dolicocephalic head 

The Dolicocephalic Dog Head 

This type of skull consists of a distinctively long and narrow head.

Dogs with a dolicocephalic head are for the most part hunting dogs and their elongated skulls aren't there by chance. 

Courtesy of this head shape, the eyes of a dolicocephalic dog have visual streaks of retinal ganglia which help them better detect moving objects and prey on the horizon.

 Intrigued? Discover the amazing vision of sighthounds. 

Did you know? All puppies, regardless of breed, are born with rather normally-sized snouts. The characteristic long head of dolichocephalic dogs, is therefore, something that pops up later on. 

What Dog Breeds Have a Dolicocephalic Head?

Examples of dog breeds with a dolichocephalic head include the following: 

  • Collie
  • Greyhound
  • Italian Greyhound
  • Afghan Hound
  • Ibizan Hound
  • Irish Wolfhound
  • Saluki
  • Whippet
  • Borzoi
Labrador retriever with head of medium proportions.

Labrador retriever with head of medium proportions.

The Mesocephalic Dog Head

This dog head is the way in between, not too short, not too long. 

It's a head of intermediate length and width and therefore it's of medium proportions.

What Dog Breeds Have a Mesocephalic Head?

Examples of dog breeds with a mesocephalic head include the following:

  • Alaskan Malamute
  • American Cocker Spaniel
  • Australian Cattle Dog
  • Australian Shepherd
  •  Golden retriever
  • Labrador retriever
  • Beagle
  • Rottweiler
  • Saint Bernard
  • Samoyed
  • Siberian Husky
  • Vizsla
  • Weimaraner

A Word About a Dog's Cephalic Index

Did you know? A dog's cephalic index helps sort a dog's skull in its most appropriate category.

 This index is determined by skull width/skull length) ×100.

Smaller values indicate that a dog is dolicocephalic while larger values indicate that the dog is brachycephalic.

For example, the cephalic index of a greyhound can be 42.2, while it may be 87.2 in a shih tzu mix.

 Did you know? According to a study, as a dog's height and weight decreases, this leads to several undesirable behaviors such as non-social fear, hyperactivity and attention seeking.

 Taller dogs were instead found to be more affectionate when greeting and being handled, and were also more cooperative and playful. 


  • McGreevy P, Grassi T, Harman AM. A strong correlation exists between the distribution of retinal ganglion cells and nose length in dogs. Brain, Behavior and Evolution. 2003
  • Roberts T, McGreevy P, Valenzuela M. Human Induced Rotation and Reorganization of the Brain of Domestic Dogs. PLoS One. 2010
  • Hecht J & Horowitz A. Seeing dogs: Human preferences for dog physical attributes. Anthrozoös 2015
  • Martinez AG, Santamarina Pernas G, Dieguez Casalta FJ, Suarez Rey ML, De la Cruz Palomino LF. Factors associated with behavioural problems in dogs. Journal of Veterinary Behaviour: Clinical applications and research. 2011
  • Hussein, A. K., Sullivan, M., & Penderis, J. (2012). Effect of brachycephalic, mesaticephalic, and dolichocephalic head conformations on olfactory bulb angle and orientation in dogs as determined by use of in vivo magnetic resonance imaging, American Journal of Veterinary Research, 73(7), 946-951. 

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