Wavemaker Staffords Breed Standard Discussion

Breed Standard Discussion

A lengthy discussion about the Stafford breed standard

Wavemaker Staffords Breed Standard Discussion

A lot of people rush and skip right past the opening four words of this portion of the Breed Standard – “From the past history” – remember what this breed was bred for originally. When taking in the assessment of the Stafford temperament, this should not be forgotten. No, we don’t want raving lunatic unmanageable dogs on our hands, nor do we want shy fearful cowering animals. What we are striving for is bold confidence. A dog who trusts that his owner will not put him in harms way and who will quietly, confidently be on alert, on his toes, but in control.

A confident dog is not a loud dog, nor is he obnoxious and rude.

He understands ‘dog manners’.

A bold, confident Stafford will not start a fight, but he will also not back down from a challenge. This is one important thing one must remember when owning a Stafford. The responsibility lies strictly on the dogs owner/handler to always be in control of the dog. The owner/handler must be confident in understanding and recognizing canine behavior and always know what to look for – signs, that any trouble may occur.

If a Stafford gets noisy in the ring, fires up or ‘talks back’ this is normal and should be accepted. This is no different that other terriers who are on their toes, when asked to ‘spar’ in the ring. A Stafford, needn’t be asked to spar, nor should they be – but should already be on his toes, at the ready, but under control.  He is, after all, a terrier! This describes the ‘totally reliable’ portion of the breed standard.

Moving on, ‘the modern dog’ – meaning we understand the dogs no longer do what they were originally bred for, thankfully. What is Stafford character? It goes beyond ‘courage’, intelligence’ and ‘tenacity’ but these three words do perfectly describe a proper Stafford.

They should display courage like a gladiator, never fearful – always recovering at any unexpected start.  Never shy. Never fearful. Never cowering. In a show ring situation, a Stafford should appear confident and strut, show off and look proud and happy to be there. They should stand for exam as if they had been doing this forever. If you see a Stafford being dragged around a ring on its belly, leaning away from human touch or, heaven forbid, snapping or snarling in fear – this is unacceptable and not to be encouraged nor rewarded! A Stafford showing signs of fear is as incorrect as a Stafford showing any kind of human directed aggression! Either direction in temperament is totally unacceptable! However, please understand the differences between any aggression towards a human (NOT acceptable in a Stafford),  and any aggression towards another animal. These are not the same thing, nor should they be defined or judged as such. A terrier, especially one originally bred for pleasing its owner by doing what was originally asked of it, whether ratting, bull baiting or dog fighting, will still carry that instinct.

It is now up to US not to encourage or reward this behavior. However, as I stated, if a Stafford should fire up in the ring, as long as it recovers and is under control, is no different from any other terrier being judged on spirit and attitude. It is when it becomes out of control that there is an issue.

They are a very intelligent breed. This can be seen in many ways beginning from how easy they are to housebreak, train, live with. Usually a Stafford can be housebroken in a matter of a week, sometimes less. We utilize enrichment  protocols in raising Stafford puppies – by following these types of training and behavior systems you will see bold, confident and eager to please Staffords.

I have been able to teach tricks in a matter of perhaps 2-3 attempts. One of ours probably knows around 30-35 tricks. Show ring training is a breeze with a Stafford. In fact, Staffords are able to easily train their owners! Mine quickly learned if they ring the bells hanging on the door, not only will someone come running to let them out, they can usually expect a treat when they come back in! How’s that for training us!?! I know of Staffords who know how to open doors, unlock crates, get our of dog runs, etc – so extra care should be taken when containing a Stafford.


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.

The word tenacious, when used as a noun means holding fast, deriv. of tenēre to hold + -itās -ity  Interesting, isnt it?! To Hold. A dog bred to catch vermin, bait bears and fight being  described as being able to ‘hold fast’. It is synonymous with perseverance. Many would sooner forget this word in our standard altogether, but they shouldnt! Being that it is a part of the temperament part of the Breed Standard it should be remembered and preserved. A Stafford can and will ‘hold fast’ whether to a spring pull toy, a tire tug, a sock toy – or another dog.

Remember, a Stafford is NOT a dog park breed!

Please be mindful of this, but understand its possibility and accept it as part of the breed itself, its history and what it was bred to do, and more importantly its Breed Standard expects it.

