The Staffordshire bull terrier commonly known as Stafford or Staffy is a fearless and intelligent dog breed that originated in the United Kingdom. This dog breed was developed by crossbreeding an old English bulldog with an old English terrier. Staffordshire bull terriers have a rich history, going back to the 1800s. They were resourceful companions to have at the time and are still in great demand today.
Although Staffords were originally bred as fighter dogs, they are affectionate, loving, and loyal, all traits of an excellent family dog.
Characteristics of Staffordshire Bull Terriers
Owing to their historical past and their bull-baiting skills used in the 1800s, Staffords are not only intelligent but also fearless, and strongly built. They are of medium size, standing at 14 to 16 inches at the shoulder. Males can weigh anywhere between 28 and 38 pounds while females weigh 24 to 34 pounds.
Their short-muzzled heads appear to be broad with well-pronounced cheekbones. Staffords have round dark eyes and ears that should be short, going up on the head with pointed ends. The neck of a Stafford is short and muscular, which gives them a powerful and confident appearance. Their tails are of medium length and do not curl much.
Stafford bull terriers have short and shiny coats that do not require a lot of brushing as they lie close to the skin. They come in a variety of colors such as black, black, blue, red, fawn, or any of these colors with white markings. These dogs have quite a long life span, with individuals living between 12 and 14 years.
Known for their great reputation around children and their people-loving personalities, Staffords make great companions for families. They may look tough but, in reality, these dogs are playful and enjoy games of chase among other outdoor activities.
Although Staffords are friendly, they may show aggression toward unfamiliar dogs. A Stafford will also bark a lot, especially when they sense danger, making them great family protectors. Historically, such protection instincts and courage were very befitting of a watchdog.
Staffords do well in moderate temperatures. To prevent dehydration and overheating, be sure to provide shade and cool, fresh water when the weather is hot and humid.
Caring for a Staffordshire Bull Terrier
Caring for Staffords is generally easy. It entails the following:
Grooming. Having short coats close to their skin means that Staffords are quite low-maintenance in the grooming sector. A weekly brush is all it takes to keep their coats smooth and shiny. Trim your dog’s nails once they appear too long, preferably every 2 weeks. Also, remember to clean your dog’s ears regularly using a cotton ball and a veterinarian-approved ear cleaning solution. This is done to remove wax buildup and debris that may cause infection. Fleas and ticks can also be a nuisance. There are many safe products that you can use to keep your dog flea and tick-free. If you’re unsure, talk to your vet about what choices you have. A nonprescription dog shampoo may help, but your vet may want to prescribe one for your specific dog needs.
Exercise. Staffords are a very active breed. As such, they need physical and mental stimulation to keep them happy and healthy. In terms of exercise, Staffords may vary slightly. Some may be happy with a 30 to 40 minute walk or a play session in the backyard, while others may require a bit more, like hiking or biking, to channel their high energy levels.
Training. Staffords are often misunderstood. They were originally bred as fighting dogs. This accounts for their reputation as aggressive dogs. With the right training and socialization, they can become gentle and companionable pets. These dogs are intelligent, so training should be easy. However, some dogs are stubborn and may need a professional to train them.
Nutrition. Whether it is commercially made or homemade, your dog’s diet should contain food rich in nutrients and approved by your veterinarian. Clean water should be available at all times. Be sure to clean your dog’s food and water dishes to prevent bacterial buildup. Also, brush your dog’s teeth every day to prevent dental issues.
Health Problems to Watch for With Staffordshire Bull Terriers
Staffords are generally healthy dogs. However, just like every other dog breed, they are susceptible to various health conditions. Some of these health issues include hereditary cataracts, persistent hyperplastic primary vitreous (PHPV), an eye malformation that develops before birth, another eye condition called posterior polar subcapsular cataracts (PPSC), and hip dysplasia, a condition that affects movement. Regular visits to your vet will ensure your dog gets the necessary vaccines and lives a happy and healthy life.
Hip Dysplasia. Canine hip dysplasia is a hereditary condition that affects the hip during growth. It occurs when the ball of the hip joint does not fit its socket correctly. This condition is common in many dog breeds. It is, therefore, important to check if the dog you’re planning to buy or adopt is susceptible. Veterinarians may use surgery to correct this condition. Symptoms of canine hip dysplasia include:
- Unusual gait
- Reduced movement
- Decrease in thigh muscle mass
- Difficulty running, jumping, or climbing
Cataracts. Yes, like in humans, cataracts cause problems in dogs as well. Cataracts can either be inherited or as a result of injuries, medication, and infections. Cataracts develop when proteins and fiber build up in the eye’s lens and completely block light from entering the eye. Untreated cataracts can lead to loss of vision. Fortunately, blind dogs can successfully be trained on ways to cope with their condition.
Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA). This is a hereditary condition that occurs in many breeds of dogs, Staffords included. PRA affects the photoreceptor cells in the retina eventually leading to blindness in the affected dog.
Obesity. Staffords can easily pile on pounds. Prevent obesity by monitoring your dog’s daily calorie intake and exercising your dog. Although treats are an essential tool when training your Stafford, they should be given moderately. Overweight dogs may be at risk of serious health issues like joint stress, heart disease, and hypertension.
Allergies. Staffords are also prone to allergies. If you notice your dog is itchy or sore, it could be irritation due to spores, medication, plants, or insects. Your veterinarian may recommend relief medication such as antihistamines for your dog.
Remember to ask your vet about heartworm prevention. Heartworms can be fatal, so you should address any concerns such as mosquitoes living around the house, wild animals that may come into contact with your pets, and other recommendations from your vet.
Special Considerations for Staffordshire Bull Terriers
Staffords are very companionable and great with people. They are loyal to their families and love children. However, these dogs possess the prey drive of their fighting ancestors. They have tendencies of showing aggression toward other animals, so you may have to put them on a leash for walks or hiking because any small creature like a squirrel could excite them and they may take off.
Staffords love to please their owners and are easy to train. Teach your children how to properly handle pets and supervise their interactions. Staffords are fairly vocal and will bark at the sight of strangers, making them great protectors.
History of Staffordshire Bull Terriers
As their name suggests, Staffordshire bull terriers originated in England in the county of Staffordshire. This breed was developed by crossing an old English bulldog and a tan terrier and was mainly used as a fighting dog until 1835 when bloodsports were banned in the United Kingdom. Staffords have since then been loving and affectionate companion dogs.
Toward the end of the 19th century, the Stafford breed made its way to America. It was not until 1974 that this breed was recognized by the American Kennel Club as a purebred.
Although the Staffordshire bull terrier is an imposing dog with a strong, muscular body, you’d be surprised how affectionate they are with family. This dog has the intense stare and powerful stance of a concerned family member. They are good with kids and will even do well in apartment living. They may have been bred to fight, but Staffords are friendly and ready to be part of a loving family.