The Staffordshire Bull Terrier is the classic example of “don’t judge a book by its cover.” On the surface, their stocky, muscular, and serious appearance can make them appear as unapproachable and aggressive dogs. But in reality, the “Staffy” is secretly the biggest baby of them all!
Under that tough exterior is an exceptionably loving and gentle breed of dog known for its suitability for homes with children. Their body shape and structure make them appear a lot larger than they really are, as they are considered a medium to small-sized breed.
Black, white, blue, red, fawn, brindle, tan
Families, fenced yards, experienced owners, okay in apartments
Affectionate, family-orientated, curious, stubborn, gentle, alert
The history of a Staffordshire Bull Terrier is checkered, having been used for almost 100 years in dogfighting rings in England. Despite holding some residue “dangerous dog” stigma from this tragic past, Staffies are adored by all who come upon them as their big hearts and warm personalities win over even the most skeptical of people.
Staffordshire Bull Terrier Characteristics
Staffordshire Bull Terrier Puppies
Staffordshire Bull Terriers are on the expensive side of dog breeds to purchase from breeders. This price tag will vary based upon the breeder’s location and reputation and the puppy’s pedigree, appearance, or gender. If Staffies are rare in your area, you can expect this price to continue to rise as dogs in demand can reach higher costs. Be wary of strangely low prices when on the market for a Staffordshire Bull Terrier puppy. This may indicate poor ethical practices around breeding and purchasing these puppies can be perpetrating this activity. Do thorough research on any potential breeder and ask lots of questions.
They tend to be popular due to their well-known breed, but many purchase without understanding the breed and struggle to care for them. As such, despite their purebred status, they are often found in shelters or with rescue groups. We highly promote adoption but be aware that adopted Staffies need specialized care and respect paid to their unknown pasts to ensure they thrive. But in return for your close care, they will provide you with more love and companionship than you could ever have dreamed of.
Temperament & Intelligence of the Staffordshire Bull Terrier
The Staffordshire Bull Terrier really displays the classic saying of “man’s best friend.” They are excellent all-around dogs in that they offer close and loyal companionship. They are very human orientated and will form close bonds with their families, wanting nothing more than to spend time with them. They are just as happy to spend the day lazing on the sofa as they are going for a 10-mile hike; the most important thing to them is that you are there with them!
They are playful and fun, providing a lot of amusement and joy to their owners’ lives. They aren’t generally barkers, but they are quite talkative. They will communicate to you via grunt, snorts, groans, and a delightful yodeling voice.
However, Staffies are not suited to first-time dog owners who lack confidence. They can show a stubborn streak and make independent choices (some of which can be destructive!) without the proper guidance.
A confident and firm trainer is needed to lead the Staffy with enthusiasm and set in good manners and behaviors early in their life.
Are These Dogs Good for Families? 👪
The nickname “nanny dog” speaks for itself, right? Staffordshire Bull Terriers are great with families with children, young and old. They will be gentle and protect the younger family member and shower them with love. Of course, like any dog breed, they should not be left unsupervised with children. Young children can be unpredictable, and their lack of boundaries is not always enjoyed by more sensitive dogs. Older children should be taught these boundaries with dogs to have a safe relationship with all dogs they encounter.
While relatively small in stature, Staffies are stocky, and when playing, they can be boisterous. They can knock over children during play.
Staffies are also a breed that does well in large families or frequent social events. They genuinely enjoy the company of people and are friendly to human strangers. They tend to love all their family equally, so they will relish in a large family unit.
However, Staffies are not a breed that likes to be left alone for an extended period. This human companionship is more important to them than anything else, so they can suffer from separation anxiety.
Does This Breed Get Along with Other Pets?
Despite being super social with humans, Staffordshire Bull Terriers are less sociable with other animals. They can be socialized at a young age to be relaxed around other dogs and civil with small pets such as cats.
But it is not in their nature to be immediately friendly and accept new dogs, perhaps a remaining trait of their fighting days? Some Staffies will settle into homes with other animals fine, but some will never be comfortable this way.
The best time to introduce new animals and socialize Staffies is when they are young as they are impressionable. As they age, they can get stuck in their ways. If adopting an older Staffy, they will likely do well as the only pet in the house.
When out on adventures with your Staffy in public areas with a high chance of encountering other dogs, ensure you have a high-quality harness and great control and obedience commands to guide your Staffy through any uncomfortable social encounters.
Things to Know When Owning a Staffordshire Bull Terrier:
Food & Diet Requirements 🦴
Staffordshire Bull Terriers don’t have any special dietary requirements. Just like most dogs, they will thrive on high-quality dog food. You can either choose a commercially produced complete diet or a homemade diet (if you have the assistance of your vet).
All dogs will be different in their required amount. A more active dog will require more food to maintain a healthy weight, whereas a less active dog will need less. You can follow the recommended feeding amounts on the back of your dog’s food for guidance and adjust it as needed. However, it is recommended to feed their daily food in two feeds, one in the morning and one in the evening. This will help to reduce the risk of bloat from eating large amounts.
While Staffordshire Bull Terriers will love to laze around the home with you, they are also pretty energetic. Regular exercise should be utilized to keep them physically healthy and help burn some mental energy. Staffies tend to be chewers and diggers when they are left with too much pent-up energy. An under-exercised Staffy can cause some damage in and around the home.
