Staffordshire bull terriers are heaps of muscle packed into a relatively small package. They have rather short and deep heads, with a broad skull and strong jaw. Although these dogs still resemble the original breed known for being tenacious brawlers in England’s fighting pits, today’s Staffies are sweet-natured and family-oriented.
While Staffordshire bull terriers are often misjudged due to their ‘bully’ appearance and history, they are very friendly even to strangers. They are also very fun-loving and excitable breeds, making them an excellent companion and playmate.
History of Staffy Dogs
Staffordshire bull terriers are among the AKC terriers, including the bull terrier and the American Staffordshire terrier, that are classified as ‘bull types.’ This classification is because all these dogs share a similar back story: they were used to fight in dog-oriented blood sports.
The bulldog, for example, was bred specifically for the horrific sport of bullbaiting, but luckily these sports were outlawed in 1835. Despite the banning of these sports, pit-dog wagering continued as an underground activity where dogs would either fight to the death or would be set against a pack of rats. Bulldogs were crossed with terriers to create a muscular animal with the fiery spirit of a terrier for these sports.
Among the many breeds created this way was the Staffordshire bull terrier, a breed originating from England in the 19th century. They later became one of the most enduring and successful breeds. Their name was given to them as a result of their popularity in the county of Staffordshire in particular.
After the Staffordshire bull arrived in North America in the 1800s, generations of responsible breeding transformed these once bloodthirsty fighting animals into loving family companions. They are now one of the most reliable and trustworthy dogs and are excellent around children.
Despite their muscular appearance, these dogs are relatively small breeds with males standing at around 14-16 inches tall, while females are 13-15 inches tall. In terms of their weight, males are also typically heavier. Male Staffies weigh between 25-38 pounds in weight, while females range between 23-35 pounds.
Staffordshire bull terriers also come in a variety of colors, which adds to their appeal. Brindle coats are probably the most common color seen in the breed, but other variations include fawn, red, white, black, blue, and liver. These dogs can also have coats of any of the above colors mixed with white.
Despite their history as pit fighters, the Staffordshire bull terrier is exceptional and shows unconditional affection towards humans. Staffies love being around their family members and are both reliable and trustworthy dogs.
Despite their fierce appearance, Staffordshire bull terriers do not make excellent guard dogs. They are more likely to smother an intruder to death with affection than maul them. However, they are quite vocal when it comes to alerting their owners of incoming visitors.
Staffies are intelligent breeds with a zest for life. They also have an excellent reputation with children and are even nicknamed ‘nanny’ dogs. They come second to no other dogs when it comes to caregiving. Staffies are usually good with other pets inside the household compared to other breeds.
However, without stern leadership and training, they can be problematic when they meet with dogs outside. Therefore, it’s essential to socialize your dog with other canines from an early age to prevent this.
As puppies, Staffies are heavy chewers. You would be wise to invest in a lot of chew toys to prevent them from chewing on your furniture next. These toys should be sturdy, as the muscular jaw of the Staffordshire bull terrier will easily tear through vinyl material in no time. You must also ensure that your dog doesn’t swallow any of his toys to avoid any poisoning.
Staffies are an intelligent breed that you can quickly train to be responsive to instructions. Although they are quick to comply with their owner’s requests, it’s essential to teach them to do this from a young age. Since Staffies were initially bred to fight, it’s crucial to train them to control natural traits such as their prey drive.
Therefore, you should provide your Staffy pup with clear and consistent training. This training allows them to not only learn the rules but also follow them. Since Staffies thrive off challenges, you can also train your Staffordshire bull terrier to compete in high-level agility contests.
This breed requires regular exercise to keep them both mentally and physically fit, as well as calm. Without mental stimulation, a Staffy’s excitability can get out of control. The exercises can be anything from ball games to running alongside you, cycling or jogging, as well as long walks through the woods. Despite their highly active levels, these dogs have a low heat tolerance. It would be best if you took caution not to exercise them too strenuously in warm or humid weather.
Staffordshire bull terriers need minimal grooming. Occasional baths and weekly brushing using a horsehair mitt will keep their coats looking glossy. They also need their nails trimmed at least once every month. You should avoid letting their nails grow too long as this could become quite painful for them in their day-to-day life.
Their ears also need regular checking and cleaning to remove ear wax build-up and debris, which could potentially lead to a nasty ear infection. You could ask your vet or breeder to recommend an ear-cleaning routine to keep your Staffy as healthy as possible.
These dogs can be prone to numerous health conditions. Responsible breeders of Staffordshire bull terriers carry out regular health checks on their dogs, such as screening for hip and elbow dysplasia, patella luxation, and eye issues such as hereditary juvenile cataracts.
Unfortunately, Staffies can develop several forms of skin allergies, too, some of which may also be genetic. Through a DNA test for L-2HGA, however, breeders can find out if one of their dogs is a carrier, therefore, helping to avoid the spread of the disease to potential offspring. The recommended health checks include the L-2HGA DNA test, hereditary cataracts DNA test, and ophthalmologist evaluation.
Always ensure to conduct thorough research on a breed of interest before purchasing or adopting. The research will help you decide whether your breed of interest is suitable for you and your family. This verification can reduce the number of owners forced to give up their new pets because they cannot cater to them, or because their home environment isn’t suitable for the dog they have adopted.
Additionally, if you are going to buy a new puppy rather than adopt, ask all relevant questions. Ask about the puppies’ parents, any health checks, and whether the breeder can show you their license and papers. All of this helps prevent you from potentially buying from puppy mills, where dogs are used for profit to mass-produce puppies, which often have lots of health issues. A genuine breeder should always be able to show you the puppies’ parents.
Most potential owners are often discouraged by the history of the Staffy. While their history is responsible for some of the traits seen in them today, such as their prey drive, these dogs have been bred responsibly for many generations and are renowned as one of the best family dog breeds. Ultimately, how you raise a Staffordshire bull terrier will determine their behavior, regardless of their history.