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Staffordshire Bull Terrier Breed Overview, Facts & Care

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Last Updated: December 20, 2022 | 8 min read | Leave a Comment

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The Staffordshire Bull Terrier is the smallest of the Pitbull-type breeds. They have a history of dog-fighting, but thankfully, they now make some of the best family companions you could ask for. They are super loyal and love their family more than anything, especially the smaller family members. Staffies are intelligent and eager to please, making them easily trainable if you start early.

Staffies are high-energy pups that need plenty of exercise and daily challenges if you want to keep them out of trouble. Otherwise, they become unhappy and destructive dogs. And as long as you can spend most of your day with them, they are adaptable and happy to live anywhere.

Like all dog breeds, there are certain things that you need to be aware of before you welcome one into your home. Just because Staffies are known for being family favorites, they might not be the best option for you and your family. So, let’s take a closer look at what they need.

Staffordshire Bull Terrier
    • weight iconWeight24-38 pounds
    • height iconHeight14-16 inches
    • lifespan iconLifespan12-14 years
    • color iconColorsblack, white, blue, brindle, fawn, red
  • Child Friendliness
  • Canine Friendliness
  • Training Difficulty
  • Grooming Upkeep
  • Breed Health
  • Exercise Needs
  • Puppy Costs

History

American staffordshire terrier in grass
Staffies are rising slightly in popularity over the last few years, according to the American Kennel Club (AKC).

The Staffordshire Bull Terrier is one of the four breeds classified as a “Pitbull-type” dog, and their journey began in England, where dog-baiting bloodsports were popular. The fighting Pitbull-type dogs descend from the English Bulldog and other terriers. Breeders chose English Bulldogs for their brute strength and terriers for their tenacity, agility, and feisty personality.

The Staffie was a successful fighter, and a man named James Hinks from Birmingham perfected the breed. Thankfully, in 1835 these sports were outlawed in England. But sadly, fighting continued illicitly, and the dogs were taken to America, where the fighting continued. Breeders mixed the largest and most powerful Staffordshire Bull Terriers and other fighting dogs to create the American Staffordshire, known as the AmStaff. This is why the Staffordshire and the AmStaff are often confused with one another.

They usually sit around 75th place out of over 280 dog breeds. But in England, Staffies are the most popular breed. The late conversationalist, Steve Irwin, had a Staffie named Sui. She was always by his side in the famous Crocodile Hunter TV show. He trained her to assist him by nipping the tail of crocodiles when he was wrestling them.

Temperament

The AKC describes the Staffordshire Bull Terrier as “clever, brave, and tenacious,” which is why they were one of the most successful fighting breeds. Thankfully Staffies are no longer bred for fighting. They are family companions and one of the best. Staffies are known for their love of children, which is why they are nicknamed the nanny dog. They have a sweet nature and are tolerant of excitable children.

They make fantastic family companions because they are super loyal and love spending time with their humans. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing; they are happy to do it with you. So, if you’re looking for a four-legged shadow, look no further than this pooch. Their close relationship with humans means they would put their life on the line to protect their loved ones. But it also means they don’t like to spend too much time alone.

Staffies are also full of vibrant energy and love to spend time outdoors exploring and playing games with their family. Although Staffies love to nap in the daytime, they are not couch potatoes and need an active family to keep them happy. But once you’ve worn them out, they make the best canine hot water bottle for boxset marathons.

Size & Appearance

 Staffordshire Bull Terrier breed, black color, smiling face, tongue out, proud look
Males are usually heavier and stockier than their female counterparts.

Staffies are generally the smallest of the Pitbull-type breeds. They measure 14 to 16 inches tall, from paw to shoulder, and weigh between 24 to 38 pounds. They are rock-solid canines with great strength, considering their small-ish size and muscular and square appearance.

Staffies are renowned for their large head and wide smile, reaching ear to ear. They usually have dark round eyes too, that are longingly sweet. If you want to show your Staffie in competitions, they must match the description in the Staffie breed standard. But when it comes to being a family pet, the physical specs are not hugely important.

Coats & Colors

Staffies have short and smooth coats that sit tight to their skin. It is smooth to the touch with a silky feel and shine. They have a wide range of coat colors, including black, white, blue, brindle, fawn, red, or a mixture of these colors. The only colors not accepted by the breed standard are black and tan, and liver. Purebred Staffies do not carry the merle gene.

Exercise & Living Conditions

Staffies are high-energy dogs that need an active lifestyle to be happy and at least one hour of outdoor exercise every day. They could happily take on more if you have the time. Staffies love the outdoors and benefit hugely from wild walkies rather than walking around the block every time. Let them off-leash in secure areas to burn off that extra energy.

Staffies also need regular playtime at home in between walkies. They like challenging brain games and interactive sessions with their family, such as tug of war and fetch. Staffies are usually food mad, so try to incorporate treats into playtime. They are tenacious and have tough jaws, so invest in durable dog toys if you want them to last longer than a minute.

Staffies are adaptable and can live almost anywhere as long as they aren’t left alone for too long. They suffer from separation anxiety and can only handle a few hours on their own at the very most. Otherwise, they become destructive and unruly. Staffies also need a secure yard because they love to escape and chase everything that comes into their space, and digging is their favorite pastime. They also need an active family.

Training

Staffordshire bull terrier agility
Training is an important part of a Staffie’s upbringing if you want a loyal and sweet family companion.

Thankfully, they are intelligent, eager to please, and take quickly to training when done correctly. Start training early, be consistent with it, and give your Staffie plenty of praise, and a few treats, to bring out the best in them. Reputable breeders are aware of this and start their training early.

