What are Staffordshire Bull Terrier's like?
Staffies look tough but in reality these dogs are playful and exceptionally loving, and they thrive on human company including that of children. They’ve had an unfair reputation that means many people overlook this breed, however, they are easy to care for and train, and they make fantastic family pets and caring canine companions.
Staffordshire Bull Terriers definitely have an unfair reputation, as these dogs are far from blustering bullies. In fact, they are an incredibly loving and affectionate dog that thrives on human company. These medium-sized dogs are far softer than most people imagine, especially around children. In fact, they earned the nickname the “nanny dog” because they love the company of kids and will spend all day playing and cuddling up to their little humans. In fact, they are one of only two breeds where the Kennel Club standards specifies a fondness for children and kid-friendliness, as they are “affectionate, especially with children”
Staffies are a family-friendly breed, love people, and are active. They can be boisterous around people out of sheer excitement, so it’s im-paw-tent to train your dog so they won’t jump up. Luckily, these dogs are usually pretty obedient. Because they’re an active breed, they are keen to play and make paw-some companions for people who love long walks or jogs, or families who want to spend hours playing with their pup. Just make sure you have some sturdy toys, as Staffies are very strong chewers!
Although people-friendly, Staffies can be stand-offish towards other dogs. Some Staffordshire Bull Terriers are happy to meet new fur-iends, but some individual dogs might be aggressive towards other canines. Training and socialisation will be needed to keep your dog on an even keel and to be on the safe side, it’s a good idea to keep your pooch on the lead if there are strange dogs around or you are in a new area. (But that’s good advice for any owner, whatever breed you have.)
Despite their origins and some stand-offish individuals, Staffordshire Bull Terriers can live well with other dogs and cats provided they are socialised. However, they may still be unsure about meeting animals from outside their family unit.
So if you’re looking for a family-friendly dog that isn’t high maintenance and can adapt well to living in any size space, (provided you give them lots of playtime and walkies), a Staffie is potentially the paw-fect pup for you!
Staffordshire Bull Terrier history
Depending on how far you want to look back in history and your dog’s ancestors, some people consider the Staffy a descendant of very ancient stock. They’re bred from bulldogs and terriers, and the bulldog side has a long and hotly-debated history. They supposedly descend from ancient Alaunt or Molosser dogs brought to Britain by the Roman army. These ancient dogs were highly-prized as livestock guardians and used as war dogs by the Greeks and Romans. They’ve left their imprint on numerous breeds, notably mastiffs and bulldogs, the ancestors of the Staffy.
However, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier breed is relatively modern, only emerging in the 19th century to be used in blood sports. And as the name suggests, this breed was created and popular around Staffordshire and Birmingham.
What were Staffordshire Bull Terriers bred for
Nowadays, Staffies are very much lovers but once upon a time they were fighters. The breed emerged in the late 19th century when Victorians began cross-breeding bulldogs and terriers to be used in dogfights.
Following the ban on bull-baiting, people decided they still wanted to watch and bet on dogs fighting other animals. They began pitting dogs against each other as these fights required less space and were more conspicuous than battles against bears or bulls.
Bulldogs had been previously bred for bull-baiting and people wanted to take the bravery, strength and fighting instinct from the breed to create a smaller, faster dog that could fight other dogs. They bred bulldogs with terriers together to try and impart the agility, speed, and tenacity of the terrier into this new breed whilst making them smaller. There were a number of resulting crossbreeds, one of which would become the Staffordshire Bull Terrier. These were compact, muscular dogs with wide jaws and impressive strength that was still energetic and quick on their feet in a fight.
A lover not a fighter
We don’t think much about the bloody origins of Bulldogs, and nowadays we think of them as slow, laid-back dogs. And yet the Staffy is still followed with a reputation for fighting. This could come from a lot of bad press and confusion between Staffies and the similar-looking Pit Bull. Either way, many owners and dog professionals will admit that while a Staffy might not always get on with other dogs, they are very loving and playful pups around people. This is partly because after dog fighting was banned, they were then bred to be companion animals, bringing out their affectionate temperament.
The Staffordshire Bull Terrier’s love of humans is probably what helped to preserve the breed while so many others went extinct, such as their ancestors the Bull and Terrier and the Black and Tan Terrier, or other similar breeds like the Old English Terrier or Blue Paul Terrier.
