published 1st June 2017
The Staffordshire Bull Terrier is rated high on Bark Busters’ list of popular breeds, coming in as the 3rd in Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom and Canada, and the 4th most popular trained breed in the USA.
These dogs are energetic, fun loving, and in great demand as the all-round family dog. The Staffy (as they are affectionately referred to) are a very loving breed that want nothing more than to settle down for a cuddle with you after a fun-filled day. It is their sweet nature, their ability to romp and play and then cuddle and chill out, that keeps them near the top of the ‘most popular breeds list’ around the world. This breed is generally over-exuberant in their display of affection and all Staffy's possess that trait of squirmy jumping and licking as they greet their human when they arrive home. This is what most Staffy parents love about the breed, but it can be a turn off for those who can’t cope with the ‘rough and tumble’ behaviour. With patience, education and training, they can be just as well behaved as any breed. They are definitely worth the effort.
The breed has a defined muscular appearance that can look intimidating, but their natural love of people shines through and wins everyone’s heart in no time.
The Staffy, is classed as a medium sized dog with a similar appearance to the much larger, more powerful American Staffordshire Terrier and American Pit Bull Terrier.
The Staffordshire Bull Terrier originated in England and is a tenacious and courageous short coat breed. It was one of the breeds used for bull and bear baiting before the 19th century when sports such as cock-fighting were common place and animal rights not yet fully in place.
As far back as the 16th Century, there was a common practice at the cattle markets to set dogs on the bulls and cattle as a way of tenderising the meat and providing entertainment for the spectators. Fights with bears and other animals were also organised as entertainment.
The early bull dogs and terrier types were remarkably different from the breeds of today and were selected mainly for their gameness, inbred courage and aggressiveness.
Terriers and other popular dogs of the time, bred with bulldogs, provided the ancestral foundation stock for the Staffordshire Bull Terrier.
Eventually the practice of these blood sports was phased out or eliminated in 1835 as animal rights organisations like the RSPCA came into being.
However, the practice of dog fighting still continued, where folks could test the fighting strength and courage of their dogs in secret locations. Dog fighting was a form of entertainment and involved gambling. These dog fights usually took place in a pit and the last dog standing was declared the winner.
Despite its violent history, the modern-day Staffordshire Bull Terrier is a breed that has the ideal temperament to be a family dog and trustworthy companion.
Points of Interest
Personality and Temperament
Anyone who has a Staffordshire Bull Terrier will tell you that they adore this breed. They are lovable, adaptable and very trainable. They are a great family dog that loves to join in any activity.
Don’t let their looks fool you – although they look tough on the outside, they are sensitive, loving and very low maintenance. These dogs are very trainable and Bark Busters training methods suit their intelligent personality.
Don’t leave your Staffordshire Bull Terrier puppy confined for long hours because they don’t do “Home Alone” too well; they can become frustrated and behavioural issues could surface. These dogs love company and need to be kept active.
Create a place in your home that contains everything your Staffy will need for those times when you need to leave him alone. This can be found in our “4 basic needs” listed below.
Don’t forget the most important element of all is ‘you’ and your positive influence that will make all the difference.
You should be the ‘decision maker’ in the relationship and influence the good choices that your dog makes by giving lots of praise when it does what you want it to do. Bark Busters can advise you on the best training package for your Staffy.
The Right Training for Your Staffordshire Bull Terrier
‘Staffy's’ are keen to please their human and will play the clown or the serious role with ease. Most behavioural issues in relation to ‘dog aggression’, stem from their unwillingness to walk away from a fight that they generally didn’t start and the inability of their owner to control this behaviour.
The most prevalent behaviours we are called upon to deal with are dog aggression, biting the lead during the walk, excitable behaviour and a small amount of human aggression, which usually stems from poor breeding or lack of training.
More often than not, their pet parents do seek out professional training to deal with their over-exuberance.
Savvy dog fanciers understand the importance of locating the right training for their Staffy; a training that is kind and humane, dog friendly, and taught by experts who have the skills to deal with their particular breed. People who lead hectic lives, find that Bark Busters in ‘home dog training’ suits their lifestyle. Why in-home? Because this is where most problems occur, this is also where dogs feel safe and have fewer distractions. The modern-day dog parent is looking for fast results without having to use any harsh methods.
