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Irish Staffordshire Bull Terrier

Nicole Cosgrove

June 18, 2021

The Irish Staffordshire Bull Terrier is a medium to large purebred originally from England but then later further developed in Ireland. It was originally bred for bull baiting and was specifically bred in an area of England called Staffordshire so that is where all the part of its name comes from! It has a life span of about 10 to 16 years and today is an intelligent, active and surprisingly agile and strong dog kept for sporting competitions and as an affectionate companion. It does have a past filled with aggression though and is viewed suspiciously by many for that and for its close appearance to the Pit Bull Terrier. Therefore experienced owners really should be the only ones that consider this dog.

The Irish Staffordshire Bull Terrier at a Glance
Name Irish Staffordshire Bull Terrier
Other names Irish Staff
Nicknames Irish Staffie, ISBT
Origin England
Average size Medium to large
Average weight 55 to 77 pounds
Average height 17 to 24 inches
Life span 10 to 16 years
Coat type Short, soft, smooth
Hypoallergenic No
Color Blue, black, red, fawn, white or brindle with markings
Popularity Not yet a fully registered member of the AKC
Intelligence High
Tolerance to heat Moderate – not good in warm or hot climates
Tolerance to cold Good
Shedding Average – will be some hair in the home
Drooling Average to above average – more likely to happen when drinking too
Obesity Average – measure its food and make sure it is well exercised
Grooming/brushing Low to average – Brush once or twice a week
Barking Occasional – does bark but it is not constant
Exercise needs High – needs active owners
Trainability Difficult – experience is needed
Friendliness Good to very good with socialization
Good first dog Moderate – requires experienced dog owner
Good family pet Very good with training and socialization
Good with children Very good with socialization
Good with other dogs Moderate to good training and socialization is needed as is supervision
Good with other pets Good but need good socialization
Good with strangers Good but wary – require training and socialization
Good apartment dog Low – needs space and a yard
Handles alone time well Moderate to good but prefers not to be alone for long periods
Health issues Fairly healthy breed but some issues include mange, hip and elbow dysplasia
Medical expenses $485 a year for basic health care and pet insurance
Food expenses $270 a year for a good quality dry dog food and dog treats
Miscellaneous expenses $245 a year for toys, basic training, miscellaneous items and license
Average annual expenses $1000 a year as a starting figure
Cost to purchase $1,000
Rescue organizations Northern Ireland Staffordshire Bull Terrier Rescue, also check local rescues and shelters
Biting Statistics Attacks doing bodily harm: 3 Child Victims: 1 Maimings: 1 Deaths: 0 (these stats are for a dog listed as Bull Terrier not Pit)

The Irish Staffordshire Bull Terrier’s Beginnings

The Irish Staffordshire Bull Terrier is from England and was bred from the English Staffordshire Bull Terrier which was bred in the 1800s. It is believed the English Staffie was developed in a region called Staffordshire and was done by crossing the English Bull dog and the Manchester Terrier. It was developed to be a bull baiter, blood sports like that, cock fighting and bear baiting were popular spectator sports in those days. It was also bred to be gentle and friendly towards people though, owners did not need it trying to attack them when handling it.

When these blood sports were banned many, including Irish breeders, used the dog in illegal dog fighting and others decided to develop it further into being an acceptable and safe family dog and companion. The ban did see its numbers drop by a great deal and both types of Staffie became less popular and viewed as potentially dangerous because of the violent past.

New Lease on Life

In the 1930s some more interest was shown. The English type was recognized bt the English Kennel Club and it has a breed club form. Staffies in the US were bred larger and so diverged and became known as American Staffordshire Bull Terriers. Most Staffies in the US today are either American or English, Irish Staffies are rare. While English Staffies are recognized by the AKC ranking 79th in popularity, Irish ones are not. It does well in weight pulling and jumping competitions as well as being a good family dog as long as owners are experienced.

Irish Staffordshire Bull Terrier

The Dog You See Today

The Irish Staffordshire Bull Terrier is a medium to large dog weighing 55 to 77 pounds and standing 17 to 24 inches tall. It has a powerfully built body that is strong and hard. Its neck is muscular and short and its legs are wide apart with dewclaws sometimes being removed. It has a short, smooth and sleek coat and common colors are blue, black, white, brindle, red and fawn. Its head is heavy and large and it has a short muzzle and strong and powerful jaws. Its cheeks are distinct and it should have a scissor bite. Eyes are round and brown and its ears should be half pricked.

The Inner Irish Staffordshire Bull Terrier


The Irish Staffie is an intelligent dog and it is also active. It loves to play and is very agile and sprightly which is why it does so well at certain doggy sporting events. It needs active owners that will give it tasks to do, a role to fulfill and lots of attention. It is a bold, strong and fearless dog too and does have a history of aggression towards other dogs, but if bred and raised well should never be people aggressive unless it is protecting you from a genuine threat. It tends to be obedient as long as your leadership is clear and strong, but it is not suited to new or meek owners, and it is not the best dog for just any family.

Its playfulness means it helps when owners have a sense of humor! With enough to do it should be calm and level in temperament and affectionate, but while friendly in general with socialization, some are more wary of strangers than others and careful introductions should be made. Others are more open to making new friends. It will want to be a part of the family and all its activities and needs companionship, this is not a dog that can be left alone for long periods. It is alert and can make a good watchdog as it will bark to let you know of any intruders, and it can also act to defend you. An Irish Staffy that is bad tempered, shy, aggressive and hard to live with is one that has not been bred or raised well and socialized and trained well.

Living with an Irish Staffordshire Bull Terrier

What will training look like?