Regardless of whether your Staffy is a boy or a girl, they will measure roughly the same in their height and length. A male Staffy will usually be more muscular than the female, which is why they often weigh quite a bit more.
Here are the average statistics for Staffordshire Bull Terriers:
|Average Height (Withers):||35-41 centimetres||35-41 centimetres|
|Average Weight:||13-17 kilograms||11-15.5 kilograms|
|Lifespan:||12-14 years||12-14 years|
|Temperament:||Affectionate, loyal, brave, obedient (but tenacious).||Affectionate, loyal, brave, obedient (but tenacious).|
Staffordshire Bull Terrier facts
On the beat
Their intelligence and obedience make Staffies hard workers. Police Dog Cooper proved the point in 2018 when he became the first-ever Staffordshire Bull Terrier to work in the police force. PD Cooper was a rescue dog and now, rather aptly, works for Staffordshire Police. Despite being a stocky Staffy, he’s not out there chasing down criminals, he’s actually a specialist search dog. He isn’t the only one either, as there are already several more rescue Staffies working as sniffer dogs, including PD Boris and PD Stella.
When shown off in the show ring, Staffies sometimes wear a leather collar with brass adornments. (Very few dogs wear collars in the ring.) The Staffies collar is special though, as they are the only breed that wears them and one of the brass decorations is a knotted rope, a Stafford Knot, in a nod to the breed’s hometown.
Staffys have won over millions of people around the world and have had a few famous admirers too, including Spiderman, Tom Holland. But no human and hound duo showed off their su-paw bond like Steve Irwin and his dog Sui. Sui appeared on his shows and travelled all over with Steve and Terri Irwin, and was trained to help them wrangle crocodiles and wild pigs. Brave as any Staffy, she would even swim near crocs to distract them while Steve would catch them. But she was equally adoring and protective of their kids. In fact, Bindi Irwin’s middle name is “Sue”, named after their family dog!
Staffies have been the mascot for the Staffordshire regiments of the army for decades. The tradition began sometime in the 19th century when the South Staffordshire Regiment took their Staffy “Boxer” abroad with them. But Boxer fell from a moving train and was last seen apparently dead beside the track, only to then stagger into camp a few days later. Boxer had walked over 200 miles through the desert after his fall to find his regiment. What a trooper!
The Staffordshire Regiment always had a mascot Staffy, with each successive dog being called Watchman. Even when the regiment was disbanded in 2007 (and amalgamated with two other regiments,) the tradition continued. Today, Lance Corporal Watchman VI heads up their parades. Each pup in the paw-sition has held their own rank, duties, and uniform.
Staffordshire Bull Terrier puppies
Your Staffordshire Bull Terrier puppy will be allowed to come home with you after they reach 8 weeks of age and are fully weaned. Like all dogs, they will lose their puppy teeth at some stage, and you can expect your pup to be teething from 4-9 months of age. While teething, you’ll probably find your Staffy puppy will chew a lot more. Staffies are strong chewers and love playing at any age, so make sure you have plenty of tough toys.
However, chances are you might get your Staffordshire Bull Terrier as an adult. This breed is often available for adoption and waiting for their fur-ever home. Adopted Staffies are usually just as loyal and loving as any other, in fact, they often become depressed in rescue kennels because they aren’t getting the human connection they thrive on.
Your Staffy puppy should take to training well as they are eager to please their owners. However, you will definitely need to work on lead training because these muscular pups are surprisingly strong for their size! Because Staffies can be stand-offish with other dogs, they are often best kept on the lead, making lead training and socialisation a key point to focus on with your pooch.
Socialising your Staffy
Another im-paw-tent part of your Staffy’s puppyhood will be socialisation. Although Staffordshire Bull Terriers are usually very people friendly, they were originally bred for dog-fighting. They are not an inherently aggressive breed, but you do need to just be aware of their historic traits and tendencies, as they can sometimes emerge in individual dogs. Plus, many Staffies just aren’t friendly or interested with strange dogs and don’t paw-ticularly like the company of canines other than those they live with. Because of this, you should socialise your Staffy to ensure they know how to react to other dogs.
