Sunmaid KC Fresno California – Stafford Showdown weekend
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
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
Let’s discuss exaggeration in the Staffordshire Bull Terrier.
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!
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.
- “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. And of course we prefer some pigment on the white coated dogs eyes – in some countries Standards it asks for full pigment – AKC does not but its always best if a Stafford does show good pigment – we do not want pink rims.
- “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.”
- “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.
All dogs have ‘faults’. Every. Single. One. Even those belonging to kennel blind breeders have faults. This is why we do not fault judge. Just assume they exist and find the virtues. I do a game called list 5 virtues with every dog and by doing that you will see things in a more positive light. I absolutely do not ignore the standard and I do take note of serious faults – but again even if I am presented with a badly undershot full drop eared spotted nosed Stafford in my ring there must be some virtue as well. That Stafford wont get far in the show ring but I still try to look for any virtue. That Stafford will lack breed type IMO which is one of the very first things I look for.
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.
Balanced • Blend Bull + Terrier without Exaggeration
But I cant find a BLUE puppy!
I see a lot of people new to the world of Staffords say that they are looking for a ‘blue’ and asking how to find one from a good breeder. Although I have addressed this topic several times in my blog the posts do tend to get lost over time so let me discuss this again.
First of all – there is absolutely nothing wrong with having a color preference when looking for a pet. In Staffords we will often, mostly, see breeders who only own reds or only piebalds or only brindle/black brindle. Its normal to have preferences.
Second, when seeking a new Stafford puppy no matter what color you are thinking about buying color and price should be the last part of the equation but its usually first thing we hear asked about. Again, normal – this is mainly due to not understanding genetics and responsible breeding. Usually, once a new buyer learns the differences in how different breeders operate they know better what to look for and what is a red flag to run from.
I also understand that just like there are varying types of breeders, there also are varying types of buyers. Some just want to send money and get a puppy like an Amazon order. Tell the breeder what color, sex and price you are willing to pay and send your deposit – then receive your puppy. It is my very strong opinion this is a horrible way to buy an animal which will be living with you for hopefully up to 16+ years.
So here is some more information – take it for what its worth – My opinions are based upon 19+ years of helping with Stafford rescue, owning, breeding, studying the breed and mentoring others. What I am about to say is just my understanding and my views based upon my personal experiences. Your mileage may vary.
When looking for a Stafford look for a breeder whom you can trust, who will offer support and mentorship and who is not just simply paying their bills by making puppies. Its pretty easy to get around a slick website just with a phone call, but if you still aren’t sure ask them some questions or send an introductory email. There is a popular list of ten essential questions to ask but really – make a list of issues important to you and ask. You are interviewing the breeder as much as they are interviewing you. At least – there SHOULD be interviewing going on. If not and all you get is – send a deposit – IMO that’s a red flag folks. You may want to look at what health testing is being done. Possibly look at how they raise their own dogs. You might wish to see living conditions where their dogs live and where puppies are raised. Perhaps have a look at how involved they are in the Stafford community. Mostly – read the contracts you are required to sign. Are you okay with a strict contract or are you seeking a no strings attached sale? We are all okay with different agreements. Just be comfortable with your purchase.
The main thing to concern yourself about as far as wanting a blue Stafford is this – is the breeder producing blue on purpose? Are they putting two blue parents together knowing they will get blue puppies? Is the only color they produce blue? Is every single litter all blue or blue/white? What do their dogs look like? Do they look the same as the brindles or reds or piebalds you see on the internet from breeders you think are responsible people? Do they look like Staffords? Are you being fed lines about how they are producing ‘leggier/sporty/champion pedigrees’ or any other marketing flash? Are they more concerned about selling puppies than they are about getting to know you and how their puppy will live?
Unlike when a breeder mates two reds or two black brindles, when two blues are put together this is purposeful dilute combination breeding. This is breeding for a specific market instead of breeding for the whole dog. Breeding should be done carefully with much attention focused on health, temperament, structure, type and more. It should NOT be only about the color! Breeding only red or black brindle or white is an entirely different conversation – and (except for all white) usually doesn’t have the health issues which continuously mating blue to blue only has. They will insist this is not true. They will insist their blues have no health or temperament issues. Ask to see examples of DCA or unstable temperaments. See if they respond with an honest answer. Dilute Color Alopecia is possible in any dilute animal but mostly in generationally produced dilutes.
Consider this – if you take a glass of iced tea and mix it with the same volume of plain water you now have 50% tea, 50% water (the water representing dilute). Now take that mix and again mix with a glass of plain water. Now you have 75% water and 25% tea. Take this mix and again combine with plain water. At what point are you simply mixing water with water with zero amount of iced tea? Do you see what I am getting at? Now of course this is a highly simple example of how dilute to dilute genetics works and I don’t mean to be condescending at all but it also cannot be ignored. You lose type, temperament, stability – you don’t really know what you have since this is a dilute gene, which acts differently from a non dilute genetic mix.
Putting two dilute affected dogs together can only produce dilute affected dogs. What’s wrong with dilute to dilute you ask? Genetically, its rather complicated and can possibly lead to many long term issues, but the easy answer is dilute to dilute is furthering the dilutions causing other problems to arise such as allergy problems, coat breakage, coat thinning, alopecia, blowing coat, lacking breed type, lacking pigment, losing eye/nose/pad color and when done often enough the lack of breed type extends to temperament as well. We (rescue around the world) have seen ‘Staffords’ from long lines of dilute to dilute who are not as stable in temperament as the Stafford has always been known for. This is not a good thing. We see yellow eyes, bad feet, fleshy muzzles, fear aggression, shyness and other problems which seem to appear more often in these blue to blue produced Staffords. I can’t explain this scientifically but I have observed it. So that blue Stafford breeder who is telling you this cannot be true – well, they simply haven’t seen it but we have.
