About The Stafford
Is a Staffordshire Bull Terrier the right dog for you? Are
you seeking a small to medium-sized dog with a short,
sleek, easy-care coat? Looking for a companion par
excellence whose greatest desire is to live life at your
side? Perhaps you have read Jock of the Bushveldt,
or have seen one of these canine dynamos performing in the
agility ring at a local dog show. Maybe you've encountered
a Stafford while out walking and wondered about how he
could be playing so tirelessly with his owner and then
stop and stand calmly, tail wagging, to accept the
enthusiastic caresses of a toddler. The breed’s patience
and gentle ways with children are legendary.
At first the Staffordshire Bull Terrier seems like a
contradiction: he looks so tough, yet his approach
to the human race is so loving and all-encompassing; "As
early as three to four weeks of age," says Stafford
enthusiast and author Steve Eltinge, "a Stafford puppy
will often prefer human companionship to that of his
The Staffordshire Bull Terrier standard speaks of the
indomitable courage, high intelligence and tenacity that
are the legacy of the breed's history. These virtues,
combined with a love of people and a reliable and stable
nature, make the Stafford an extremely versatile
companion. Author Dieter Fleig describes the breed as "a
sort of everybody's Man Friday."
A good Stafford is never shy or reclusive and, conversely,
should not be snarling and mouthy around people. The
latter is not "game," but unstable, and probably
improperly socialized. Be aware, however, that the
Stafford was originally bred to fight other dogs and that
many still retain an antipathy toward strange dogs. Many
Staffords also possess a strong "prey drive," i.e., a
desire to chase, catch and kill rodents and small mammals.
That said, it must be added that a great many Staffords
live in harmony with other household pets, having grown up
with them in a properly supervised household.
Look for a friendly puppy or adult bursting with health
and vitality. His keen, piercing and intelligent
eyes should suggest complete awareness and even the
possibility that he is reading your mind! In older
dogs, the stance should be indicative of readiness: poised
and up on the toes. Breed scribe John Gordon describes the
aura of a temperamentally correct Stafford as, "vibratory
in energetic outline." Staffords of any age display a
level of energy and a bounty of enthusiasm unequaled in
the canine world.
The Stafford is often described as "a buff little dude” by
admirers, but perhaps the words of an old cigarette
advertising campaign best describe the appearance of the
typical Stafford: "So round . . . so firm . . . so fully
Please check out our NATURE OF THE BEAST link to learn
more about the mannerisms, abilities, and inclinations
that make the Stafford unique in the world of dogs.
Nature Of The Beast
The following is meant to introduce the
uninitiated to the Staffordshire Bull Terrier. Because
this link is more about the personality of the dog than it
is an in-depth dissertation on breeding or training,
anyone wishing to pursue either topic should refer to the
books and magazines listed under the Club
Bibliography Link In This Section (About The Stafford)
CHARACTERISTICS & TEMPERAMENT
Although individual differences in
personality exist, there are some things that you can
expect to find in the personality of every Stafford. They
are tough, courageous, tenacious, stubborn, curious,
people-loving and comfort-loving, protective, intelligent,
active, quick and agile, and possess a strong "prey
are extremely "oral" youngsters and need a safe
alternative to furniture, toys and clothing for their busy
jaws. Staffords love to play tug-of-war and to roughhouse,
but YOU must set the rules and YOU must be the boss. This
is not a difficult task if you begin working with your
Stafford when she is a puppy.
Most adult Staffords, particularly bitches, make excellent
watchdogs; but in general they are inclined to protect
people and not property. Their alert, muscle bound
appearance is so striking that it's easy to forget that
they are smaller than most American Pit Bull Terriers. As
Steve Eltinge in the book, The Staffordshire Bull
Terrier in America says, "When a Stafford shows its
teeth in a snarl, it can be frightening. They look tough
and can be a positive deterrent to thieves, but because of
their natural fondness for people, most Staffords are
temperamentally ill-suited for guard or attack-dog
training." As with other members of the Bull and Terrier
family, they can be the biggest people lovers in the
Staffordshire Bull Terrier desires, more than anything
else, to be with her people. Most adore a car ride, going
on hikes and walks, enjoying a romp up the beach, and
cozying up (or on) to you when you settle down for an
evening of TV or reading.
