State of the Stafford

When I, along with other breeder judges, were asked to briefly speak on The State of the Stafford for an upcoming Zoom meeting. I originally wanted to discuss what has changed visually. After some thought I figured others would be addressing their thoughts on this topic so I began to think more about the state of the Stafford community instead. Nearly twenty years ago when I first became a part of the Stafford world I was excited to join a community of like minded individuals. As many new people to the breed will do, I wanted to learn as much as possible and I put in the time and work to do just that. I became quickly immersed in SBTCA and I joined committees, I started a company dedicated to the breed, I volunteered for MTB booths, RDO days – I built websites and I wrote articles. I am not alone in my efforts. There are others doing what I was doing across the world, but it felt as though I was alone.

It is naive to think that any group of individuals will agree on everything, but its mature to hope that they could work together despite having differing opinions and interpretations of the Standard. We do not have to live with, breed or even judge the same way to still be a strong supportive community to help grow the breed in positive directions. If we drop ‘feelings’ from the passionate hard work we are far more likely to be succesful. The saying “United we stand, divided we fall” comes to mind in this case. We need to support one another, create a community and work together. 

Where I saw a hole in the information I filled it. Where I saw a lack of volunteering, I volunteered. I encouraged others as well. Again – I was not alone! There are many many Stafford people doing exactly what I was doing but we were not united or organized yet. For a few years it seemed there was a group of enthusiasts working together to help unite the breed, promote the breed and preserve the breed. It was not only about winning shows and selling puppies (all nice things) – but it was also a united push to get updated information out to the public, to judges, to breed enthusiasts, to improve health decisions, to help each other evaluate litters, to get more owners to join the club, etc. After taking three years off (I needed a break and had personal issues to care for), I came back and saw this was not continuing as I had hoped it would. There was progress, but there was more division as well.

This saddens me because we all share the same passion. There is no ‘conflict of interest’ when people of all opinions share this passion and work together instead of beating each other down. It is the same interest – The preservation of the Staffordshire Bull Terrier. Instead of dividing we must come together as community members. We must partially remove ourselves from individualism and place that emotional energy squarely on promoting this breed together. You do not have to like everything about the dogs I live with and you do not have to like everything about my judging or breeding decisions. I dont have to like yours either – but we DO have to be supportive of the commonality, of the community, of the breed. We need to respect our differences and our sameness alike.

The State of the Stafford should include the State of the Stafford Enthusiasts. Take advantage of every bit of information you can find. Listen to, ask questions of and talk with Stafford owners and breeders of all types. Everyone has something to offer. Everyone! 

Every book, magazine, piece of artwork, and kennel has something valuable but we must be willing to drop our egos and look for and accept all of this as a collection of like minded groups of people with passion for the breed. I am not being naive in saying this as I am well aware of parts of the Stafford world which on the surface appears not to have anything but destruction to offer. BUT there is value in there someplace. In saying that, there does also exist ‘negative value’ – thats still value. Negative value offers us the opportunity of learning from the decisions and mistakes of others (and our own mistakes as well). Be willing to recognize negative value and be a reason to choose positive value. Look for virtues. You can influence others in this way. I know because I have seen this firsthand! Your positive hard work and dedication can and will influence others. Not all, but some. 

I have finally learned that it is far more important to find value rather than simply judge and dismiss. So in closing my take on The State of the Stafford is – we MUST join as a community if we are to move forward as a breed. It’s not just the car, it’s the driver!
It works best if we work together – which in my opinion also means working with other bull breeds.

Expected Temperament

Temperament: From the past history of the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, the modern dog draws its
character of indomitable courage, high intelligence, and tenacity. This, coupled with its affection
for its friends, and children in particular, its off-duty quietness and trustworthy stability, makes it
a foremost all-purpose dog.

Nothing in this written breed standard states that a Stafford should get along with other animals. Yet, lately people request one who will get along with other dogs. That first sentence even begins with ‘from the past history’ which describes a time of blood sport. At no time in the history of this breed were they a pack dog. The ‘trustworthy stability’ is meant as totally reliable with people, not other animals. Where is the confusion? It is up to us, as breed preservationists, to educate people on the expected temperament. A Stafford should be reliable also in the sense that they shouldn’t start a fight, but when properly or directly challenged, or when play is escalated, a fight may occur. This should be the expected norm.

Owners should be aware, observant and prepared. Never put your Stafford in a position where they may need to resort to that behavior. This means, no off lead places where you do not know for a fact all other off lead animals involved are neutral and have known calming temperaments and owners using a watchful, responsible eye. This also means, in crowded places especially, no flexible leashes. Use a strong buckle collar and a 6′ lead so that you have control of your own dog. Be on the lookout for unexpected challenges you may encounter. Teach your Stafford to ignore other dogs and know a ‘leave it’ command. Be aware if your Stafford IS playing with other animals to watch for play escalation or over excitement. Stop it when you see it and remove your Stafford from the environment.

