“I don’t want a show dog, I just want a pet.”

“I don’t want a show dog, I just want a pet.”

This is one of the most pervasive sentiments that puppy buyers, especially families, express when they’re looking for a dog. What they really mean, of course, is that they don’t want a show BREEDER – don’t want to pay the high price they think show breeders charge, don’t want to go through the often-invasive interview process, and think that they’re getting a better deal or a real bargain because they can get a Lab for $300 or a Shepherd for
$150.

I want you to change your mind. I want you to not only realize the benefits of buying a show-bred dog, I want you to INSIST on a show-bred dog. And I want you to realize that the cheap dog is really the one that’s the rip-off. And then I want you to go be obnoxious and, when your workmate says she’s getting a puppy because her neighbor, who raises them, will give her one for free, or when your brother-in-law announces that they’re buying a goldendoodle for the kids, I want you to launch yourself into their solar plexus and steal their wallets and their car keys.

Here’s why:

If I ask you why you want a Maltese, or a Lab, or a Leonberger, or a Cardigan, I would bet you’re not going to talk about how much you like their color. You’re going to tell me things about personality, ability (to perform a specific task), relationships with other animals or humans, size, coat,
temperament, and so on. You’ll describe playing ball, or how affectionate you’ve heard that they are, or how well they get along with kids.

The things you will be looking for aren’t the things that describe just “dog”; they’ll be the things that make this particular breed unique and unlike other breeds.

That’s where people have made the right initial decision – they’ve taken the time and made the effort to understand that there are differences between breeds and that they should get one that at least comes close to matching their picture of what they want a dog to be.

Their next step, tragically, is that they go out and find a dog of that breed for as little money and with as much ease as possible.

You need to realize that when you do this, you’re going to the used car dealership, WATCHING them pry the “Audi” plate off a new car, observing them as they use Bondo to stick it on a ’98 Corolla, and then writing them a check and feeling smug that you got an Audi for so little.

It is no bargain.

Those things that distinguish the breed you want from the generic world of “dog” are only there because somebody worked really hard to get them there. And as soon as that work ceases, the dog, no matter how purebred, begins to revert to the generic. That doesn’t mean you won’t get a good dog – the magic and the blessing of dogs is that they are so hard to mess up, in their good souls and minds, that even the most hideously bred one can still be a great dog – but it will not be a good Shepherd, or good Puli, or a good Cardigan. You will not get the specialized abilities, tendencies, or talents of the breed.

If you don’t NEED those special abilities or the predictability of a particular breed, you should not be buying a dog at all. You should go rescue one. That way you’re saving a life and not putting money in pockets where it does not belong.

If you want a purebred and you know that a rescue is not going to fit the bill, the absolute WORST thing you can do is assume that a name equals anything. They really are nothing more than name plates on cars. What matters is whether the engineering and design and service department back up the name plate, so you have some expectation that you’re walking away with more than a label.

Keeping a group of dogs looking and acting like their breed is hard, HARD work. If you do not get the impression that the breeder you’re considering is working that hard, is that dedicated to the breed, is struggling to produce dogs that are more than a breed name, you are getting no bargain; you are only getting ripped off.

-Author unknown

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 15+ years. 

So here is some more information – take it for what its worth – My opinions are based upon 16 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 FB 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.

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 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.

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.

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.

But I want a blue puppy…..

Staffords come in many colors and while many of us have personal preferences about the color of a future member of the family, Type – Temperament – Soundness should come before your preferred color.Black Brindle, Brindle, Red, Faun, Pied (white with red or brindle patches), solid white and blue are all accepted colors in the AKC Staffordshire Bull Terrier Breed Standard. Black and Tan (with or without white) and Liver are also genetically possible colors in the breed and in the USA they are considered a disqualification, other parts of the world they are undesirable.Merle is NOT a color in our breed genetics, if you see a merle stafford consider it a bully mix and not a purebred staffordIf you find a breeder breeding for any of the following, please consider their motives before purchasing a puppy from them

  • Breeding specifically for blue (dilute of black) and only blue or a non standard color
  • Breeding 2 blue staffords together
  • One color sold for more money than another color – a reputable breeder will sell all pups at the same price regardless of color or sex

Breeding dilute to dilute can not only cause a lack in breed type and temperament, but has also been shown to cause health issues with those puppies. If you really just love blue then go to a breeder who not only fully health tests and can prove results (L2-HGA, HC, PHPV, CERF, Cardiac, OFA Hip, Patella) has non dilute Staffords which carry one copy of the dilute coat color gene and occasionally produce dilute coated puppies.As breeders we can’t order up specific colors and markings when we plan a litter, though we can genetically know what combinations the parents are capable of producing. White socks or a black eye patch are all up to mother nature.Find a breeder who’s dogs you like, let them know you lifestyle and what you are looking to do with your new pet and let them pick the puppy that will fit that lifestyle, whatever color they happen to be…..