The Staffordshire Bull Terrier is a tough breed of dog, full of confidence and self-reliance. Fun to have around and definitely capable of being a lap dog, they would love nothing more than to be with you wherever you are.
They possibly are not the world’s greatest guard dogs because of their love of people, but their looks can be a deterrent.
Although they are good with kids, always monitor their behaviour and never leave dogs and children unattended.
Are you an outdoor enthusiast? They are a great hiking companion.
Do you have other animals? The Staffy is good with other animals and dogs if introduced properly.
A very trainable and cooperative breed of dog.
TIPS AND CASE STUDIES
The Staffordshire Bull Terrier is a very adaptable and trainable dog. They just want to please and are always full of energy. However, you do need to have patience when training, or their fun-loving personality can wear you out. They always seem to be ready for the next big thing and keeping their full-attention is always challenging.
The over-exuberance in the Staffy (jumping, nipping and barking) is one of their best and worst traits. They need their owners’ and people they meet, to always keep calm and ignore them until they are calm. They are a very soft natured dog, so they go from manic to submissive in a second.
The Staffy tends to be over-zealous with other dogs. A lot of their excitable behaviour with other dogs ends up with them humping the other dog, and because they are so strong, this can cause problems with other dogs. The other dog will try and get away, but the Staffy holds tight and this invariably leads to a fight.
the Staffy likes to play fetching games, so spend some time teaching them to bring their ball back, hiding their ball and sending them to find it.
I find that by keeping the exercises short and fun, they stay focused on what I am trying to teach them.
"Positive-only" dog training is a big fad right now. Treats can be great motivators for training Staffordshire Bull Terriers, but if your dog will only obey for a treat and you need to have treats always on hand to get the best out of your dog, then the dog is in charge of things, not you and this is not conducive to controlling a lively, energetic breed.
I find that ‘communication’ built from consistent education, is the key because we always have our voices with us and as long as you keep the sessions short, you will get great results from this breed.
Case History - Clancy - 6 year old Staffy
Behavioural issue: Dog Aggression, pulling on the lead and general disobedience.
His human parent told us that ‘Clancy’ started out as a fun-loving puppy, a well-adjusted puppy who loved all dogs. She told us that she could not wait to take him to the ‘dog park’ and show him off to all the other dog parents there.
But she had to wait for him to have his shots and be cleared by the vet before she could take him.
Before his training, a side issue from his dog aggression was his lead manners. He would pull her down the street and she just went along for the ride.
His first day at the dog park went okay, there were just a few small dogs and one puppy there. They all seemed to hit it off. Clancy was the life of the party and played until he dropped.
Then one day as she entered the park with her excited little charge dragging her through the gate, a large dog pounced on him and knocked him flying. Clancy screamed in shock and tried to get away, but the big dog kept persisting. It was obviously the King of the Park and wanted Clancy to know that he had no ranking at all.
The next time they visited the dog park, Clancy refused to get out of the car.
Visits to the ‘dog park’ were then completely halted, but as Clancy grew he started to become aggressive to all dogs the moment he saw them.
Success at First Lesson
Clancy’s human mum then called Bark Busters.
We were able to stop Clancy’s dog aggression at his first lesson and he also learned quickly not to pull on his lead, and to walk sedately at his human’s side and to listen. Who said you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?
Our methods are dog-friendly and are based on the natural way that dogs communicate.
We teach you how to Speak Dog and earn your dog's respect, with kind and dog friendly methods.
Everyday Illnesses and Injuries
Your Staffordshire Bull Terrier’s health concerns will change over the course of their life. A puppy might be more prone to eat something they shouldn’t, a 2-year-old Staffy may be more likely to develop allergies, and a senior Staffy is far more likely to develop arthritis as they age. Staffordshire Bull Terriers also have personality and physical traits that may make them more prone to certain conditions—an active Staffy that loves to run around the yard may be more prone to rupturing their knee ligament.
If you are ever concerned about your dog’s health, your local veterinarian is a great resource.
Genetic Health Concerns
Like many popular breeds, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier has its fair share of hereditary based issues, such as hip and elbow dysplasia. Most reputable breeders now have their breeding stock checked and scored by a vet for these hereditary ailments. You can request proof that the puppy you are purchasing comes from parents that have been checked for these issues.
