ABSTRACT: It is time Staffordshire Bull Terriers started to have a good press and are recognised for the lovely, loyal, affectionate and highly intelligent dogs they are. There is so much more to a 'Staffie' than the annoying, high-pitched distinctive screeching we can all relate to on their recovery from an anaesthetic! After living with a Staffie for four years, I have completely changed my opinion of the breed.

In recent years, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier (SBT) has become a very popular breed in the UK for a cross section of dog owners. Large numbers of both pure-bred and cross-bred SBTs are produced each year with the consequence that thousands of them are left without homes, ending up in dog pounds, rescue centres or suffering an even worse fate – euthanasia simply because they have nowhere to go!

Each year The Dogs Trust cares for around 16,000 abandoned and unwanted dogs in their 17 rehoming centres across the country – last year 906 SBT and SBT- crosses were rehomed. Unfortunately, there are too many people in our society who allow their dogs to breed with no proper thought or care given to where those puppies might end up. This friendly, loyal breed has become the victim of today s society, often used as a status symbol to boost the egos of ignorant, and often cruel, owners.

Sadly, these unwholesome individuals have created a bad image for the ‘Staffie’ in the eyes of the general public. This is a tragedy as these special dogs make wonderful, loyal, family pets when in the right hands! However, many of the dogs in the rescue centres have been neglected or abused and need very special owners to help them recover.

Saving characteristics

The reason the breed receives such bad press is because some ‘Staffie’ owners will neglect them, fail to train them, show aggression towards them, or, sadly even abuse them. Disreputable owners may build up the dog’s strength – for example, making them hang off sticks to increase the power of their jaws. Those people who think that ‘Staffies’ are a problem breed, are looking at the wrong end of the lead!

The ‘Staffie’ is a powerfully built dog who has left his fighting past behind him. With proper training and socialisation, the breed is a loving, loyal companion who will stop at nothing to show his devotion to his family. 

‘Staffies’ are intelligent and active little dogs that get on well with children and adults alike. They are also hardy dogs full of stamina, not quick to pick a fight, but more than able to defend themselves if necessary. They are affectionate and prefer human company to that of other dogs. With their great sense of humour and boisterous intelligence, life is never dull with a ‘Staffie’ around.

Question of status

‘Staffies’ are seen as status dogs’ when actually they are very sensitive animals. The tragedy for the breed is that it looks similar to the pit bull terrier, now banned under the 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act. ‘Hard’-looking dogs have become a status symbol, and ‘Staffies’, once regarded simply as a loyal family pet, have become a victim of that fashion.

Sgt Ian McParland of the Metropolitan Police says, “Staffies are lovely family dogs. But people are crossing them trying to create a pit bull, but a lot of the offshoots of that get abandoned.” If people are not allowed to keep ‘pit bull terriers or crosses’, they simply move sideways, choosing ‘pit bull type’ breeds, such as ‘Staffies’ that are legal. These dogs can make excellent pets if brought up in the right environment, with the right training, but in the wrong circumstances, they can end up as unmanageable beasts that are a liability, which is why so many are euthanased.

To give a measure of the scale of the problem, in 1996, Battersea Dogs and Cats Home took in 396 ‘Staffies’. In 2009, the figure was 3,600 – an 850 per cent increase! ‘Staffies’ now account for more than half of the home’s longer term residents.

Kennel Club definition of the ‘Staffie’ temperament

   Indomitably courageous


   Highly intelligent

   Affectionate, especially with children

. Bold


   Totally reliable.

The Staffie is one of only two from over 190 breeds that the Kennel Club recommends as being suitable with children, the other being the Chesapeake Bay retriever.

I first met Dodge when he came in for castration from the local rescue centre. Luckily he already had a new home lined up. However, a few days later I received a phone call to say it had not worked out and would I consider taking him on?

After discussions, he came home with me that evening. He was renamed Chance' – living with us was his last chance. Unfortunately, his behaviour was very challenging! Although we did not know much about his background, it was clear from his behaviour he had been mistreated and certainly had received no basic good training. His anti¬social behaviours included:

   biting peoples' feet when they tried to walk

   attacking post through the letter box

   obsession with anything in this mouth – not letting go!

   running off/no recall

   aggression with all other animals

   lead-pulling and jumping whilst on lead

   rolling on back and urinating when excited.

He showed his worst behaviour when with other dogs – whilst out on a walk, he would try to attack them and with his strength it was difficult to hold him back! But despite all this


There is much discussion, at present, about recent proposals for measures to tackle the issue of dangerous dogs. These include:

   compulsory microchipping

   third party liability insurance

   canine ‘ASBOs’

   the repeal or strengthening of Section One of the Dangerous Dogs Act.

Enforcement of the owners role in responsible ownership is required, and this can now be done in a simple, inexpensive and effective way – compulsory microchipping. Both The Dogs Trust and the Kennel Club advocate this in conjunction with replacement legislation for the much-disliked Dangerous Dogs he was a loving dog, so I set about training him. With the help of our local dog trainer we spent many hours working on the behaviour with other dogs and at times we would have a breakthrough … but then he would see red'! So, unfortunately, after a year of hard work and perseverance, the very difficult decision had to be made as Chance' was beyond the scope of training and control.

The experienced dog trainer, who works closely with the Northern Staffie Rescue, said it was the worst case of multiple behaviour problems he had seen in a dog. This could have been avoided if 'Chance' had been properly socialised as a puppy, had rece
ived the correct training and, most of all, been initially owned by someone with an understanding of the breed.

Act, as well as a public education campaign about responsible dog ownership.

The Dogs Trust* has suggested a compulsory scheme to have all dogs microchipped at first ‘change of hands’ and to make it a legal requirement to keep the database up to date. This would certainly address the issue of these unwanted dogs very rapidly indeed.

Other authorities that have introduced compulsory microchipping – New South Wales and Victoria in Australia – have found that there’s been a dramatic drop in the number of untraceable stray dogs, with consequent huge financial savings for local authorities and animal charities.

Battersea, the Metropolitan Police and the RSPCA are all lobbying the Government to introduce a registration or licence scheme, paid for by the owner, which would reliably link a dog to the person responsible for it. But we have had licences in the past leading to a great deal of non-compliance.

The first stage of the Dog Control Bill was tabled by Lord Redesdale in the House of Lords last year. The main element of the Bill is the shift in emphasis of breed focus to the actions of individual dogs and owners – referred to as ‘deed not breed’. This legislation would enable the courts to prosecute the owners of aggressive or violent dogs, which is certainly a step in the right direction and excellent news for the many good-natured ‘Staffies’ out there!

Spread the word. ‘Staffies’ make great pets!

‘The Dogs Trust has produced a detailed leaflet, so telephone 0207 837 0006 for copies to display in your practice waiting room. 


Kerry Brennand DipAVN (Surgical) RVN A1 CertSAN MBVNA

Kerry Brennand qualified as a veterinary nurse in 1999, gaining her Small Animal Nutritional Certificate in 2002. In 2007, Kerry won an award for the BVNA Best Regional Coordinator after providing various CRD meetings for the North West region. Kerry gained the A1 Assessor in 2008 and the Diploma in Advanced Surgical Nursing in 2009. After working in various mixed hospital and referral practices, Kerry is currently enjoying life as a locum and studying for the E-SQP award.

To cite this article use either

DOI: 10.1111/j.2045-0648.2010.00026.x or Veterinary Nursing Journal Vol 26 pp 101 -103

Veterinary Nursing Journal • VOL 26 • March 2011 •