From his brawling past, the muscular but agile Staffordshire Bull Terrier retains the traits of courage and tenacity. Happily, good breeding transformed this former gladiator into a mild, playful companion with a special feel for kids.
- AKC Breed Popularity: Ranks 82 of 192
- Height: 14-16 inches (male), 24-24 inches (female)
- Weight: 28-38 pounds (male)
- Life Expectancy: 12-14 years
- Group: Terrier Group
About the Staffordshire Bull Terrier
At 14 to 16 inches, Staffies do not stand particularly tall. But, weighing anywhere between 24 to 38 pounds, Staffies pour a gallon of dog into a quart-size container. These are rock-solid, muscular terriers. The head is short and broad, with pronounced cheek muscles, and the tight-fitting coat comes in several colors.
Staffies still resemble the pugnacious brawlers who once ruled England’s fighting pits. But today’s responsible breeders are producing sweet-natured, family-oriented Staffies with a reputation for being a patient nanny dog for kids. These are true-blue loyal companions, but the old fighting instinct still lurks within—making it vital that Staffie pups be socialized with other dogs to learn good canine manners.
The story of the Staffordshire Bull Terrier is a relatively brief one in the grand scheme of canine history, but it can be confused by the several different names hung on the breed at various times. The Bull-and-Terrier, the Patched Fighting Terrier, the Staffordshire Pit-dog, and the Brindle Bull are a few of the Staffie’s historical aliases.
Staffies are among the AKC terriers, such as the Bull Terrier and American Staffordshire Terrier, classified as “bull types.” All have a similar backstory. A few centuries ago, in the days when betting on the outcome of dog-oriented blood sports was all the rage in England, gamblers bred ferocious dogs to excel in these ghastly affairs. The granddaddy of these breeds was the Bulldog, created for the horrifying spectacle of bull-baiting.
Blood sports were outlawed in 1835, but pit-dog wagering continued as an underground activity. In these illicit pits, usually housed in a cellar, away from the prying eyes of the law, dogs would either do battle against one another, gladiator style, or would be set against a sack full of rats. Gamblers took Bulldogs, unemployed after bull-baiting went by the boards, and crossed them with quick, feisty terriers. The results were fighting dogs with the punishing jaws of a Bulldog and the fiery spirit of a terrier.
From among the profusion of breeds created in this way, most now extinct, the Staffie, perfected by one James Hinks, of Birmingham, England, in the mid-19th century, emerged as one of the most successful and enduring. The breed name that finally came to these burly, broad-skulled terriers is a nod to the county of Staffordshire, where the breed was especially popular.
After the Staffie arrived in North America in the 1880s, breeders developed a taller, heavier offshoot, the American Staffordshire Terrier, or AmStaff. Since then, more than a hundred years of responsible breeding has transformed both breeds from brawlers to trustworthy family companions.
The Staffordshire Bull Terrier should be fed a high-quality dog foodappropriate to the dog’s age (puppy, adult, or senior). Some dogs are prone to getting overweight, so watch your dog’s calorie consumption and weight level. Treats can be an important aid in training, but giving too many can cause obesity. Give table scraps sparingly, if at all, especially avoiding cooked bones and foods with high fat content. Learn about which human foods are safe for dogs, and which are not. Check with your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s weight or diet.
It doesn’t take much work to keep a Staffordshire Bull Terrier looking handsome. Occasional baths and weekly brushings with a horsehair mitt or hound glove to pull away dead hairs will keep him in beautiful condition. His nails should be trimmed at least monthly. Avoid letting them grow out too long, as overly long nails can be quite painful for him. Clean the ears regularly to remove excess wax and debris that can cause an ear infection. Your breeder and your veterinarian can suggest a good routine and cleaning materials and will show you how to do it without damaging the tender skin in his ears.
The Stafford requires regular exercise to stay mentally and physically fit. This exercise can be chasing a ball tossed across the backyard, running alongside a biking or jogging owner, or just a nice, long hike through the woods. Although a Stafford in good physical condition can keep up with an athletic owner, they usually settle right in when they come back in the house after a good exercise session. The breed can be heat intolerant and should never be overworked in warm or humid weather.
The Stafford is intelligent, learns easily, responds quickly, is calmly protective, and can be a loving and fun companion. They have an ardent desire to please and easily comply with the requests of their owners. However, remember that they were originally bred to fight other dogs, and most have retained a strong prey drive. They must be trained to control their temperament traits to truly become a perfect pet. It is imperative that from the beginning a Stafford puppy must have clear and consistent training. They should not only learn the rules but also accept that they must always follow them.
SBTs are prone to several forms of skin allergies, some of which may be genetic. Elbow dysplasia, hip dysplasia, and patellar luxation are occasional problems in the breed. Several eye problems can also occur, including hereditary juvenile cataracts, persistent hyperplastic primary vitreous (PHPV), and posterior polar subcapsular cataracts (PPSC). L-2-HGA is a metabolic condition of some Staffordshire Bull Terriers. Be an informed owner, and discuss any health questions or concerns with your dog’s breeder and your veterinarian