5 things you should know about Staffordshire Bull Terriers

If you own a Staffie, you already know how soft, sweet and goofy they can be! We uncover the facts about this lively, loving and sometimes misunderstood breed – and hear from one devoted Staffordshire bull terrier owner.

1. Staffies have been around for centuries

The Staffordshire Bull Terrier breed is thought to have originated in the 19th century, in the Black Country region of Staffordshire and northern Birmingham. These strong and agile terriers were originally bred as working dogs, for controlling vermin and fighting. However, after dogfighting was finally banned in 1835, they became better known as reliable, loyal pets. The breed was officially recognised by the Kennel Club in 1935.

2. They’re brainy, brave and trustworthy

The official Staffordshire Bull Terrier Club lists their characteristics and temperament as ‘traditionally of indomitable courage and tenacity. Highly intelligent and affectionate… Bold, fearless and totally reliable’.

Meanwhile, a recent study by dog food brand Eukanuba found that Staffordshire Bull Terriers, along with West Highland White Terriers, are the most ‘affectionate and communicative’ of dog breeds.

3. Staffies love to please…

…A good trait, but one that can be exploited, says Ali Taylor, Head of Canine Behaviour at our partner charity Battersea and star of ITV’s Paul O’Grady: For The Love of Dogs. ‘They’re famous for their eagerness to please, so no matter how badly they’re treated, they will still try to do what their owners want,’ she says. ‘But they’re not born fighters. Quite the opposite!’

4. They’ve been victims of bad press

Around ten years ago, things were looking bad for Staffordshire bull terriers. They became linked with frightening headlines about dangerous dogs, dogfights and gangland culture, and unwanted Staffies flooded rescue centres. ‘Newspapers would use a photo of a Staffordshire Bull Terrier when reporting a piece about a “dangerous dog”, whether the dog in question was a Staff or not,’ says Ali. ‘Naturally, people started equating the two.’

So are Staffies dangerous? The truth is that any dog can be trained to be aggressive by irresponsible owners, including otherwise gentle breeds such as Staffordshire Bull Terriers – but with the right owners and environment, they make loving pets. Battersea launched its Staffies – Softer Than You Think campaign to reconnect people with these often-misunderstood dogs and encourage their adoption from rehoming centres.

5. Staffies make great family dogs

Sometimes nicknamed the ‘nanny dog’, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier is one of the Kennel Club’s top recommended breeds for families with young children. ‘Staffs are great family dogs,’ says Ali. ‘Many breeds tend to bond with one individual, but Staffs bond with the entire family. They love everyone equally, with equal enthusiasm!’

Why Staffies are the best dogs in my book

Lisa Reich adopted Gin, her Staffordshire Bull Terrier, from Battersea a decade ago – and they’ve hardly left each other’s side since. ‘The scars on Gin’s body tell me his formative years weren’t that wonderful,’ she says. ‘Incredibly, he harbours no resentment towards humans – quite the opposite. He seems to love everyone, from age zero upwards! He’s a great co-babysitter, and gifted when it comes to entertaining my niece and nephew. His most requested tricks include forward rolls and loud burping.

‘Gin is also gentle around older people. My best friend’s father, Eddie, has Alzheimer’s, and we visit him regularly. Although he’s unable to talk, his eyes light up when Gin runs into the room. Gin will stand on his hind legs next to the bed and put a paw on Eddie’s hand, or lean over and nudge him, giving him the odd lick. When the other care home residents found out about Eddie’s furry guest, everyone wanted some Gin time!

‘Gin is also good with the other abandoned and traumatised dogs and pups I have fostered. Understandably, they can be mistrustful of humans and other dogs, so his help is invaluable. He calms them and shows them we’re not all bad.

‘I have my bad days, too, as one of millions who suffer from anxiety and depression. The many ways Gin has helped me deal with difficult times, and stop me shutting myself off from the world, are too numerous to mention.

‘Sadly, some people do seem to think Staffs are fire-breathing demons – but they couldn’t be more wrong. Whenever anyone tells me they’re thinking of getting a dog, I beg them to adopt, not shop; and I’ll always say Staffs are best. Above all, they want to be loved; and love you back – with interest. I know I sound a bit cheesy, but it’s a fact!’

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