Ultimate guide to owning a Staffy
February 04, 2020
The reason I’ve put this guide together is that I’ve read other guides on staffies and I don’t always fully recognise the breed being described. I think it could be the fear of upsetting owners of the breed that makes every guide to every breed say things like “they are very intelligent”.
This will be a guide to how I’ve found our dog’s characters to be over the years. Just as you can’t say all dentists are boring, all staffies will not have all of the traits I describe. If you disagree with any, or if I’ve missed any off, let me know in the comments section below.
To start with, I’ll list their likes and dislikes along with the positive and negative aspects of owning a staffy.
- being alone
- doing anything (other than sunbathing) in hot weather
- They don’t need much grooming
- They don’t shed too much hair
- They don’t have many health issues
- They are great with kids
- They have a great personality
- They become a part of the family
- They don’t constantly bark
- They can’t be left alone for long periods
- They can suffer from separation anxiety
- Their muscular build requires some strength to handle
- They need a good daily exercise routine
- They can be gassy - you might need a gas mask!
- As puppies, they can be mouthy with their sharp needle teeth
- They might make a mess of your lawn digging holes
How big will a Staffordshire Bull Terrier grow?
There is a wide variation in stature for Staffordshire Bull Terriers. The definition of the breed is a weight of 11 - 17 kg (24 lb - 37 lb) and a height of between 36 cm to 41 cm (14” - 16”). Many Staffies will fall outside of this definition, though. Our Staffy is bigger than most at 19 kg (almost 3 stone) and her legs are slightly longer than the breed should ideally be.
As you can see below, she is stretching those long pins out in the usual staffy frog pose! Staffies will grow into strong muscular dogs so proper training is essential. You’ll have to train them not to pull on the lead early on or it’ll be them taking you for a walk!
How much exercise do Staffies need?
Staffords don’t crave as much exercise as some other more active breeds, but they may become destructive if they are not exercised enough.
They are a very playful breed so they may prefer a game in the garden as much as a long run around the beach. They love human interaction so anything that involves you will be right up their street. It is always a good idea to get some of that latent energy out so they don’t take it out on your furniture!
Staffies, like some humans (including me) are known to have an issue with their weight. As much as they love humans they also love their food! If this is not properly checked they can easily become overweight with all the health implications that come along with it. So, daily exercise and a proper diet are a must.
During the daytime, my parents have Betty out for an hour walk and then she plays in their garden with them for an hour or so. After work we take her on a shorter 30-45 minute walk and then she sleeps like a little contented baby!
Some weekends (if the weather permits) we take her hiking with us. She is fine with around 8 miles of varying terrain but if it is too hot or raining she’s not interested. We used to have a quick walk in the morning before work but this was something she never liked - especially in cold wet weather! Now she just has a run around the garden in the morning to do her business.
Are Staffordshire Bull Terriers aggressive?
As with all dog breeds, it depends on their upbringing. Staffies are generally considered good loyal family dogs and great with children - hence the nickname “Nanny Dogs”.
In my experience, they are so friendly towards humans it makes them completely useless as guard dogs. If you’re looking for a guard dog then you need to look at another breed. They may look tough but when it comes to humans they’re big softies!
We have been burgled in the past and our Staffy did absolutely nothing - not even a bark. I can almost guarantee she would have been fussing and licking them! Our neighbour disturbed the burglars with their Doberman in the end.
As with all breeds, every dog has its own personality. Betty makes out she’s a good guard dog by barking at unfamiliar noises. As soon as she works out it is human-related noise her tail gives her away!
They have got the terrier instincts in them, though. So you may have to watch them with other smaller animals outside as they’ll love to give chase. There’s a word we can’t say in our house for fear of the intense gaze, ears pinned back and heckles up. Then the zooming around starts with the barking. The word is “Squirrel”. Even a whisper of this word sends Betty chasing around the garden barging into everything. Betty’s lesser enemy known as “the birds” also causes this behaviour to a lesser degree. She’s never discouraged by the fact she never gets anywhere near them!
While we’re on the subject of gardens, that terrier instinct will have holes miraculously start appearing in your lovely lawn - be warned!
Staffies are lovers of people, I wouldn’t describe them as being brilliant with other dogs, though (see below). As long as they’re socialised properly early on they shouldn’t be aggressive towards them. Like I’ve already said, each dog has their own unique personality and your judgment will be required. There are plenty of examples of Staffies living fine with other dogs and animals.
Are staffies good with other dogs?
As Betty has matured, the novelty of other dogs seems to have worn off. She’s more interested in the dog owners! Up until Betty was around 18 months old she was submissive to other dogs no matter their size. When she was about 8 months old she was bitten by another dog (not badly), so that made her a little uneasy around larger dogs after that, but she was still mostly fine around other dogs.
When she was about 14 months old she was attacked by another Staffie. He had hold of her face and that is when we saw the bad side that can exist in any dog breed. The noise from the pair of them was terrifying! Imagine one of those cartoon fights where there’s a ball of dust and you just see the occasional arm or leg poking out. Myself, my partner and my mother all rolling around the floor with the two dogs locked in mortal combat! The two young girls walking the other staffy were frozen in shock. Later we learned he was a rescue dog and they didn’t know his temperament at that point. Unfortunately for us, they were not equipped to control him at all.
