The Staffordshire Bull Terrier

A complete breed guide

LAST UPDATED 6 JANUARY 2020

This article is written by our veterinarian, Dr Teagan Lever, BVSc (Hons)

Don't be fooled by their tough exteriors, these muscly little livewires are more likely to lick you all over than do you any harm. The humble Staffordshire Bull Terrier is one of Australia's favourite dog breeds, and as the owner of two Staffies myself I may be more than a little bit biased when I say this is for good reason!

Contents:

1. At a glance

2. History

3. Personality

4. Nutrition

5. Commnon Health Problems

6. Behaviour

Further reading

Top toy recommendations for Staffies

Kong Wobbler

Fill the Kong Wobbler with your Staffy's kibble or some favourite treats to keep them occupied and out of mischief.

Tasty Bone

These nylon bones come in a range of delectable flavour and withstand hours of intense Staffy chewing. Go large or mega for maximum durability.

KONG Extreme Black

Made from the most durable KONG rubber, the KONG Extreme can be filled with treats, paste, kibble or even frozen stock to prolong play time. Choose XL or XXL for power chewers.

Tuffy Toys

While they may not last forever or withstand true power chewers, Tuffy Toys are your best bet if you want to give your Staffy a soft toy to snuggle.

Breed size: Place of origin: Other names:
Medium England Staffy, English Staffordshire Bull Terrier
Breed group: Energy level: Weight range:
Terrier High Female: 10.9 to 15.4kg, Male: 12.7 to 17.2kg
Life expectancy: Tendency to bark: Height range:
12 to 14 years Moderate 35.6 to 40.6cm at shoulder
Drool factor: Coat length: Colours:
Low Short Red, fawn, white, black, blue, or any shade of brindle. May have white markings.
Shedding factor: Overall grooming needs: Social needs:
Moderate Low Staffies crave human contact and love to be part of the family.

2. History

The Staffordshire Bull Terrier's lineage stretches back to the ancient Greek Molossian war dogs and Mastiffs of Europe, with its Bulldog predecessors used in England a few centuries ago for bull baiting, fighting and other blood sports. At the time it was commonly believed that teasing a bull with a dog prior to slaughter would improve the quality of the meat, however it seems many also found this to be a source of entertainment. Blood sports were outlawed in 1835 in England however illicit dog fighting continued, with the now out of work Bulldogs being bred with wiley Terrier types to create a powerful, fiesty fighting breed.

The Staffordshire Bull Terrier breed as we know it today was developed by James Hinks of Birmingham England in the mid 19th Centuruy. Over the next few hundred years the Staffy has come to be widely appreciated for its value as a loyal, courageous and sociable family pet rather than a formidable fighting machine. The Kennel Club of England first recognised the Staffordshire Bull Terrier Breed in 1935.

3. Personality

A common misconception of the Staffordshire Bull Terrier is that they have an innate predisposition towards aggression. Rather the contrary, these dogs have a supremely gentle and loving nature. Staffies love people and crave social interaction, whether it is with their beloved family members or complete strangers!

While the average Staffy may not actively seek out trouble, their fearless, couragenous nature and reluctance to stand down can result in agressive behaviour if they are challenged by other dogs. Socialisation of Staffy puppies during the peak socialisation window at around 8 to 16 weeks of age is essential.

Aside from spending every waking minute by their human's side, Staffies absolutely love to play. Without plenty of exercise and playtime to stimulate both their body and mind these dogs can rapidly find other, less desirable ways to fill their time such as destructive chewing, digging and escaping.

While not the most low maintenance of breeds, Staffies make excellent companions and family dogs when their needs are met. Their preference for play and tendency to be food motivated makes these dogs good candidates for positive behavioural training techniques.

4. Nutrition

Staffies don't have any specific nutritional requirements, however bearing in mind their tendency for allergic skin disease I'd recommend a diet high in omega fatty acids to support healthy skin barrier function. As Staffies are a medium sized breed, a medium or all breed formula is your best option.

Top food recommendations for Adult Staffies

Advance Adult Terriers Ocean Fish

Designed specifically for Terrier breeds, contains increased levels of omega 3 fatty acids from Salmon to support skin health.

Royal Canin Medium Adult

Very high quality diet formulated to meet the high energy needs of medium breed dogs. Rich in fish oil which is a natural source of omega fatty acids to support healthy skin and a shiny coat.

Hill's Canine Adult Advanced Fitness

A high quality, highly digestible food which is ideal for all breeds of adult dog.

Canidae Grain Free Pure Sea

A limited ingredient diet, ideal for dogs with food sensitivities, this diet is made using salmon and menhaden fish meal which are naturally rich in omega fatty acids to promote a healthy skin barrier and shiny coat.

Top food recommendations for Staffy Puppies

Advance Puppy Growth All Breed

Australian made, high quality puppy food designed to support healthy growth and development.

Royal Canin Puppy Medium

Very high quality diet tailored for the needs of medium breed puppies. High in fish oil which is a natural source of omega fatty acids to support healthy skin, a shiny coat and optimal brain development.

