THE STAFFORDSHIRE BULL TERRIER

The Staffordshire Bull Terrier was developed in the region of Staffordshire, England in the 19th Century from crosses between Bull dogs and various local Terriers, similar to the Manchester Terrier. The Staffordshire Bull Terrier was developed for the then-popular sport of bull baiting. Bulls brought to market were set upon by dogs as a way of tenderising the meat and providing entertainment for the spectators and dog fights with bears, bulls and other animals were often organised as entertainment for both Royalty and commoners. These blood sports were officially eliminated in 1835 when Britain began to introduce animal welfare laws. By being trained to be aggressive towards other dogs the Staffy has always had a good temperament with people and as time went on, the modern breed has become one with a temperament suitable for a pet and companion.

The Staffordshire Bull Terrier gained recognition by the Kennel Club in the United Kingdom on 25th May 1935 and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier Club was formed in June 1935. It is unusual for a breed to be recognised without a club in existence and even more unusual for there not to have been a breed standard in place. The breed standard was drawn up in June 1935 and a group of 30 Stafford enthusiasts gathered and devised the standard. During the 1980’s, owners started to breed from old British lines, also importing Staffordshire Bull Terriers from Ireland. The breed was recognised in the US by the American Kennel Club in 1975.

DESCRIPTION

The Staffy is a muscular dog and is incredibly strong for its size. It has a broad head, the male considerably more so than the female, short full face, dark round eyes, wide mouth with a clean scissor-like bite. The ears are small and the cheek muscles are very pronounced. The lips should be tight and clean. The head tapers down to a strong well-muscled neck and shoulders placed squarely spaced forelimbs. The last one to two ribs of the ribcage are usually visible. They have a low set tail which is thick at the base, tapering to a point and carried low. The tail should not curl much.

They are coloured brindle, black, fawn, red, blue, white or any blending of these colours. The coat is smooth and clings tightly to the body giving the dog a streamlined appearance.

The dogs stand 36 to 42 centimetres and weigh between 11 and 17 kilograms for males and 10 to 16 kilograms for females.

TEMPERAMENT

Individual differences in personality exist but there are common traits throughout Staffys. Staffys are known for their intelligence, fearlessness and loyalty. They are an extremely courageous and obedient breed who love to play, work and love.

Staffys are extremely reliable and affectionate, especially with children. The Staffordshire Bull Terrier is one of only two from over 190 breeds that the UK Kennel Club recommend as being suitable for children, the other being a Chesapeake Retriever.

They can be trained for agility and competitive obedience and they love a challenge and variety. Owners need to protect these dogs from injuring themselves as they are fearless and curious and liable to jump off walls or walk through broken glass.

Despite originally being bred as a fighting dog, the Staffy has evolved to become a companion dog, extremely sociable, fun loving and happy. A Staffy is never more comfortable than cuddled up on your lap and they do not necessarily make good guard dogs. These dogs would lick a burglar to death. Staffys simply adore people and they dote on families and insist on following you wherever you go in the house. It is not a dog to be shut out in the garden or left alone for hours on end and thrives on human company. Staffys hate to be ignored and will do anything to get your attention. They can suffer from separation anxiety if they are not used to being on their own.

Staffys are not good swimmers. They like to have lots of toys to chew.

Staffies and the law

EXERCISE

This breed is remarkably flexible when it comes to the amount of exercise needed and whilst some will be content with a walk around the block for at least 20 minutes, others would cope with a 10 mile run. Staffys are extremely strong and pulling games, chasing a ball or a strong toy for a short period will provide an exercise they really enjoy. Staffys should be trained so that they leave the toy when told to do so in order to maintain your higher position in the pack. Lack of exercise can cause this dog to become bored and destructive. Staffys are not a breed to be left alone as they enjoy being with the family.

TRAINING

Staffys are essentially big dogs in a very compact body and can have strong characteristics. You need to be firm and fair, calm and consistent and they must know that they are part of the pack with you at the lead. Staffys are generally obedient dogs who are desperate to please. Training classes may be recommended if you are a novice. Staffys do not respond well to harsh punishment and are sensitive souls who will shut down if the training is too aversive.

As puppies, Staffys will nip and chew anything in sight and they may have a go at your furniture and shoes.

You must keep in mind you are a pack leader and that destructive behaviour will not be tolerated.

CHEWING

Staffys have very powerful jaws and strong teeth and need to chew in order to keep these healthy. Appropriate objects should be bought for the dog to chew.

GROOMING AND CARE

Staffys have a short coat that rarely requires more than a brush and a bath. Staffys should not be bathed regularly and certainly no more than once a fortnight. They shed hair approximately once a year and little throughout the rest of the year. A Staffy should be brushed on a weekly basis and bathed occasionally. Other grooming needs include dental hygiene and nail care. Staffys should have their teeth brushed at least once a week to remove tartar and nails may need trimming.

HEALTH AND PHYSICAL CARE

Staffys have a life span of up to 14 years of age and are generally considered very healthy dogs. The Staffy can be prone to cataract, HC and PHPC which are both eye complaints. Hip dysplasia is occasionally seen in Staffys which can cause lameness or arthritis. Elbow dysplasia is also a inheritable condition that can lead to lameness.

The Staffy is a companion dog who will do well in any type of home providing he gets exercise. Staffys should live in doors with access to a secure outside area. Staffys are not good swimmers but they do like to play in water. They should not be left outdoors in a hot or humid climate. Staffys are definitely vocal but not generally a barker. They will snort, snore, grunt and groan and sometimes they can be known to have a “singing” voice. It is important that Staffys are trained on a leash as they have a strong prey drive and will chase cats or other animals if they have the opportunity to do so. It is important from an early age that Staffys are socialised with other dogs and animals.

FEEDING

Most dogs drop to one meal a day when they are around 18 months to 2 years of age. Some people prefer to feed their dog twice a day and this is a matter of getting to know your dog. An adult Staffy should have a basic meat and biscuit diet. There are a large range of complete dry foods that are now very popular. Dogs vary but the proof that your dog is receiving the nutrition he requires is the condition of his coat – does it shine, do their eyes look bright and motions firm.

CHILDREN AND OTHER PETS

The Staffy is one of only two breeds recommended by the UK Kennel Club as being suitable for families with children. Despite its patience and gentleness, Staffys should always be supervised in the presence of toddlers or young children. Staffys are known as the “nanny dog” known to sit by children for long periods of time guarding them.

Staffys are strong and powerful and may accidentally knock small children down with their enthusiasm. Children should always be taught how to approach and touch dogs and they should be taught they should not play with the dog’s mouth, ears or pull their tails. Children should be taught never to approach any dog whilst he is sleeping and to stay away from dogs when they are around food.

Being so tolerant and accepting of children, Staffys often form bonds with members of the family. They are generally very fond of youngsters.