Your Staffy will need at least an hour of exercise a day. This can be broken down into shorter walks but should include some off-leash time to play in a secure area. If you have a home with a large secure yard, this can make a great place to exercise and daily walks. However, Staffies can happily live in small apartments if you give them plenty of outdoor exercise time.
It is important to note, though, that Staffordshire Bull Terriers are prone to overheating. Their short faces make it more difficult for them to breathe well in hot climates, and they should not be overworked in the heat. Early morning or later evening exercise would be ideal.
Even though they are loving and playful dogs, Staffies are not the easiest dogs to train. They are highly intelligent and will learn quickly with the right leadership. However, a lack of confidence in a trainer can lead to a Staffie’s freethinking nature to take over a training session.
It’s recommended that Staffy owners have prior experience in owning dogs and significant confidence in training. This firm and consistent leadership will help shape a young Staffy to be well behaved and well adjusted.
While firmness is vital, it’s important to not lean into punishment techniques. Owners should look for opportunities to offer praise to positively reinforce good behaviors rather than punish poor behaviors. Punishment can affect Staffies confidence and decrease the trust and comfort with you.
Suppose you need help and direction with your Staffordshire Bull Terriers training. In that case, it’s best to look for a one-on-one trainer to assist as stand-offish Staffys may not like the overwhelming group session of puppy schools. Training can offer mental release for the smart Staffies and help alleviate the boredom that may lead to destructive behaviors.
The easy-care and low grooming requirements of Staffordshire Bull Terriers are some of the attractive traits of this breed for many. They possess a short and smooth coat that sheds very little. They will have a heavier shed approximately once a year, and weekly brushing can help keep this fur under control and keep their coat shiny.
Other grooming activities such as bathing, ear cleaning, teeth cleaning, and nail trimming can be done as needed. Depending on your preference, you may choose to implement a weekly or bi-weekly regime for these.
To make lifelong care as easy as possible, we strongly recommend you condition your Staffy to grooming activities at a young age. For example, regularly touch and manipulate places such as ears, feet, and tail to get them used to this touch for ease of grooming (and vet checks.)
Health and Conditions 🏥
Staffordshire Bull Terriers are relatively healthy compared to other purebred dog breeds considering their purebred status. They have an excellent lifespan that extends past many other medium dogs. Of course, there are a handful of afflictions they are more prone to outlined in the table below.
Male vs Female
Once you’ve established that the Staffordshire Bull Terrier is the dog for you and your family, you are left with one more big question… Do you get a male or a female?
While some breeds have distinct personality differences between the genders, our research of real owners’ experiences seems to tell us that there is no significant difference between males and females with Staffies.
However, if a Staffy is left intact (they are not desexed), then the accompanying gender hormones may affect their behavior. For example, an intact male tends to be more aggressive, especially towards other males. He may also be more prone to wandering off the property searching for females, and he will be more boisterous.
On the other hand, an intact female may be moodier as she is subject to cycling hormones. Her energy level will fluctuate with these cycles, and you can expect her to be on heat twice a year.
If you do not intend to breed your dog, it’s highly recommended that you desex it. Desexing will help you, as the owner, to manage these gender-specific behaviors. It will also reduce the risk of hormonal and reproductive diseases.
Physically, females will be slightly smaller, but only by a handful of pounds, nothing truly significant. This size difference will make little difference in Staffordshire Bull Terrier’s care, so it may not be a deciding factor for you.
Instead, to help you choose which sex will fit best into your family, consider the dogs you may already have. Dogs of the same sex are more likely to fight than dogs of differing sexes. You may also consider the sex of your closest neighbor’s dogs and perhaps other close, familiar dogs your Staffy may be in contact with often.
3 Little-Known Facts About the Staffordshire Bull Terrier
1. They are called the “Nanny dog”.
The Staffordshire Bull Terrier has earned this nickname by their extraordinarily gentle nature with children. While there are undoubtedly many breeds who get along well with children, this nickname sure is a testament to the Staffie’s loving nature. Staffies make great guardians, playmates, and companions for children. Because of their intuitive nature around children, they are becoming more common as therapy dogs for children.
2. They’re lovers, not fighters.
Staffordshire Bull Terriers were used in dogfighting rings in old-timey United Kingdom. They were initially bred for the additions of lightness and agility to their dogfighting bulldog heritage. They emerged when bear and bull-baiting was outlawed in 1835. Instead, dogs were pitted against each other, and the Staffies’ stocky build but lightness made them prime candidates.
Thankfully, this horrific practice was criminalized in 1911. But even throughout their fighting histories, when they weren’t in the ring, Staffie’ lived amongst the Victorian people in their homes as family dogs.
Once they no longer had use in the outlawed fighting rings, Staffies lived on as beloved family members. They continue to prove they fit this loving role a lot better than a fighter!
3. The US has some restrictions on them.
Unfortunately, the US classified them as “pitbull-type” dogs despite their gentle natures. Because of this, they face the discrimination that many other apparently “aggressive” breeds do, with some states or regions having restrictions surrounding ownership.
Your local rules and regulations should be thoroughly researched when you decide to bring a Staffordshire Bull Terrier into your home.
The Staffordshire Bull Terrier may require more care and attention than other popular pet dog breeds. They need a strong trainer, a present companion, and an understanding owner with knowledge of their body language. In return for your care, you will be blessed with the affectionate and endlessly loyal friend in your Staffy.
Featured Image Credit: Melounix, Shutterstock