Thank you Jodie Berry for helping to write the above article which mirrors the sentiments of many reputable Stafford breeders everywhere. I have written on this topic extensively since we had a litter from two brindles which produced two blues. Now breeders have access to reliable DNA coat color testing so we no longer need to get surprises. Stop shopping for color and start looking for a breeder who can help guide and mentor you through the process of finding your next healthy, well bred puppy. Please heed the well meaning advice of those who have experience and are willing to share their knowledge with you. We have this breed close to our hearts and are seeking to preserve it and introduce people to the breed in ways which promote the well being of Staffordshire Bull terriers – not pay our bills off of them.

Training decisions

If you know anything at all about dog trainers the one thing they all seem to agree on is that the other one is wrong. I know, its an old joke but sometimes so true. If you are on FB you will see long divisive threads on the topic of dog training. Just like in politics lately – it seems as though you must take one side or the other or be damned. There is no respecting those who do things differently. I feel strongly that having the respect of your dog, listening to their needs, learning their body language and giving them a voice is super important in the long term relationship. I don’t think the use of shock collars, prong collars or choker chains are needed. I have Made those mistakes in my past before I knew better. We all learn and evolve . . . well not all of us. But all that being said – if that is how others wish to train that’s their business not mine. I can only concern myself with what is in front of me, my responsibility, my own values.

Training dogs the way I have been evolving to over the years has also taught me much patience. Using positive methods takes longer but its kinder and lasts forever. The dog doesn’t fear me – they aren’t ‘obeying commands’ but rather working with me and communicating a desire to learn and do things together. You can see it in their expressions and body language when they see me get out training equipment. They are eager to begin a session. There is no fear. Instead there is excitement!

I’m no expert. I don’t claim to be a trainer….or a behaviorist….or anything other than a student. I enjoy watching the dogs learn. I enjoy watching them interact. I have learned to let the dogs just be dogs. Accepting them for what/who they are instead of trying to ‘train’ them into being little obedient doormats. Work with the dog in front of you. They are individuals. Accept their quirkiness and their habits and work with that – see if you can live with one another respectfully. Maybe adjusting your expectations will allow you to have more success and a more enjoyable life with the dog you have.

#petpeeves

Today’s blog entry is just a short #petpeeve list.

STOP using phrases which anthropomorphize your dog! Seriously. Stop.

Some of the phrases which really rustle my feathers are ‘pet parent’, ‘fur baby’, ‘nanny dog’ and referring to owners as ‘guardian’.

These animals are our pets. We own them. They are not children. We may spoil them and love them very much – but they are not tiny fur covered human children. You are doing your dogs a huge disrespect by not understanding that they are animals whom we choose to allow to live in our homes. Respect them as animals. Respect them as individuals.

And I have written before about how much I detest the ‘nanny dog’ phrase. It’s terribly misleading. Staffords can be quite tolerant to abuse, sadly. And it is because of their patience and reliable nature that kids who aren’t respectful can get away with abusing them. By abuse I mean – climbing on them, laying on top of them, pulling fur, ears, tails, lips, hugging them and basically using their dogs as furniture and toys. They try so hard to put up with this but as the dogs owners and as parents its up to us to train our children NOT to treat the dogs this way. Not only is it disrespectful to the dog, its harming them mentally and sometimes physically. Learn to understand your dogs body language and you will see – they hate this. Look at the eyes, tails, body posturing.

Don’t allow your kids to hug your dog. Don’t allow your kids to sit on the dog. Dogs hate that. Offer your dogs the choice to get away, always. Not all Staffords love kids either. Most do. Not all. Dogs are individuals.

