I have to start things off with a disclaimer: I grew up with a staffy (Staffordshire Bull Terrier if we’re being formal) and have always loved them. Having such a positive history with them, I’ve always been perplexed by staffies’ contentious reputations. People often see those stocky bodies, muscles, and jaws and assume they’re tough guys. Yes, despite their small to medium size males can weigh up to 17 kilos. But it’s more of an issue when they’re climbing on top of you for a cuddle.
In reality a staffy is usually a loyal, friendly sook who loves their family. They used to be known as “nanny dogs” because they were so sweet with children. Like any dog, they’re a product of their environment. Treat them well and they’ll love you forever. But don’t put in the proper time, energy, and training and they can have behavioural issues–again, like any breed.
Staffies come from Birmingham in the UK, and are believed to be bred from bulldogs and English white terriers. Sadly they were originally used for dog fighting and bear baiting–which explains their reputations, burly appearance, and association with aggression. But even then owners noted that they were better with people than other fighting breeds.
Luckily when the UK banned blood sports in the 19th century their personalities saw them embraced as family dogs. Although that dark past meant it took a long time for them to be recognised and welcomed as a breed by the UK and US Kennel Clubs.
Over the generations responsible breeding has tempered their aggression, and their public standing has improved. Today they’re one of the most popular breeds in the UK, Australia, France, and New Zealand. The American Kennel Club in particular have come around, noting that: “Happily, good breeding transformed this former gladiator into a mild, playful companion with a special feel for kids.” We love a happy ending.
What You’ll Love about a Staffy
- Loyal: If we haven’t got it across already these guys LOVE their families and are in it for the long haul. Treat them well and they’ll follow you anywhere.
- Affectionate: Famous for loving a snuggle, they stand out in particular for being great with kids.
- Smart: A staffy pick up tricks and training quickly and love to be challenged.
- Low maintenance: Their short coats only need occasional baths and weekly brushings to stay shiny and healthy.
- Healthy: While all dogs can have health problems, they don’t have too many hereditary issues and tend to live long lives.
What You Might Find “Challenging”
- Stubborn: All that loyalty does have a downside. While they’re usually not aggressive, they often won’t back down if provoked.
- Need an experienced owner: A staffy need considerable socialisation and training when they’re young. Those big brains can work against them if they’re not stimulated. Also, remember they were originally bred for blood sport. While much of that aggression has dissolved their fearlessness and blind loyalty can cause issues if they’re confronted or feel their family is in trouble.
Common Health Issues for a Staffy
- Eye problems: Staffies can have issues with their eyes, such as cataracts.
- Ear infections: Like most dogs with floppy ears it’s important to keep them clean and free of wax and debris that may cause infections.
- Heat sensitive: While they love to run and play (and do benefit from considerable exercise) they can overheat, so keep them inside and relaxed on hot days.