Staffordshire Bull Terrier

AKC Terrier Group


Photo Copyright © Cook PhoDOGraphy. All rights reserved.

Photo Copyright © Cook PhoDOGraphy. All rights reserved.

The origins of the Staffordshire Bull Terrier can be traced from early Mastiff-like dogs, through the early Bulldog, to “Bull and Terrier” crosses in the British Isles. The ancestors of today’s Staffordshire Bull Terrier participated in bull and bear baiting, dog fighting, ratting, and badger hunting. By 1850, two distinct branches of the Bull and Terrier breeds were in evidence. One branch became today’s dapper, roman-nosed Bull Terrier, and the other became the Stafford. In 1935, fanciers met in England to form a Staffordshire Bull Terrier breed club and write a standard. Today’s Staffordshire Bull Terrier is a very popular family pet and show dog in the British Isles, South Africa, and Australia, as well as in the United States. The breed was recognized by the AKC in 1974.


The Staffordshire Bull Terrier is a powerful and muscular dog, very strong for his size, yet agile, with a broad head and very strong jaws. The muzzle is short and the cheek muscles distinct. The stop is clearly defined. The eyes are round and preferably dark, but might have a color related to the coat color. Light eyes or pink eyelids are a fault, except that dogs whose coat is white surrounding the eyes might have pink eye rims. The nose is black. The teeth should form a scissors bite. The ears are either rose or half-pricked. The neck is short and muscular. The topline is level. The chest is broad with well-sprung ribs, and the front legs are set rather far apart. Rear dewclaws, if any, are generally removed, and front dewclaw removal is optional. The coat is smooth, short, and close to the skin, and show dogs should not be trimmed or de-whiskered. Approved colors are red, fawn, white, black, blue, or any shade of brindle. These may be solid colors or combined with white. Black and tan or liver-colored dogs may not compete in AKC conformation shows, though they may participate in other events.

Key Facts

  • Height:  14 to 16 in.
  • Size:  Medium
  • Weight:  28 to 38 lbs. (male); 24 to 34 lbs. (female)
  • Availability:  Might take some effort to find
  • Talents:  Agility, watchdog (but not guard), fly ball, obedience, weight pulling, and performing tricks


The Staffordshire Bull Terrier tends to be very oral when young, so to save the furniture, puppies should always be given appropriate items to chew. Discourage mouthing of people early to prevent problems later. If you play tug games with a Stafford, train him to give up the toy on command to maintain your leadership status. Many Staffords also like to dig, so these dogs might need a more secure environment than some other breeds. Don’t use invisible fencing with this breed, as they have an extremely high pain tolerance-if provoked, the dog might exit the perimeter and then have to brave a shock in order to get back in. The Stafford is generally hardy and requires little grooming. Though the Staffordshire Bull Terrier can thrive in most climates, he should be protected from both extremes. Make sure the dog has plenty of shade and water on hot days. Watch out for overexertion during intense play in warm weather, as dogs of this breed might not stop playing of their own volition just because they are exhausted. Do not leave a Stafford out in the cold unprotected, and be sure to dry the underside of the belly thoroughly after bathing or rainy excursions as there is almost no hair in this area of the body. Staffords are dense and muscular, without much natural buoyancy, so never leave a Stafford unsupervised near a swimming pool. Some puppies are born with an elongated soft palate, a condition that, if extreme enough to be a problem, is surgically correctible. However, surgical correction of elongated soft palate will make a dog ineligible to be shown in AKC conformation classes. Some lines are prone to tumors and hereditary cataracts. A DNA test is now available for hereditary cataracts in the Staffordshire Bull Terrier; ask if breeding stock has had the DNA test, as hereditary cataracts can cause blindness at an early age. Both parents should have OFA or Penn-HIP clearance (hips and elbows) and up-to-date CERF or OFA eye certification. Buy only from a reputable breeder.


Extremely courageous. Intelligent and sometimes willful. Tenacious, impulsive, and agile. Very devoted to his family and so good with children that the Staffordshire Bull Terrier is known in England as “The Nanny Dog.” A high pain threshold allows the Stafford to tolerate inadvertently rough handling from children better than many other breeds. As with all breeds, children should always be supervised with dogs and trained how to treat them properly. The Staffordshire Bull Terrier needs lots of human companionship to thrive. They need to be with their people. Do not leave this breed alone a lot or expect them to exercise themselves. They prefer to interact with their humans for exercise. An unattended, bored Stafford might find ways to entertain himself that the owner will not appreciate.

Generally friendly with strangers and therefore not suitable as guardians of property, Staffords will not hesitate to protect family members if necessary. Ancestors of today’s Staffordshire Bull Terriers (and most other dogs from pit-fighting heritage) were specifically bred to be non-aggressive with people, because early owners needed to be able to handle them safely even in the midst of a dogfight. Dogs who were aggressive to people were culled, leaving only dogs to breed who were highly tolerant of people. So aggression to people is rare.

Many Staffords do best in a one-dog family; however, owners who want two dogs should pair one male and one female for best results. In multi-dog households, always separate the dogs when leaving them without human supervision Adults of this breed tend to be very combative with other dogs outside the family, especially if the other dog challenges them. This is true even if the dog has been well socialized and was friendly with other dogs when young. Do not allow adult Staffords off leash or even on a loose leash unless safe to do so. Staffords also tend to have a strong prey drive that prompts them to chase and catch small animals, so be very careful with smaller pets. Some dogs that are raised with other pets in the household can be good with them.

Sensitive to criticism and open to being disciplined, Staffords require firm handling and consistent, patient, positive training. Novice owners who are willing to learn to be in charge and to deal responsibly with dog aggression issues in the breed can do well with the Staffordshire Bull Terrier.


  • Children:  Excellent with children
  • Friendliness:  Loves everyone
  • Trainability:  Moderately easy to train
  • Independence:  Very dependent; needs people a lot
  • Dominance:  Moderate
  • Other Pets:  Might be aggressive with same-sex dogs; do not trust with non-canine pets
  • Combativeness:  Tends to be fairly dog-aggressive
  • Noise:  Not much barking
  • Indoors:  Moderately active indoors
  • Owner:  Not recommended for novice owners


  • Grooming:  A little grooming needed
  • Trimming and Stripping:  No trimming or stripping of the coat needed
  • Coat:  Short coat
  • Shedding:  Very light
  • Exercise:  Lots of exercise needed
  • Jogging:  A fair jogging companion
  • Apartments:  Will be OK in an apartment if sufficiently exercised
  • Outdoor Space:  A small yard is sufficient
  • Climate:  Does well in most climates
  • Longevity:  Fairly long lifespan (about 12 to 15 years)

Useful Links

AKC® Staffordshire Bull Terrier Breed Standard

Staffordshire Bull Terrier Breed Club

Search for a Breeder

Rescue Organizations

Books about the Staffordshire Bull Terrier

Staffordshire Bull Terrier Gifts