Because many other health issues are also hereditary, you should do some research on the ancestry of your puppy and any health issues of that particular breed.
As a pet owner, you should expect to pay for basic veterinary care like vaccines, spay/neuter, and annual checkups. Many pet owners don’t consider the unexpected illnesses and injuries that can occur throughout a pet’s life, and they don’t prepare for them. Medical insurance can help a pet owner prepare.
The concept of medical insurance for pets is fairly straightforward—pay a monthly premium to be covered for eligible veterinary expenses. Every provider is different, offering varied coverage with different plans, pricing options and limitations. As you do your research, pay close attention to coverage, deductible options, and ease of use.
We have mentioned the common behavioural issues and traits of the Staffordshire Bull Terrier that are easily addressed with consistent education and training. They are not the type of breed that wants to constantly test you.
Here are some of Donna Ryan's training tips:
Grabbing the Lead
This is an issue that does occur regularly with this breed and generally stems from either frustration on the dog’s part or a learned behaviour from when it was a puppy and was first introduced to the lead.
Most Staffies stop this annoying behaviour if it is addressed properly and at the precise time that your dog is grabbing the lead.
Be sure you don’t turn the exercise into a battle of wills or the dog will win. You have to be in control and let your dog know that this behavior is not acceptable.
Freeze your actions and clap your hands at the precise moment your dog opens its mouth to grab the lead.
Do NOT hit or try to grab your dog, or drag the lead out of your dog’s mouth. Neither of these actions will build trust. Be patient and in control.
Because of its breed history, the Staffy is not one to walk away from a fight. It is not usually the first one to start a fight, but has been known to finish the odd one or two.
Most of the dog aggression Bark Busters encounters stems from a ‘bad experience’ that the dog has had as a puppy or adolescent.
Let your dog know that you are the boss and take control if it displays any aggression. If you find yourself in over your head, seek professional help.
Recall - Come when Called
The Staffy is generally not deliberately disobedient. We usually find that its inability to ‘come when called’ stems from a lack of proper communication. Practice calling your dog on lead first, and in a controlled environment or fenced area, then let the lead trail on the ground and call your dog to you in a pleasant and encouraging way. The Staffy needs to understand your intentions and what you want from them or they will just bound away to investigate more interesting things.
Over-zealous behaviour is synonymous with most Staffordshire Bull Terriers. If you want to quell this over-exuberant behaviour, practice some calm interaction with your dog. Don’t turn on your ‘excitement meter’ when you arrive home, but enter the home and interact in a calm way. The worst thing you can do with an excitable breed is to act in an excitable way. They will just match your behaviour and ramp it up.
There are 6 times that a dog/puppy might need to toilet:
1.Immediately after eating or drinking-so be sure to take your puppy to a designated toileting area.
2.When they first wake up in the morning-take your puppy to toilet immediately.
3.After exuberant play-always finish ‘play time’ with a toilet break.
4.If they wake up during the night, the phone rings, or you get up to use the bathroom-be sure to let your puppy go to the toilet.
5.When you come home-take your puppy to the designated toilet area.
6.If they get frightened-your dog might need to toilet.
Remember these times and be sure to take them to a designated toilet area. Grass or dirt is best as we don’t want them associating their toilet with anything related to carpet or floors.
If you have to leave your dog/puppy for any length of time indoors or locked up, may be wise to provide an indoor toilet that you can eventually transition to the outdoors. An artificial grass product we highly recommend is 'Astro Turf'. You can also get real turf options on line.
Sam. J., Horsley, NSW.
The explanations explained to help me understand Ruby's behaviour and how she perceived things as a dog made perfect sense and were easily understood and put into practice. It was both interesting and enjoyable and I saw Ruby's behaviours like jumping barking toileting and coming when called all addressed. Looking forward to meeting again with Philip to see Ruby and myself at our next scheduled appointment.
Trainers Notes :
Ruby is just 20 weeks old and an American Saffy. Very cute and energetic. She responded immediately to the new Behavioural rules. Her behaviour needed improvement and that's what we saw. Well done Frank and Sam.
Beth. H., Baldivis, WA.
