The Staffordshire Bull Terrier (also known as Stafford or Staffie) is renowned amongst those who know the breed for their qualities which make them an ideal family pet. When raised well with good early socialisation their devotion to their family, trustworthy stable temperament and playful nature together with their small/medium size make them fantastic pets. They are typically a healthy breed, great with children and, despite their poor reputation are NOT naturally aggressive! The Staffie is a very popular breed worldwide and has earned the nick-name of the 'nanny dog' due to it's affinity with people and children. Of the around 200 breeds of dogs recognised by the Kennel Club, the Staffie is one of only a handful recognised for their suitability with children, "The Staffordshire is one of the most popular of all the terriers. With the human race, he is kindness itself, and his genuine love of children is well known" and "Highly intelligent and affectionate especially with children".
Negative media portrayal of the breed, and their association with people who want 'status dogs', has seen the breed suffer from unjust stereotyping. Due to this stigma attached to Staffies it vastly reduces their chances of being adopted from rescue centres, and typically, rescue centres always see a high number of this breed and Staffie cross breeds in their care.
It is a complete myth that Staffies (or in fact any dog) can lock its jaws.
Dogs have no anatomical or chemical mechanism which would enable such a feat!
The basis for the Staffords poor reputation is founded a perception that the original purpose for the breed is still the basis for modern breeding lines. Their development origins are in bull baiting, badger baiting, dog fighting and vermin control but more commonly as a non 'sporting' companion and pet in the early 1800s. Animal baiting/fighting was banned in 1835 in the Cruelty to Animal Act of that year, although such 'sport' continued underground on a smaller scale. In May 1935 the breed was recognised by the UK Kennel Club and the credit for this is due to the diligent breeders who focussed on encouraging the positive aspects of the breed and shaped the breeding lines of the different type of Staffie we see today.
Another problem facing the image and perception of the Staffie breed is the Dangerous Dog Act (DDA). The idea of this breed specific law was to ban dangerous breeds from Britain. (The criteria for what is considered a dangerous breed was always flawed as any dog can be raised to be a dangerous animal). The DDA focused heavily on the American Pit Bull Terrier (another great family dog who's reputation and perception has suffered unfairly) which was developed, as Staffies were, from utility working dogs exported to America in the 1500s and 1600s. By banning the Pit Bull Terrier, the 'status dog' credentials of any dog which simply looked similar were immediately vastly increased. Due to their similar appearance Staffies and Staffie crosses are often touted, or mistaken as Pit Bulls and owned simply as 'status dogs'.
Due to the Staffie's natural affinity with people they actually make for poor guard, personal protection or attack dogs. As plenty of Staffie owners will tell you, "My Staffie is more likely to show a burglar around the house than attack and scare them away!". Obviously, bringing a Staffie up to be aggressive, particularly to other dogs, is simply a case of exploiting the dog's fear based defence mechanisms, but this is present and exploitable in every breed of dog, including spaniels and Labradors!
If you see a Staffie with behavioural problems
the answer is generally at the other end of the lead!
Up at North Clwyd Animal Rescue we make every effort to socialise our Staffordshire Bull Terriers in a pack environment, results have been good. The dogs are walked together in groups and then let off lead together to interact in a more natural way. This isn't a straight forward activity in a rescue centre environment, but again, with correct handling and guidance we see great progress. All the photos on this page were taken up at North Clwyd Animal Rescue.
Hopefully programs like this will go some way to altering the Staffie image, prove they make wonderful family pets and find some of our Staffies homes!
to see photos of Staffies being mixed at NCAR click this link; 'Staffie mix set'
Here is some video taken during some Staffie pack work. All the dogs are walked together first to relax and bond. They are then let off lead to do what dogs do best, just be dogs!! The benefit for doing this with rescue centre dogs is huge, they not only get plenty of exercise and stimulation they get to practice and improve their social skills. They also get to show themselves off to potential adopters.
This is a video of some more socialising work with the resident Staffies at North Clwyd Animal Rescue. We take them out on little pack walks letting them all meet, relax and bond together. Dogs love nothing more than walking and exploring but it is always much more enjoyable for them if they can do it with company! All of the dogs in this video did really well and were adopted shortly after this video was posted
I took Tarra, Sophie and Lucy out from North Clwyd Animal Rescue for a little group walk. All 3 are great dogs and would each make great family companion dogs (given a little guidance). They enjoyed walking, exploring and eating grass together. It does go to show that although the three dogs have differing personalities (Tarra can be a bit excitable, Sophie can be a bit forceful and Lucy is quite a nervous dog), they can all be guided to simply relax and get along fine.
All dogs found homes shortly after we started their socialising sessions.
This video is of two ex NCAR Staffies, Mizzie and Bonnie, demonstrating perfect polite play on their first play session together. They hardly made contact with each other, gave each other a nice amount of space and reacted politely to each others play moves. They went on to become great mates!
Here is a video of two Staffies from NCAR, Penny and Kya, out on a StaffieZone forum pack walk. They got to meet plenty of dogs and people, explore the woods and even get some treats at the cafe! Both dogs have since found forever homes.