Staffordshire Bull Terrier (Stafford): Dog Breed Characteristics & Care

History, Care Tips, and Helpful Information for Pet Owners

Staffordshire Bullterrier portrait
Sandra Schmid / Getty Images

The Staffordshire bull terrier, also called the Stafford, Staffy, or Staffie, is a medium-sized dog of somewhat short stature with a muscular, athletic body. Contrary to its tough appearance, the Stafford is a gentle, loyal, and highly affectionate dog breed and was recognized by the American Kennel Club in the 1970s.

Praised for its "nanny-like" instincts, the Stafford gets along remarkably well with children when properly trained and socialized. However, because of this breed's strong prey drive and dog-fighting ancestry, use caution around other pets.

Breed Overview

  • GROUP: Terrier
  • HEIGHT: 14 to 16 inches at the shoulder
  • WEIGHT: 24 to 38 pounds
  • COAT: Short and smooth
  • COAT COLOR: Red, fawn, white, black, blue, or brindle (any shade), and all colors may be with or without white
  • LIFE SPAN: 12 to 14 years
  • TEMPERAMENT: Fearless, bold, affectionate, loyal, intelligent, reliable
  • HYPOALLERGENIC: No
  • ORIGIN: England

Characteristics of the Staffordshire Bull Terrier

Overall, Staffordshire bull terriers have friendly, gentle dispositions and make lovely companions for many types of households. If raised together, well-trained, and closely supervised, this breed may even learn to get along with other animals beautifully, but some of Staffies will be best suited for a one-pet household.

Affection Level High
Friendliness High
Kid-Friendly Medium
Pet-Friendly Low
Exercise Needs High
Playfulness High
Energy Level Medium
Trainability Medium
Intelligence Medium
Tendency to Bark Medium
Amount of Shedding Medium

History of the Staffordshire Bull Terrier

The Staffordshire bull terrier was developed in England during the 19th century for dogfighting. To create a faster and more compact dog breed, bulldogs were crossed with small terriers, most likely Manchester terriers and similar breeds. At the time, bulldogs were large, fierce, and intrepid, much different than today's bulldog.

Before landing on its current name, Staffords have been called bull-and-terrier dogs, bulldog terriers, and old pit bull terriers. Once dogfighting was made illegal during the early 20th century, Staffords became more widely recognized as loyal and affectionate companion dogs.

The Staffordshire bull terrier was brought to the U.S. towards the end of the 19th century but was not officially recognized by the American Kennel Club until 1974.

Staffordshire Bull Terrier Care

Staffordshire bull terriers should never be walked off-leash as they can be aggressive with unknown dogs and will chase any small animals they consider to be prey. They are unlikely to do well at free-run dog parks. These strong dogs will need training to avoid pulling on the leash, but they need little to average grooming.

Exercise

The Stafford is an athletic dog breed with plenty of energy, so routine exercise is essential. Give your dog an hour total of vigorous walking daily. Be careful not to overdo it in warmer weather, as the breed is typically sensitive to heat. Staffords will especially benefit from dog sports that challenge them mentally and physically. A securely fenced yard is a good play area, but be aware that the Stafford is a terrier and will dig an escape tunnel if able. You may wish to reinforce the bottom of fences.

Grooming

The short, smooth coat of the Stafford requires little more than routine grooming. This breed tends to shed at a low to moderate rate, though shedding does increase seasonally. Keep the nails neatly trimmed for healthy, comfortable feet.

Training

As with any dog breed, proper training is a must for the Staffy. This is a very intelligent dog breed that can be stubborn, following its own will if permitted. Therefore, obedience training is essential to manage your dog and provide structure. Socialization is just as important, so your dog will be comfortable in all kinds of situations.

anonymous woman walking a dog
Hi-Photo / Getty Images

Common Health Problems

Responsible breeders strive to maintain the highest breed standards as established by kennel clubs like the AKC. Dogs bred by these standards are less likely to develop hereditary conditions. However, some hereditary health problems can occur in the Staffordshire bull terrier breed. The following are some conditions to be aware of:

  • Hip dysplasia: A condition that occurs when the dog's hip socket forms abnormally and causes pain or joint problems.
  • Patellar luxation: An issue that occurs when the dog's kneecap dislocates from its proper position.
  • Allergies and other skin issues: Skin issues can occur from allergic reactions to pollen, dangers, plants, insects, food, and medication.
staffordshire bull terriers as pets illustration
Illustration: The Spruce / Emilie Dunphy 

Diet and Nutrition

The Staffordshire bull terrier should be fed two meals a day of dry dog food. Each feeding should be a maximum of 1 cup of food. A dog's individual needs will be determined by age, activity level, and health conditions. It's best not to exercise your dog for an hour after eating in order to help reduce the risk of bloating and stomach torsion.

Where to Adopt or Buy a Staffordshire Bull Terrier

Staffordshire bull terriers may be available at local shelters or with rescue groups. They can cost a few hundred dollars as a rescue or cost an average of $2,000 from a breeder. Check with breed-specific rescue groups to see if they have information on Staffies in your area.

Staffordshire Bull Terrier Overview

Pros
  • Minimal grooming

  • Loyal, kind, and protective of children

  • Affectionate and playful

Cons
  • Needs a lot of exercise but are also sensitive to heat

  • May be aggressive toward other animals and may need to be in a one-pet household

  • Tends to chew and dig, especially as puppies

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

If you are active, patient, and ready to provide plenty of one-on-one affection to your dog, the Staffy could be the dog breed for you. However, it's important to do more research before you decide to get one of your own. Talk to veterinarians and pet professionals, Staffy owners, responsible breeders, and bully breed rescue groups to learn all you can.

If you’re interested in similar breeds, look into these to compare the pros and cons.

There’s a whole world of potential dog breeds out there—with a little research, you can find the right one to bring home!

FAQ
  • Are Staffordshire bull terriers good apartment dogs?

    This breed is fine living in an apartment or condo, but only if it gets enough exercise each day. A Staffie is active indoors as well, so it will still need to be sufficiently stimulated. However, many times a Staffordshire will be considered a pit bull terrier, aka "bully breed," and the landlord may have breed restrictions that will not allow this type of dog to live on the premises.

  • What's the difference between a Staffordshire and an American bull terrier?

    The difference between the two breeds is merely physical, though some will say that the American bull terrier may be a tad "sweeter" than a Staffie. The American bull terrier is larger than its English cousin, but a Staffordshire has a more powerful jawline.

  • Is a Staffordshire bull terrier aggressive towards people?

    This is a common question, but a tough one to answer. Staffies may have an unwarranted reputation for being dangerous dogs because of the breed's history as fighting dogs. Yet, known as "nanny" dogs, they are gentle and loving with children. Any breed can be troublesome. But more likely, Staffordshire dogs come with baggage because of irresponsible owners who have trained them to be aggressive. It's best to talk to as many owners of the breed as you can to get a full picture of whether or not this dog is for you.