Not long ago, we wrote about the Staffordshire bull terrier. We explained why we share our home on wheels with two individuals of the breed, Mojo and Venus.

Whenever we walk in a city or travel by public transport, we frequently hear comments such as: ‘Cute stafford!’ or ‘I’ve got one just like that.’ When we do find ourselves in a conversation, people often wonder why our dogs are so small. ‘They must still be puppies, right?’ Another sentence we commonly hear is ‘My neighbor/sister/mother-in-law/friend (take your pick) has a staffy too, but it is much bigger and bulkier!’

We usually just swallow our pride. Often though, we can’t refrain from explaining that Mojo and Venus are purebred Staffordshire Bull Terriers who both fit the breed standard. And to be honest, it’s not about pride at all.

We can’t judge people for thinking it either. It’s just what everyone is told, by hobby breeders, by every media outlet, by friends and family, and et cetera.  So how could we even blame them?

Quinlent Tullamore Dew the staffordshire bull terrier pulling on her lead
Quinlent Tullamore Dew @quinlent

 

Just a recent example

Recently, we were offered a position working on a campsite. We indicated that we owned dogs, explained that our dogs are purebred Staffordshire bull terriers, and that they would be taken along to the campsite with us. This was alright. The employee would try to find a campsite that allowed dogs, so that we could work for them. Three days later, we were informed that the employee’s colleague also owns a ‘stafford’. He was certain that those dogs are not allowed on campsites in the country. Our breed was supposedly classified as one of the two categories of ‘dangerous dogs’ in France.

What our contact person failed to realize, is that her colleague did not own a Staffordshire bull terrier. More importantly though, she did in fact not read up on the rules thoroughly. Though the American Staffordshire Terrier (which is also commonly referred to as staffy) is banned in France, they are not to be confused with the Staffordshire Bull Terrier. They are a different breed entirely. The fact that people have become accustomed to referring to groups of dogs under one term has resulted in difficult situations for owners of pure bred Staffordshire Bull Terriers.

selma the staffordshire bull terrier
Selma from @lavaandselma

 

After all, there were no vacancies on campsites where dogs were allowed, but we are welcome to work for them next year. We sent over some clear information with good references, and our purebred Staffordshire Bull Terriers are now welcome, too!

 

Staffy has become a dangerous grouping term

Why would we bother that people call every blocky-headed dog a staffy or pitbull? The simple answer is, it has consequences for both the public opinion about purebred dogs and their owners.

The term Staffordshire Bull Terrier starts with ‘staff’. The name will remind people of stories they might have seen or read about in the media. A big blocky-headed dog (of unknown heritage) attacking a child will be referred to as just another staffy or pitbull

The problem here is that although these incidences rarely include purebred Staffordshire Bull Terriers, they do bear the brunt of it (and so do the American Staffordshire Terriers whom have not been involved in any incidents in the Netherlands for over 15 years). People have come to see the breed as dangerous by hearing bad publicity about ‘staffies’ everywhere. But what even is a so-called ‘staffy’? For as far as I know, it’s a non-existing breed.

A staffordshire bull terrier jumping into a lake
Picture by @tineskidesign

 

All dogs with a similar appearance, both purebred and mixed breeds from responsible breeders, backyard breeders, and shelters, are grouped together and bundled under one name. Why? Because it’s simple. But effective it certainly is not. Though their appearance may show some similarities here and there, their personalities often do not.

 

Even professionals do not seem to care

At university, I came to realize that even professionals can’t distinguish between breeds and do not care to label dogs correctly. During my time working in the largest animal shelter in the Netherlands, there were numerous blocky-headed mixed breeds with floppy or pricked ears, short and long legs, squished noses, undershot jaws, and … You name it. All of them were referred to as staffies, both amongst colleagues as well as to potential future owners. Staffies where said by the manager to make up 75% of the shelter’s population, yet during my stay I only saw one individual that clearly resembled the Staffordshire Bull Terrier and no American Staffordshire Terriers whatsoever.

Staffordshire bull terrier staring intensely into the camera
Picture by @Ingerm96

 

Shortly after my time in the shelter, one of the dogs labeled as a so-called ‘staffy’ was rehomed. Within a week, it ended up biting a child. The dog was tall (his head reached my hips), had floppy ears, legs that belonged to a giraffe and a strong undershot jaw. In no way did it resemble either a Staffordshire bull terrier or American Staffordshire Terrier. Five days straight articles kept popping up on the internet about how yet another staffy had bitten a child. Journalists started speculating about the need for a breed specific legislation.

