The popular Staffy is much misunderstood, frequently feared and often unfairly maligned by the media. They are (according to Kennel Club statistics at the time of writing) Britain’s 5th most popular dog, yet they also top the list of breeds in rescue centres and shelters in the UK. The truth is that while the Staffy might look like a tough dog, they are actually big softies – a loving, reliable and affectionate family dog, devoted to their human companions.
So where do they get their bad rap from? Stan Rawlinson, the Dog Listener has written an excellent article on why this breed (the only one to be described by the Kennel Club as being ‘totally reliable’) has such a fearful reputation. Part of the reason is that the Staffie resembles many other of the so called ‘bully’ breeds that can be aggressive towards humans. In addition, staffies are often crossed with such breeds and this can alter or dilute the reliable Staffy anti-aggressive human bond.
Their tough looks and similarity to other more human-aggressive bully breeds, combined with easy availability from unscrupulous breeders, has sadly resulted in the Staffy becoming a status symbol dog amongst street gangs – a kind of ‘pseudo pit bull’. These owners sometimes beat, torment and neglect their dogs to try and make them into the ultimate aggressive accessory, to boost their street image and terrorise other gangs. They may also breed from their dog to generate income by selling the puppies. These puppies do not generally have the best start in life and are rarely properly socialised or appropriately trained. Indeed any breed of dog that is treated badly is likely to show aggression towards humans.
This is the key to why rescue shelters have a disproportionate number of Staffies. Many of the irresponsible owners who have acquired a Staffy to enhance their street credibility find that they are too much bother to look after, or having mistreated them are unable to control them. Neglect, inappropriate training and a poor understanding of a dog’s needs leads to many Staffies being abandoned or rescued by charitable organisations.
Created in England in the late 18th and early 19th century, Staffies were a cross between Bulldogs and Terriers, bred for the ‘sport’ of dogfighting by working class men. Staffies were expected to live harmoniously with their families, often in small spaces with lots of children. No aggression towards humans was tolerated and it is said that any dogs showing even the slightest signs of ill will towards their family members were ruthlessly weeded out.
As with all dogs, but particularly so for Staffies, they do have to be well socialised from an early age with other dogs and animals in order that they do not develop aggression towards other dogs.
The Kennel Club recommends the Staffordshire Bull Terrier as being particularly suitable for families with children – one of only 2 breeds to deserve such a high accolade – and they describe the Staffy as:
“Extremely reliable, highly intelligent and affectionate, especially with children.”
Their reliable, loving nature and affinity for children is the reason that Staffords have earned the nickname “The Children’s Nursemaid” or “Nanny Dog”
My latest print celebrates all that is good about the Stafford. Hand lettered and illustrated, each print is hand printed on my press in a deep inky green – and individually signed.
Available from The Enlightened Hound’s online shop from just £40, unframed.