Wavemaker Staffords is extremely proud to share that 2023 was a history making year for the breed with three Staffords carrying the Wavemaker affix sitting at number one at the same time! This achievement was not a planned goal for us but something we realized late in the year and found out had never been achieved before. We are super excited for Felix, Schooner and Sage and all involved in helping to make this happen. (as of Nov 20, 2023)
When going to select your Staffordshire Bull Terrier puppy, there are several very important questions to ask the breeder. These will help you determine if you have found a good and reputable person whom you are comfortable with. After discussing the following points with the seller, ask yourself, “Is this the right breeder for me?”
Regarding the Puppy’s Background:
Specifically, what health testing has been done on the parents and what are the results? (health testing should include Hips (either OFA or PennHip), OFA Elbows, OFA Patellas, OFA Thyroid, CERF, OFA Cardiac), DNA L2-HGA, DNA Hereditary Cataracts or proof of parents testing clear.
In this puppy’s pedigree, what is the incidence of hip dysplasia, heart defects, elbow/shoulder dysplasia, demodectic mange, thyroid dysfunction, seizures and allergies? (Genetic defects such as heart conditions, and diseases related to immune system dysfunction such as allergies or demodectic mange, are surfacing in alarming numbers. These problems are more evident now that more reputable breeders are openly discussing them and sharing their experiences in the hopes of reducing the occurrence of these defects. Seriously question the breeder about the appearance of any of these issues in the puppy’s ancestry.)
Are there any temperament problems in this puppy’s ancestry?
Have the sire and dam been temperament tested?
Do you offer Health/Temperament guarantees with your puppies?
Can you show me certificates proving that the sire and dam are OFA certified or PennHip evaluated? (this is important because it tells a lot about the dedication of the breeder to eliminate genetic problems in the breed), this info can also be verified for free at www.offa.org.
Will you provide me with the pedigree (at least 3 generations, and should be AKC or KC or reputable registry, not UKC), the puppy’s health record, and instructions on how to care for my new dog?
Regarding the Breeder:
How knowledgeable about Staffordshire Bull Terriers are you, and will you share that knowledge with me? (The breeder should be willing and able to answer most of your questions regarding medical care, feeding, diseases, training, what to expect as the puppy grows up, etc. If you have a question that the breeder cannot answer, he or she should have a network of sources available to get the answer for you.)
Does the breeder have more than one breed of breeding dogs?
Will you make yourself available to answer any concerns I may have at any time during the dog’s entire life?
Will you assist me if I cannot keep the dog? (Even with all the careful screening and education that breeders do, occasionally something happens where a purchaser must give up the dog. In the unlikely event that this should happen to you, the breeder should be willing to help place your dog in a suitable new home.)
What are the most important things you strive for in your breeding program? (this should be something to the effect of making the breed better) How much time do you spend planning litters and rearing the pups?
Do you require a spay/neuter agreement on the puppies you sell? (This is a good requirement and you want the breeder to say “yes” unless you are an experienced breeder and you BOTH agree the Stafford shouldnt be intact) Will you ask me a lot of questions during an “interview” process? (All reputable breeders will have lots and lots of questions to ask you. This helps them determine if you are suited to Staffordshire Bull Terriers in general, and to their line of dogs specifically. They need to be certain that you have what it takes to care for one of their dogs for the next dozen or more years. Don’t be offended by these questions. Be happy that the breeder is doing all that he or she can to find a perfect match between dog and your family.)
Is your breeder experienced?
HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOU ARE DEALING WITH AN EXPERIENCED, KNOWLEDGEABLE, AND REPUTABLE BREEDER? This question can best be answered by considering the conversation that takes place when you meet him or her. A good breeder will want to know things about you, will tell you things about himself, and will tell you things about the dogs in his or her kennel. Here is a guide to help you determine if you are dealing with a good breeder of the Staffordshire Bull Terrier. Regarding You, the Breeder Should Ask Questions Such As:
Who are the members of your household? What is your lifestyle?
What kind of home do you live in?
Do you have a fenced in yard?
What do you know about Staffordshire Bull Terrier?
Regarding Him or Herself, the Breeder Should:
Belong to, and be active in the National and Regional Staffordshire Bull Terrier breed clubs.
Show his/her dogs in conformation and/or agility, nosework, dock diving, barn hunt, obedience or other performance sports.
Actively help with rescue and/or public education for the Staffordshire Bull Terrier.
Require a spay/neuter contract with each sold puppy unless you are an experienced breeder and you BOTH agree the Stafford is a good specimen for producing.