We had our first session with Catharina yesterday and she went through some important things we need to know on how to train our American Staffy. Firstly she sat down with me and partner and went over some information in regards to the concerns with have Diesel, how dogs think, why they behave certain ways, what we need to do in particular situations etc. Next Catharina met Diesel and then started to train us and Diesel in the areas we have concerns in. Overall the session went for about 2 and a half hours and already I can see a difference in Diesels behaviour. Catharina is so friendly and knowledgable and I can't wait for our next session with her :)
Trainers Notes :
Diesel is a lovely, confident dog. His owners did a wonderful job in learning how to "speak dog." I look forward to our next lesson and Diesel joining in on our park sessions :)
If selecting your Staffordshire Bull Terrier puppy from a breeder, try and view both parents to determine the type of personality your puppy might grow up to be.
Don’t concern yourself if one of the puppies parents is the type of dog that barks on your approach to the property, providing they are friendly once you have gained access.
Check out the hereditary history of your puppy. Check whether any of the parents or grandparents had any genetic diseases. Check our health checks in this section.
Be sure that you know the type of personality you are looking for:
Family pet, that is good with children?
A dog that can go hiking with you?
A dog that is going to fit into your lifestyle?
An active dog to match your active life?
A dog that will be a good companion for you?
A dog that is easy to train?
Puppies inherit a lot from their parents and ancestors, including their personality, their genetic DNA, and their characteristics and personality. So if you spot a parent that has some signs of serious aggression or fear issues, this dog is more likely to produce some offspring that will inherit some or all of those traits.
Puppies also learn a lot from their parents in their environment especially when they are with their mother. She guides their behaviour. If she is tolerant and outgoing, then the puppies will usually be the same. If they come into contact with kind and gentle humans, then they will be accustomed to humans and will feel good about them.
The right type of early puppy education from its mother and siblings is an important factor towards how well-adjusted your puppy will be and how it will behave in the future. For this reason, it is not wise to take possession of your puppy until at least 8 weeks of age or older if possible. Experienced breeders will want to adhere to this as they know that the puppy gains a lot of education if it is allowed to stay in that environment a little longer.
Be wary of anyone who says that you can take your Staffy puppy away at the age of 4 to 5 weeks. Your puppy is missing out on vital education from its mother, which will affect its behaviour in the future.
Select the puppy that suits your personality and lifestyle
When selecting a Staffordshire Bull Terrier puppy, be sure to select the personality of puppy that suits your lifestyle.
You will need to give thought to the amount of time you have to devote to your Staffy. Be sure that you have the room needed to accommodate a lively breed and that you are capable of educating such an energetic breed of dog.
Think carefully of the amount of time that your new dog or puppy will have to spend alone. The Staffy is not high on the scale of those dogs capable of being left alone too much. You might need to budget for ‘dog walkers’ or consider a ‘day care center’.
Should We Adopt One Puppy or Two?
Bark Busters offer lots of advice to new dog and puppy parents and we have a huge resource of information on the needs of dogs, how to best manage them, and what works.
New dog parents often ask us whether they should adopt one or two Staffordshire Bull Terrier puppies. Our answer is always the same – only adopt two if you actually want two puppies.
Their concern is that their dog will be lonely while ‘Home Alone’ and they are out at work. We have all seen that animated film “The Secret Life of Pets’ and what dogs get up to when left alone. Although fiction, many of the things they depicted in that movie were based on fact.
Dogs do suffer separation anxiety and resort to, destructive behaviour such as counter surfing and raiding the trash bin when left to their own devices.
In that movie, one of the pet parents brought home another dog for her “Home Alone” dog and initially they did not hit it off. This again is based on fact because truthfully some dogs don’t. Even dogs from the same litter can suffer from sibling rivalry.
All puppies are adaptable if given the right environment and education in which to thrive. They soon look upon you as part of their pack -- a two-legged dog -- and they can fit right into that social structure with ease.
Some folks find it hard to fathom that a dog might look at them as they would another dog. However, many people will think of their dog as a little four-legged human!
A pup and a kitten are a good option if you are not looking to add two dogs to your family unit.
Some Things to Look for During Dog/Puppy Selection
Here is a checklist of things to look for when selecting your Staffordshire Bull Terrier dog/puppy:
Most dogs will be good watch dogs in the appropriate circumstances, so be selective and avoid the obvious pit falls when selecting the dog with who you wish to share your life.