Play may get loud, and this is fine, just watch and understand body language so things do not get out of control. Loud wild play is normal. Should a situation get out of control do NOT put your hands in between to try to stop a fight. There are plenty of other internet sources you can learn how to break up dogs fights so I wont go there – just be aware that a Stafford should not be expected to get along with all other animals, just as you may not like all other humans.

If you breed, rescue or otherwise sell or place Staffords into homes you must educate new owners about this part of a Stafford temperament and know its acceptable, correct and expected.

Judging the Stafford

Part two

The first thing a Stafford judge should do upon entering the ring is to have a quick overall look at the dogs in their ring. On first observation, which ones exhibit breed type – ie look like a Stafford, have the classic balanced athletic Stafford outline. Which ones have the Stafford temperament, ie bold and fearless, exuberant and not fearful. Which ones have the structural nuances our Standard calls for, ie in proportion the length of back shows equal distance from withers to tailset and withers to ground (not forechest to sacrum), shows great strength for its size and, although muscular, active and agile and not bunchy or heavy. Which are clean in outline, ie lacking wrinkle or fleshiness. Which are light in the loin, ie not thick and cloddy. Which have enough bone and substance, ie not racy or overdone. Balance is what you are seeking on first glance. Remember in all of the descriptions in our Standard to keep moderation and balance in mind. No extremes, no exaggerations. At all.

Now, within those entries which also offer correct basic canine structure outside of what the Standard calls for. You have already decided which follow the Standard structurally, now go back to your training and see which also have flowing parts without exaggeration. You want to see no looseness at shoulder or elbow, no roached backlines, no sloping croups, you want to see tight feet, no weakness at pastern and those front feet should turn out slightly and not toe in. You do not want to see cathedral or chippendale fronts. You do not want to see straight rears, or over angled rears nor slipping hocks. You do not want any exaggeration.

Now let’s look at movement. Remembering the blend which made up this original bull and Terrier you want to see no wasted energy on the move. Free, powerful and agile with economy of effort. You are looking for parallel movement coming and going. This means in either direction you should not see the other set of legs, it does not mean at a faster gait the legs cannot converge but this should be equal and kept at a minimum. The Stafford is not shown running, but at the gait which the exhibit moves freely with ease. Look for that perceptible drive when the dog moves away from you. Rear drive strongly propelling the dog forward with ease is what discernible drive means. You want to see the pads on those rear feet as the Stafford moves away from you. You want that front footfall to land below the nose when possible. As well, the withers shouldn’t dip below the backline on the move, nor should it show any wrinkle behind them. There is no rolling, choppiness or flip flopping at all. The blend was a bulldog resembling more of an athletic American Bulldog type, not a rolling cloddy British Bulldog. The Terrier resembled the Manchester therefore keeping the athleticism, enthusiasm and alertness.

Now you can begin to look at the details. Begin with the head, as in the old point system this was given 25 of the possible 100 points available and end with the tail which only was assigned 5 points. The head should have distinct cheek bumps, strong underjaw, tight lips, open nostrils, small thin tightly folded ears (or half prick, not 3/4), medium dark round eyes set looking forward, not almond or light (red or brindle dogs may have a lighter brown eye color but dark is preferred and never should eyes be yellow, gray or blue). The muzzle depth should be approximately one half the total head depth. (measure from underjaw/neck to occiput/topskull). The muzzle should be slightly blunt and square rather than an elongated point. The topskull is not to be exaggerated in height. The stop, while called for distinct, is meant to distinguish it from other Terriers such as the Fox or Bull Terriers, not a 90º angle and is in proportion to the head planes which should be approximately parallel to the muzzle plane. Remember, the stop is not the eye socket – you must get your thumb on it to feel the angle. Do not rely on visually looking at profile.

Keep in mind the health and original function of the Stafford also means the muzzle length should remain at approximately 1/3 the length of the skull length. No less, but can be slightly more. Listen for loud breathing, gasping if you see a Stafford with a very short muzzle or wrinkles. This could indicate breathing issues which we do not want to perpetuate in the breed (see post on BOAS from 31 Dec 2022). The Stafford is an athletic dog who should have no breathing issues in a show ring. Panting of course is normal, especially at outdoor shows or in humidity but never gasping, thick curled tongue or wheezing. As well, keep in mind in its original function, some Staffords may be overly excited in the ring showing some spiciness and challenge tails. This is totally normal as it would be in most Terrier rings but should never show any aggression towards people. Other dogs, possibly but kept in check, mostly quiet, alert and controllable. .

Examining the bite of the Stafford asks for a scissor bite in which the outer side of the lower incisors touches the inner side of the upper incisors. Only badly undershot or overshot bite is a serious fault. Simply part the lips to inspect. Look for large teeth and canines which do not press into the gums or the roof of the mouth. Look for dark pigment on the gums. The lips should be tight and clean.

The Stafford is not stuffy but rather clean, well muscled and hard to the touch but not a heavyweight. More of a middleweight. Strong for its size but not exaggerated. Do not forget, this is not a Bulldog nor is it a Whippet. The name explains the breed.