Training the Irish Staffie can be easy with experience and the right approach but it needs owners to be dominant, confident, consistent and firm. If you cannot be like that this is not the dog for you and it is more likely to get out of control. It is intelligent and should do well at basic level obedience or even go further. Sports it can be trained to do which is good for both its mind and its activity are agility, competitive obedience, weight pulling and jumping. It can be stubborn if it senses it can manipulate you and training should be done in a gentle and positive manner. Offer it treats, encourage it and reward it, and offer praise. It does not respond well to scolding or physical correction. Early socialization along with training are an essential part of responsible dog ownership. Introduce it to different places, sounds, people, situations, animals and so on so that it learns what level of response is appropriate. It is also worth noting that it can be hard to housebreak, use a crate and stick to a very regular schedule.

Irish Staffordshire Bull Terrier Puppies

How active is the Irish Staffordshire Bull Terrier?

Only very active owners should take on an Irish Staff, it is an active and energetic dog that needs plenty of opportunity for mental stimulation and physical activity. It is best not in an apartment as it need space and a yard to play in though some can adjust with enough time spent outside each day. It has a lot of stamina and endurance and while a minimum of two one hour walks along with play time is needed, it can do a lot more than that. It would be happy to join you for hikes, longer walks, jogging and so on. If it gets bored and is under exercised it becomes hard to control, destructive, restless and even aggressive. Also make sure it gets safe off leash run time a few times a week. Always keep them leashed when out walking, it is a good idea to check local laws to see if where you live requires them to be muzzled.

Caring for the Irish Staffordshire Bull Terrier

Grooming needs

Having a short and smooth coat means the ISBT is easy to brush and keep looking healthy and clean. It sheds a moderate to average amount so expect some hair in the home, the brushing once or twice a week can help with the loose hair too. Some owners will give the coat a rub down with a chamois to keep it shiny looking. Avoid bathing too often as it dries out the skin and for the same reason only use a shampoo made for dogs.

Check its nails regularly and when they start to get too long clip them with proper dog scissors or clippers. Do not go too far down the nail as you will reach the section called the quick that has nerves and blood vessels. Cutting there will hurt the dog and it will bleed a surprisingly large amount. Check its ears once a week too for signs of infection like redness, swelling or bad odor and give them a wipe clean too. There are dog ear solutions you can buy to clean them with or just use a damp cloth, just do not push anything down into the ear. You could hurt it and cause damage. Its oral health is also something you need to take care of. Brush its teeth with a dog toothbrush and toothpaste at least two to three times a week to keep its breath fresh, and its teeth and gums disease free.

Feeding Time

The Irish Staff will eat about 3 to 4½ cups of a good quality dry dog food a day and that should split into at least two meals. The amount varies depending on its size, health, age, activity level and metabolism. Always ensure it has access to water that is kept as fresh as possible.

How is the Irish Staffordshire Bull Terrier with children and other animals?

A well bred and well socialized and trained ISBT is very good with children. It loves to play with them, is lively and energetic with them and is also very affectionate. It should not be left unsupervised with young children because its play can knock them over. Make sure you teach children how to touch and play with dogs safely and in a nice way. With other pets and animals in the home when it has been raised and socialized it is friendly and accepting of them but not so much with strange animals outside. It also does have a history of dog aggression and that is still the case. Socialization, training and supervision are a must and it is not a dog to let off leash when other strange dogs are around.

What Might Go Wrong?

Health Concerns

This dog has a life span of 10 to 16 years and is fairly healthy but some issues can include joint dysplasia, mange, eye problems, skin allergies, patellar luxation, cancer and injuries from being overly bold and active such as jumping through fences or jumping from heights even it cannot handle!

Biting Statistics

In reports of dogs attacking people in North America in the last 35 years and doing bodily harm the Irish Staffordshire Bull Terrier is not directly named. However there is mention of a Bull Terrier responsible for 3 such attacks, 1 was a maiming, there were no deaths and 1 of the 3 victims was a child. It is worth noting too that in the UK there are such reports to the Irish and the English Staffie. This breed is known to attack other dogs when it is not bred and raised correctly. Socialization and training are essential as is supervision. Be firm, in control, exercise it and give it the attention it needs. Any dog regardless of breed can snap or become aggressive given certain situations or conditions but proper raising can minimize the risks.

Your Pup’s Price Tag

An Irish Staffordshire Bull Terrier puppy will cost about $1000 from a decent and trustworthy breed, more from a top breeder. At rescues or shelters there is a possibility you can adopt one for something around $50 to $400, but it is more likely to be an adult rather than a puppy. You are also more likely to find mixed breeds rather than purebreds. Avoid backyard breeders and puppy mills, ads online from backyard breeders and certain pet stores.

Initial costs once you have the dog or puppy home will be for medical tests and concerns as well as some items needed. The latter includes things like a crate, collar and leash, food bowls, carrier and such at a cost of about $210. Medical concerns like blood tests, deworming, a physical exam, shots, micro chipping and spaying or neutering will cost about $290 a year.

There are also yearly costs to consider. Medical annual costs will include pet insurance and basic care only like shots, check ups and flea prevention and these begin around $485. Food which covers a good quality dry dog food and treats will cost up to $270 a year. Other costs like toys, license, basic training and other miscellaneous costs come to about $245 a year. This gives an annual total of $1000 as a starting figure.


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The Irish Staffordshire Bull Terrier was once bred for bull baiting and then used in dog fighting so even though it has been developed to be more family friendly since, it does need experienced and firm handling still. You will face problems with it being a pit bull type and there may be rules to consider in your area concerning this breed. Owners need to be confident, strong, active and able to commit to its socialization and training. It can be aggressive if not correctly raised and handled and can also be destructive. That said when things are done properly it is friendly, affectionate, playful, extremely loyal and protective.

Featured Image Credit: Lindasay, Pixabay

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.

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