The Staffordshire Bull Terrier is an intelligent dog breed that has been bred for centuries. There are many misconceptions about the breed due to its sad past. In fact, the Staffy has an extremely people-orientated, loyal and friendly temperament. It is saddening to see the dog depicted as vicious.
This blog post will focus on the Staffordshire Bull Terrier Temperament, their history and potential health issues to help you find out if this dog breed is right for your lifestyle. Spoiler alert: The Staffy temperament is actually the complete opposite of vicious.
Bringing a dog into your life is a big decision, and every future dog owner should know the pros and cons of the chosen dog breed. A Staffordshire Bull Terrier is undoubtedly not a laid-back dog and will keep you on your toes, but their unyielding love and loyalty for you can make it your best life decision.
Let's jump into this versatile and people-orientated dog breed without further ado.
Staffordshire Bull Terrier History
A Staffordshire Bull Terrier (Stafford, Staffy or Staffie) is an intelligent dog breed that has been bred for centuries. It started in the early 1900s when the English Bulldog was crossed with different Terriers available. Back then, the Staffy was known as the Bull and Terrier. The English Bulldog has ancestors from centuries-old mastiffs imported by the Romans, also known as Molossian Hounds.
In the early 1900s, people of all classes were into so-called Bloodsports. They bred the Bull and Terrier to attack bulls, bears and other dogs for amusement. Fortunately, the UK banned Bloodsports in 1835. However, this led people to move the operation underground, and the ring fights continued for years.
As you can imagine, breeders bred dogs for their gameness rather than cute looks. But one temperament trait was bred into these dogs from the beginning. Only to show aggression versus the opponent and never towards humans. This was crucial as handlers had to separate dogs during fights.
James Hinks was the person most associated with the development of the Staffordshire Bull Terrier. Hinks focused on breeding Terriers from the "Black Country" of Staffordshire and northern parts of Birmingham. It is even believed that he bred in Dalmatians and Collies. Therefore, this led to the development of a separate breed known today as the Staffordshire Bull Terrier.
The UK Kennel Club only recognised the Staffy in 1935. The authorities had concerns about their heritage and links to dogfights. Fortunately, good breeders transformed the Staffy into a friendly and affectionate dog with a widely known love for children whilst keeping their muscular and robust bodies.
The Kennel Club recognises a wide range of breed standard colours: Black, Blue, Brindle, Fawn, Red, Liver, White and everything mixed between the colours mentioned above.
In Q1 2022, 1,567 Staffordshire Bull Terriers have been registered with the UK Kennel Club, which matches the average amount registered in prior years. It shows the ongoing love story of the people in England and this beautiful dog breed.
Source: UK Kennel Club https://www.thekennelclub.org.uk/media/2405/quarterly-breed-stats-terriers.pdf September 2022
Now that we have learnt so much about the Staffies' history let's have a closer look at the temperament of this Terrier dog breed.
What is it like to live with a Staffordshire Bull Terrier?
These dogs are very loyal and protective. They love attention and will follow you everywhere. A Staffys favourite place to be will always be by your side, showing you their affection. Off-lead training is not difficult for a Staffy as they don't tend to stray far away from their owner.
Bred in the Bullbaiting time, the Staffy is courageous and fearless. They can make for good watchdogs due to their loyalty and protective nature. Socialisation is a crucial part of any Staffy training. They should be exposed to different dogs, animals and people to form positive relationships and experience their environment. It will determine how they react to other dogs and people in the future. If you are a good leader, they will trust your decision-making process and follow suit.
If properly socialised from an early age, the Staffy is the perfect canine companion for a family with children. Staffies love children and are often referred to as "nanny dogs". They have an ever-patient and gentle temperament with children. It's like they "know" and feel their vulnerability.
They do require to be taught impeccable manners. Although not very big in height, these dogs are muscular and strong. Unfortunately, not aware of their own strength, these dogs can accidentally knock over an older person or a smaller child as they can be a jumpy breed. Training is key.