Although the Staffy is generally a friendly, fun loving breed, occasionally you will encounter that undesirable personality. So be selective and make sure you follow the Bark Busters’ check list on what to look for when selecting your new Staffordshire Bull Terrier dog or puppy.
When searching for a Staffy be sure to check out your local animal shelter or rescue. Many of these dogs were surrendered just because of their over-exuberance.
Bringing a New Puppy Home
Always try to bring your new dog or puppy home early in the day. The reason behind this is that they will need time to become accustomed to their new home.
If you can bring something from their old home like some bedding or a toy, this will help them to settle.
You need to ensure that you have pre-selected where your new dog or puppy will sleep and start to get it used to this by feeding it there during the day and spending time with it there. If you have selected a crate, you will need to make sure that you place your dog in it well before bed time, so you have time to see how it’s going to react when you leave it.
Be sure to select a place for your dog to sleep that is practical. It should not be your bed unless you are determined to always have your dog sleep with you. Otherwise, you won’t break that habit easily.
If your dog or puppy begins barking or crying, don’t rush to it. That will only make the situation worse. Instead stay close by and address their concerns with a correction. This will calm them faster than rushing back each time they bark or cry out. Otherwise they will soon believe that all they have to do is cry out and you will appear. This is particularly impossible when you are away from the home.
Remember they did have a home before this one and they will need time to learn to adapt to their new home.
Any training of a puppy must be gentle and dog-friendly. Puppies need special care because they are experiencing everything for the first time. They are very impressionable in the first year and need patience and understanding to set their education on the right path.
Bark Busters trainers are very experienced at dealing with all puppy issues. Our puppy training takes a positive approach; it’s not a ‘one size fits all’.
Our trainers assess the personality of the dog and tailor the training to suit the puppy’s personality and the owner’s needs.
We will assess the way your puppy is behaving and advise you how to manage common puppy issues, such as toileting and destruction.
Puppies need to be managed, have structure in their life, education, entertainment and the right nutritional diet. They also need regular vet checks to keep them healthy and happy.
The best type of safe socialisation for your Staffy puppy is with dog-owners you know and who have a friendly dog; one that is sensible and not intimidating towards puppies. The Staffy nearly always meets everything head on, which can be disconcerting for the more sedate personalities in the dog world. Some dogs won’t tolerate a lively puppy that jumps all over them, trying to put the insubordinate pup in its place.
This interaction quickly solves the problem, but leaves an ever-lasting impression; one that can manifest into ‘dog aggression’.
Parents of Staffordshire puppies would be wise to avoid the local ‘dog park’ and instead start with introducing their puppy to only one or two dogs. Be sure to control your pup’s over-exuberance or fights and scuffles could breakout.
The Wrong Kind of Socialisation
Many new puppy parents cannot wait to take their new puppy out in public or straight to the dog park. This is where some of the seeds of mis-behaviours issues are sown. Bark Busters get to see the results of how these hasty decisions can cause dog aggression and fear of the outdoors.
Some older dogs or puppies can be intimidating which is possibly going to frighten an inexperienced puppy and possibly cause it long-term behavioural issues which can turn to late onset aggression towards other dogs. Be selective which dog you choose to play and socialise with for your puppy.
You can liken it to allowing your children to socialise with children, whose parents don’t share your values of rearing and educating children as to what is socially acceptable behaviour.
Taking Your Staffordshire Bull Terrier Puppy to Dog Parks
If you are determined to take your dog to a doggy park, we recommend that you wait until they have reached 12-months of age. The concern about dog parks is the natural intimidation that older dogs display when they encounter puppies. This can give your puppy a lasting bad impression, which can later lead to dog aggression as your puppy reaches maturity.
The areas where scuffles and ‘power plays’ usually occur is near the entrance to the dog park, where the established dogs like to check out who is requesting entry to their domain.
The Staffy is not the type of breed to take a backward step if another dog provokes them. This could cause you long term problems and mean that your dog never gets to go back to the park for fear of fights with other dogs. So be patient and let your dog mature first and allow it to develop a trust that does not have to worry about other dogs when it goes out.
Even other puppies can bully and intimidate your dog, so don’t rush off to a dog park. Let your puppy enjoy pleasant experiences with well-behaved dogs or puppies.