The rest of the Standard is very clear and probably most judges will understand it. The points made here are more nuances which those of us who have a passion for and who have studied the breed may find of importance and therefore may need further explanation. As well, upon observation, the points made in this article seem to be getting overlooked in the conformation ring and are of great importance. If you are seeking mentorship in this breed there are numerous resources available. The Stafford Knot website offers an illustrated Breed Standard as does the parent club, SBTCA. There are club approved mentors who would be happy to further explain some of the points made here or answer any questions.

Thankfully, we are mostly an owner or breeder handled breed and we are very down to earth and approachable. The owner handled Stafford seems to be changing rapidly for some reason, where more professional handlers have the breed which is unnecessary as the Stafford is very easily trained and is a wash-n-go breed requiring little grooming. People do sometimes hire handlers for different reasons, but this should remain a blue collar working mans breed as it was originally. The Stafford shouldn’t require a handler in order to be recognized in the conformation ring if it is correct. Come find a breeder or owner at a show, visit a Specialty show or send an email if you have any questions.

From The Stafford Knot book –
The Staffordshire Bull Terrier – Interpretation & Illustration of the Written Breed Standard –
A Comparative Discussion – UK & USA
Crib and Rosa by Abraham Cooper 
These two are what the Bulldogs which make up the Stafford looked like
The now extinct White English Terrier

Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome

Brachycephalic airway syndrome (BAS), also sometimes referred to as Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (or BOAS) refers to a group of primary and secondary abnormalities (Table 1) that result in upper airway obstruction. Primary abnormalities cause an increase in negative pressure within the upper airways that can eventually lead to secondary abnormalities. We absolutely do NOT want the Staffordshire Bull Terrier to continue down the path of the BAS affected breeds such as French Bulldog or Pug. We are NOT a brachycephalic breed and we don’t wish to be in that category for many reasons. Aside from stenotic nares, BAS can also include Elongated Soft Palate, Everted Laryngeal Saccules, Hypoplastic Trachea and Everted Palatine Tonsils.

Table 1

Any tissue that obstructs the airway lumen is a source of resistance. According to the laws of physics, resistance in a single tube is inversely related to the radius raised to the fourth power. For example, if an airway is 50% obstructed, it is 16× harder to breathe, and if the diameter of any component of the upper respiratory tract is increased by 50%, resistance encountered on inspiration is decreased 16×.

Typical clinical signs of BAS are listed in Table 2; dogs with these signs benefit from early surgical correction of existing primary abnormalities before secondary changes occur. For example, in puppies with stenotic nares it is recommended to perform rhinoplasty at 3 to 4 months of age, and at the same time perform a preliminary evaluation of the soft palate. Addressing these primary abnormalities at an early age may help avoid progression to secondary changes such as everted laryngeal saccules or laryngeal collapse. There are veterinarians across the country specializing in correcting these abnormalities.

It is possible to have your Stafford scoped so that you are aware of any BAS related issue which could be present. If you plan to breed your Stafford, I would highly recommend doing this anyway. You cannot see all issues visually and for reproductive responsibilities, this should be conducted. I had my stud dog scoped by an experience veterinarian. Not because he has stenotic or pinched nares but because he is very active in a hot, humid environment and I needed to know he was not going to have breathing issues while working out. I also feel that to be a responsible breeder, including stud owner, this was the prudent thing to have done, along with all other health testing available to us. He has zero issues by the way, but personally I would like to see his nares more wide open and a bit more leather on his nose. It would be quite helpful if these scopes could be given an OFA certificate/number so it can be posted and made available in the OFA Database, but you can make note of this in the SBT Pedigree Database. You can also include this information in any stud or sales agreement.

Table 2

If you look at the profile of a Staffords muzzle and nose you will see slight differences in the shape and positioning of the nose leather itself in affected and not affected animals. Usually, not always, a Stafford with wide open nares will have a more rounded and forward sitting profile to the nose leather. A Stafford whose nares are pinched almost seem to be missing a little bit of nose leather at the upper tip from profile, therefore the profile appears ever so slightly edged back, flatter as if it’s missing tissue. Looking from the front its very easy to spot varying degrees of stenotic nares as they appear pinched. Staffords with elongated soft palate can be heard struggling to breathe, even in indoor cooler conditions. I have heard judges comment on how adorable that Stafford smile is when the dog in question is simply struggling to breathe. The smile they are so well known for shouldn’t be coupled with raspy breathing noises. That ‘cute’ snore you love could be a sign of this issue.

As mentioned above, there does exist corrective surgery for BAS and while certainly beneficial to the dogs health, is against AKC show policies and any dog known to have undergone any type of corrective surgery is to be banished from entering any conformation events. That being said, it is commonly performed despite being against AKC policy. Sometimes it is visible and can be detected, other times not so much. As a breed, Staffords worldwide are considered to be ‘at risk’ for this condition and awareness is just starting to spread. We, as preservationist breeders need to be more aware of this and possibly not breed from those affected if possible – or – look for a mating partner with wide open nostrils and a family history of same.

At any rate, more caution should be taken when exercising, especially on humid days. Keeping the affected Stafford in fit condition, not overweight (important regardless of nares status), and building up exercise tolerances are recommended. Keep plenty of cool water, cold coat, spray bottles and fans handy on those hotter days. Do not allow the dog to overheat and keeping them nice and trim should help. We see this in every shape, color and sized Stafford.

