To many people misinformed by an hysterical and sensationalistic media misrepresentation of the breed, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier is a “dangerous dog breed”. As a result of this bad rap that the Staffy has received, ownership of this fantastic family dog has been banned in many municipalities.
In truth, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier is one of the most loving dog breeds in existence. Staffies are extremely affectionate, form strong bonds with their owners. Despite the “tough” appearance, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier has a great fondness for children, and is one of the more healthy and long-lived purebred dog breeds. the Staffie is actually known as the “Nanny Dog” in the UK, due to it’s eagerness to act as nursemaid to children of all sizes.
In the hands of a responsible dog owner, knowledgeable about the history of the Staffordshire Bull Terrier dog breed, and with a commitment to the training and proper containment of their dog, the Staffy actually poses little more of a threat to public safety than the Chihuahua. However, in the hands of a “dumbass” macho owner drawn to the breed because if it’s rather gory and less than pristine history, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier can be trained to be a dangerous animal and pose a threat to the safety of other dogs, pets and animals.
Staffordshire Bull Terrier History
Staffordshire Bull Terrier (informally: Staffie, Stafford, Staffross, Staffy or Staff) is a medium-sized, short-coated, old-time breed of dog, originally bred for bull baiting. In the early part of the twentieth century, the breed gained respectability, and it was accepted by the The Kennel Club of the United Kingdom as the Staffordshire bull terrier. It is an English breed of dog related to the bull terrier and its larger cousins the American Staffordshire Terrier (Amstaff) and the American Pit Bull Terrier, the latter two being generally categorized as Pit bull terriers.
Before the nineteenth century, bloodsports such as bull baiting, bear baiting and cock fighting were common. Bulls brought to market were set upon by dogs as a way of tenderizing the meat and providing entertainment for the spectators; and dog fights with bears, bulls and other animals were often organized as entertainment for both royalty and commoners. Early Bull and Terriers were not bred for the handsome visual specimen of today, rather they were bred for the characteristic known as gameness. The pitting of dogs against bear or bull tested the gameness, strength and skill of the dog. These early “proto-staffords” provided the ancestral foundation stock for the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, the Bull Terrier, the American Pit Bull Terrier and American Staffordshire Terrier. This common ancestor was known as the “Bull and Terrier”.
These bloodsports were officially eliminated in 1835 as Britain began to introduce animal welfare laws. Since dogfights were cheaper to organize and far easier to conceal from the law than bull or bear baits, bloodsport proponents turned to pitting their dogs against each other instead. Dog fighting was used as both a bloodsport (often involving gambling) and a way to continue to test the quality of their stock. For decades afterward, dog fighting clandestinely took place in pockets of working-class Britain and America. Dogs were released into a pit, and the last dog still fighting (or occasionally, the last dog surviving) was recognized as the winner. The quality of pluckiness or “gameness” was still highly prized, and dogs that gave up during a fight were reviled as “curs”. As an important aside, fighting dogs were often handled in the pit during fights, by both their owners and the judge, so were bred to be as trustworthy with humans as they were aggressive towards other dogs.
AKC Staffordshire Bull Terrier History
Staffordshire Bull Terrier Appearance
The Staffordshire Bull Terrier is a medium-sized, stocky, muscular dog with athletic ability. They have a broad head, defined occipital muscles, a relatively short foreface, dark round eyes and a wide mouth with a clean scissor-like bite (the top incisors slightly overlap the bottom incisors). The ears are small. The cheek muscles are very pronounced. Their lips show no looseness, and they rarely drool. From above the head loosely resembles a triangle. The head tapers down to a strong well-muscled neck and shoulders placed on squarely spaced forelimbs. They are tucked up in their loins and the last 1-2 ribs of their ribcage are usually visible. Their tail resembles an old fashioned pump handle. Their hind quarters are well-muscled and are what gave the Staffy drive when baiting.
They are colored brindle, red, fawn, blue, white, or any blending of these colors with white. White with any color over an eye is known as piebald or pied. Skewbald is white with red patches. Liver-colored and black and tan dogs sometimes occur. The coat is smooth and clings tightly to the body giving the dog a streamlined appearance.
The dogs stand 14 to 16 in (36 to 41 cm) at the withers and weigh 24 to 32 lb (11 to 15 kg) (male dogs are normally up to 6lb heavier).
Staffordshire Bull Terrier Temperament
Although individual differences in personality exist, common traits exist throughout the Staffords. Due to its breeding, the modern dog is known for its character of indomitable courage, high intelligence, and tenacity. This, coupled with its affection for its friends (and children in particular), its off-duty quietness and trustworthy stability, make it a foremost all-purpose dog. It has been said that “No breed is more loving with its family”.
The breed is naturally muscular and may appear intimidating; however, because of their natural fondness for people, most Staffords are temperamentally ill-suited for guard or attack-dog training.
The Staffordshire Bull Terrier appeared in the top 10 breeds most suitable for families and especially children in a report researched and published by Southampton University in 1996. Staffordshire Bull Terrier puppies are very easy to house train.
Since the UK Dangerous Dogs Act made it illegal to own breeds such as the pit bull terrier, the press have reported many cases of attacks by Staffordshire Bull Terriers or dogs described as a ‘Staffordshire bull terrier cross’ on children, adults and family pets. The RSPCA fears that breeders are re-naming pit bulls as Staffordshire bull terriers to avoid prosecution. Also, the description ‘Staffordshire bull terrier cross’ is frequently a euphemism for a dog such as the American Pit Bull Terrier.