Whatever the activity, "From the time it awakens in the
morning until the quiet of night, a Stafford lives life to
the fullest." (Linda Barker, writing in The
Staffordshire Bull Terrier in America, by Steve
CARE AND TRAINING
Staffordshire Bull Terriers are a "natural"
dog and generally robust. The short coat of this breed
requires little grooming other than an occasional brushing
and a bath. The downside of this drip dry coat is that
Staffords are susceptible to fleas and ticks. The general
remedies to discourage fleas and ticks are recommended, as
well as a thorough going-over with a flea comb during the
worse months of summer. Staffords covet human attention to
the extent that I have seen several of them gather around
their "person", waiting to be combed from head to tail for
Care of nails, ears, teeth and anal glands are the same as
they would be for any other breed (beginning when young
and attention on a regular basis).
The Stafford is not a dog that tolerates weather extremes
easily. Because of its short coat, it
prefers plenty of shade and water on sweltering summer
days (a child's wading pool has been a popular choice in
the past; supervised of course). Its Bulldog ancestry and
brachycephalic (short-headed or broad-headed) respiratory
system can contribute to overheating. Watch carefully to
be sure that your Stafford doesn't become overheated
during intense play in the summer; if she appears to be
wheezing or gasping for air, find the nearest source of
cool - not ice cold - water and soak her to lower her body
Staffordshire Bull Terriers can boast a number of
obedience and dogsport degrees and are "quick studies,"
provided the trainer utilizes a positive, creative
approach. Staffords are smart with a capital S. Young
puppies enrolled in Kindergarten Puppy Training classes
can begin to learn good habits and mix with other puppies.
In addition to AKC obedience competition, Staffords have
been successful Therapy Dogs, Canine Good Citizens,
participated in Agility and Flyball Competitions and even
"gone to ground" with other terriers!
Staffords are exuberant, impulsive, sometimes bull-headed
... and surprisingly sensitive. A trainer must learn to be
persistent, patient, and firm. Rome wasn't built in a day
and a great deal of ground may be lost in trying to adhere
to the sort of inflexible techniques and rigid time frame
advocated by some training books. Basic obedience training
(at the very least) is a must for any Bull and Terrier. It
helps to maintain control in unexpected situations.
Because of their impulsive natures, the other cardinal
rule of Bull and Terrier ownership is "always think
ahead." An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!
When it comes to strange - and especially aggressive -
dogs, few Staffords are complete pacifists. Most will not
back down if they are attacked or menaced, and some just
don't get along with strange dogs, period. This is a
physically and mentally tenacious breed; be prepared!
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What are the differences
between the American Staffordshire Terrier, a
Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Bull Terrier, and an American
Pit Bull Terrier?
Some eight or nine varieties of dogs come within the
general classification of Bull Breeds. Although all lay
claim to the Bulldog as a common ancestor, there are
physical differences that make each distinct from the
Size - The American Staffordshire Terrier (AmStaff)
is a much larger, leggier dog - sometimes almost twice the
size of a Staffordshire Bull Terrier! The Bull Terrier
standard does not include size restrictions and dogs from
35 to 100 pounds have been seen. However, the breed
generally weighs in between 40 and 55 pounds, making it
larger then the Stafford. Pit Bull Terriers also range
widely in size. Many of today's UKC-registered APBTs are
on the smaller side; others, dually registered as American
Staffordshire Terriers with the AKC are larger and
B) Ears - Although it may have natural or cropped
American Staffordshire Terrier is usually exhibited in the
United States with cropped ears, as are some Pit Bull
Terriers. The ears of the Bull Terrier are naturally
erect. Erect (or prick) ears are a serious fault in
Staffords, whose ears should be "rose" (like those of an
English Bulldog) or half-pricked.