As someone who has worked in Stafford rescue I can tell you the #1 reason Staffords are surrendered is due to the misunderstanding of one of two key Stafford behaviors. Number one is the misunderstanding by the adults in the home of how ‘nanny dog’ doesn’t mean Staffords will put up with EVERYTHING forever. It doesn’t mean you can leave your Stafford alone with your kids all day long without supervision. Doesn’t mean your Stafford will always tolerate being teased.

Train your kids. Supervise always. Treat your dog with respect. Using the nickname ‘nanny dog’ or ‘staffy’ is confusing and misleading. This breed is a gladiator not a teddy bear. Yes, of course they can be super soft and loving and wonderful with children and adults – but they also are dogs. They can only take so much. Every single Stafford bite case I have seen ends up being a humans fault. Let’s help this breed succeed.

Let’s begin by understanding how these cutsie phrases need to go away.

AKC CH Title – what does it mean today?

I used to love showing my dogs in conformation. In the beginning I went to the dog show just for fun and to spend time with my pet. I attended handling classes every week for many years. I went to handling seminars. I watched professional handlers and picked up tips. I went to UK and AU and watched how people there presented their Staffords I helped friends in other breeds to gain more experience. I showed to any judge without caring what they normally preferred because I was working on honing my own skills. My first show win I was told by other exhibitors that I won because I simply out handled them. It’s true. My dog was a pet. That is the point of this blog entry.

As time went on I became a lot pickier what I would walk into the ring with. I first stopped showing other peoples dogs if I didn’t think it could win BOB. Then I decided not to show dogs I had bred unless I felt they were worthy of a Specialty win under a Stafford breeder judge. I know where my dogs meet or fall from meeting our breed standard. I see all the nuances. I feel no need to ‘hide’ or ‘cover up’ faults I am not keen on just to win a ribbon or fake congratulations from other fanciers. It’s not important.

I feel strongly that unless you can dissect and see these faults and virtues in minute detail in your own dogs then you honestly have no business breeding. The exception is if you are working with mentors and you are learning still and if this is the case then you MUST have an open mind. You must be willing to see the issues pointed out to you, research those for yourself, determine whether or not they do exist and then work to change these faults in the future. None of that is done in a show ring.

In the show ring the best you can do is to understand how to present your exhibit to a judge who hopefully knows and understands the breed and how it relates to the written standard – and is willing to actually JUDGE to that standard. Most of the time the judge has 2 minutes to do that and many of them aren’t willing or able too. It seems it is easier for them to go with what they think is ‘safe’ and assume the professional handlers must have the best ones – right? That was in sarcasm font by the way.

There are times when a handler has a good dog. Sometimes it could be the best dog in the show ring. Many times it is not. There are other breeders like myself who only present their very best. Its not often these dogs are rewarded on a consistent basis. Oftentimes they are overlooked for handlers dogs. Handlers have a lot of skills. They get to practice 4-5 days a week all year long. They are skilled at showing statues and generic movement and flashy handling – ever see them hold the end of a long lead by two fingers while the dog stands perfectly still at the end of it? Looks so pretty doesn’t it. But…..how does that meet that dogs standard? Maybe it does. Maybe not. Maybe it’s just pretty.

Many of us serious Stafford breeders are growing weary of wasting our time, energy, education, and money on bringing good dogs into the ring. I personally have attended shows and looked around seeing a couple very competitive dogs and (wrongly as it turns out) thinking – that’s my competition – and more than that – that’s a dog to follow and he could be a good prospect to keep up my high standards in my breeding plans…..but most judges won’t find these superior dogs. They seem blinded by flash.

Why are entries down? Why are breeds going downhill? Why are poor temperaments rewarded? Why is fat and soft rewarded over fitness and strength? Lazy judges and political games. Thats why. Never mind the general lack of knowledge of canine structure. never mind the serious disinterest in learning breed type. Never mind not understanding good powerful effortless movement. What is the point of showing our best dogs? We already know what we have. We don’t need a stranger who lacks this knowledge to know what we already know.

I show because I am expected to show. Puppy buyers expect me to only breed from Champions. Champion titles in America mean nothing. NOW in sharp contrast – making a champion from ONLY showing in HUGE classes under only other breeder judges means a LOT and this is what we do. HUGE difference to beat 100 dogs under breeder judges and a handler dragging a dog show to show to show barely beating 5 dogs a weekend to title. Think about that.