Since we know several different corrective surgeries are being performed, as a judge one would need to be able to show proof of an obviously corrected entry to excuse a dog from your ring. In other words, it’s simply not done. The only way you could prove this change has been made is if you judged the dog prior to, and post surgical procedure. Even then, you would need visual indisputable proof. The rules of no altering are in place of course for the health benefits of future generations hoping to discourage breeding of such affected animals. Say for instance, a dog is being campaigned and makes his way to be one of the top dogs in a breed. It is seen by many breeders who could be attracted, take notice and use this dog at stud therefore possibly passing down this deformity which affects the health of future generations. See photo below to visualize stenotic nares. Additionally, if the only examples being shown have stenotic nares and this is all judges and observers see, it quickly becomes the norm.

The corrective surgeries available for this condition are explained below:

Concerning Stenotic nares in a Staffordshire Bull Terrier
Mildly Stenotic Nares in a Staffordshire Bull Terrier
Post correction surgery on a Stafford. This one is fairly obvious when seen in person, which I have.

Wedge Resection

 In typical brachycephalic dog breeds, the veterinarian removes a wedge from the lateral aspect of the alar fold with a #11 surgical blade. This approach differs from other techniques, which remove a wedge of rostral alar cartilage, leaving only a small amount of tissue rostrally on the nares. By performing the lateral wedge, more of the rostral alar fold is spared, allowing a larger, deeper incision and easier suturing.

Laser Ablation

When performing laser ablation, the medioventral aspect of the dorsolateral nasal cartilage is removed . Set the laser at 4 to 5 watts (W) on the continuous cutting setting for best results. Angle the laser in a medial to lateral direction, which keeps the laser from affecting tissue outside the nostril, preventing visible depigmentation.

Laser Ablation
Wedge Resection
Before and After correction surgery

Corrective surgeries are still performed on show dogs despite the rules against this. Its quite common actually. Once you see it, its difficult to miss. Look at nares and study the shapes of the openings. Listen to the dogs breathing. If considering using this stud, ask to see relatives and progeny.

As with most policies, they are in place to give the appearance AKC cares about the health of each breed. And they do, but despite these policies, people correct bites, tails, ears, nares etc anyway. So start paying attention. You might be surprised.

References
Aron DN, Crowe DT. – Upper airway obstruction: General principles and selected conditions in the dog and cat. Vet Clin North Am Small Anim Pract 1985; 15(5):891-916.
Wykes PM. – Brachycephalic airway obstructive syndrome. Probl Vet Med 1991; 3(2):188-197.
Koch DA, Arnold S, Hubler M, Montavon PM. – Brachycephalic syndrome in dogs. Compend Contin Educ Pract Vet 2003; 25(1):48-55.
Evans HE, de Lahunta A. – Miller’s Guide to the Dissection of the Dog. Philadelphia: WB Sanders, 1996.
Pink JJ, Doyle RS, Hughes JM, et al. – Laryngeal collapse in seven brachycephalic puppies. J Small Anim Pract 2006; 47(3):131-135.
Seim HB. – Brachycephalic syndrome. Proc Atlantic Coast Vet Conf, 2001.
Brdecka D, Rawlings C, Howerth E, et al. – A histopathological comparison of two techniques for soft palate resection in normal dogs. JAAHA 2007; 43:39-44.
Hobson HP. – Brachycephalic syndrome. Semin Vet Med Surg Small Anim 1995; 10(2):109-114.

Understanding Your Mentorship

Recently I was ring stewarding for a provisional judge in Staffords who proceeded to excitedly tell me she was mentored at a Specialty show by a well known UK judge. I know. I was there. It was my own bitch who was used as the hands on for her mentorship. My bitch titled that day.

HOWEVER this judge completely didnt hear what was being told to her and she misunderstood what she absorbed and now repeats that incorrect information proudly. Watching her judge recently I can see how she is now applying what she thought she heard instead of the correct information DESPITE myself and others correcting her.

Now I know that some breeders and even some breeder judges with decades of experience STILL have no clue what they are doing yet they hold steadily to their opinions. I calmly presented facts to show her where she was wrong in her misunderstanding. I even showed her what that judge was trying to teach her using a Stafford who was ringside.

If you choose to accept assignments to judge Staffords PLEASE learn how to interpret our breed standard! We provide so much material and information that there is no excuse not to learn more. There are many SBTCA approved mentors who are willing to help you. We have books and materials for this purpose and we offer seminars. If you need to brush up – we encourage this! Please do not stop listening and learning once you get AKC approval. Its no wonder so many of us simply dont enter under all rounders. Whats the point?

If you are like this judge and act as if you know more than I know and you STILL get it wrong, then you will find yourself with a mostly empty ring come time to judge Staffords. Actually, no. I take that back. You will find yourself with a ring filled with pets and handlers. Maybe thats what you want – to be a judge of the mediocre. A judge of the average. A judge of the generic. I think the generic dogs do more winning because its easier to award a generic showdog than to learn the specifics of a breed.