It’s as much for your pup's safety as the safety of other dogs. Sadly, some owners are not very responsible and you are sure to encounter a dog that is off the lead that shouldn’t be at some point. (This other dog might have bad recall, reactivity, no training, etc.) By making sure your own dog is even-tempered and obedient, you can keep them under control no matter who or what you encounter. And this goes for any breed you would own, not just Staffies.
When is a Staffy fully grown?
Your Staffordshire Bull Terrier puppy should reach their adult size by the time they are 12 months old, but it isn’t uncommon for some pups to only reach their adult height and length when they are 18 months old. However, your Staffy will not reach their adult weight at this point.
Once your pup reaches their adult height, they will start to put on weight and fill out, gaining that muscle they’re known for. You might notice their head changes shape too as their muscles develop. It can take a surprisingly long time for your pup’s muscles to grow and develop, and your pooch probably won’t be physically mature until they are at least 2 years old.
When does a Staffy’s head split?
Sometime after they are around 6 months old, but usually older, a Staffy puppy’s head will “split”. This process is called a lot of things, from spreading to splitting to cracking. Despite the names, it has nothing to do with their skull or anything breaking. (Spreading is probably the term that best describes it.) Your Staffy’s head might change shape as their muscles fully develop, including their face widening and developing a dip in the middle of their head.
However, this isn’t always noticeable and some Staffies might always have a more narrow “small” head. It can take months for their muscles to fully grow and mature, it can start around the time they are 6-9 months old but continue until they are around 2 years old.
Are Staffordshire Bull Terriers easy to train?
They’re not a challenge to train, but a Staffordshire Bull Terrier might be a handful if you are not persistent with their training. This is because Staffies are very intelligent and active, so they are usually very happy to be given something to do. They are also very people-orientated, so they are often very eager to please their owners. However, they can be a little stubborn at times.
In fact, Staffies have a paw-fect balance of traits that leads to them being relatively easy to train. They’re intelligent, but not so smart that they can become bored or manipulative. They are also active and eager to please but are not highly energetic so you won’t be struggling to grab their attention or stop them from running off. Staffies are very obedient too, and many dogs can be seen in dog shows performing routines, agility, or competitive obedience.
Generally, their enthusiasm and intelligence shines and they are relatively easy to train, even for novice owners. Meanwhile, training is necessary to prevent any bad behaviour or a stubborn streak from developing in your dog.
Su-paw Staffordshire Bull Terrier names
Naming your new fur-iend is always a tough task. You might want to have a glamorous name that sounds as impressive as your dog looks, or maybe a soft name to emphasise the kindness and love of your smiley Staffy. If you’re trying to find a paw-some name for your pooch, try browsing these girl dog names and boy dog names to find the paw-fect fit for your pup.
Staffordshire Bull Terrier appearance
Staffies are one of the larger terrier breeds and are classed as a medium-sized dog. They are very stocky with broad shoulders, muscular appearance, and steady stance that gives them a tough appearance. A male Staffordshire Bull Terrier can look quite different to a female because they are more muscular and have even wider skulls. Their bodies are longer than they are tall, wide at the shoulders and narrower at their hindquarters. They have a straight and slim tail that is medium-length and often held lower than their body.
A Staffy has a short snout with a distinct stop where it meets their skull, with wide jaws and pronounced cheeks. (Which is why they have that heart-melting Staffy smile.) Staffordshire Bull Terriers are well-known for their cheerful expression, with round, dark eyes and a distinctive “smile”.
They can have either half-pricked ears (also called half-cocked) or rose-shaped ears. Rose-shaped ears fall backwards from the fold, like a greyhound’s ears. However, as there are many Staffy crosses out there, you might also see a dog that looks like a Staffy with button ears or even upright ears.
Staffordshire Bull Terrier colours
Staffies come in almost every combination of colours possible for dogs. There are 27 standard Staffordshire Bull Terrier colours, but plenty of other colours outside the recognised breed standard that your pup could be.
As well as solid colours and combinations of two colours, Staffies can often have a brindle patterned coat.
Brindle is where a dog has a base colour and a secondary colour in their fur that forms stripes. These stripes can sometimes look like tiger-stripes, as the secondary colour is darker than the base colour. However, these patterns are more subtle than a tiger’s stripes because the fur is more interspersed and it is not solid patterning. (Meanwhile, “reverse brindle” is the name given to an uncommon coat pattern where a dog has light stripes on a dark coat.)