If the law were to go through, it would mean that purebred Staffordshire Bull Terriers would get punished for something they didn’t do. We do not mean to say that we have a perfect solution for the problem – as there certainly is a grave issue with a strong increase in incidents. But we do know that we should seek a solution that fits the issue at hand. We should rather focus our attention on all the (mixed) breeds and their irresponsible breeders and owners!

 

Characteristics

We don’t mean to say that mixed breed dogs should be discriminated against. On the contrary. Though characteristics are specified for every breed of dog, individuals differ. Both genetics and environmental circumstances play a strong role in the behavior that any dog will display.

One must simply remember that individuals referred to as staffies, most times do not resemble the Staffordshire Bull Terrier breed and its characteristics. A mixed breed that looks like a Labrador retriever does not influence the way we look at the Flat Coated retriever, does that make sense?

Teun the staffordshire bull terrier standing in front of street art
Teun from @teundestafford

 

Grouping all dogs with some similar features, read blocky head, under the term ‘staffy’ has caused ignorance in the public and media. People no longer recognize purebred dogs from mixed breed individuals. Nor do they make the distinction between American Staffordshire Terrier and Staffordshire Bull Terriers, while there is in fact a large difference between the breeds. And above all, we’d hate to see purebred Staffordshire Bull Terriers get banned due to badly informed owners and irresponsible breeders of (mixed breed) dogs.

Even between breeders of every breed, there are many differences to be found! Venus is a sports-bred Staffordshire Bull Terrier, and Mojo is a show-bred Staffordshire Bull Terrier. Though their appearance is very similar, their behavior is incredibly different. Staffordshire Bull Terriers are often referred to as nanny-dogs on many websites, and they are friendly and happy dogs. But we’ll be the last person to say that the breed is your ‘perfect calm family dog’. But we’ll talk all about that in two weeks!

This Post Has 15 Comments

  1. Thanks for this very informative post! It is almost the same here in Switzerland, whenever an incident occurs the dog is referred to as a ‚Pitbull‘. Once, even a dogo argentino was referred to as such.

    1. Pitbull is a common blanket term in the Netherlands, too. We can’t blame the journalists either, when even sone professionals don’t seem to know what they are talking about.

      1. I too have been lucky enough to have been owned by a wonderful pure bred Staffordshire Bull Terrier who was that one dog who no one would ever forget because he was exceptional. I do believe it was in fact due in part to his breed as he was everything the breed standard calls for; strong minded and stubborn, while being sensitive, loving, intelligent, athletic, agile, easily trainable, great with people and dogs (though I never put him in a position where he were alone). We put him down for health reasons at 13 yrs, 3 mos, 3 days.

        I traveled around the country with him doing flyball and frisbee. We were welcomed everywhere we went. He was quiet in the hotels and did not bark at other people or dogs and yet to travel to Canada I would have to immediately muzzle him because there is a law that bans ALL Bully breeds. Breed specific legislation is horrid.

        At the border crossing to Canada, all of the Border agents would insist on petting him and visiting with him because who could resist that face!! They would also insist that the muzzle was ridiculous!

        The only place he didn’t have to be muzzeled was the flyball tournament grounds, but everywhere else, yes, even the hotel grounds.

        This was that dog who could track a lost dog, alert us to a person who would soon have a seizure or migraine (we didn’t know until he showed us), train puppies who were aggressive with play techniques, play flyball and frisbee competitively while being the best family dog you could ever hope to have.

        I miss him talking to me, talk-growling at me, huffing his displeasure and chittering (that very strange bupbupbup rapid fire noise I’ve only ever heard a Staffordshire Bull Terrier make). He made me feel as if I were the best person in the world. Everyone of my family members was his.

        If I were able to get a relative from his previous breeder who no longer shows or produces litters, I would but they’ve retired. I would love to have another, but am not very trusting.

        I’ve trained agility, rally obedience, flyball, frisbee and good all around household pets. In a way I’m happy that the Staffordshire Bull Terrier has not gone the route of over-breeding but truly wish people actually had a clue when talking about the Staffy.

        I too have been asked if my dog was a miniature, a puppy (even at 10 yrs old), a pit bull and told their neighbor or rescue or cousin, brother, sister, uncle has one just like him but bigger. Sigh.

        What a beautiful article to have read! Your Staffys are beautiful and bring tears to my eyes.

        Thank you for taking the time to educate!