Staffies are a bundle of energy. They require tons of physical and mental exercise, significantly so when younger. Make sure you have the time to dedicate to your Staffy.
A bored dog is always a recipe for disaster no matter the breed, and destructive behaviours are a common problem with this breed. Therefore, daily long walks, tug-of-war games, fetch, and mental exercise is crucial. Having a job makes your Staffy happy.
Staffies are perfect for an outdoorsy family or owner. Due to their size, you can take them with you everywhere you go. Despite their muscular and robust body, they are not big in height. Perfect travel size!
A Staffy will have no issue keeping up with you on a hike, run or cycle session and will enthusiastically tackle any challenge. The more you exercise your Staffy, the more relaxed they will be in the home environment.
Another interesting fact about Staffies is that they retain their high energy into older age. Even senior Staffies will be able to keep up with a dog a quarter of their age. So don't expect your dog to slow down anytime soon!
Due to the Staffies' sensitive and people-orientated temperament, they do not tolerate being left alone and can suffer from severe separation anxiety. So if you're looking for a dog to be left alone, the Staffy might not be the right breed. If you plan to leave them alone, you need to begin training from a young age, starting with short intervals. This should give them the confidence that you will return and not leave them forever.
They are lively and intelligent. Training can be a bit challenging as a Staffy tends to be stubborn. Find out what makes your Staffy "tick". A Staffy will perform if they feel something is in it for their obedience. Positive re-enforcement is the way to go, and patient and consistent training will strengthen your relationship with your dog. Staffies do look for consistent leadership, and it is crucial to not let them deviate from their boundaries.
You might want to focus your training on lead training. Staff are powerful and tend to pull on a lead as well. Practice "heel" training every day until your Staffy obeys without failure.
Grooming is low maintenance, so it shouldn't be taking too much of your time. However, brushing once a week is recommended to strip the coat of dead hair and maintain a glossy look. This will also help keep your home tidy if you're very house-proud.
Let's now have a look at some common Staffordshire Bull Terrier questions.
Is the Staffordshire Bull Terrier dangerous?
No, the Staffy is not aggressive by nature. However, they need proper training and socialisation to become well-rounded canine companions.
Socialisation will positively form their decision-making process and determine how your dog reacts to a change in its environment. Shy and unsocialised dogs tend to lash out in fear, which is valid for all dog breeds.
The Staffy has a high-energy but loving temperament and loves their hooman more than anything. They are a truly wonderful dog breed to own who loves people. You are responsible for giving them the best start in life by socialising them with other dogs and people of all ages. This dog does not deserve the bad reputation they are given by uneducated people.
Staffordshire Bull Terrier vs American Staffordshire Bull Terrier
The American Staffordshire Bull Terrier is a distant cousin of the Staffordshire Bull Terrier. When the Staffy was exported to the US, both lines started to split primarily due to their appearance.
In terms of appearance, the Amstaff is a few inches taller and a few pounds heavier. The Americans wanted a more muscular and more robust dog. The muzzles are more prolonged than English Staffies as well.
Their temperaments are similar, with a tenacious spirit and loyalty to their owner, and they form powerful bonds with their owner. An important fact to note is that the dog's nature depends on its owner. No dog is born aggressive; it all comes down to leadership and the level of training and socialisation, or lack thereof.
What is the Staffy Bull Terrier law in the UK?
There are 4 types of dogs on the UK's dangerous dogs list. The Staffy isn't one of them and is, therefore, a legal dog in the UK. So don't worry!
The banned dog breeds are the below:
- Pitbull Terrier
- Japanese Tosa
- Dogo Argentino
- Fila Brasiliera
It's against the law to sell, give away, abandon or breed a banned dog. Here is where it can get tricky. Whether your dog is a banned type depends on its looks rather than the breed or name. If your dog resembles a Pitbull, it could get banned.
