From the Queen and her corgis, to Britain’s Got Talent winner Pudsey, people in the UK clearly love their dogs.
A 2019 survey of over 10,000 owners and 217 breeds saw the Staffordshire Bull Terrier named as Britain’s favourite by national broadcaster ITV.
Originally purpose bred as a fighting dog in the 19th century, they’re now a family friendly pet that you’ll find on most streets in the region.
How and why did Staffies take the number one spot? Here’s everything you need to know about the Staffordshire Bull Terrier.
History of the Staffordshire Bull Terrier
Staffies are often kind, gentle dogs despite a somewhat violent history.
The Staffordshire Bull Terrier shares common ancestors with the bulldog, pit bull terriers, and the American Staffordshire terrier.
They gained their name due to being developed in Staffordshire and northern parts of Birmingham in the UK.
Staffies were originally bred for tasks like dog fighting and rat baiting in the 19th century. Charles Dickens’ 1838 novel Oliver Twist features a vicious bull terrier called Bullseye that shows how the breed was viewed at the time.
Modern-day Staffies are nothing of the sort, as they’re typically brimming with energy, and keen to lick human faces at any given opportunity.
They Can Live Almost Anywhere
Staffies are as tough as they look, and they don’t need much special treatment. They can live in flats or apartments as long as they’re exercised daily, although it’s hard to find a dog that will say no to a house with a garden.
However, they don’t like cold weather because of their short-haired coat, and they’re not great at regulating their body temperature. You’ll need to wrap your Staffie up warm in the winter if you’re going out for long periods, or they could start shivering.
Staffies typically don’t like being left alone for large parts of the day, and they form strong bonds with the owner and other family members.
Staffies Are a Great Family Pet
Some Staffies get on well with other pets, while they’re great as a family pet.
The breed is great with humans, which led to the myth that Staffies were ‘nanny dogs’ in Victorian England. (The ‘nanny dog’ name derives from the idea that families would use the pets to look after their children.)
While it’s unlikely that many 19th century families left their kids entrusted solely to a canine, it’s a good indicator of how they’re historically seen as a protector and a family pet.
Modern Staffies are far removed from their past, despite retaining the majority of the muscles they used in the fighting pits.
Research by the Blue Cross found that Staffies take up to 23% longer to rehome due to “undeserved negative labels attached to them”.
They’re one of the few breeds to be recommended as suitable for young children by The Kennel Club, showing that most negative stereotypes surrounding the breed are false.
But They Might Need Supervision Around Other Animals
While Staffies are good with children, you may need to take care around smaller animals due to their hunting instincts.
Some can’t help but chase anything that moves, while others don’t get along with cats or other dogs at all. It’s mainly down to their temperament and their training.
My Staffie isn’t bothered by other dogs, and he prefers the company of humans. He will play with others, but he doesn’t seem to care either way.
They’re Easily Trained
The breed is reasonably intelligent, so it’s easy to teach Staffies commands if you know what you’re doing.
They are known for being stubborn, so a Staffie needs a strong-willed owner to stop bad habits forming in the early stages of development.
They can also display selective hearing if they’re distracted, so you’ll need to take care during walks.
Personally, I’m sure my dog knows if a person is too soft, and he’ll prey on their kindness for endless strokes if he knows they can’t say no.
They Love Exercise
Your Staffie will love you as long you go for at least an hour of exercise per day. It’s understandable given their muscular build and boundless energy.
However, it’s not a good idea to over exercise your dog, so a weighted vest is ideal if you want your Staffie to look pumped.
Some owners prefer to walk their Staffies with a harness because of their strength, but it isn’t always necessary. My dog walks happily with a simple collar, and he’s great off the lead.
We enjoy running and jogging, and he’s at his happiest when he’s chewing a stick or chasing a ball.
PETA Attempted to Get the Breed Banned
PETA recently tried to get the breed added to the Dangerous Dogs Act of 1991, which imposes restrictions on who can own dogs that are deemed unsafe. They wanted Staffies banned outright, blaming poor owners.
PETA’s bid failed in parliament, after strong opposition from the UK public.
For example, Liverpool’s population were statistically more likely to be attacked by a Jack Russell than a Staffie in 2016, but there was no relevant PETA campaign for the smaller terrier.
They Suffer From Fewer Health Problems
Staffies are reasonably robust, with few problems aside from a higher rate of allergies compared to the norm and the potential for a few eye disorders.
Canine hip dysplasia (CHD) is one thing to look out for as your Staffie gets older.
The condition occurs when the ball and socket joint are malformed, grinding together painfully. You’ll be able to notice if your dog has a slight limp.
They’re Easy to Groom
They’re easily groomed, thanks to a short, flat coat that will shed throughout the year. This shedding is more noticeable in autumn and spring, as their new coat begins to come in.
Brushing your Staffie will help with hairs around the home, while it should help to avoid any painful itching. You should think about bathing, cleaning ears, and clipping nails at least once every 4-8 weeks.
Staffies are known for loyalty and courage, refusing to back down despite being smaller than many rivals.
They’re incredibly strong for their size, and they’re protective when it comes to family members and children. Regardless, different breeds like the Doberman or the German Shepherd are better suited to guard duty.
Staffies are friendly with most humans, and they’re usually extremely playful. Most are reasonably intelligent
They’re Inexpensive to Look After
Staffies are cheap to buy in the UK due to overbreeding, making them an ideal option if you don’t want to spend thousands of pounds on your new puppy.
This extends to general care as they’re a healthy breed, and they don’t need constant baths and additional upkeep to keep neat and tidy.
Deservedly chosen as Britain’s favourite dog, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier is an iconic breed.
They’re loyal and playful, and nowhere near as aggressive as PETA would have you believe.
It’s worth reiterating that as with most animals, the way Staffies act is down to their training and their temperament.
If you’re thinking of getting a Staffie, they’re one of the friendliest companions you could ask for.
Jen Jones is a professional dog trainer and behavior specialist with more than 25 years of experience. As the founder of ‘Your Dog Advisor’ and the ‘Canine Connection’ rehabilitation center, she applies a holistic, empathetic approach, aiming to address root causes rather than merely treating symptoms.
Well known for her intuitive and compassionate approach, Jen adopts scientifically-proven, reward-based methods, encouraging positive reinforcement over punishment. Jen specializes in obedience training, behavior modification, and puppy socialization. Her innovative methods, particularly in addressing anxiety and aggression issues, have been widely recognized. Jen has worked with many of the world’s leading dog behaviorists and in her free time volunteers with local animal shelters and rescue groups.