Staffordshire Bull Terriers

There are few breeds quite so in love with the human race as the Stafford. He's just crazy about people – particularly children. In his native Britain, his nickname is "the children's nursemaid." But make no mistake: He's a terrier through and through, and thus he digs, he chases cats, and he's not always great with other dogs. Here’s what you need to know if you’re interested in bringing home a Stafford.

Traits, Personality and Behavior

The Staffordshire Bull Terrier is a vibrating, dancing, chortling love machine in the body of a warrior. He's a terrible watchdog simply because his love for people is too great to let him mistrust them. And above all, he loves children, his favorite creatures on earth.

He definitely does not love other dogs, however, and he's also not too fond of cats, although a few Staffords that are raised with other household pets can live with them in harmony. Just don't count on it.

The Stafford is smallish -- under 40 pounds -- and similar in looks to the larger American Staffordshire Terrier. Despite his size, he's a powerful dog, and can be a challenge to walk on a leash if not well-trained.

In fact, he can be a challenge just to live with if not well-trained. This is not a breed for someone who likes to let his dog call the shots, because he most certainly will. Show your Stafford the ropes from puppyhood on, using gentle, consistent training, and you'll have a well-behaved, well-socialized canine family member. Don't do it, and you'll have a sofa in shreds, a backyard full of holes, and a dog who doesn't listen to you.

The grooming needs of the Stafford are modest. Brush his coat a couple of times a week to keep shedding to a minimum, and make sure his ears are clean and his nails are trimmed.

Staffords don't do well if they're left alone for long periods, and are not happy as backyard dogs. Let him live as a member of your family or you might find yourself with a lonely, bored, noisy, and destructive nuisance instead of a happy, well-behaved companion.

The exercise needs of the Staffordshire Bull Terrier are not modest. These dogs radiate energy, and need long walks and plenty of playtime. They're challenging to have around strange dogs, however, so off-leash walks and dog parks aren't usually possible with these dogs. Many Stafford owners get involved with more organized canine sports like agility or obedience to give their dogs a mental and physical workout.

Note About Pitt Bulls

The Staffordshire Bull Terrier is generally considered one of the breeds known as a "pit bull" in the United States. Staffords are specifically exempted from national breed bans in his native Britain as well as Australia and New Zealand, but that's not the case in the United States, where most laws aimed at "pit bulls" apply to them as well.

In this country, the pit bull breeds are victims of an ugly propaganda campaign seeking to convince average people unfamiliar with the dogs that they're dangerous, unstable and deadly. If you bring a Staffordshire Bull Terrier into your family, be prepared to deal with the prejudices of your neighbors, family, and friends, as well as irrational and unfair laws and insurance regulations. Research local ordinances carefully to be sure that you can own a Stafford in your area.

Health Issues Common to Staffordshire Bull Terriers

The Staffordshire Bull Terrier is fairly healthy, but can be affected several genetic health problems.

Your puppy's breeder should have written documentation from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) or the University of Pennsylvania (PennHip) that your puppy's parents' hips are free of dysplasia, a genetic hip deformity that requires costly surgery to repair and can lead to arthritis later in life. OFA certification that the parents are free of elbow dysplasia and patellar luxation, a condition in which the kneecap gets easily knocked out of place, is a must-have as well.

Breeders should also provide Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF) documentation that their breeding dogs have had their eyes tested within the last year and are free of inherited (juvenile) cataracts.

Staffordshire Bull Terriers can also suffer from a metabolic disorder called L-2-Hydroxyglutaric Aciduria. Dogs with L-2-HGA lack an enzyme necessary to break down hydroxyglutaric acid, which then builds up in the spinal fluid and plasma. Symptoms include a lack of coordination, seizures, developmental problems, and tremors. There's no cure and the dogs rarely live more than a few years.

A DNA test has been developed that allows breeders to prevent affected puppies from being born. Do not buy a puppy from a breeder who does not have written documentation that the parents were not able to pass this condition on. Around 15 percent of all Staffordshire Bull Terriers are believed to be carriers.

Staffords also suffer from a fairly high rate of allergies that can cause skin itching and secondary infections. Even though allergies and other problems for which there are no genetic tests can't be prevented at this time, your puppy's breeder should be willing to go over the health histories of his parents and their close relatives, and discuss how prevalent those particular health concerns are in his lines.

Any breeder who tells you that she doesn't need to do genetic testing or intensive health research on your puppy's pedigree because her dogs have "never had any problems" or are "vet checked" is either lying or completely ignorant about Staffords and dog breeding in general. Walk away and find your dog somewhere else.

| Condition | Risk Profile | Cost to Diagnose and Treat | | ---------- | ---------- | ---------- | | Hip Dysplasia | Medium | $1,500-$6,000 | | Cataracts | Medium | $1,000-$5,000 | | Cruciate Ligament Injury | High | $1,000-$3,000 |

5 Tips to Bring Home a Healthy Staffordshire Bull Terrier Puppy

If you've made the decision to purchase a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, start your search for a good breeder on the website of the Staffordshire Bull Terrier Club of America, which maintains a referral list for breeders; choose one who has agreed to be bound by the club's Code of Ethics, which prohibits its members from selling puppies to pet stores and outlines the responsibilities of its member breeders to the dogs they produce and the people who buy them -- including providing a lifetime safety net for the dog if his new owner should be unable to keep him.

Consider an adult dog from a shelter or a rescue group. Many of the health and behavior problems in pit bulls aren't apparent in puppyhood, but by adopting an older dog, most of them can be ruled out. Since a Stafford can live to be 12 years of age, even an adult dog will be with your family for a long time.

Puppy or adult, take your pit bull to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot visible problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues.

Do not purchase a puppy from a breeder who cannot provide you with written documentation that the parents were cleared of health problems that affect the breed. Having the dogs "vet checked" is not a substitute for genetic health testing, and any breeder who says her lines are free of all these problems, or that they're not a concern, is either lying or knows almost nothing about Staffordshire Bull Terriers. Look for your puppy elsewhere.

Make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. In states with "puppy lemon laws," be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.

Pet Insurance for Staffordshire Bull Terriers

Pet insurance for Staffordshire Bull Terriers costs more than for mixed breed dogs. This is because Staffordshire Bull Terriers are more likely than mixed breed dogs to make claims for hereditary conditions that are expensive to treat.

Embrace dog insurance offers full coverage for all breed-specific conditions (excluding those that are pre-existing) to which Staffordshire Bull Terriers are susceptible. The best time to get pet insurance for your Staffordshire Bull Terrier is when he's a healthy puppy. You can't predict what will happen in the future, and pet insurance is the one thing you can't get when you need it the most.