  2. So it’s not just here in New Zealand then. Every time there is a dog attack, whether the victim is a dog or human, if the witnesses don’t know what kind of dog it is, it always seems to be described as a ‘staffy type’ dog, whatever that is. Our boy Jock also gets the comments “he’s so small, what is he crossed with?” when his dame was a NZ champ and sire Australia champ. he’s sitting at about 16kg at the moment, so at the top end of the breed standard. People are amazed and in disbelief once yo talk to them and explain that this is what a Staffordshire Bull Terrier looks like, with comments such as “I thought they were a lot bigger” or “I thought they were anti-social dogs” (he’s very excited when he gets to meet a person). Great article guys.

    1. Totally agree with you. Though we knew this would be the case in most countries, it still feels horrible to get confirmations of the fact from all over the world. Tell Jock he’s a good boy 🙂

    2. Oh Lordy! We’ve just had an awful story of a cat being ripped apart in Dunedin, NZ. The Dog ranger has confirmed in this morning’s Otago Daily Times that the dog was a Staffordshire Bull Terrier.
      However, there was a photo, in an earlier item, of the dog in the back of a car and that dog had small pointy-type ears and it looked to be quite a tall dog. It did not look like a Staffy to me.
      I’ve owned two pure bred Staffys & they were both delightful dogs. The last one, Claire, thought she was our 4 year old’s mother. She loved him to bits, and the love was returned. Sadly, she had to be euthanised at 17 years of age, when she broke a hip, and we were devastated.

      1. Hi Carol,

        This happens way too often. Sad to hear about the cat, no matter what type of dog was involved.

        17 years is an amazing age! I’m sad to hear she had to be euthanised, but she had a long life with a loving family, for sure!

  3. I adopted an American Staffordshire Terrier, from a no kill rescue, 11 years ago. That shelater was already DNA testing dogs to identify their main breed. It just happened that the 3-4 year old female, named Gracie, was 100% American Staffordshire Terrier. At that particular time, American Pit Bull Terriers were getting bad press, secondary to the Michael Vick fiasco backlash. However, American Staffordshire Terriers had not yet been associated with the Pit Bull, as a, “kissin’ cousin”,. I had intended to rescue either breed, but knew that I would have fewer problems with an American Staffordshire Terrier, because I traveled a lot and didn’t want the hasslef of breed specific bans in some areas. Having papers verifying my dog as an American Staffordshire Terrier, by DNA, I thought would squash any issues. Gracie passed away this past fall, 2018, she was the sweetest, gentlest dog. Everyone who met her, fell in love with her, including a no pets allowed residence motel we lived in, for 6 months. She was my service dog, so had to be allowed to stay with me. Several years later, we stayed at that motel, again, and everyone who was still there from the last time we stayed there, immediately wanted to know ig Gracie was still with me. They were very happy to hear that she was. After she passed, at about 15 years of age, I was devastated. Since retiring, she was my reason for getting out of bed in the morning! After several months of such terrible sadness I thought my heart would burst, I decided I needed to rescue another dog. Even though we had moved from South Texas ,back to the midwest, 4 years earlier, I decided to rescue, again, from Texas. Texas has a serious problem with dog overpopulation. I may misquote the exact numbers, but I believe I will be close; in Houston, alone, there are about 1,900 dogs in shelter or foster care situations, waiting for a forever home. In addition to that, there is an estimated 20,000 strays loose on the streets; dogs that have not been fixed, continuing to have litters. The number of beautiful dogs dead on the highways is too sad to even talk about. There are several organizations that foster stray dogs in preparation to bring them to another state, like the state where I live who are in need of dogs for adoption. Many of the rescues often have no dogs to adopt.
    I found my new dog, online at, I believe Petfinders.com. I input the state, then particulars on the dog I was looking for; another American Staffordshire Terrier, of course. I looked at a lot of dogs, and finally found the one I was interested in. I contacted the agency, asked a few questions, then filled out the adoption form. I was approved, then started talking with my dog’s, (her name was Daisy), foster mom. She sent me some videos of Daisy, and I decided to adopt her. Daisy arrived in a town near mine, all the way from Houston, TX, along with 29 other dogs looking for forever homes. The only difference, Daisy already had a home, many of the other dog’s did not, but, hopefully would, before long. It wasn’t until I got Daisy home, and started to get acquainted with her, that I realized that she wasn’t an American Staffordshire Terrier, but a Staffordshire Bull Terrier. I immediately tried to learn as much as possible, so these posts could not have come at a better time! She is very smart, and has been very easy to train, (she was already house broken, so that was a great help), sit, stay, come, heel, leave it, give paw, many commands with hand signals. She also leaves the trash alone and does no beg for food when I am eating. All necessary skills for a service dog, which she will be training for when she has learned the basics. The big issue, is that she is suppose to be 3 years old, but I think she’s younger, maybe 18 months, but at 35 pounds of solid muscle, I’m having a problem with pulling and jumping. I’ve tried the Gentle Leader, but in her case, it didn’t work. She wasn’t socialized enough,to people or other dogs. She’s not agressive, just very excited when she sees another dog or a person. I can’t start acclaimating her to places of business until she has good social manners. She also has a very high prey drive that I haven’t even started to address, as of yet, as I am still working on keeping her from pulling on the leash, and jumping up to greet people. I don’t know haw she is with other dogs, as the only dog she was ever with, in foster care, was a Pit Bull Boxer mix, large and easy for her to play rough with, which is what I am afraid of, that she’s had little if any socialization to smaller dogs. With her high prey drive, this concerns me. So if there’s any help, from anyone familiar with the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, in a rescue situation wher they still need sosialization, BTW she’s not vicious and does not have a problem with being messed with when she’s eating, like I can put my hand in her bowl, or take it away,, no problem. I really want to be able to train this dog to replace my service dog, and she’s very smart so I think she can do it! I’m looking into some daycare training situations that use positive reinforcement, no punishment, raised voices etc. As I never raised my voice to my other dog, during training and never punished, only positive reinforcement. She trained really fast, but she was 3 years old, which is a good age to work on service training because most of the puppy energy is gone and they can focus on me.