Look, I will say what others are thinking – Usually pro handlers show mediocre generic well trained dogs. In this breed, a wash-and-show breed, the pro almost never has the better dog but it usually does show more generically and it is usually very well trained. We are not judging statues!

This last year there were more owners and breeders showing their own Staffords who reached the top 20. In my opinion this is a fantastic move forward for the breed. I would love to see all Staffords shown by their owners and breeders. There are very few reasons not to. We dont require hours of grooming and the breed is so easy to train. I know many peoples jobs do not allow them to travel enough to campaign dogs and this is likely the best reason to hire a handler to help you – but when you are able to take time off from your work show your own dog. The pleasure you will receive from a placement will be immensely more gratifying than getting a text Sunday night with a rundown on your placements on that circuit and a hefty invoice to pay as well.

All breed judges please LISTEN to us, the passionate breeders who show our own dogs and who also became Stafford judges! Many of us know a lot and want to share our passion with you! We want to see good examples in your group rings. We want the nice Staffords to get the recognition they deserve. We want the respect of the dog show community by earning it – showing great Staffords who exemplify the standard.

Exaggeration

Let’s discuss exaggeration in the Staffordshire Bull Terrier.

General Appearance

KC: Smooth coated, well balanced, of great strength for his size. Muscular, active and agile.

AKC adds: “The Staffordshire Bull Terrier is a smooth coated dog.

It should be of great strength for its size and, although muscular, should be active and agile.”

We are not looking for a heavyweight – we are not looking for a racy specimen – we are looking for the ONE IN THE MIDDLE! When we balance capacity with efficiency we are more likely to find a specimen with good healthy stamina, strength and agility. We will find BALANCE!

There is a movement across the world to put restrictions on producing breeds with health issues such as short muzzles. In some cases these dogs suffer from breathing difficulties such as overlong soft palate, tracheal deformities, stenotic nares and other structural and health related issues coming from exaggeration in structure. . The Stafford DOES NOT want to be added to the list of brachycephalic breeds. We want a muzzle that is no shorter than one third the length of the skull (look from the top or profile and measure). I recently learned that many people are misinterpreting the 1/3 to 2/3 ratio when it is written like that. It is not one to three or two to three. It is ONE THIRD to TWO THIRDS. One third muzzle length to two thirds skull length. The muzzle depth should be approximately one half the total head depth. (measure from underjaw/neck to occiput/topskull).

Additionally, so very many people misinterpret the breeds responsible for our blended breed. The name says it all – Staffordshire (where they originated in UK) Bull (the now extinct bulldog which as far as we can tell resembled a leggy American Bull dog type) Terrier (from the now extinct English White Terrier which resembled todays Manchester). So a balanced Stafford is NOT like an English Bulldog mixed with a Terrier.

Look for a clean head, no wasted effort/energy when moving, no wrinkles anywhere (none on head, face, shoulders, tails, legs – no wrinkles!). Do not be impressed by exaggeration!

Crib and Rosa by Abraham Cooper
These two are what the Bulldogs which make up the Stafford looked like
English White Terrier

Showsight Magazine Interview

Wavemaker Staffords | Jim & Lynn Caswell

Purebred Staffordshire Bull Terrier Breeders

BY JIM & LYNN CASWELL OCTOBER 5, 2022

Wavemaker Staffords | Jim & Lynn Caswell
Interview with Jim & Lynn Caswell, Breeders of Wavemaker Staffords

Where do we live? How many years in dogs? How many years as breeders?

Living in South Florida makes it a long drive to travel to shows, but we have an RV which does make it a lot easier. I grew up with purebred dogs and, for many early years, my father and step-father were both involved in AKC Conformation and Field events. For about half my adult life I have been involved in Performance and Conformation. I am coming up on twenty years in Staffordshire Bull Terriers and close to 13 years as a breeder of this breed.

What is our kennel name? How many dogs do we currently keep?

Our kennel affix is Wavemaker Staffords. Right now, we are lucky to live with four generations. We have four at home and are looking forward to adding another, possibly next year.

Staffordshire Bull Terrier - CH Wavemaker La La Love You CHIC
‘Derby’ of the Wavemaker Staffords

Which breeders have provided the greatest influence on our decision to breed dogs?

I have been influenced most by several UK and Australian breeders who have mentored me over the years. I have also been influenced by longtime breeders in other breeds. We can all learn from one another. I am very lucky to have a widespread support group in Staffords and also in many other breeds.

Can we talk a bit about our foundation dogs? How have they influenced our breeding program?

It was in approximately our eighth year of Stafford ownership when we felt that we knew enough to feel confident to produce a litter. Our foundation bitch has the perfect Staffordshire Bull Terrier temperament. When you read the Standard’s paragraph on temperament, it describes her. This is very important to us.

She also possesses terrific movement, and in her day, a wonderful topline and nearly perfect bite. She turns 14 in September and is still quite active, and she is still in charge in the home. This breed has a long life expectancy (15-17 years), which is one of the reasons we chose to live with Staffords.

