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Beginners Start Here / FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

Everyone agrees that, in the right ownership, a Staffordshire Bull Terrier is a wonderful family pet.

Naturally, it is our utmost hope that everyone finds that a Staffordshire Bull Terrier is a suitable pet and that you and it experience many happy and fulfilling years together.

However, this is the real world; and circumstances dictate that for a variety of reasons this is not always possible.

At the Downlands Staffordshire Bull Terrier Club, we firmly believe that prospective owners should consider owning a Stafford with all the facts in their possession, rather than let anyone make a mistake that both owner and pet end up regretting.  We have a responsibility to Dogs and owners worldwide to tell the whole truth.

The purpose of this page is to attempt to furnish potential owners with sufficient information, and to give advice to those new to Staffords, as well as those with experience and an open mind receptive to the ideas of others.

Should anyone have any further questions or queries, or ideas that they feel would improve this facility, or wish to offer advice, please get in touch with us at faq@downlands.org.uk.   

You may also like to read the SBT Breed Council's guidelines - click here.

Thanks to Marlene Serwinek and Mark Phillips for giving us the idea for this page.

Do Staffords shed much?

Are Staffords easy to train?

Will Staffords chase other animals?

Are Staffords prone to many inherent health problems?

Do Staffords require much exercise?

Do Staffords fight with other dogs?

Are Staffords easy to handle?

Where can I get a Stafford?

Please could you comment on the breeder and/or the breeding of.......

How much does a Stafford Cost?

What should I feed my Stafford?

What colour is my Stafford?

What if it doesn't work out?


Do Staffords shed much?

Staffords are short-haired and so do not shed very much at all.  Bear in mind, though, that a white dog's hairs will show up against a dark background whatever you do, so if this is likely to be an issue for you then go for a darker coloured dog.  Conversely, if you have a nice white three piece suite and your favourite clothes are all white, then a lighter coloured - i.e. white - dog is the logical choice for you. 

Are Staffords easy to train?

Staffords are a very intelligent dog and do try to please; however the more of them are kept together the more difficult training becomes, but a single puppy shouldn't be too much trouble at all.  At all times keep your expectations "in the real world".  It may take six months before your puppy is house-trained, so don't expect it to be clean overnight from the moment you get it home.  It may be two or three years before you manage to break the habit of it chewing or nipping sleeves, you may wave goodbye to some of your furniture or clothes.  Staffords are no worse and no better than other dogs when it comes to this.  You may be lucky, and you may not.

We recommend the use of training clubs rather than slogging away on your own, however this doesn't suit all dogs.  Patience - indeed sometimes superhuman amounts - and a lot of love are what is required.  Don't scream and shout excessively, don't beat your dog.  Besides it being cruelty to animals, you don't want to break its spirit.  Opinion is divided upon even whether a smart tap on the backside is acceptable.

And finally, know this.  If you ever even think about kicking your Stafford, you aren't fit to keep one.

Will Staffords chase other animals (Cats; Rabbits; Birds; Squirrels etc) ?

Staffords are fairly typical of dogs in general; so they will tend to chase anything that moves. However, it is possible, that with firm training, that they can be discouraged.  There are Staffords that live quite happily with cats; there are also horror stories about the same thing.  Apply common sense and all should be well.  Don't, and risk tragedy.

Are Staffords prone to many inherent health problems?

Staffords are not prone to many inherent health problems, however there is a very slight incidence of hereditary cataracts in certain blood lines (this is currently being researched in the UK) and you should also check that it is PHPV (Persistent Hyperplastic Primary Vitreous) clear.  If you don't intend to breed from your stock then this won't be an issue.  If you do, or might, then the Dog Press will have details of testing sessions.  At the time of writing (October 2003), the author paid 17.50 a week ago to have his puppy tested.  (If anyone's interested, she was PHPV Clear and HC Unaffected).