Offer a contract which guarantees health and freedom from genetic defects. Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of owning an Staffordshire Bull Terrie. Discuss general health matters and breed defects found in Staffordshire Bull Terriers. Require you to return the dog if you cannot keep it for some unforeseen reason. Be available to help you at anytime during the dog’s entire life.
Regarding the Dogs in the Breeder’s Kennel, You Should:
Be invited to the breeder’s home to see the dogs if possible or at the very least offer a FaceTime ‘visit’ or meet at a show.
See happy, friendly, outgoing, tail wagging puppies.
Find a clean, safely fenced in, warm, nurturing area for the dogs.
Be referred to previous purchasers to ask them about their satisfaction.
We are still on the road after the 2023 SBTCA National Specialty weekend in OKC but I wanted to make a quick blog post about Felix and his recognitions. I am being told there is some story twisting happening on FB which I am not on. Always a few in every hobby/sport who feel in order to be noticed they must put down others. Its a sad way to live but maybe that works for them.
Felix was the number one Staffordshire Bull Terrier in breed points from January 1, 2023 through May 28, 2023 and then again beginning in July. He also has made the cut and/or been in the ribbons at every Specialty he has been entered in. He was awarded SBTCA Top 20 Stafford and also Peoples Choice winner this year. Felix is our 5th Stafford to be Crufts Qualified and several of ours have qualified multiple times – and Marina showed at Crufts. These are not ‘fake’ or ‘made up’ achievements, nor do these negate the achievements of others. These are simply facts.
We love going to the large shows and seeing the beautiful Staffords from all over this country and those who bring dogs over from other countries. Its usually a welcoming atmosphere even though there is some drama sometimes, usually the drama is caused by the same few people so its easy to spot and avoid. We want nothing to do with that side of showing dogs.
We are thrilled that we were present to see so many wonderful Staffords get recognized this past weekend. Congratulations to Mary and Vivian who now are number one Stafford in breed points. There also were many more who went without awards who were just as deserving. Safe travels home to all and we look forward to seeing you at the next Specialty shows.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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?”
I found this online. What are your thoughts? I like the concept but I prefer to mentor not simply sell and release….I do not control anyone. I have only ever asked one buyer to allow me to breed and get puppies back only b/c I was at the end of a twenty year quest without a future due to unforeseen circumstances – one other buyer asked to breed and I said of course no strings only allow me to help mentor. I believe we need to release our control and egos in order to truly PROTECT and PRESERVE.
Ok friends, buckle up for some more Raw thoughts of the day.
Except this time, from a breeders perspective.
Many of you know I breed Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers, I have along side my mother since 2011.
I bought my own foundation bitch after many years of showing and learning about the breed, when I was 15, from the INCOMPARABLE Sonya Urquhart of Marquee Wheatens.
She did what NO OTHER breeder would, she trusted me, she believed in me.
She did not use me, and she did not control me.
She allowed me to make my own decisions, she allowed me to make mistakes and learn from them.
She taught me to think and evaluate dogs, to use her as my advice and my guidance, not my controller.
EVERYONE is allowed to use my stud dogs, (assuming the bitches are healthy), even if I don’t like you. Your price is just higher.
EVERYONE is allowed to purchase a show puppy to add to their program or to start a program.
IF I TRUST YOU TO SELL YOU ONE, THEN I DONT NEED TO CONTROL YOU.
I don’t want ANY puppies back, I don’t want litters back, i don’t want you to wait 5 years to get started. You start the day you purchase that puppy.
My job is to preserve the breed, my job is to better the breed.
You aren’t doing that if you are controlling your new ambitious breeding families. You aren’t doing that if you won’t allow another program a way to expanded by adding one of your puppies.
The idea here is multiple minds are greater then one!
When i sell a intact show puppy, outright, my hopes are maybe they will find a dog or do a breeding I wouldn’t have thought of and it may produce greatness I can then breed to in the future or add back in my program one day.
With that being said,
I’m sure you’re wondering why I shared these particular photos of dogs?
They are dogs I no longer own, however, I bred them. They were purchased as additions to other programs. I have no co ownership, I have no litters back, I have ZERO control.
I want to see these dogs and new owners achieve great things and flourish.
They don’t need me to do that for them.
These dogs are owned by New breeders, Veteran Breeders, breeders looking for a new addition, and many other reasons inbetween.
Something I want to make loud and clear:
I make no decisions for them. Ever.
IF I want to breed a bitch/dog my way, I keep it.
IF I want to show a puppy my way, I KEEP IT.
IF I want to do anything with a show quality animal my way, I keep it. Me, myself and I.
If the dogs we keep work well with our family we keep them forever, if they grow to need more then my home can give them I place them.
On TWO occasions I have “co owned ” bitches I wanted to breed/show etc. One went well, one went horribly. So I no longer do it, ever.
