The Staffie or Staffordshire Bull Terrier is a much misunderstood breed of dog.
Sadly, this is because their physical attributes; big strong muscular bodies and locking jaws, make them the dog of choice for someone wishing to have a status symbol dog, or wanting to use a dog for dog fighting. Those who choose a dog for this reason do not teach the dog to be a wellmannered member of society. Therefore the Staffie would not likely behave very well. However, this person could just as easily give another breed of dog the exact same treatment.
So the question remains; Are Staffies a safe family dog?
And the answer is yes. They are as safe as any other dog. It’s what you do with them that counts. If you give a Pomeranian, a Dalmation, a Labrador, a Staffordshire Bull Terrier the same set of signals, they will understand them the same way. The only difference is that their personality will dictate what they do about it. You can get so many different personalities within the same litter, let alone the same breed.
To reassure you further, in my years as a Dog Listener, the breed I see the most is the Staffie. Not because they are worse dog. Just because there are more of them. Yet I have not yet met a Staffie which is showing aggression towards humans. And of all the dogs I’ve seen over the years, the dogs which have wanted to kill me the most have been; a Schnauzer, a mixed terrier breed, a German Shepherd, a toy Poodle and a Yorkshire Terrier and a Chihuahua. Not the breeds you’d expect, and their feelings were not a result of their breed. They were a result of their individual personalities, their past experiences and their owner’s behaviour towards them.
So why do some people think that Staffies are a bad breed?
Quite simply, ignorance. I mean this in the politest possible way. We hold collective beliefs as a society which are heavily influenced by what is portrayed to us by the media, and the media choose to report on the breed of dogs when there are dog attacks on humans. Now the attacks on humans that get reported on are the ones where the dog has done a lot of damage. That will happen when A. The dog has been taught to do damage; and/or B. When the dog is physically capable of doing damage. Sadly in the cases with Staffie attacks, they are physically capable of doing damage, and some of them are taught to do damage so these attacks make the press. We don’t hear reports of Labrador attacks, as the damage is much less severe, so the story is less “interesting”.
What we don’t see in the papers are all the stories of the Staffies which have excellent temperaments and live their entire lives in a family situation quite peacefully. As a society it is our responsibility to find out about the individual dog we are thinking of bringing into our family life, and to do the right things by them, so they understand that there is never any need for aggression. This is necessary whatever size or breed of dog you pick!
Whenever you get a chance, tell people what lovely dogs Staffies can be. Whether they like dogs or not. Explain that dog behaviour is not dictated by breed, and that any behaviour problem can be resolved by the owners. Let’s not let the media make up the minds of our society about which breeds are “good” or “bad”. And if you really want to understand dogs, then read “The Dog Listener” by Jan Fennell.
If you want help with your Staffie’s behaviour, then please get in touch.