All dogs show a little sagging around the neck and jowls when they age. But for some droopy pooches, loose skin is a breed characteristic. Loose skin has benefited certain breeds in their working past, making them better at tracking scent and at avoiding injury, although nowadays, it is the cosmetic aspect of loose skin that appeals most to owners. In some cases, loose skin can lead to health and hygiene problems for dogs.
Loose Skin, Tough Background
He may have the look of a dopey and adorable pooch, but the shar-pei’s tough guy history explains exactly why he’s got loose skin. The shar-pei was bred for fighting and his loose skin protected him in two ways. It’s tough, bristled texture deadened the impact of bites and the loose folds enabled him to move about, even if another dog had a good grip on his skin. Modern shar-peis can have somewhat exaggerated skin folds, which affect them negatively in a number of ways. They are more prone to skin infections and in extreme cases, the heavy folds can impede their vision.
Neapolitan Mastiff: Big Skin, No Bite
The Neapolitan mastiff may look fearsome, but it’s been a long time since this gentle giant was used for guarding and protection work. His deep, loose folds give him the distinctive look of a dog wearing a jacket several sizes too big, but like the shar-pei, those wrinkles had a purpose. If called upon to protect people or livestock, his loose skin would reduce his chances of suffering injury from a bite.
Like the Neapolitan mastiff and shar-pei, the bloodhound’s loose skin has an important purpose and if you’re ever on the run from the law, you might just find out about it. His famous scent-tracking abilities wouldn’t be what they are without those loose folds around his jaw and neck. While this pooch patrols the ground for scent, his skin folds capture scent that he’s missed, enabling him to double-check his work and find what he’s looking for.
Bulldog's Bullbaiting History
Bulldogs have a flattened face because they descend from breeds used for bullbaiting. Those breeds benefited from having a flat face because it enabled them to grip onto their prey while breathing clearly. Today’s bulldog carries the legacy of those dark days, his wrinkled jowls a reminder of his ancestry. Although they serve no practical purpose, those sloppy, wrinkled chops sure are cute. However, there’s also a downside. His skin folds are a haven for infection.
Frenchy's Wrinkles Are a Fashion Statement
The French bulldog has a shared ancestry with the bulldog and also carries the wrinkly legacy of days gone by. However, his loose skin is also a product of human desire. Many breeders seek to exaggerate the trait of wrinkled skin to give their dogs a distinctive appearance. The French bulldog’s head and shoulder wrinkles should be moderate, but some examples of the breed have excessively loose skin.
Simon Foden has been a freelance writer and editor since 1999. He began his writing career after graduating with a Bachelors of Arts degree in music from Salford University. He has contributed to and written for various magazines including "K9 Magazine" and "Pet Friendly Magazine." He has also written for Dogmagazine.net.