Staffies (Staffordshire Bull Terrier): a brilliant family pet
The Staffordshire Bull Terrier, more commonly known as Staffies, has been a recognised breed of the UK Kennel Club since the 1930’s but there are references to this breed back to the early 1800’s.
Originally bred as a baiting dog and then on to fighting the Staffie has been a favourite of ours for hundreds of years. Unfortunately their reputation for this behaviour has never left them. The other uses for Staffies were and still are often overlooked; their high intelligence and passion to please and their loyalty make them great family pets.
Dan Callaghan, from Barkers Trail Academy gives us some fascinating insights into the joys and challenges of owning Staffies, speaking from his informed experience.
Bold, fearless and affectionate
With any breed there is always a generic temperament, a ‘one size fits all’ sort of description. A quick google search will tell you things like, bold, confident, fearless and affectionate. For the most part this is absolutely true, but Dan has unfortunately also seen a great deal of scared, frightened and timid Staffies.
This is likely due to poor breeding. Unfortunately with popularity comes demand and easy money, so there are lots of poorly bred dogs, in Dan’s experience. Good temperament is bred into dogs and a Responsible Breeder will take care to produce this.
Are they pets or workers?
“Well to put it bluntly, both! The Staffie is well known for being the affectionate cuddle monster, but what people will say is that they have so much energy! This is because the Staffie is actually an incredibly intelligent breed, ranked 34 alongside the field spaniel on the Stanley Coren Intelligence of Dogs list“
Sorry Dan, they’re 94th on the version I looked at! (We can all guess who is number 1 can’t we readers? Lol)
Dan’s completely correct though – if you want a dog that will cuddle you and give you kisses but will also learn lots of tricks and work for you then the Staffie is a great choice of dog.
Health issues in Staffies
Although they tend to be quite healthy and live long happy lives they do have a few common problems:
- Hip dysplasia
- Skin allergies
- Elbow dysplasia
- Cancer (various)
Are Staffies aggressive?
This is by far the most common problem Dan has to deal with in this breed and also the most common thing people will think of when the word “Staffie” is mentioned. Unfortunately this is a true issue, but does that mean that they are inherently aggressive towards dogs? Absolutely not! Dan says:
“If you get one from a reputable breeder and you do the correct type of socialisation (see below) then your Staffie will grow up to be a well-adjusted and behaved dog that you can be proud of.
If you buy the dog from Dave in the pub, then you are already fighting an uphill battle via poor genetics (yes genetics DO have an impact on behaviour) and then if you do not worry about the social aspect, then you are likely to have a dog that is anti-social.”
Socialising – what does this mean?
One topic that Dan is always asked about is socialisation, “Hi I have a puppy and want to socialise it” is the usual message he receives.
“I detest the so called “puppy parties” where the dogs are taken to a hall and released to play and socialise. Why do I detest them? Well because they encourage unwanted behaviours.”
Dan explains why (these two examples could be describing ANY puppy. Border collies are usually like puppy 2 by the way.)
Staffie puppy 1 – This puppy is very confident and full of life. He comes into the room and is excited to see his new friends. He runs in, jumping around and having a great time. This puppy can bounce on the others, pin them down, bark, chase and all round have a blast.
What have we allowed the dog to learn here? It’s ok to play rough! SO when they’re a fully grown, muscular and powerful dog, who runs up to another dog and flattens them, what then? Well the other dog may take offence to this and retaliate, which then causes a fight! Now when a confident Staffie has a fight they walk away actually thinking “that was fun”. So what do they get good at? From day one the Staffie should be taught control and correct approach behaviours.
Staffie puppy 2 – This puppy is nervous and would rather be left alone, she comes in to the room and is bombarded by dogs. She stands there, tail down wondering what to do and then tries to retreat to her owner. However she has nowhere to go, the dogs keep coming so she growls. That didn’t work, she nips, success! We all know where this is going right? Poor puppy 😦
Although Dan has focused on some negative parts of Staffies, this is more about awareness of what can go wrong if you don’t get things right. The Staffie is one of Dan’s favourite breeds. Their energy, loyalty, affection and the noises they make, give you a fantastic little dog.
“If you have the chance to own one and do things right I guarantee the Staffie will be the only dog you’ll ever own again.”
Thank you Dan, for a great insight into this fascinating breed! More information can be found on the Your Dog Advisor page for Staffies.
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