Eukanuba Puppy All Breed

A complete and balanced puppy food suitable for all breeds which is rich in nutrients to promote healthy digestion, skin and coat health as well as brain development.

Holistic Select Salmon, Anchovy and Sardine

This all life stages formula is made using salmon, anchovy and sardine meal which is naturally rich in omega fatty acids to support healthy skin, a shiny coat and optimal brain and eye development.

5. Common Health Problems

As with any pure breed dog, Staffordshire Bull Terriers can be predisposed to certain health conditions. Don't let this list alarm you as a predisposition to a condition definitely doesn't mean it is guaranteed to occur. Most Staffies will go their whole lives without developing any of these problems however it does pay to be informed so you know what to look out for!


Skin problems

Most vets will agree that Staffies do seem to be more prone to development of skin problems, particularly demodectic mange in puppies and allergic skin disease in all age groups.

Demodectic mange is a condition where the mite Demodex canis, which can be a normal inhabitant of the canine skin in low numbers, overgrows causing hairloss and secondary skin infection. Demodectic mange is easily diagnosed by a veterinarian using a skin scrape in house. If the mites are present your vet will be able to see them wriggling around under a microscope! Treatment involves medication to kill the mites, alongside treatment of any concurrent bacterial or yeast skin infections with medicated shampoos or antibiotics. Simparica and Bravecto are both effective against Demodex mites so are a great choice for flea and tick prevention for Staffies from 8 weeks of age and up provided they meet the recommended weight guidelines.

Allergic skin disease such as atopic dermatitis and contact allergies do seem to be more common in staffies. Atopic dermatitis is a sort of generalised allergy caused by items in the environment such as pollen, dustmites or grasses. It usually results in itching, hairloss and red, inflamed skin. Often affected dogs may lick their paws excessively and have recurrent ear infections. Contact allergies can cause similar symptoms in dogs however the reaction is limited to areas where the dog has come into direct contact with the allergen (usually plants). Diagnosis of allergic skin disease in dogs can take some time as the underlying cause needs to be discovered, usually through a process of elimination. Management involves reducing or eliminating the allergen from the environment if possible, alongside potentially desensitisation and medication, dietary changes and topical therapies to manage symptoms.

For more information about allergic skin disease in dogs check out Why is my dog still scratching?

Eye problems

Staffies may also be at risk of some eye problems, including heriditary cataracts and distichiasis (extra eyelashes).

Heriditary cataracts usally begin to develop in the first weeks to months of life, maturing to completely obscure vision at around 2 to 3 years of age. Removal of heriditary cataracts by a veterinary opthalmologist is possible but costly. Prevention is much more desirable, there is now genetic testing available to ensure that carriers of this gene are not used for breeding.

Distichiasis is a condition where extra hairs grow in the eyelash area. These extra eyelashes may rub on the surface of the eye causing irritation and redness to the eye, excessive tear production and corneal ulcers. Treatment involves surgical removal of the offending hairs as well as management of any concurrent irritation. In some cases hair may regrow so a number of procedures could be required to permanently treat this condition.

Other health problems

As a breed, Staffies do seem to be more prone to the development of Mast cell tumours than other dogs. These tumours can appear anywhere on the body and are readily diagnosed by your vet by taking a small sample of cells with a needle and sending it to the lab or looking at it in house. Early treatment by complete surgical removal is important here as mast cell tumours can and do eventually spread throughout the body making treatment much more difficult.

Top health and supplement recommendations for Staffies

Bravecto

Bravecto delivers safe, effective, long lasting protection against ticks and fleas while also controlling the mites which cause demodectic mange.

Simparica

Simparica provides reliable monthly flea and tick protection and also controls the mites which cause demodective mange.

Omega Oil

A natural omega oil supplement for dogs containing a blend of natural oils including cod liver oil, flaxseed oil and sunflower to support skin, joint and digestive health.

Megaderm

An essential fatty acid supplement designed to support skin health and help manage itchy or inflamed skin.

Behaviour

Due to their intensely social and active nature, Staffies can develop some behavioural problems such as separation anxiety, destructive chewing, digging and escaping if they are left to become bored or lonely. This makes environmental and social enrichment especially important for this breed.

In order to keep your Staffy happy, be sure to set aside some time every day for an activity you can enjoy together such as a walk, run, game of fetch or trip to the dog park. Keep plenty of durable dog toys on hand so that your staffy has an appropriate outlet for any chewing urges and consider giving them treat dispensing or interactive toy to keep them busy while you are out during the day. For anxious Staffies, you may also find that using a Thundershirt or Adaptil Diffuser, Collar or Spray can be useful for stressful situations such as travel, storms and fireworks.

Further Reading

How to Help Your Dog with Storm Phobia

How to Choose a Dog Breed That's Right For You

Premium Pet Food: Is It Worth It?

How to Stop Your Dog From Inappropriate Chewing

Dealing With Separation Anxiety in Dogs

Shop All Dog Supplies Now