What about our facilities? Where are our puppies whelped? How are they raised?

All of our dogs live in our home as pets, and our puppies are whelped and raised in the home as well. We do not breed often, but when we do, we utilize several enrichment protocols and methods of socialization and positive training.

We are so lucky to now have many options to give the puppies the very best start in life that we can offer to them. Usually by Week 10-12, they leave us extremely confident and ready to fit into the lifestyle of their new owners. Each litter is different, and as such, the puppies have differing needs. We are both at home to apply whatever methods of raising them suits each puppy best.

Do we have a “process” for selecting show puppies? At what age do we make our decisions?

We look at puppies to evaluate them at around 8 weeks old, but aside from obvious faults or DQs, we do not know for certain at that age which will be that “show ring rock star.” I mean, we may have an idea from the moment they are born, but that’s hopeful thinking mostly, isn’t it?

We sell them all as pets first on a limited registration and then we may re-evaluate them at around six months to two years. If the owner wishes to show, and we feel the dog is worthy, then we discuss whether to change to a full registration.

We prefer ACTIVE companion homes so that the focus is on quality of life with a well-loved and spoiled pet, and we support and encourage participation in AKC performance events as long as it’s for fun and not the main reason for purchasing one of our dogs. Also, we encourage people to stop looking for a puppy—look for a BREEDER. Make a personal connection with a breeder whom you feel shares your top criteria, and then wait for a puppy from them.

Staffordshire Bull Terrier - CH MACH2 Wavemaker Atlantica
‘Schooner’ of the Wavemaker Staffords

How do we choose the homes for our puppies? Is puppy placement important to us as breeders?

We have an intensive interview process which may begin years before a litter is even planned. Our buyers become family in most cases. We look for owners who are like-minded. We are very transparent on our website about what our protocols are, and those coming to us for puppies are already familiar with them. I believe if you put out there what your goals and wishes are, it clears the air upfront as to what you expect in a new owner. This has worked for us very well in selling puppies and also in placing rescues. Placement is of utmost importance to us.

Can we share our thoughts on how our breed is currently presented in the show ring?

With great pleasure, I can proudly say that Staffordshire Bull Terriers are mostly owner- or breeder-handled. They are a working man’s breed and, as such, we aren’t so fancy. We are just regular people who love our Terriers and traditions, and we have a good respect for the Stafford’s history.

If you come to a Specialty, especially one judged by a breeder-judge, you will be in for a treat. Most of us will use traditional show equipment, and the judges have very breed-specific methods for selecting their favorites on the day. You will see lots of support and hear cheers from the crowd. As a breed, you may see different styles in the ring, but you won’t miss seeing that infectious Stafford smile!

Staffordshire Bull Terrier - CH MACH2 Wavemaker Atlantica
‘Smithy’ of the Wavemaker Staffords

Are there any health-related concerns within our breed? Any special nutritional needs?

You ask about health concerns in the breed. Yes, Staffordshire Bull Terriers should all be DNA tested for L2-HGA (L-2-hydroxyglutaric aciduria), which is a recessively inherited metabolic disorder. The disorder causes high levels of L2HGA which, in turn, result in neuromuscular symptoms such as seizures starting a young age.

Additionally, they should be DNA tested for HC (Hereditary Cataracts). We also test for Hip Dysplasia via PennHip, Cardiac, Patella, PHPV (as puppies prior to leaving us), Elbow Dysplasia (because our club CHIC requires it), and Thyroid and annual eye testing in any breeding dogs. I would also be aware of possible stenotic nares and overlong, soft palates in the breed. As for dentition issues in Staffords, be aware of converging canines being somewhat problematic.

Nutritionally speaking, we feed a complete, balanced, raw diet that is supplemented with macro and micro nutrients, minerals, pro- and prebiotics, and vitamins. Just as we try to avoid non-organic processed foods ourselves, we try to feed our dogs a species-appropriate diet which meets their individual needs as much as possible.

Staffordshire Bull Terrier ‘Hazel’
‘Hazel’ of the Wavemaker Staffords

In our opinion, is our breed in good condition overall? Any trends that warrant concern?

It is my opinion that in the last 10-15 years or so, Staffordshire Bull Terriers have improved in condition and are healthier, fitter, and overall, better exemplify breed type. More people seem to be striving to produce fit for function, and taking pride in the history and traditions of this breed. Staffords are showing more balance and less exaggeration than in years past, but we still have a ways to go. Remember, the name explains what the breed should exemplify—Bull AND Terrier.

Is our breed well-suited to be a family dog? Who are the best candidates to own our breed?

Staffordshire Bull Terriers make fantastic family pets for experienced dog owners. They can be boisterous, mischievous, mouthy, and busy, but they do have an “off” switch. Staffords love their people and tend to be like velcro. They are quite strong, so caution must be taken around young children and anyone not prepared to hold their ground when a Stafford comes barreling at you from the top of the furniture when excited.

This is NOT a dog park breed! You must know what you have and always take the high road when keeping your Staffords out of any situation which may not suit them. Not all Staffords will get along with other animals. This is just part of the breed. As well, Staffords are super-willing to learn and are quite easy to train using positive methods. Corrective methods will shut them down quickly and this is one reason we get them into rescue.