Put your egos aside, and give someone the opportunity to grow or start.
Stop controlling people and using them.
If a successful breeder hadn’t taken a chance on me at 15, let me do things MY WAY, with a pick of the litter bitch, no big crazy contract requiring whole litters or 73 puppies back, etc etc I would not be where I am today.
Let’s discuss balance, type and movement in the Staffordshire Bull Terrier.
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 in this recipe? 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. That type of animal 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, without the exaggerations. 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 didn’t 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 (highly undesirable in other countries) in our AKC Breed Standard for Black & Tan as this pattern can possibly overtake a breed and we love our color variations we have today.
Keep in mind they did not have access to DNA coat color testing when the standard was written. You can find tan pointed Staffords in many patterns and colors actually – red with cream points, blue with tan points, black brindle with tan points under brindle pattern, piebald where the only points visible would be if a colored patch shows where a point might be. BUT one thing you will find in a tan point of any color is the tan color surrounding the anus of the animal. It’s a telltale sign the animal is affected with the tan point allele.
The first breed standard described a dog built much more like a modern American Pit Bull Terrier calling for an 18 inch dog to carry just 38 pounds (todays top end for weight). As time went on the show fraternity wished to further distance themselves from the underground world of dog fighters that still existed. Thus in 1948/49 the standard was changed to include the single most significant alteration to the breed’s makeup clearly defining the Staffordshire Bull Terrier as a show dog, not a fighter. The top end of the height range was reduced by 2 inches (14” – 16”), yet the weights remained the same (24-34lbs bitches – 28-38lbs dogs), thus calling for a more compact dog of greater substance, no longer ideal for the pit. This change would mark the show Stafford’s official severance of its ties to the fighting world.
The breed standard describes a dog which has a terrier attitude of course, although he is also unlike other terriers in many ways. His temperament is described as being bold, fearless and totally reliable. He shouldn’t spark off unless he feels he needs to but he also doesn’t shy away either. The reliable part of the description is that you can expect a true Stafford to be quietly in control, yet he also may respond as a terrier should if the need arises. In other words, he wont pick a fight, but he may just end one. Be aware of what you have and if his temperament is indeed reliable you should have control. The Stafford should always be manageable.
The physical descriptions in the breed standard are there to distinguish him from other terriers. He is described as being ‘wide’ which means he is wide for a terrier, as many terriers are not wide. He has a distinct stop, unlike many other terriers which have little to no stop, but not completely vertical. As well, he will not have the short upper arm many terriers have. His upper arm (humerus) will be equal length to his scapula. These points of the standard are to differentiate him from other terriers, not to ask for the widest, deepest, most distinct, etc.
“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 exaggerations 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 Staffordshire Bull Terrier gait is described as “Free, powerful and agile with economy of effort. Legs moving parallel when viewed from front or rear. Discernible drive from hind legs.”
For Stafford movement there is no waste. This means legs moving straight from shoulder to toes with no paddling, hackney, nor stilted or kicking the rear feet up. The pendulum moves in a straight line, but there is of course much more forward travel from the shoulder, and the pasturns bend unlike the “typical” long-leg terrier movement. He wastes no energy getting from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’. The Stafford’s movement is clean and fairly simple. He should be able to easily gait without being run. The Breed Standard only says “discernible” drive from the rear. That’s at a fairly slow pace. It moves from discernible to powerful as the speed increases. Legs again moving in straight planes, with good width in proportion to the rear structure. When gaiting at a good clip there will be some converging to maintain a good center of balance. This is much more efficient that the literal interpretation some have that the Stafford’s legs move at the same width as they fall when standing. Maybe at a very slow pace, but not for long once you speed up. They shouldn’t track close, but they don’t have a true parallel movement as a Bulldog or Frenchie might because a Staffords ribs hold their front legs out making it difficult for them to converge much if any. He should never have any looseness of shoulder or elbow, nor should he have flat feet. His point of withers should never drop below his backline, nor show wrinkle behind.
The Stafford should be clean and free of wrinkle or lippiness. His lively and keen expression comes partly from his famous ‘smile’ and partly from his medium sized, dark eye (preferably dark, but can be in relation to coat color yet never yellow, gray or too light) which tends to show his delightful personality. He is constantly aware of his surroundings, he is playful and energetic, and also sometimes a bit naughty or mouthy. His tail will be a giveaway of his mood usually so you dont want to see a tucked tail indicating uncertainty. He has no problem moving around a show ring and should be happy to do so with his ‘person’ by his side.
