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Staffordshire Bull Terrier

 Photo of Staffordshire Bull Terrier
Photo: courtesy of Michael Taylor

Staffordshire Bull Terrier Books

Group: Terrier - Breed Standard

Origins

The Stafford's ancestors were a result of crossing old fashioned bull dogs with various terriers to obtain a powerful yet agile animal capable of holding its own against other dogs or vermin in the pit in a time when such pursuits were considered acceptable. What is often forgotten is that those same dogs had to live happily with the children of the family, often in squalid, overcrowded cottages. Any animal that showed unprovoked aggression toward the family in those harder times was unlikely to see the next sunrise.

The heart of the breed was vested in the Black Country around the Potteries and West Midlands but similar animals were to be found as far afield as the South, West and Scotland. Whether this was originally a result of trade or merely different owners making similar breeding decisions is a matter of conjecture. It is known however, that the dog fighters of the 18th and 19th centuries came to wager relatively large sums on the outcome of battles between their various "bull and terriers" or the speed with which a set number of rats could be killed.

Subsequently more enlightened times came and in 1911 the Protection of Animals Act was passed, finally making any involvement with dog fighting illegal.

In 1935 the Staffordshire Bull Terrier was recognised at the Kennel Club and thus began a whole new era for the breed.

Description

Desirable height at withers 36-41 cms (14 to 16 ins), these heights being related to the weights. Weight: dogs: 13-17 kgs (28-38 lbs); bitches 11-15.4 kgs.

Character/Temperament

The greatest attribute of the modern Stafford is its superb temperament with all humans and especially children, earning it the nickname of "the nanny dog". It does have to be acknowledged that some Staffords can be quick to respond to aggression directed at them or their family by other animals, but the media caricature of a snarling dog attacking anything coming near is far from reality in most cases.

Staffords can be at home almost anywhere so long as there is a human along every now and again to offer company and play. Healthy puppies are usually destructive and very, very playful. Some adult dogs guard and will respond to any noise outside, but a Stafford is equally likely to ignore such diversions having tremendous confidence in his own ability to deal with any threat that may develop. A burglar may well be allowed in to provide company, but there are many popular anecdotes relating to their subsequent inability to leave with the family silver if it means leaving the Stafford alone again.

Living with a Stafford is a truly rewarding experience. As with any pet dog, it is important to maintain a proper hierarchy, but the "clown prince" can usually be guaranteed to do whatever he can to please his family - so long as it suits him.

Whether living with children, young adults or pensioners, the Stafford will adjust his strength and ambition to suit his pack. Considering the superb athletic power built into the compact body, it is quite amazing to watch a Stafford playing "tug" with a young child. Somehow he knows to pull gently, never quite overpowering his young friend but rather making the game last as long as possible. Staffords do get excited and young children may well get knocked over by a Stafford suddenly realising that a walk is in the offing but reliable is the breed's "middle name" and has been a written requirement of the breed throughout its 65 years as a show dog. Little wonder then that the modern Stafford is nicknamed the "nanny dog".

Breed Health

Like any animal the Stafford can suffer from a wide variety of ailments but there are very few serious problems. A number of young Staffords suffer from "bulldog baldness" or "Stafford Shilling", usually associated with teething and typified by a small bald circle on the top of the head or around the ears, base of tail, etc. Most experienced Stafford breeders will be able to advise on treatment and the condition usually only lasts a few weeks anyway.

The Breed Council is currently undertaking a research project in conjunction with the Animal Health Trust to identify a test for the genetic disorder Hereditary Cataracts, an ailment that in extreme cases can cause complete blindness. If this proves successful it seems likely that a further study will be carried out into another eye problem affecting Staffords - PHPV. The cost of developing these tests is being met by donations via the various breed clubs and although centred on the Stafford, may also point the way for identifying carriers in other breeds too.

With a relatively high pain threshold, the Stafford will sometimes not show an injury so some care should be taken to note any minor behavioural changes that might indicate muscle strains, etc.

Breed Care

The Stafford rarely needs bathing or grooming other than to check ears and anal glands.

Exercise

The Stafford is a very agile and powerful animal that will ideally benefit from plenty of hard exercise. However, there are also many Staffords that live quietly with elderly or infirm owners, and the breed will basically adjust to most conditions. This is a truly flexible breed happy to fit in with most lifestyles.

Training

As with any dog, care must be taken to begin training young. The rules are simple - be fair and firm and don't allow the puppy to play biting "games" that will have to be punished when the dog grows up. Beating is both unnecessary and useless. A Stafford is far more concerned at being deprived of company than any other form of punishment and its highly developed affinity to man ensures that banishment to another room is likely to achieve positive results very quickly. The Stafford may be independent of spirit but he desperately needs his human company. See our books on training


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Last link added: 16 Mar, 2008