That is something you will have to consider before owning a Staffy as they are very strong dogs and very strong-willed. If you are in any way frail you might want to consider a less muscular breed.
Are Staffies stubborn?
This is something staffies are often accused of, but lots of people don’t believe in this characteristic at all. Rather than being stubborn, you’re just not offering something rewarding enough for them to fulfil your request. My personal opinion is that it is a trait that exists in Staffies. I’ve seen them do some pretty stubborn (and stupid) things over the years. Our old family dog used to bask in front of the fire to the point her ears would start to smoke! If you’d try to move her she’d just bunker down and then attempt to get even closer.
This is just the Staffy character and that’s why we love them! Here she is with the fire she loved so much!
Are Staffies intelligent?
I love Staffies, but being honest, if I had to put them on a scale of intelligence with other breeds, I wouldn’t say they’d be up in the top 10. Controversial, I know - but it’s just my opinion!
That’s not to say they’re the dunce of the class, though. When it comes to food they can turn into the Einstein of the dog world. Betty has taught herself some grandmaster chess moves to checkmate us into giving her food. She knows to stand by the back door to inform us that she wants to go out. Now, the fridge is close to our back door. So, she’ll make us well aware she’s leaving the room and going to stand at the back door. We’ll unwittingly trundle over and open the door only for Betty to make her next move - walking to the fridge. You can see the expression of “checkmate” flashing across her face as we are left standing there with the door open looking stupid.
So, I suppose it depends on what you mean by intelligence. Staffs have great emotional intelligence. Betty can sometimes gauge our mood better than we can ourselves!
How much do Staffies cost to buy?
Unfortunately, Staffies are one of the top breeds in rescue centres around the country. Considering a rescue dog could be a way of helping that situation, helping the rescue centres, giving a Staffy another chance and not costing you much financially.
If you’re looking for a certified pedigree Staffordshire Bull Terrier, with all paperwork from the associated national body such as the Kennel Club for the UK, you would be looking at anything above £800. Changing with fashion, certain colours will be more expensive than others. For a “Blue” staff at the moment, you’d be looking to pay around £1,000 to £1,500. For one that has a good family tree, you could be looking at paying £2,000 to £2,500. Some with an exceptional breeding background could be over this figure. You can usually expect to pay a bit more for bitches as they can be used for breeding.
If you’re not interested in breeding, I’d say £1,000 to £1,500 would be a good price to look to pay. Make sure you go and see the puppies in person along with the mother and ideally the father although that is not always possible. Don’t help unscrupulous breeders with puppy farms.
Are staffies easy to train?
Stubbornness aside (if it exists), you have one massive thing in your favour - food. I have yet to meet a Staffy that isn’t highly motivated by food.
Another major boost is they’re very sociable and love humans, so they’re going to give you all the attention you’ll need. So I’d say they’re easy to train for the obedience basics. You should have no trouble teaching them to sit, leave, give a paw (high five), lay down, stay and come. Betty got all of these sorted pretty easily as a puppy. She took to some things better than others, though.
Some breeds just naturally have a propensity to do certain things - say playing fetch. A Golden Retriever is probably going to be teaching you how to play fetch, for example!
On the subject of fetch, Betty will fetch something we throw, bring it back, but won’t then drop it until she realises you’re not going to fight for it. You may have to turn away and appear disinterested for her to drop it. She’d love nothing more for me to go hurtling around after her and sometimes I like to oblige! So that’s my fault for teaching her that I suppose.
When it comes to training I’m happy with the basics. I have nothing against teaching tricks, I’m sure it is enjoyable for both the dog and trainer, I personally just feel it is taking the training a bit too far. Especially if it is just a trick to show other people or entertain in any way. The basic obedience commands such as “stay”, “come”, “leave” or “drop it” could in some circumstances be life-saving. Standing on hindlegs walking like a human may not be so useful beyond being funny to watch.
Should I get a Staffy
Well, there’s a reason I believe Staffies are at the top of the league when it comes to dogs in rescue shelters, and that is the fact that they need a lot of attention.
If you’re considering getting a Staffy you need to understand the time commitment in terms of training, exercise and socialisation. They are not suited to be left on their own for long periods at all. They are known to suffer from separation anxiety and if they are left alone can exhibit unwanted behaviour that eventually leads them to a rescue centre.
So, don’t add to the already huge population of Staffies in rescue centres, make sure you understand the commitment beforehand.
That being said, yes, they’re the best dogs ever - but I am totally biased. If you are considering getting a new puppy you should check out this guide first.
In summary, they’re protective over people, not property. They enjoy the company of people more than other dogs. They love hurtling around at 100 miles per hour as much as curling up like a couch potato - but nothing in between. They have the best smile of any breed. Sometimes you’d swear they can talk with some of the strange noises they make.