Small but mighty, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier is a strong, burly dog with noticeable musculature and great athleticism. This English breed of dog was once bred for rodent killing but they soon became a treasured member of many families. The Staffie, a common nickname for this bull terrier breed, and should not be confused with its canine cousins – the American Staffordshire Terrier and Bull Terrier.
The head of the Staffordshire Bull Terrier is wide and deep with an expansive skull. Muscles in its jaw are quite pronounced, giving them a tough appearance and this lips are firm. Drool is rarely a concern for them and their mouths have a fully developed scissor bite. Their eyes are dark and round with a straight on look that gleams with love and intelligence.
The Staffie's head narrows down to a well defined, muscular neck with shoulders lined square on the front legs. Their ribs are well developed and spaced and their backs are relatively level. The Staffordshire Bull Terrier is reminiscent of a tightly set coil with its loins tucked in as if ready to unfurl into action. Their undocked tail is medium in length carried low down but some owners do crop the tails. The Staffie's muscular hind end is the driving force of this dog breed's confident gait.
The coat of a Staffordshire Bull Terrier is short and close to its body and can be defined and smoothly soft. This breed does shed its hair but routine brushing can reduce the amount left behind. Many colors may grace the coat of this dog – black, blue, white, red, brindle or a combination. The term "skewbald" refers to a Staffie that is white with patches of red while "piebald" refers to a white specimen with any other color over its eye, as if it got a pie in the eye.
The Staffordshire Bull Terrier has a rather nefarious beginning as fighting dogs in England in the 1800s. Originally, the ancestors of the Staffie were bred by crossing terriers with bulldogs with the result being called a pit dog. These dogs were used as sport, being put in the ring with bulls, bears and other vicious animals to test their mettle as a form of entertainment.
When tougher laws regarding animal cruelty were introduced in England, dogs were pitted against each other in clandestine locations, with the defeating or surviving dogs declared the winner. What is notable is that while these Staffies were vicious to each other in the ring, as they were trained to be, they were quite easy and trusting with humans.
Eventually dog fighting fell out of favor and reputable breeders started showing the Staffies in competition. Plus, due to their outstanding temperament with adults as well as children, they became great pets, enough so, these dogs were fondly referred to as "nanny dogs" because of their gentleness with children, even young ones.
The Staffordshire Bull Terrier is one of the very few breeds in the world where they are plainly touted as excellent with children. They are safe, lovable, smart dogs that are very reliable which makes them outstanding family pets and companions. With even the minimal of training, this dog breed is obedient of its master and strives to perform commands to the best of its ability.
These self-assured creatures can be quite enthusiastic, active and brave. They thrive on attention and love to clown around. While being playful, they are still ever diligent of danger, keeping in tune with their surroundings should someone or something strange encroaches on their territory. They do not typically bark unless they sense something is not quite right. While friendly, even with strangers, they will protect their owners quite diligently.
Staffies are fond of children and will protect them from harm. They are tolerant of the rambunctious nature of younger children which make them great pets. When introduced to other family pets while still in puppyhood, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier will be more accepting of them. Remember, they were bred for fighting other animals so early socialization with other pets is very important. When a firm but gentle hand is used to steer Staffies away from aggressive behavior they will respond favorably with the distraction.
For the most part, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier is a breed that is relatively free of health problems. However, when they do occur, they are most susceptible to cataracts, which can affect their vision at a later age. On occasion, hip dysplasia can occur but with gentle training and avoiding aggressive jumping and running during puppyhood, this condition is less likely to occur.
Because of their broad heads, the Staffie occasionally will snort or snore due to their shortened nasal passages. While not common, a few puppies are born with cleft palate and may have to be humanely euthanized. Gas is a common problem with the Staffie but paying attention to their diets and not allowing them to gulp food will greatly reduce this occurrence.
Their short coats make grooming the Staffordshire Bull Terrier a breeze. Weekly brushing will keep their coats silky and gleaming as well as reduce the amount of shedding in the home. Because bathing can strip their dry-prone skin of essential oils, it is best left to those occasions when the dog is really dirty. Many owners will use hypoallergenic baby wipes to wipe them down and maintain odor control.
The Staffie's ears are prone to ear mites so the ears should be checked and cleaned weekly to avoid this problem. An ear cleaning solution can be found in most pet stores and it can help remove excessive ear wax, dirt and other accumulations. A baby shampoo, tear-free, can also be used with water to create a solution to cleanse the ear and is applied with cotton balls.
The Staffordshire Bull Terrier is susceptible to eye problems so it is important to clean the eye area frequently with a wet, soft cloth to remove dirt and debris that can cause infection. Nail clipping does not always thrill the Staffie as they do not like having their feet manipulated so touching and inspecting them early, starting in puppyhood will get them accustomed to the practice. Nails need to be clipped regular to avoid them growing into their foot pads, causing pain.
Owners must be the boss during exercise and play time; otherwise the Staffie will roughhouse too much and not know when to stop. They love to play games like tug of war and ball. Chase is also a favorite. The Staffordshire Bull Terrier needs daily exercise not only to maintain their weight but also to burn off their excessive energy as they can become destructive when left to their own devices for too long. With regular exercise, the Staffie will be laid back and quiet inside the home. Providing a challenge to them like tracking and agility training and obedience classes will allow them to blossom and become even better pets.
Intelligence is a common trait in Staffordshire Bull Terriers and they learn fast. In order to avoid destructive behaviors in the home like chewing, the Staffie needs the stimulation of training to curb those tendencies and let them know right from wrong. Introducing an exercise program is important as well as crate training to provide a safe haven for the dog during the owner's absence.
Socialization at an early age is important as the Staffie tends to be aggressive with other pets and can try to exert dominance. Reining those tendencies in early will ensure a more casual, laid back older dog that integrates well with other humans as well as animals. Owners must establish their position as the alpha in the dog-human relationship so the Staffie always knows its place in the household. Otherwise, training might become impossible.