All of the aforementioned descriptions coupled with its affection for its friends , children in particular, make up this breeds temperament. Staffords are EXTREMELY bonded to people. Not only its own people, but ALL people. For this reason they do not make suitable guard dogs, nor should they. They are like velcro, always wanting to be near people. Happiest with with people. The Stafford is not a yard dog, but a house dog. Although children are mentioned in the Breed Standard, and they have been called the ‘nanny dogs’ I don’t use this phrase because its all too often misinterpreted. I hope sensible people will also understand these are still dogs. They are powerful, exuberant dogs. Yes, they are tolerant and will put up with a good bit of poking and prodding by children, but please also understand that they may jump on or knock over unintentionally a small child or weak adolescent. Staffords can also be quite ‘mouthy’ dogs. They can use their mouths to ‘hold your hand’ and often will. This is quite typical behavior and must be trained to NOT do this. Do not be alarmed when a Stafford uses its mouth as it should be gentle and never hard or aggressive. Learn to know the difference and teach using positive reinforcement or gentle correction that this is unacceptable. All dogs, no matter the breed, should be supervised when with children. ALWAYS!

When properly exercised, trained and cared for a Stafford will spend its days lounging around, napping and waiting for the fun to begin. This is the ‘off-duty’ quietness described in the Breed Standard. At dog shows, although you will hear the excited ‘chirping’ sounds coming from many of them, you will also see many curled up asleep waiting for their turn in the ring.

A breeder friend of ours got back a dog she bred. The owners surrendered him saying he snapped at their child. Being that this is so uncommon a trait in Staffords they were perplexed. When the rescue coordinator finally got the dog into her possession, she took it to be vetted and discovered that the dog had such severe ear infections in both ears that both ear drums were burst! This dog was in such intense pain and had been for many many months! He had been a product of neglect, whether intentional or not, it does prove that for months he had put up with the poking, pulling and prodding of the children in this home until one day when poked in the ear he was in so much pain he could not take it. He didn’t attack the child. He merely snapped and growled a warning telling the child he was in pain and to stop its behavior. He tolerated the pain as long as he could and nobody noticed. Thankfully, he was treated, recovered and adopted by a new, more responsible, family. THIS illustrated the utmost in ‘trustworthy stability’!

Our favorite part of the description of the Stafford temperament is ‘a foremost all-purpose dog’. Staffords will try to do anything you ask of them. This is proven all the time when you look at the many canine activities and sports they participate in, and excel at! They are excellent athletes and can easily be kept in prime condition. They thrive on activity. They make good farm dogs, couch potatoes, disc dogs, dock dogs, weight pullers, they are excellent at agility, many can swim (please use life jackets) and love all sorts of activities – as long as they are with their people! Staffords are a VERY HAPPY BREED! That tail wags and that huge Stafford smile becomes infectious to all who are around the breed!

Coat Color

First let me state that we are not geneticists so in order to write this bit we have consulted a couple of Stafford folks who happen to also be experts in the field of genetics. The following information is what we gleaned from them. Thank you to Norman Berry (Rendorn) and Sian Hammond (Hammystaff).

(NOTE*** ONLY in America is B&T and Liver a DQ – in ALL other countries they are simply HIGHLY UNDESIRABLE)

The colors allowable section seems quite straight forward except when you get into the colors considered to be a disqualification there is some confusion.  Since ‘Black and Tan” actually refers to a genetic pattern, and not a coat color, it can be confusing. The Standard only refers to it as color, same with Liver which is a dilution. The dogs coat can indeed appear to be a black brindle with tan points (above eyes, cheeks, feet and lower legs, rear end, etc such as on a Rottweiler) but can also appear as black brindle with brindle points, red with fawn points, blue with fawn points, pied with tan points, tri-color – black brindle with white markings and tan points and any number of combinations such as these – if the dog has points it has the genetic marker for tan points and technically should be disqualified. However, since according to the written breed standard it is referred to as a color its not a DQ according to some. They should be identified based upon their markings, rather than their colorings to be genetically correct but they are not. It’s your call. We are a divided breed on this opinion.

Recessive genes are very unpredictable. The color of the parents is irrelevant, b&t or tri is not caused by the mixing of any two specific coat colors – which means both parents must pass the tan point gene on to that specific puppy. It’s got nothing to do with mating red to brindle –  black and tan, or, black and tan with white is NOT caused by color genes. The color of the parents is irrelevant as the black and tan coat is caused by one of the genes which dictates the pattern that the colors appear in on the coat.

The brindle gene creates stripes, the tan point gene creates the pattern as seen in Dobes, Rotts, Manch Terriers and so on.

Therefore, you could mate any two colors together and get the tan point pattern, IF both of them carry a tan point pattern gene. Makes no difference what color they are as B & T is not a color, it is a pattern.