If fully immunised, you can sit with your puppy on your lap in a public area or park, where it can watch the world from a safe place. This way it won’t be intimidated or frightened by over-exuberant mature dogs or other puppies.
Your dog has four basic needs in life to keep it happy healthy and content
Let’s examine those four basic needs and why your dog needs them to keep it healthy, balanced and content.
Select the right diet for your dog, one that possesses all of your dog’s nutritional needs. Do your research into dietary needs, speak to your vet and check out the brand and type of diet that suits your Staffy.
Remember that an active breed such as the Staffordshire will need the right balance of protein and nutrients to help it grow strong and thrive.
If fed on the wrong diet, skin eruptions can occur. It is best to avoid a diet that contains grains, colourings or harmful preservatives.
Safety-leadership and education
A dog’s feeling of security comes from leadership and the fact that you, as its leader, will make all the decisions. The Staffy is not commonly known for any aggression towards its own established family group, but you will need to establish yourself as the pack leader, especially indoors.
Entertainment & Toys
Your Staffy needs to be entertained to reduce boredom. Interactive toys and activities are vital to ensure that your dog is less destructive. The GameChanger® by Bark Busters is a great interactive toy that will keep your dog occupied for hours!
Shelter-a place to call their own
A place to call its own, a bed of its own or a place where it can feel safe such as a den-like crate or sturdy box. Your dog needs a safe, quiet place to go when it needs some ‘time out’.
You need to identify games that will enhance your dog’s behaviour, not increase its unwanted behaviour.
We recommend that you don’t play hand games or chasing games that encourage a dog to bite or run away. By playing these types of games you are teaching your dog bad habits, not good ones. These games encourage biting and running away, causing recall issues.
Tug of war games are fine as long as you control the game.
Due to their size and energy levels, you must give thought to how your dog and children will interact. Any play between dog and children must be monitored and controlled at all times. Children have a way of getting dogs excited and this can lead to the dog inadvertently hurting the child through their natural excitable, boisterous behaviour.
Make sure that you educate the children to play sensibly and instruct them to play games that are less likely to lead to over-exuberance, such as hide and seek games or fetch games, not the rough and tumble type of games.
Wrestling with a dog will cause over-excitement and to play-bite every time it sees the children, eventually causing your children to try to avoid the dog, because they fear getting hurt.
Any form of play by the adults in the house should be measured and not aimed at over-exciting your dog. The Staffy can hurt you just with their play. They tend to never do things at half-measures. When you do play, play games like ‘fetch the ball’ and tug-of-war games and make sure the game ends with you taking control of the item. Once the game is over, take the item out of play, with a ‘Finish’ command and lots of praise.
This idea of controlling the game is designed to show the dog in a subtle way, that you are the decision maker and that you control the game.
It is best not to play rough and tumble or play games where you thrust your hands into your dog’s mouth. These types of games only teach dogs to bite your hand. This can lead to a situation where your dog will bite your hand anytime it comes close to you.
Puzzle and Treat Dispensing Toys
The GameChanger® by Bark Busters is a great toy for Staffordshire Bull Terriers and one of the few toys that is a match for their strong powerful jaws.
This interactive toy gives dogs hours of entertainment, providing they are at all food or toy motivated. The GameChanger® is a sturdy educational toy that delivers a treat when the dog spins it the right way. You simply fill the toy with treats and allow your dog to do the rest. He will soon get to work and get the treats flowing. The flexibility of the toy gives persistent chewers the ability to bite down on the toy, giving them a workout. The GameChanger® is highly recommended to prevent destructive behaviour and will also assist in keeping dogs entertained and less bored.
These toys can help your dog to direct his chewing efforts in a positive direction as opposed to chewing your shoes or precious items.
Many Staffordshire Bull Terriers go wild for this toy. Unlike the Kong Wobbler or other hard plastic toys, this toy is very quiet and won’t damage your hardwood floors or furniture. It is flexible, made of PBA free polyurethane, and won’t break teeth or hurt your dog’s mouth.
This article is based on Bark Busters research. Founded in 1989 and now established in 7 countries, Bark Busters is the world's largest home dog training company.
The information contained here is based on our company’s research, our dog training experience and expertise, and in the interest of animal welfare. This information in regards to the popularity of this breed was updated in 2017 after a poll of our international operation worldwide.