If a breeder is putting two brindles together and they get a blue puppy that’s completely different. If a breeder owns a blue bitch and puts her to a brindle/black brindle dog the responsible thing to do is coat color DNA testing (now that this tool is available) to make sure that dog is not a dilute carrier. A black brindle dog who is a carrier should ideally only be used on a bitch who is not a carrier, and vice versa. These combinations are not as much of a health risk as continuous blue to blue, in my opinion. I bred my brindle bitch to a brindle dog who was known to have produced a dilute in the past. This was prior to coat color DNA testing being available. Instead I, and my mentors, researched pedigrees and we went back 9 generations without finding evidence of a blue puppy. We felt safe. Guess what we got? Two blue puppies! It happens. I kept one and I sold one. He was sold on a no breeding contract. My blue bitch was only bred to non dilute carriers and only produced brindle and black brindle. She also has a very different coat from the non dilutes we own. Her coat breaks easily, gets bleached in the sun easily and she blows her coat something fierce twice a year! Currently she is so bald I have to use sunscreen on her. The coat will come back and it will look beautiful and dark again, but I mention this b/c it is different from her non dilute family members. (*UPDATE* – once she was spayed her thinning coat never came back fully so it is linked to hormones as well which could explain the temperament issues we have seen in generationally produced blue to blue Staffords in rescue). We simply do not know enough genetically speaking about dilute to dilute breeding to have all the answers.
The argument put forth by the masses is that breeders purposefully breeding blue to blue to blue to blue are only in it for the money. Sure, I would agree, no doubt this is the case – however – many breeders who only breed red to red, black brindle to black brindle, piebald to piebald can essentially be guilty of this as well so that argument fails for me. For me its more a matter of preserving the breed in ALL aspects. There are bad breeders of all colors and types. I know of some horrific situations coming out of kennels of colors other than just blue from my time helping rescue and also what I have observed in the show world. There are some excellent very slick and shiny fancy salespeople out there. Do your homework. If you insist you ONLY want a blue Stafford puppy – thats fine too – let a reputable breeder help you locate one from another responsible breeder who just happened to get some blue ones in a litter of non dilute puppies. Same rules apply – be comfortable with what you buy.
All I am saying here is STOP looking for your puppy and START looking for your breeder.
So you think you want a Stafford?
Every morning I check my email and usually see a request or two for a Staffordshire Bull Terrier puppy or re-home/rescue. Since I run The Stafford Knot and rescue pages I hear all the time how “I have had ‘staffy’ mixes, or I have had ‘pit bull dogs’ or some other story about how prepared they are and how familiar they are with Staffords. I bite my tongue sometimes but often I come right out and tell the people – no…no you didn’t own a Stafford ‘mix’ or a real APBT and even if you did you honestly have no idea what a purebred Stafford is like to live with.
Shelters will label all boxy headed bulldog looking mix breeds as ‘staffy mix’ because that will adopt our more easily than pit bull mix will. Therefore 1000’s of people think they own a ‘Staffordshire’ and will swear to the end of their lives that is true. Then they feel a purebred Stafford is the same as all of the mixed breeds out there. Again, not true. But you cannot convince these people. Temperament of a Stafford is so much busier than most APBT mixes. There are similarities, but once you have spent time with purebred Staffords you can just ‘feel’ or ‘see’ a difference… the nuances may be small but they are there.
This is not the breed for everyone.
I have told countless people after hearing what they are seeking to look at other breeds. Sometimes this is met with resentment, anger, arguments . . . and other times I am thanked for my honesty. I have seen Staffords in shelter pulls for rescue who were sold to the wrong families and released due to just being Staffords. I have had owner surrenders come in because ‘the dog cant stop moving, too energetic, too mouthy, hates my neighbors dog/cat, jumps on people/furniture/my head. . . . knocks the kids down, too pushy trying to be on the baby’……you name it, I have heard it. AND I could have told these people prior to the sale they weren’t a good match.
Now, don’t misunderstand what I am telling you….Staffords are AMAZING companions….just not for every person/home/family….in my opinion. There are other people who think anyone can own the breed. Since being tightly involved in Stafford rescue for 16 years now I know this not to be true. Same way as a sighthound or a northern breed may not be the right breeds for our home. Sure, we could manage one….but if we are honest we aren’t a good match for either.
Two years ago my good friend John posted to his FB wall his thoughts on the topic:
“New stafford owners should be made aware of a few things before they take the plunge. Staffords are not average dogs, they are other than average. If you think your Stafford is strong, it’s probably stronger than you think. It can probably run faster and jump higher than you think too. They should not be underestimated. They have a lot of energy. They love people and can’t be cool about it. They might dislike other animals and they can’t be cool about that either. They need human companionship. They need to be with you. They play rough. They might play with their teeth. They’re affectionate to a fault. They can be relentless. They’ll be the best dog you’ll ever have, but people need to understand them going in, and be ready for the ride.”
John is a wise man in more ways than I can count. Trust his words.