People don’t understand that they look tough but are quite soft and get their feeling hurt if you raise your voice—and heaven forbid a hand is raised. Staffords tend to use their mouths as hands and this can be misinterpreted sometimes, but they usually grow out of this phase. They are funny and make us laugh every day. Staffords are terrific companions.

Staffordshire Bull Terrier 'Marina'
‘Marina’ of the Wavemaker Staffords

Do we feel that our breed is supported by a sufficient number of preservation breeders?

We have a growing number of serious breeders whom I would consider to be preservation breeders. We do work together and many of us are now also breeder-judges. I can see this getting stronger each year and I am hopeful this trend will help to improve the breed further. Sadly, they are also growing in popularity and there are some breeders who do not look for a balanced Bull AND Terrier, but instead go one way or the other.

The Breed Standard does refer to Staffordshire Bull Terrier as “a foremost all-purpose dog,” so many of us put titles on both ends. My involvement in performance in this breed has shown me that the popularity and success in sports has led to breeders breeding for sport only and losing breed type almost completely. On the other hand, there are also those who believe the breed to be “heavyweight athletes” and seem to produce more bulk, heavier bone, wrinkle, and overly muscled, courser dogs that are not balanced.

Extremes on either side of this pendulum (when purposely produced) mean moving further away from the balanced Stafford and the Breed Standard. I have heard it said this way: “There is only one type of Stafford, a balanced one.

For a bit of fun, what’s the most amusing thing we’ve ever experienced with our breed?

You asked me to describe the most amusing thing I have experienced with Staffords and I would say to you, “Isn’t that describing every moment of every day with a Stafford?

https://showsightmagazine.com/wavemaker-staffords-jim-lynn-caswell/


Judging the Stafford

Part One

I have recently been approved to judge my beloved breed, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier. It’s not something I dreamt of doing, it just happened organically as part of the process – owning, showing, performance, running The Stafford Knot, breeding, rescue . . . now judging. I completed my provisional assignments in short order, easily passing observations and applied for full status. I feel, along with the work I have done for TSK, its part of giving back to a breed.

Additionally, I felt compelled to join others who have been in the breed in trying to show by example what judging was supposed to be about….. or what i thought it was about anyway. I grew up in the dog world and rather naively thought conformation was a way to select the most correct animals who most fit the written breed standards for breeding in order to maintain or better the future of each breed.

The Staffords name says everything – bull and terrier. The bull (https://thestaffordknot.com/the-original-recipe-bulldog-plus-terrier-equals-stafford/) meaning the old time bulldogs of the past who more resembled American Bulldogs, leggy, sporty and agile rather than the British Bulldog of today. Some folks seem not to know this bit of important fact.

Another fact I have discovered is most folks do not understand basic canine structure. They dont understand how the skeleton interacts with the muscles and tendons and how all of this put together makes a dog balanced when its made right. (https://thestaffordknot.com/canine-structure-and-compensations/)There is really no excuse not to know these details as there are numerous books, videos and study groups on this topic! Once you see poor structure you cant miss it in any breed. To ignore these basics is equivalent to burying your head in the sand and moving forward just for the ribbon or the puppy sales or your ego. (https://thestaffordknot.com/the-ostrich-syndrome/)

In Staffords we will see slipping hocks, cathedral fronts, short upper arm, toeing in, upright shoulder, lack of under jaw, wrinkle, short muzzle, lippiness, incorrect croup angle, short sternum and many more ‘faults’ which shouldn’t be ignored. I’m not saying to throw out these dogs what I am saying is learn to see these ‘faults’ and understand them. As an example, understand how a short upper arm can affect shoulder blade placement, front movement and even how the neck appears from profile.

The Stafford should not appear bulky, heavy, coarse, overdone, bunchy or squatty (as I was told by one judge). I see far too many of these heavy types in the hands of professional handlers and they are often rewarded because so many judges do not understand what the breed standard is asking for. Do not be fooled or impressed by that huge head or those bulging muscles. The Stafford is not a heavyweight. He is a middle weight. He is active. He is agile. He is bold. The Stafford is a balanced breed. (https://thestaffordknot.com/on-balance/)

(https://thestaffordknot.com/more-on-balance-and-movement/)

I hope that I am a good judge. I feel I have a good eye and I have spent twenty years immersed in study of this breed. I hope that I can make thoughtful selections given what is brought into my ring. I am hopeful people who know me will understand the breed well and will bring me balanced Staffords.

Faults

In the country of origin, UK, at the end of the written Breed Standard for the Staffordshire Bull Terrier it is stated: 

“Any departure from the foregoing points should be considered a fault and the seriousness with which the fault should be regarded should be in exact proportion to its degree and its effect upon the health and welfare of the dog and on the dog’s ability to perform its traditional work.”