C) Head - The heads of American Staffordshire
Terriers, Pit Bulls and Staffordshire Bull Terriers are
similar, although the cheek muscles on most Staffords seem
to be more pronounced, and the head deeper through. The
head of the Bull Terrier is entirely different. When
viewed in profile, it resembles an egg turned on its side
and is much longer than that of the Stafford. The cheeks
of a Bull Terrier are not pronounced.
Temperament - All Bull and Terrier breeds have a
natural love of people, although that love often does not
extend to other members of the canine kingdom outside of
the family circle. Many adult AmStaffs project a more
serious demeanor; Bull Terriers have a unique and
extremely well-developed sense of humor; Staffords may
possess the strongest "prey drive" and the superior
ability to focus; they are also an "emotional barometer"
par excellence, very sensitive to psychic atmosphere in
the home. But remember that every individual is different
and each of these dogs shares a common ancestry.
How are Staffordshire Bull Terriers
The Stafford is known by the affectionate nickname, "The
Children's Nursemaid" or "The Nanny Dog." Their tolerance
of, and affection for, children is well known. That
doesn't mean, however, that it's a wise idea of put the
puppy and child together without supervision. Children
should learn to respect the dog and neither should indulge
in play that is too rough. Some Staffords - even the males
- have a "mothering instinct" and will stick right by the
little ones, whether they are puppies or kids. A Stafford,
"tough" and not as quick to react to pain or discomfort,
is likely to make allowance for the attentions of toddler,
finding a refuge only when things become too overwhelming.
Can I keep a Staffordshire
Bull Terrier in an Apartment? How much exercise will she
Staffords can make a home with you anywhere; they are
happy as long as they are with you. They are an athletic
dog, however, and need more exercise than most dogs.
Bursting with energy, they need vigorous exercise every
day! A long, brisk walk on leash (or harness - a useful
alternative for some) will give you both a workout.
Staffords love the heady freedom of being allowed off lead
for a run, hike or romp and it's delightful to watch them.
Of course, it's a good idea to make sure that they'll come
back when you call them, first.
Are Staffords a noisy breed?
Staffords, in general, are not mindless and persistent
barkers. They may bark or "talk" while playing (you will
be amazed by the range of arggling, yodeling, grunting,
moaning and monkey noises, etc.!), or to alert you of a
visitor. However, they are "quick studies" and if you have
another dog in residence and THAT dog is a barker, your
Stafford will probably pick it up.
They have such a nice, short coat.
Do they shed?
In a word: "Yes!" . . . at least once a year. But because
Staffords have a "hair" coat, rather than a multi-layer
"fur" coat, they produce less dander and the shedding is
minimal compared to what you may expect from a Golden
Retriever or German Shepherd Dog. The close, short,
glossy, "teflon" coat loses dirt easily, dries almost
instantly, and does not absorb odor. Staffords are truly
"wash and wear!"
What About Keeping a Stafford
Staffords are not temperamentally or physically suited to
spending long periods of time out-of-doors. They need to
be with their family and should be house dogs. Given the
opportunity, they will convince you that they belong in
the bed at night and will be most comfortable on the couch
or in the car . . . wherever you may be. If you are not
comfortable with this kind of intense camaraderie, do NOT
buy a Stafford. Stafford-owners-to-be should have a fenced
yard where their pet can play in safety. Remember that
Staffords are terriers and can dig like the dickens. They
can turn your garden or their yard into a minefield and
have been known to go under or over a fence. Secure the
bottom of the fence with an "L" of chicken wire. If your
dog is the climbing type, a very tall fence or a "shelf"
around the top will discourage him. To thwart thieves or
those who might tease your Stafford, do not leave him out
in the yard for long periods; supervise his outside time
and take the opportunity to play with him. Remember that
Staffords can overheat if they over-exert themselves on a
hot day; conversely, their short coat offers little warmth
in the winter months when they stop moving. IMPORTANT:
Invisible fencing systems are not an appropriate
alternative for Bull and Terrier breeds. The Stafford's
high pain threshold means that -- if sufficiently provoked
-- he may cross the boundary with minimal discomfort. Once
out, he must brave the boundary's shock to re-enter the
yard. Invisible fencing does not prevent strange dogs from
invading his yard and harassing him . . . a potentially
Do they like to swim?