AKC is a joke. There I said it. Most of us understand why I would say this too. What will it take for AKC to also see this and GREATLY improve their judge education and requirements? I suggest ongoing requirements of judges to continue to meet breeders and visit kennels and talk with breeders and find out the nuances. Most judges simply do not care and I have even been told condescending opinions by judges such as – “You don’t get where I am without knowing the breed” when I look at the dogs they selected and shake my head….walking away wondering what on earth they DO know.

Worse than that recently I overheard judges talking about how Stafford specialties bring over judges from UK and AU and how in their opinions this makes the Stafford breeders snobby. Worse than being called snobby (who cares, more sarcasm font) they went on to then say how these overseas judges don’t know anything at all and how they are terrible at judging. Why do they pick up feet? What are they doing with the coat? What are they doing with their hands on the head and muzzle and shoulders and rears? Why would they kneel down to watch movement? Why do they need to watch the entire down and back? Why are they making funny noises or dangling keys or dropping a ball? OH do you mean why do they ACTUALLY judge the dogs to the written breed standard? Is this the question?

I heard one judge say how breeder judges don’t even know movement or structure and only award heads and friends. ? Okay, so to you all breed judges who only award friends and handlers (don’t forget many judges were also once handlers) that’s different why??? Soo you mean for me to believe that a breeder judge from UK who has lived with Staffords for their entire lives, many of their parents also lived with Staffords, they see Staffords daily in the street, at ringcraft and at shows where the entries can get into the 100’s at times – you mean to tell me those people don’t know this breed? Seriously? Sorry – I simply cannot stop laughing except its not funny.

What in the world are they thinking?

Lately I am receiving a lot of puppy inquiries, rescue requests and questions about getting a Staffordshire Bull Terrier to add to a family. I noticed that many…most…of them seem to not exactly understand this breed at all. People are asking for ‘calm’ dogs and all refer to them as ‘staffies’ and many also are asking for a protective dog, calm and trustworthy around young kids, and most importantly people seem to think Staffords will be totally fine around other animals. Also, somehow people think ‘its all in how you raise them’ and I get people saying things like – ‘I know they are stubborn but I can train them to behave how I want them to’ and I have to wonder WHERE IS ALL THIS TERRIBLE INFORMATION COMING FROM?????

And then it hit me. American Kennel Club website. Who is responsible for this terrible information? Who wrote this stuff? No wonder I have been so overwhelmed this year helping people re-home their Staffords. People read this stuff and go to the first pop up breeder advertised in the Marketplace or FB and buy a puppy and they think (or perhaps even told) they will have a calm, easy to manage but stubborn, protective dog they can leave alone with their toddlers…..then they are shocked when the ‘staffie’ turns out to be a NORMAL Stafford! Easily excitable, boisterous, full of energy, mouthy, jumpy, clingy, busy bowling ball who doesn’t always get along with other animals.

When I tell potential buyers or adopters the truth I get told my dogs must not be normal. This makes me chuckle. I try to get people to meet Staffords (not staffies) in person before they decide on the breed. They are NOT the right breed for everyone.

Staffords are not dog park dogs.

Staffords are not dog day care dogs.

Staffords are not what I would call a calm breed. They are energetic terriers. If you want a doormat get another breed, not a terrier.

I would NEVER leave ANY breed alone with young children. Always supervise. ALWAYS. Kids can be very overwhelming for dogs. Lots of loud noises, quick movements, grabbing, tugging, climbing, pulling – all things dogs dislike. Staffords are more tolerant of these behaviors and that’s what they are known for – BUT – please do not think they can put up with this forever. Also Staffords can and will bowl down young children. Heck they bowl down adults! Be prepared for your kids to be knocked down, mouthed and sat upon by normal Stafford activity.

Let me also mention – Staffords require POSITIVE training protocols ONLY! Stop with the prong and shock collars already! Stop with the chain choke collars. Stop the old fashioned ‘dominance’, pack leader crap and roll over theories. And FFS STOP following that ‘TV personality man’ whose name doesn’t need mentioning here. Just stop. Instead – seek out certified Fear Free and +R training to become a happy, positive, confident teammate with your Stafford. LEARNING SHOULD NOT HURT.

I don’t know who can get the terrible information changed from the AKC website but it really needs to be changed as soon as possible. This breed deserves better.