Currently there is a lot being said and written about L2-Hydroxy-glutaricaciduria (L2-HGA) - the so-called "Wobbly Dog" syndrome.  Despite its patronising and rather "cute" sounding common name, this is a very distressing condition that is still being researched.  The dog is otherwise healthy and appears to be in no pain, but its hindquarters do not seem to be under the control of its central nervous system.  Luckily, it seems that there are very few dogs who have the full-blown manifestation of the disease, but early indications are that as many as 15% of Staffords could be carrying it.  A DNA test has been developed, which should be used on the sire and dam prior to breeding.  Hopefully, in time, L2-HGA will be eradicated as carriers should be withdrawn from breeding.  Before buying a puppy, check that its parents are both certified L2-HGA clear.

Do Staffords require much exercise?

It is important not to exercise young puppies too much too soon as this may cause luxating patellae (slipping knee-caps) - contrary to common belief, and indeed, Kennel Club advice, Staffords do not need excessive exercise.  Again, be sensible, a Stafford will walk with you for miles at its own comfortable pace with lots of stops for sniffing etc.  No-one is advocating tying your dog to a bicycle and pedalling ten miles at a fair pace.  Yes, it has been known.  No, you shouldn't even consider it.

Do Staffords fight with other dogs?

Staffords can have a somewhat belligerent nature with other dogs but are usually 100% reliable with people (although you must always remember that puppies will not know the difference between 'licking' and 'nipping' and do have very sharp, very small needle-like teeth, so be very careful when near children and warn adults). Care needs to be taken when around other dogs although socialisation is possible. Always keep a Stafford on a lead when around "strange" dogs.

Keeping two male Staffords is often not the greatest of ideas.  There may be contests to establish which is the "Alpha Male" and these can be bloody and sometimes to the death.  If you're keeping two dogs and have got away with it, then kudos to you.  However most breeders do not recommend taking the chance.

People involved in organised dog fights in any way, shape or form, are mindless, barbaric scum and unfit to keep dogs.  Dog fighting is illegal in the United Kingdom and anyone involved in this so-called sport will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. 

Are Staffords easy to handle?

Staffords have a tendency to pull - sometimes very strongly - when being walked so may need firm control to be exerted upon them.  It is therefore probably advisable that the very young, the very elderly, or the infirm do not attempt to walk Staffords.

Never put a choke chain on a Stafford, whether for walking, or as some kind of permanent collar.  Staffords and choke chains do not mix.  They have been known to choke themselves into unconsciousness and indeed there are incidents of them hanging themselves.  Again, if you use a choke chain and have got away with it then you've been lucky so far.  Our advice remains: Don't risk it!

Where can I get a Stafford?

Many clubs have puppy co-ordinators.  At the Downlands Staffordshire Bull Terrier Club there are three puppy co-ordinators.  Gill Thomas is our Downlands Northern Region (North Hants, Surrey, Essex) puppy co-ordinator, Andy Land is our Downlands South West Region (Dorset, Wiltshire) puppy co-ordinator and Jamie Mace is our Downlands South East and Central (South Hants, Sussex) puppy co-ordinator.   All can be contacted via our 'puppies' page.

It is also possible to obtain an older Stafford from the Rescue service - often these are dogs whose owners have been unable to cope and have needed to put it on the Rescue. There is often an advantage here as the dogs may be trained or house trained already.

Probably the best advice we can give is for anyone interested to contact their local club secretary, or Rescue and ask.  You can get the numbers from The Kennel Club.  There's also a link to a couple of Rescues on our links page.

Please could you comment on the breeder and/or the breeding of.....

Unfortunately, for obvious reasons, as a club we are not really in a position to start passing judgement on individual breeders and breeding.  Although there is a breed standard, different aspects appeal to different people, so it all depends what you're looking for.  If we were to start commenting on this sort of thing then we would open ourselves up to all sorts of criticism - not the least of which is the risk of being open to accusations of libel, slander and malicious gossip.  Quite apart from this, members of our committee are almost without exception breeders and so could be accused of self-interest.