The standard Staffordshire Bull Terrier colours are:
|Black||Black and white||Black and tan|
|Black brindle||Black brindle and white||Blue|
|Blue and white||Blue brindle||Blue brindle and white|
|Brindle||Brindle and white||Dark brindle|
|Dark brindle and white||Fawn brindle and white||Fawn|
|Fawn and white||Liver||Red|
|Red and white||Red brindle||Red brindle and white|
|White||White and black pied||White and blue pied|
|White and brindle pied||White and fawn pied||White and red pied|
The Staffordshire Bull Terrier is a bit bigger and beefier than other terrier breeds. They are classed as a medium-sized dog and are usually between one or two feet tall. Female Staffies are usually smaller than males and weigh less too.
Staffordshire Bull Terrier temperament
According to the Kennel Club, a purebred Staffy will be bold but “totally reliable”, so you can be sure your pooch will be steady, loyal, and dependable. Despite the bad press these dogs have received over the years, ask any owner or trainer and they will probably tell you that this is one of the sweetest and most loving dog breeds around. Sure, they can have a stubborn streak, but what terrier doesn’t? And all breeds have the paw-tential to be badly behaved, it varies among individual dogs and how their owner handles them.
Your Staffordshire Bull Terrier will need training and socialisation to teach them how to behave around other animals, but generally, these dogs are naturally very people-friendly and affectionate. Staffies are very playful and can become boisterous because of their enthusiasm. (Hence the need for good training.) But these pups are pretty obedient and are famously very good with kids and are widely recommended as a family-friendly breed.
Is a Staffy a good family dog?
Yes, Staffordshire Bull Terriers make paw-some family pets. They are famous for their fondness for children and they are exceptionally loving and protective of their young family members. There are only two breeds that the Kennel Club mentions are affectionate and good with children as part of the breed standard, and the Staffy is one of them.
Staffies are very people-orientated, affectionate, and loyal so bond well with their families and love to be involved in everything you do. And although Staffordshire Bull Terriers can be stand-offish with other animals, they can learn to live with other pets paw-fectly well, including other dogs and cats. All in all, a well-socialised pooch will live and love with anyone they share their home with, making them su-paw family dogs.
Can Staffies be left alone?
You shouldn’t leave any dog alone for a very long time, but Staffies in paw-ticular shouldn’t be left on their own for too long. These pups are very people-orientated and can develop separation anxiety. It goes to show you that despite their tough appearance, Staffies are just big softies. The other problem is that Staffies are smart, and can be destructive if they are bored and left to their own devices. However, most dog breeds can be anxious or destructive when bored or lonely, and it will vary between individual dogs.
Training your pooch can help to prevent separation anxiety and teach your dog how to happily spend time on their own. You should also make sure you leave plenty of toys and boredom-busting activities to keep your pup occupied and help to prevent anxiety and destructive behaviour stemming from boredom. In general though, you shouldn’t leave your Staffy alone for too long and if they need to spend a few hours on their own, see if anyone you know can “pup” in and check on them
How much exercise do Staffordshire Bull Terriers need?
Staffordshire Bull Terriers are pretty active pups and will need plenty of exercise and stimulation to keep them happy and to keep their muscles in good condition. They should have about an hour of exercise every day. Because these pups love to play and snuggle with their humans, you’ll find that most dogs won’t want more than this, and many are content with a little less. Just make sure you are also providing lots of fun toys and games to satisfy your dog’s quick wit and provide them with plenty of mental stimulation as well as physical.
If you need a little inspiration for your next human and hound adventure, you can browse our favourite dog walks around the country.
How much space do Staffies need?
Surprisingly, not a whole lot. Staffies are very adaptable dogs and can live in almost any home, even flats, as long as they have plenty of walkies and mental stimulation. So you won’t need a big house or large garden for your fur-iend to be happy.
How long do Staffordshire Bull Terriers live for?
Staffordshire Bull Terriers are pretty healthy and hardy and have a life expectancy a little better than average for most breeds. Your Staffie should live for 12-14 years. However, plenty of individuals live into their mid-teens if they are provided with plenty of exercise and a healthy diet.
What problems do Staffordshire Bull Terriers have?