RSPCA chief vet Mark Evans said: “Staffies have had a terrible press, but this is not of their own making – in fact they’re wonderful dogs. If people think that Staffies have problems, they’re looking at the wrong end of the dog lead! When well cared for and properly trained they can make brilliant companions. Our experience suggests that problems occur when bad owners exploit the Staffie’s desire to please by training them to show aggression”.
The Staffordshire Bull Terrier is often subject to breed bans worldwide that target the Bull and Terrier family. However, Australia, England, and New Zealand make clear a distinction between the American Pit Bull Terrier and Staffordshire Bull Terrier and thus are exempted from Breed Specific Legislation.
Watch this Video for the Real Story about Staffies!
Staffordshire Bull Terrier Exercise Info
Like any medium to large sized dog breed, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier needs daily exercise to keep him healthy and happy. However, unlike some of the more “other-dog-friendly” dog breeds, the Staffie is not a dog that can be allowed to romp and play at the local dog park. Staffordshire Bull Terrier owners need to always be careful that their dog is securely leashed and handled with great care when out for a walk. This dog breed can have an innate drive to attack other dogs; an unfortunate byproduct of his early use as a bull-baiting and fighting dog breed.
Staffies love to romp and play in the back yard, and are always eager to join in a game of fetch with the kids.
Staffordshire Bull Terrier Grooming Info
Grooming the Staffordshire Bull Terrier is an absolute snap. This breed has a wonderful, smooth, short coat that requires just a weekly brushing to remove dead hairs, and the occasional bath to keep doggie odor at bay. Staffies ears should be cleaned occasionally with an acidifying ear cleanser, and nails should be kept trimmed. Many Staffie owners also perform regular dental care, brushing their dog’s teeth with an enzymatic toothpaste and finger brush – or a the very least providing dental chews and other treats intended to help keep your dog’s teeth and gums healthy.
Staffordshire Bull Terrier Training Info
If you’re looking for a family dog that is a whiz to housetrain, look no further than the Staffordshire Bull Terrier! This highly intelligent dog breed practically house-trains himself, (and may even help your toddlers in their potty-training!) Just take your Staffie outdoors a few times when nature calls, and before you know it, you’ll have a pet that would sooner endure the rack than soil your carpet or floor.
The Staffordshire Bull Terrier needs obedience training and plenty of socialization from an early age from a committed and consistent teacher. This breed was developed for some very gruesome purposes, and still retains some of the “gameness” he was originally bred for. A responsible owner will always keep this in mind, and ensure that their Staffordshire Bull Terrier is always kept safely away from other dogs, pets and livestock.
Staffordshire Bull Terrier Health Info
The ‘Staffordshire Bull Terrier’ can suffer from health problems common to other dog breeds such as cataracts, hip dysplasia and breathing problems but are overall a very healthy breed.
As with any breed, irresponsible breeding can cause the spread of hereditary genetic flaws. Tests are performed to screen for these conditions.
Two of the conditions that can be detected by DNA testing are L-2-hydroxyglutaric aciduria (L2HGA) and Hereditary Cataracts (HC). This testing need only be done once. There are another two conditions which can be checked by way of an ocular examination throughout the life of a breeding stud or brood-bitch to minimize the transfer & spread of these conditions. The first is distachiasis (commonly known as �double eyelash�) where eyelashes are misdirected and begin to rub against the eye, particularly the cornea, causing ocular surface damage. The second is Persistent Hyperplastic Primary Vitreous (or PHPV) which is a condition whereby the blood supply to the ocular lens fails to regress and fibrovascular tissue forms causing hazy vision.
The breed is known to be at risk from melanoma, often seen in the stomach area as Staffys love to sunbathe on their backs.
Staffordshire Bull Terrier Right Breed Info
If the Staffy is the dog of your dreams, the first thing to find out is whether there is breed-specific legislation in your area banning ownership of this much maligned breed. Despite the Staffordshire Bull Terrier being one of the best family dogs you will find, the breed is the victim of much misinformation, combined with irresponsible owners who have contributed to this “bad rap” the Staffy has received.
It would be absolutely tragic to acquire and fall in love with a Staffordshire Bull Terrier dog or puppy, only to have your pet taken by authorities, or be forced to euthanized your companion. Contact your municipality for details on bylaws that could prevent legal Staffordshire Bull Terrier ownership.
Secondly, this is not a good choice for a second dog or a family with other pets. The Staffy’s bred-in characteristics known as “gameness” will definitely put the wellbeing of other family pets in jeopardy. The Staffordshire Bull Terrier is best kept as an “only pet”.
If your area does not have a ban on Staffy ownership, then this may be a good choice for you and your family, provided you have the time to devote to this people-loving breed, and a commitment to training your dog to be a good canine citizen. This is not a breed to be let off-leash in your neighborhood park, nor to be allowed to wander the neighborhood. You’ll need a large, securely fenced yard for your Staffy, and to be ever-vigilant with your Staffordshire Bull Terrier in the presence of other dogs or pets. With responsible ownership, early socialization and consistent training, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier makes a fantastic, kid-loving companion for families.
More Information about the Staffordshire Bull Terrier Dog Breed