The Stafford is not a brachycephalic breed. The ideal muzzle length can be described as 1/3 muzzle to 2/3 skull and approximately 1/2 the depth of the skull. Muzzle from tip of nose to base of stop should measure no less than 1/2 from stop to occipital bone. The ideal muzzle angle is a little less than parallel to the angle of the skull – slightly converging planes. His skull should be broad & deep through and nearly the same width as depth. The size & shape of the nose & nostril affect appearance and breathing ability. The Stafford should ideally have large open nostrils.
When judging the Staffordshire Bull Terrier one of the first questions that comes to mind is “How do I determine which parts of the standard are more important than others?” As mentioned, the Stafford was RE-established as a show dog in 1949. However, the basic answer to this question is the same as it is with most all other breeds: Always give priority considering the original function of the breed. As unsavory as it may be, those elements most important to the historic function as a fighting dog should not be forgotten. In fact, they are to be given the greatest attention. Breed Type – that most elusive concept that is yet so obvious when you see it! If you show your dog, or are involved in the world of dog breeding, you will often hear the phrase ‘typey’. You will read critiques telling you that a particular specimen has type in abundance. This topic generates hot debate and has been written about since people began crafting breed standards.
“Type is a very diﬃcult term to deﬁne –chapters in books have been devoted to the subject without a truly clear resolution.” Richard Beauchamp, in his book, Solving the Mysteries of Breed Type, asserts that “Knowing what was originally intended for our breeds is critical,” and that “If we pay respect to nothing else, it should at least be to what the creators of the breed intended.” He argues that following this principle will help avoid exaggeration, stating that breeders, “…seem in constant danger of believing that if a characteristic is called for at all, then the more of it a dog has the better!” We see this in the Stafford ring every weekend. Again, because its worth repeating – the Stafford should show no exaggeration at all.
The Stafford should be a balanced animal from nose to tip of tail. Nothing should be exaggerated or out of proportion. His head size should be in proportion to his body, not over or undersized but keep in mind that the original point system called for 25 points to asses the Stafford head. 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.
The clean outline of the athletic Stafford is distinctive and a delight to see.
He is indeed a breed like no other.
Lynn Caswell (Wavemaker Staffords, The Stafford Knot, Inc. 501(c)(3))
Excerpts from – The Stafford Knot, Jason Nicolai, Lorelei Craig, Alan Mitchell and Melanie Sinclair
Recently I have been hearing about some Stafford enthusiasts who are more concerned with making sure their egos are fed and their opinions are heard than they are about preserving, protecting and promoting this breed in unison with others. I am not on FB so thankfully I get to skip a lot of the drama there. FB is just an information gathering tool and a distraction therefore I have no need for that in my life – but people do from time to time send me screenshots. There are two long time Stafford breeders who often enjoy disparaging others for their own satisfaction. One has openly described other peoples dogs as “skinny black rats” and the other person referred to them as “crawling black spiders”.
What purpose does this serve the breed? How does this bring us together as a strong Stafford community? It does not. In fact, it only serves to make these people look foolish and immature. You do not have to like what I like but there is never a need to publicly criticize and belittle based upon your own opinion. To both of these Stafford folks – when or if I want to hear your opinion of my dogs I will pay an entry fee. Until then as long as you keep opening your mouth, more of the world will learn who you truly are. Carry on.
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, structurally, temperamentally and health-wise. After some thought I figured others would be addressing their thoughts on this topic in that manner so I began to think more about the state of the Stafford community instead.
Many 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, published a magazine, edited books and I wrote articles, designed graphics and sold merchandise to help rescue. 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. There just did not exist a lot of organization.
It is naive to think that any group of individuals will agree on everything, but it’s 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 learn to control our ‘terrier tenacity’ we are far more likely to be successful. 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. And this goes for support in mentoring new people, support in physically helping other Stafford owners and breeders, support financially for rescue or show fundraising when possible or even in emergency situations. Offering a little bit of your time to help is far more important than simply serving on a committee or making champions.
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. We had some good ideas and lofty goals to bring the Stafford community together and to improve the dogs in this country. 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.
It does not matter at all how many years you have owned, shown or bred Staffords. It does not matter how long you have been a judge, how many champions you have produced (or bought) but what matters is how you can do something positive for the Stafford community to actually – preserve, promote, protect the breed. We are all busy and we all have other important events happening in our lives, but when we decided to join the Stafford community I feel we should devote a little of our time to helping the breed together.
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 don’t 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. We need to be kind and respectful to one another for the future of this breed. We need to set an example for people coming into the breed, for people in other breeds and for the general public.
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. We all know at least someone in Staffords who has been a constant thorn, troublemaker, disingenuous person – 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. Some are lost for sure, but the future of this wonderful addictive breed needs all of us to do our best to set aside a few minutes a week to support the breed and its enthusiasts.
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.
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 (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.
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.