Although Staffies are no longer fighting dogs, they still retain a strong prey drive and will chase other creatures. You need to ensure that their recall is excellent before letting them off-leash. And even then, the temptation of a small furry creature might be too much to resist. Find out what excites them and use this to bring them back to you.

Staffies benefit hugely from socialization with other dogs as their historic dog-fighting training can sometimes display itself as fear aggression. Mix your Staffie with other dogs from an early age to get them comfortable with other dogs. And mix them regularly throughout their lifetime to maintain their manners. When socialized early and adequately, Staffies get on well with other dogs and can happily live in a multi-dog household.

Health

English Staffordshire Bull Terrier brindle smiling face with sky background
Like all breeds, they are predisposed to several health conditions.

Staffies are generally healthy dogs who typically live between 14 and 16 years.

Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is one of the most common health concerns in the canine kingdom, and the Staffie can inherit poor hips. It occurs when the hip joint does not form correctly and causes wear and tear over time. It can be extremely painful and require surgery to rectify. Be sure to ask your breeder for hip score certificates.

Eye Conditions

Staffies are predisposed to several eye conditions, such as hereditary juvenile cataracts, persistent hyperplastic primary vitreous (PHPV), and posterior polar subcapsular cataracts (PPSC). Ask your breeder for the results of the recommended ophthalmologist evaluation.

Hydroxyglutaric Aciduria

This is a metabolic condition, sometimes referred to as L-2-HGA. Symptoms vary but include behavioral changes, dementia, anxiety attacks, seizures, exercise intolerance, ataxia (unsteady gait), tremors, and muscular stiffness. The number of affected dogs has risen, and breeders are recommended to conduct an L-2-HGA DNA test to prevent affected dogs from being bred.

Skin Concerns

Like many Pitbull-type breeds and other terriers, skin conditions are common in the Staffie bloodline. Demodex mites are responsible for hair loss and sometimes itchy, sore skin. Hair loss usually begins around the eyes and slowly spreads across the body and can be treated with topical medication.

Allergies are another problem in the Staffie world, and common allergens include pollen, grass, latex, certain foods like chicken, egg, wheat, and chemicals. If you notice excessive itching, lesions, sore spots, hair loss, or other changes in the skin, speak to your vet immediately. Once diagnosed, it can be easily treated and instantly improve your Staffie’s quality of life.

Nutrition

Staffies love to eat, but they only need around 1.5 to 2.5 cups daily. How much you feed them depends on various factors, including their age, sex, activity levels, and what you feed them. It is crucial to provide them with an age-appropriate, high-quality diet that meets their nutritional needs and keeps them energized for their active day ahead.

Staffies are renowned for sniffing out the tiniest scraps of food; usually the stuff they shouldn’t eat. Be sure to keep everything edible and not under lock and key to keep them safe. Be sure to keep an eye on their weight too, but thankfully, as Staffies are active dogs, they rarely suffer from obesity.

Grooming

Staffies have short and smooth coats that need minimal grooming. They only need a quick brush once a week to keep them looking their best. Staffies shed seasonally, so brush them a little more when the weather changes to minimize the amount of dog hair floating around your home. The best brush for a Staffie is a soft-ended pin or rubber brush.

Their short coats also mean they only need bathing once every three months. However, they might need more frequent bathing if they get filthy on their adventures or suffer from a skin condition. Unless your Staffie needs a specific shampoo recommended by your vet, always use a gentle and natural formula to minimize any irritation to your Staffies sensitive skin.

Breeders & Puppy Costs

Portrait of a Staffordshire bull terrier dog lying in a plastic pet bed on a cushion with a cute raised eyebrows expression
Staffies are not the most expensive breed to own, but like all dogs, they require a financial commitment.

If you’re looking to welcome a Staffie into your home, working with a reputable breeder who screens and breeds the healthiest dogs is essential. They also socialize the puppies from day one, meaning your pooch has the best start in life. Look for a reputable breeder with independent reviews, a clean and warm environment that you can visit, and who takes the time to talk you through everything you need to know.

A Staffie puppy’s average cost ranges from $1,000 to $3,000. If you’re seeking a puppy from a famous breeder or award-winning bloodline, you can expect to pay more than this. You also need to factor in the costs of buying everything your puppy needs, such as beds, crates, food, health care, and insurance.

You also need to be mindful that as a Pitbull-type dog, there might be additional costs. For example, insurance is likely to be higher for a Pitbull-type dog, and local taxes might apply. Plus, some landlords might require a higher deposit if they welcome a Pitbull-type dog. Unfortunately, breed-specific legislation and additional costs are likely to affect you.

Rescues & Shelters

If you don’t want a puppy or want to rehome a Staffie in need, head out to your local rescue centers. Speak to the staff, who can point you in the direction of a Staffie either at their shelter or elsewhere. Alternatively, there are online resources that list Staffies in need of a home across the country. The cost of rescuing a dog is usually much lower than buying a puppy from a breeder.

As Family Pets

  • Staffies are active dogs that need at least one hour of exercise daily.
  • They need regular mental stimulation at home.
  • Staffies are super loyal and loving.
  • They are intelligent and eager to please their master.
  • Staffies hate to be left alone.
  • They are tenacious and like to explore.
  • Staffies have a soft spot for children.
  • They need minimal grooming.
  • Staffies are prone to skin conditions and allergies.
  • They need early socialization with dogs.

Final Thoughts

Staffordshire Bull Terriers are fun and spunky canine characters that need an active family to keep them on their paws. They love their humans more than anything else, closely followed by food. Staffies are intelligent and easy to train just as long as you begin training early. As long as you have the energy and time to keep them company, you are bound to find a best friend in the Staffie.

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