Staffords can be divided into three categories when it
comes to water -- 1) They will do anything to avoid it, 2)
They like to wade and wallow, 3) They enjoy full-body
immersion and will swim, dive, and retrieve. BUT no matter
which approach your Stafford may take to water, NO
STAFFORD is really very seaworthy or buoyant. The
percentage of body mass that is made up of muscle
practically guarantees that they must work very hard to
stay afloat. Therefore, a Stafford should NEVER be left
alone near a filled swimming pool. More than one of these
guys has paid with his life after falling in, struggling
to remain afloat, and then tiring and sinking before
Can I keep a
Staffordshire Bull Terrier with another dog or with a cat?
Staffords, like members of any other breed, are
individuals. While some may live peacefully
with other animals, some will not. Puppies brought up with
cats and other dogs generally do well. If bringing an
older Staffordshire Bull Terrier into your home, first
introduce the dogs away from the house in a neutral area.
It should be easier to bring a Stafford into your home
than bringing a strange dog into the home of a Stafford.
Encounters should be supervised and the dogs observed to
determine how a hierarchy develops.
Should I consider a male
or a female?
Both will offer much love and affection. Females tend to
be better watchdogs; males tend to be larger. If you
already have a dog in your home, your choice is simpler:
If you have a male, buy a Stafford female. If you have a
female, buy a Stafford male.
combination is the best, especially in a two-Stafford
household. People sometimes ask about the wisdom of
bringing two Stafford puppies home at the same time and
most would advise against it. Each puppy deserves
individual attention and is less likely to get it as a
"twin." Puppies are a lot of work! With two puppies to
keep each other company, the temptation is often to let
them amuse each other. Sometimes your pups will decide to
bond with each other and place you second on the totem
pole. You don't want that! No matter which sex you select,
spay or neuter if you have decided not to breed or exhibit
I have a busy
schedule and when I'm home I like to work undisturbed.
By all means, DO NOT BUY A STAFFORD! These dogs crave
attention, companionship, and are tireless love sponges.
This can annoy those who are used to a dog that amuses
itself, is content to sit in its basket, prefers the
companionship of another dog, or will settle for a quick
occasional pat. Ignoring a Stafford or shutting it away
from you will only make your pet an unhappy, frustrated
I'm looking for a guard
dog . . . will a Stafford fill the bill?
Staffords were not developed as watchdogs. Clare Lee,
writing in The Pet Owner's Guide to the Staffordshire
Bull Terrier notes that, "he rarely barks, greets all
your visitors and may well let them walk off with the
family silver." If you desire a dog that will be
suspicious of all comers and actively repel them, then
choose one of the working breeds designed for that
purpose. Staffords may guard a car and will most
definitely protect family members - especially the weaker
members - but they rarely 'guard' the home.
What sorts of toys are safe to give my
There are no such things as "indestructible dog toys" for
Bull and Terrier
But some have tried these: Boomer Balls,
Wolf-sized Nylabones, large-sized Kongs, or some of the
Puzzle Cubes. Anything else might be chewed up, swallowed
or destroyed in short order.
SO . . . DO YOU STILL
THINK YOU'D LIKE A STAFFORDSHIRE BULL TERRIER?
It is recommended that you
read as much as you can, go to local dog local shows
in your area where you can see them, and contact one of
the breeders listed in the
SBTCA Breeders Directory to ask questions and arrange
to see dogs. And above all, be sure that everyone in your
household wants this energetic and loving addition. A
Stafford could easily be dependent upon you for the next