This is a good reminder to not only look for the balanced Stafford, remember its origin, but also to balance your judging when in the ring with the breed. The AKC Breed Standard for the Stafford lists only three ‘faults’ and only three ‘serious faults’. Fault judging is to be avoided but these six points should be kept in mind when you find yourself faced with similar virtuous examples in your ring from which to select from. 

Faults:

  • “Non-conformity with heights to weights limits” – Our Standard calls for dogs 28-38lbs, bitches 24-34lbs with both dogs and bitches being 14” – 16” at withers. They should be balanced height to weight. BALANCE is the key word here. Get familiar with what 34lb bitches and 38lb dogs look and feel like. And remember a 14” dog is in Standard and is  balanced at 28lbs just as a 16” bitch is in Standard and balanced at 34lbs. 
  • Dark eye preferred but may bear some relation to coat color. Light eyes or pink eye rims to be considered a fault, except that where the coat surrounding the eye is white the eye rim may be pink.” This means we prefer a dark eye but in a red or brindle dog, for example, there can be some consideration for a lighter brown eye. We do not want to see yellow, gray or blue eyes at all no matter what coat color. 
  • A tail that is too long or badly curled is a fault.” This is self explanatory but to be taken into consideration as to the above paragraph regarding degree and affect upon health. Also, in the original point system the tail was valued at only 5 points. I’ve heard it said that if the Stafford has one thats half the points right there. Make note that nowhere in our Standard does it mention short tails. It is worded as such: “The tail is undocked, of medium length, low set, tapering to a point and carried rather low. It should not curl much and may be likened to an old-fashioned pump handle. A tail that is too long or badly curled is a fault.”

Serious faults:

  • Pink (Dudley) nose to be considered a serious fault.” The Stafford nose needs to be black. Some argument of consideration could be made for the blue Stafford but even then we want the darkest possible pigmentation so that the nose appears black. At no time should there be any lacking of pigment on the nose leather on a dog of showing age.
  • Full drop or full prick to be considered a serious fault.” A small, thin leathered tight ear held back close to the head would be preferred and safest in its original function, however there is consideration for a half prick ear. This means half, not 3/4 and never full drop or full prick. Either of those not only would affect hazard in its original function, but also gives a foreign expression. As well this differentiates the breed from other terriers. 
  • The badly undershot or overshot bite is a serious fault.” The scissor bite is called for, and we want large well placed canines but as we also strive for a strong muzzle and underjaw, a slight under/over may not affect the original function – however – converging canines would affect the health and comfort of the Stafford even though it is not mentioned in the standard. Note the word ‘badly’ is mentioned here. A slightly under or overshot bite is a fault to be considered by the degree of misplacement.

Again, it is worth repeating – please keep in mind the exact proportion to its degree and its effect upon the health and welfare of the dog and on the dog’s ability to perform its traditional work when judging this breed. With only these few faults mentioned they should be easy to keep in mind. 

The Name Explains The Breed

The Staffordshire Bull Terrier is a balanced blend of Bull plus Terrier but when we say we strive for an equal blend, are we picturing in our mind the original breeds used or modern day versions? Many people today are picturing the modern day version of the English/British Bulldog. This way of thinking is dangerous to the health and future of the Stafford. If that is the blend one is attempting to reward in a show ring or produce as breeders, one will certainly find shorter legs/upper arm, straight stifles, barreled rib, short muzzles, wrinkles, bunchy muscle, buggy eyes, lippy muzzles, converging canines and overlong soft palate.  Aside from this we would find health issues that go along with that type of animal which was not intended as the athletic gladiator the Stafford was bred to be.

The original Bulldogs used to create the Stafford looked more like the athletic bodies of an American Bulldog, Boxer and similar breeds but without the exagerations seen today. This is not something that can be easily disputed as it is shown many times in book after book on the history of the Stafford. The original Bulldog used to create the Stafford didnt resemble what we picture as a Bulldog of today. He was leggier, more athletic, less wrinkle, and in general a beautiful example of a gladiator. We can see why this breed was chosen, for he was portrayed to be powerful, courageous, tenacious and tough, but still a reliable guardian with an off duty quietness and affection for humans.

The other half of the ‘mix‘ is said to have been either a now extinct breed known then as the “White English Terrier” or the ‘Black and Tan Terrier” It may have resembled the Manchester Terrier which is one reason we have a disqualification in our Standard for Black & Tan as this pattern can possibly overtake a breed and we love our color variations we have today. 

“The Staffordshire Bull Terrier is a smooth-coated dog. It should be of great strength for its size and, although muscular, should be active and agile.”

The Stafford is an efficient athlete. Everything about him should reflect this. There are to be no exaggeration in his make-up.  Excess would inhibit the breed’s original function as well as its health.

He needs enough bone, enough muscle, and enough substance to support his powerful, athletic endeavors,  but not an excess of any of these features.  He will need strength and vigor, allied with speed and suppleness.  The Stafford should have stamina in abundance. He should feel hard to the touch, never soft.

The cloddy, heavy-boned, over muscled, exaggerated dog may look impressive but he’ll lack the speed, agility and stamina of the athlete. The racy, light-boned dog may be agile and athletic, but will lack strength and resilience. 

The one in the middle will get the job done.