  4. We have the same problem her in the United States i volunteer at a shelter they stop putting bread on there kennel cards but we still have people asking what bread the dogs are
    I try to explain that pitbull is not the same as a stuffed bull terrier or a American terrier they still dont get it
    I myself have chihuahuas but volunteer at the shelter i have fall in love with those big heads
    The big smile that they have
    Iam learning everything i can about the Staffordshire bull terrier
    Michelle Frisko

  5. In France Staffy means Staffordshire bull terrier whereas Staff (or AmStaff)stands for American bull terrier. But it’s true that most people are confused with the fact that Amstaff are categorized while Staffy aren’t.

    1. Hi Jonathan,

      I guess indeed the term most used varies from country to country. ‘pitbull’ is a very common term used to describe blocky headed dogs all around the world, in the Netherlands people tend to call all of these dogs ‘stafford’ or ‘pitbull’, neither of which are accurate.

      It’s interesting to hear that staffy and staff are terms for SBT and AST in France, I didn’t know! People that know the AST call them ‘AmStaff’ in short here, too.

    2. American bull terriërs don’t exist. If you mean the american pitbull terrier, their owners won’t call them staffords or staffies as they think the latter are show dogs, no longer suited for their Original job

  6. I have both a Staffordshire Bull Terrier and an American Staffordshire Terrier/Shepherd mix. I just tell people that my Staffordshire Bull Terrier is a black lab puppy, and my American Staffordshire Terrier a German Shepherd mix. That is actually how the animal shelter had them as. I went to adopt a black lab puppy as that’s how they had the dog as. 8 months later the dog is still 25 pounds and after doing research it looks exactly like a black with white chest Staffordshire Bull Terrier. My dog loves water and hops in the shower with me. Loves to be by my side at all times and very affectionate. But when she plays, she plays rough with other dogs. Once I saw her play with my other dogs I knew right then and there she had some type of pitbull breed in her. She has high energy and being 8 months old she still pees in the house sometimes.

  7. I always enjoy visiting your page. Your dogs are beautiful and I appreciate you advocating for them by educating the public about their breed. In the United States, too often, dogs are labeled as Pit Bull, though it is not an actual breed. As you stated, by doing so, the actual American Pit Bull Terrier and their owners face the repercussions of the public’s ignorance. My boyfriend owns two purebred American Pit Bull Terrier and they are wonderful dogs. Like yourself, he hates the use of general terms and have taught me a lot about the breed.

    Keep up with the amazing things that you do. I look forward to seeing more of Mojo and Friends’ adventures! With love from the US.

    1. Hi Sue,

      Thank you! We hear this all too often, and by reading the comments in reply to this post, it’s clear that many other people do, too. The same goes for many other breeds, yet in the case of strong terriers and bulldogs, the issue is a bit more troublesome.

      Thanks for the compliments, they mean the world. If you want, you can follow Mojo and Venus on instagram: http://www.instagram.com/mojoandvenus if you want to see regular photos!

      Lots of love from the Netherlands,
      Jordy and Marijke

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