In 2018 Peta petitioned to add the Staffordshire Bull Terrier to the list because the breed was most likely to be abused or abducted to be sold for fighting rings. Dangerous people make for dangerous dogs. But a counter-petition was filed, gathering 160,000 signatures in support, and PETA's petition was rejected. Thank god!
Staffordshire Bull Terrier Temperament in a nutshell
People-orientated, loyal and loving
Early socialisation is crucial when owning a Staffy
Are very quick to trust strangers and open their hearts to people
Often misunderstood by uneducated people
High energy and require 2 hrs exercise a day
Potential health issues in the Staffy breed
There are certain health conditions that the Staffy can be prone to. Naturally, bigger and more muscular dogs amount to more considerable medical expenses when needing treatment. That said, not all Staffys will experience the below hereditary diseases. It's essential to be aware of them to spot problems early on so you can follow up with immediate treatment.
The average life span of a Staffy is between 12 to 14 years. When choosing a puppy, a reputable breeder must have all health certificates. A reputable breeder will also breed dogs with a good temperament than breed just for looks.
The below list does not replace a vet visit. In general, always look for a vet, if your dog displays any sort of symptoms and internet research doesn't replace a vet visit.
Hip dysplasia/ elbow dysplasia: Before breeding, dogs should be screened by x-rays through the Kennel Club Hip Dysplasia Scheme.
Skin conditions/ allergies
Certain cancers: Mast Cell Tumours for example
Eyesight conditions: Juvenile Cataracts and Distichiasis
Overall, however, the Staffy is considered a healthy and robust dog breed.
Staffordshire Bull Terrier fun fact
A Staffordshire Bull Terrier called "Cooper" was adopted in March 2008 as the first Staffy police dog. Cooper was a stray rescued by RSPCA and, following a six-week training, adopted by the police force.
In his four years of duty to fight crime, he recovered approximately 400,000 GBP worth of drugs and cash. Cooper only retired in September 2022 and will now spend his retirement with his handler, Tim Moss. We wish Cooper all the best and thank him for his dedicated work to society and the communities he brought so much joy and education.
Owners' voices about their Staffy
"Loyal, big hearts, quirky. They are so loyal to their owners that it's insane. Big hearts as they love the affection they get from us and I love it just as much, they are just a perfect size, not too big and not too small, minimal in the grooming department. Quirky because like their zoomies, the way they sit. I just love staffies and of course, they are all too freaking cute for their own good"
"Faithful, loving and staunch. Not everyone is a good fit for a staffy. You too must be Faithful, loving and staunch for your dog. Casual dog people aren't going to be able to love and care for them enough"
"Great protector, big softies, sensitive to your mood- sad or happy. They will snuggle up to you and cheer you up! We have 2!"
"Sensitive loyal and loving is a Staffie in 3 words"
"Loving, best friend, loyal there are so many wonderful things about them"
"I have always loved them simply because I think they're a stunning breed but they also suit our active lifestyle and have children in the family which they are great with. What I didn't realise until getting one and no one can really teach you is how they connect with you. It's on a level I have never known with other dog breeds"
"Child friendly tornado"
"Loving, crazy, gentle"
"Loyal and sensitive but such charaters just needs a strong handler as they are built like tanks!! "
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Conclusion: Is the Staffordshire Bull Terrier a wonderful dog to own?
Because of a lack of research and understanding, people often don't realise that this dog breed is not malicious or dangerous in any way. The Staffy is definitely a wonderful dog to own for the right person.
They will show you their love daily through their devoted, loving and people-orientated temperament. Socialisation is vital if you want your Staffy to be their best version of themselves. Different experiences and boundaries will make your Staffy grow into a well-rounded canine companion. They can be a bit stubborn when it comes to training, but a framework of consistency and patience will make them respect your leadership and be eager to please you.
If you are an active person who loves to spend time outside and can match the Staffys energy level, this dog breed is a no-brainer and, therefore, a wonderful dog to own.