Staffordshire Bull Terriers are a healthy breed and have very few breed-specific problems. There are a handful of hereditary health conditions which parent pooches should be screened for before they are bred. Otherwise, you should make sure you exercise your dog regularly to prevent obesity and give them a healthy diet with plenty of quality nutrition which will help to protect them from common canine illnesses.
Some of the common Staffordshire Bull Terrier health problems are:
- Hip & elbow dysplasia
- Some cancers
- Skin conditions
- L-2-Hydroxyglutaric Aciduria
As we mentioned, many of these conditions are hereditary and can be tested for. These include both hip and elbow dysplasia, certain eye conditions, and L-2-Hydroxyglutaric Aciduria. Dogs should be DNA tested and have health screenings before breeding so you are aware of the risks of their puppies developing such conditions.
Many Staffies can develop cataracts later in life as it is common in older dogs. However, a proportion of Staffordshire Bull Terriers carry the recessive gene responsible for cataracts. If inherited, it means that even puppies can develop cataracts. In these cases, the dog will likely lose their vision very early in life.
Unfortunately, Staffies are quite prone to skin problems. This could be due to an allergy where they have either eaten or come into contact with something that creates an unwanted immune response, leaving them with red, itchy skin.
Try to keep a diary of anything your dog has eaten or log factors like the pollen count to try to work out what is causing the problem with the help of your vet. They may also suggest trying a hypoallergenic diet, in case a common allergen like wheat could be causing your pup’s skin problems.
L-2-Hydroxyglutaric Aciduria or L-2HGA is an inherited metabolic condition which leads to damage to the brain and nervous system. The symptoms are similar to epilepsy and include seizures and ataxia, or other forms of disrupted motor skills. It’s uncertain what causes the condition, and Staffordshire Bull Terriers seem more predisposed to developing the problem than other breeds. However, it is rare and hereditary, so very few dogs are affected.
How to groom a Staffy
In terms of hygiene, Staffies are very easy to care for. A Staffordshire Bull Terrier has little grooming needs and is very low-maintenance. They do shed throughout the year, but the amount they shed is quite reasonably low. Regular brushing and bathing will help to remove dead hair though, so you won’t be sitting on hairy fur-niture.
You won’t need to brush your Staffy very often, once a week is more than enough. (And to be honest, you’ll probably do it even less.) But brushing your pooch helps to manage shedding and keep them clean, so it is good to get in the habit of doing it more regularly. Staffies don’t have any long hair or feathers that need combing or trimming, and they don’t need baths very often. As I said, brushing will usually get rid of most dirt, dust, and dead hair out of your Staffy’s coat.
As for baths, your Staffy should really only be bathed every 3 months, or whenever they desperately need it. It can actually be better to bathe them this infrequently because washing them too often with shampoo can irritate their sensitive skin and strip the oils from their fur. If your dog gets a little grubby on a walk, you can try spot-cleaning them and giving them a brush afterwards. (Paw-haps with some no-rinse shampoo or conditioner if you’d like to get them soft and smelling fresher.)
Do Staffordshire Bull Terriers shed?
Yes, Staffies do shed. They don’t shed a lot because they have a single coat, so they do not have as much fur to shed as other double-coated breeds like the Springer Spaniel. But because Staffordshire Bull Terriers have short fur, they will shed continuously throughout the year.
This is because short fur completes its cycle of growing quicker. Since fur sheds when it dies, and short hair takes less time to grow, so it dies and sheds quicker than long hair.
So Staffies are not heavy shedders, but they will shed a little throughout the year. You might also notice that they tend to lose more hair in the Spring and Autumn months as they change into their Winter and Summer coats to adjust to the changing temperatures.
Are Staffordshire Bull Terriers hypoallergenic?
No, Staffordshire Bull Terriers are not hypoallergenic. Although they have very short fur and don’t shed a lot, they do still drop a little hair and dander throughout the year.
However, human allergies can be caused by different things, be it fur, dander, or drool. Not only that, the severity of reactions can vary between breeds, even non-hypoallergenic ones. The best way to test if you can live with a certain breed is to spend some time with them.
Also, it is im-paw-tent to remember that even “hypoallergenic” dog breeds, like the cockapoo, are not actually 100% hypoallergenic. All dogs will shed a little hair or dander, so there is still a chance they can trigger your allergies. Again, you should spend time with the dog you like to see if you can live together without pup-set.