Our best suggestion is a
search on the internet which may give some indication.  You could look for details of previous litters, see whether they are Kennel Club accredited breeders, and maybe gain some insight from that.  The only other suggestion we have is to ask other breeders, off the record, and always consider that there may be a possibility of axes to be ground that you are not aware of.

How Much Does A Stafford Cost?

There can be dramatic regional variations in price. We have heard horror stories of them changing hands for as much as 1000, but also have heard of puppy re-homings where a donation to Stafford Rescue is all that is asked. It's best to ask around locally.  As a rule of thumb, and at the time of writing (April 2003) we would reckon that between 400 and 500 is probably what you'd pay.

What Should I feed my Stafford?

A reputable breeder will ensure that you are given a diet sheet telling you what to feed your Stafford.  This diet will vary depending on the age (and possibly sex) of the dog, and even from animal to animal.  We are in the process of compiling some sample diet sheets.

What Colour is My Stafford?

Each breed has its own set of specific colours.... bear this in mind - for instance, a black Border Terrier is called a 'blue', but a black Stafford is black.  A Brown Stafford is a 'Red'.  A Grey-ish Stafford is a 'Blue' (these are comparatively rarely seen).

These are the colours referred to in the breed standard: Red, fawn, white, black, blue, any one of these colours with white, any shade of brindle, and any shade of brindle with white.  'Pied' is not usually used on registrations.  Black and tan is a recognised combination, but the breed standard classifies this as 'undesirable'.

Apparently someone tried to register an 'apricot' Stafford recently.  The Kennel Club will record this, and other colours not from the list above as non-standard.  The Breed Council is clarifying this at the moment, and this will be updated as soon as we know more. 

What if it doesn't work out?

You've read all the advice available and thought that it's still for you.  You've contacted a breeder, selected a puppy, agreed the price, paid, got it home.....and it's all gone terribly wrong.  You've tried really hard, but you're at your wits' end, and it's the puppy or you.  What should you do?

Don't do any of the dreadful things you read about in papers, like throwing it out of the window on a motorway, or drowning it in a plastic bag in the local canal.  There is never a need for this, and indeed the unfeeling, inhuman so-called people that commit these sorts of atrocities should have that sort of treatment meted out to them.

The first thing (and in the vast majority of cases the only thing you need to do) is to contact the breeder for advice.  Most breeders will, in the last resort, take the puppy back (warning - the additional burden that this places upon the breeder of reintegrating the "prodigal puppy" into their home, and the extra care, feeding, and work taken in re-homing your "misfit" make it unlikely that you'll get your money back.  This may seem harsh, but if you'd bought something from a shop and decided that it didn't fit in at home then you wouldn't get your money back then either.  You've changed your mind, you have to cope with that).  If you are singularly unlucky enough to find one of the infinitesimally small number that don't want to know (and as in all walks of life, there are "rogue traders" out there) then you should contact your local Stafford Rescue.  Don't turn your puppy loose on the street, it's your error, you owe it to the puppy and indeed to yourself to act responsibly.  There are links to Rescues all over the internet, or you could contact your local breed club secretary who may know who the local representative is.  Bear in mind, again, that the chances are you will be asked for a donation to offset some of the cost incurred by these voluntary and very worthwhile organisations.  Which, after all, is only reasonable as they are being expected to clear up the aftermath of a very unfortunate situation.

Apologies to the 99.999% of readers who would not dream of subjecting a living entity to any, or any variation on the "nightmare scenarios" above, and may have found the implications offensive.  However, if one dog or bitch puppy is saved from a horrific end as a result of reading this, then we offer no apologies and will stand by what's written here.


Coming soon:

How can I get into judging?

...and many more....

Last modified: 10 May 2017
The Downlands Staffordshire Bull Terrier Club, 2017