Breed of the Week - Staffordshire Bull Terrier

by Daniel Podobed

While the exact origins of the Staffordshire Bull Terrier are somewhat clouded, most authorities on the breed believe that they originate from the crossing of the Bulldog of the early 1800’s with the British Terrier breeds of around the same time period. This first generation of Staffy’s was commonly referred to as the Bull and Terrier. This breed came out of the fact that the practice of Bear and Bull baiting with Bulldogs of that era came into disfavor among the public. They needed a breed that was fierce and courageous like the Bulldog of the time, but who was quick and agile as demonstrated by the terrier breeds. They used these Staffordshire Bull Terriers for dog fighting, which ironically, was not considered as savage as the bear and bull baiting. These fighting dogs were also sought because of their companionship. In England, they commonly referred to their Staffordshire Bull Terriers as the Nanny, admiration of how well they act as caretakers of the young children of the household. This last trait is one of the many reasons why they are still adored today.

This bull breed lives for its human pack with affection and playfulness. Since its earliest origins, it has always done well in a family setting, including those with small children. While it is not common for this dog to be aggressive towards other pets in the house, training and socialization is a must for this breed (as with any other) to establish a hierarchy within the family pack. Staffordshire Bull Terriers are extremely happy and at times, are down right silly. It is not uncommon to find one who is fully stretched out on a cool floor during summer, mouth wide and smiling. As previously mentioned, they do exceptionally well in households where children are present. One caution, Staffordshire Bull Terriers are extremely affectionate, and while they would never hurt a child intentionally, they may knock over younger children while trying to lick them. This breed also has an extremely high prey drive though, and will chase after cats outside as well as other small animals. And while this breed does not start confrontation with other dogs, when challenged, it will show a fearless tenacity and will not back down. Remove your Stafford immediately to calm the situation down.

Staffordshire Bull Terriers have a lot of energy. This breed needs plenty of exercise on a daily basis so daily walks are a must. They do best in homes that contain a fenced in yard, where they have room to run and play. While this breed can tolerate apartment life, it does not thrive in this type of environment. This dog also does well in various dog sports and activities. Many Staffy’s participate and excel in Agility, Fly Ball, and Carting. The one activity Staffordshire Bull Terriers do not do well with is swimming. Because the breed is so muscular, it will struggle to stay afloat.

This breed requires minimal grooming compared to most breeds. Weekly nail clippings and occasional bathing is standard. Occasional brushing (once every week or however often you wish) with a stiff Boar Bristle Brush or a rubber curry will remove some of the dead hair, and polish the coat by bringing out its natural oils. Because the breed has large, over hanging lips food can get stuck. If left to sit it could eventually start to rot the teeth or gums, especially if feeding wet food. Because of that, it is best to use a toothbrush or a dental wipe between feedings.

While considered to be a healthy breed, they too have some concerns. Staffordshire Bull Terriers do not cope well in warm weather. The Staffordshire Bull Terrier Club of America writes, “Never keep your Stafford out in direct sun on a warm day for more than a few minutes, and, on hot summer days, try to limit your Stafford’s most boisterous activities, even in the shade, to the cool of the evening hours.” As with any brachycephalic breed, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier may be prone to breathing problems due to the shortening of the nasal passageway. On rare occasions the breed may develop respiratory distress and infections. While not common, the breed may also suffer from Hereditary Cataracts. The cataracts begin to appear after a few weeks or months, and progress until the dog is completely blind. Breeders also commonly test their stock for Hip Dysplasia, Elbow Dysplasia, Pateller Luxation, L-2 HGA and Hereditary (Juvenile) Cataracts.

As with any dog you are considering, ask the breeder which hereditary conditions the sire and dam have been tested for. The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA), Canine Health Information Center (CHIC), and the Canine Health Foundation (CHF) are all good sources of information about health issues common to the Staffordshire Bull Terrier.

If you are considering making a Staffordshire Bull Terrier a member of your family or just desire more information on this breed, check out the Staffordshire Bull Terrier Club of America.

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