The parents colors, will only affect the colors that the pattern appears in. ie, if the parents pass on red with black (ie masking etc) then black and tan pups will appear in the standard Rottie type coat. If one of the parents also passes on a brindle pattern gene, then then tan points will be brindled, not just tan. A dog can be what is classed as the black and tan pattern, but its colors can be red and cream, blue and fawn whatever. If one of the parents also passes on a brindle pattern gene, then then tan points may be brindled not jut tan.

The gene will only affect WHERE the colors go, not what they are.

For a B & T with brindle covered points to occur the brindle would have to carry two copies for brindle. For it not to happen would be for the brindle to carry one copy of red and one copy of brindle.

More specifically, a brindle carrying red, mated it to a red as described above (who like any other red, cannot have any brindle in it’s make up what so ever), there is a possibility that a red puppy could be the result. If the brindle parent it is not carrying red then a brindle puppy will be the result.

Now back to the B & T and summarize: should the above parents carry B+T the same formula will apply.

Red /red + B & T will guarantee a true B & T like the Doberman. A brindle/red + B & T MAY be like a Doberman, or, MAY have brindling covering tan points. A brindle to brindle will guarantee brindling covered tan points.

The argument made is that when the standard was written they didnt know about genetic markers so some take the term ‘Black and Tan’ literally and do not include the other variations in disqualification. That would be incorrect genetically speaking, however.

*Interesting fact – there is no such thing, genetically, as a solid black Stafford. All black looking Staffords are considered to be black brindle.

Liver is also to be disqualified. Again, genetically the term liver refers to a dilute, not simply the actual color of a liver. Check for a black nose. If the nose (foot pads also) appears brown or red the dog is more than likely a liver, a dilute.

The confusion begins when you look at a blue Stafford. Since blue is also a dilute it would be impossible for a blue Stafford to have a true black nose no matter how dark it appears – however – blue is an allowable color according to the Breed Standard. The founding fathers of this breed certainly had no intentions of a dog that was blue to start off with a disqualifying fault – to them – the nose appeared black and that was good enough. A Blue should have good pigment, just like other colors, but it will not be a true black – it shouldnt appear washed out or have gray or yellow eyes, however.

It does keep you on your toes, doesn’t it?! We produced a Blue and a Blue Brindle mating a Brindle to a Black Brindle – both carried the dilute gene even though we had not seen evidence of this behind the dam for 9 generations. It is best not to mate Blue to Blue. Blues produced from dark pigmented Brindle or Black Brindle should keep the dark pigment. The offspring should be mated back to Black Brindle or Brindle that doesnt carry the dilute gene or not mated at all. To breed for color and not for virtue will only weaken your qualities in other areas.

Blues, fawns and blue brindles arise from the action of the ‘d’ gene on the colors red, black brindle and brindle.

There are now DNA marker tests available to determine whether or not your Stafford carries the dilute gene responsible fro producing blue – also available is a test for Black & Tan patterning. VetGen offers both a test for Dilute (d) and also B&T (at)

*Note – The UK version of the Staffordshire Bull Terrier Breed Standard states that Black & Tan and Liver are ‘highly undesirable’  but the AKC version states they are to be disqualified.

Color & Disqualifications

Red, fawn, white, black or blue, or any of these colors with white. Any shade of brindle or any shade of brindle with white.

Black-and-tan or liver color to be disqualified.


The Stafford moves differently than the other Terrier breeds. To most all-rounder judges, the Stafford movement is quite misunderstood so oftentimes they tend to go with what is comfortable in the ring – whether that means bypass the Stafford due to lack of understanding it – or choosing a Stafford whose movement is more typical of a pretty show dog.

Stafford  gait wouldn’t be described as ‘pretty’ movement. They should not be run around the ring. They don’t ‘flow around the ring as if on air’ nor does the Stafford ‘hackney’ , ‘paddle’ or ‘pace’. The original Standard did not mention movement and still today is is very misunderstood. We read one description in a book that compared Stafford movement to that of ‘a drunken sailor’. While we don’t think it’s that quirky, it does at times seem a bit odd. A better description is to compare Stafford movement to that of a charging Rhino. No wasted energy. Effortless.

Legs moving parallel from front and rear – the dog shouldn’t be tripping all over itself or crossing over. Nor should it appear ‘piston-like’ from the rear. No hackneyed front movement. The front and rear should be moving parallel to one another. No looseness at all!

Now to us, parallel does not mean perpendicular to the earth, but lined up with one another when seen front to back and vice versa. The breed standard does not address convergence which changes depending upon the speed of the dogs gait. Some people interpret convergence/perpendicular movement as parallel.  We don’t.

In order to move well, there must be balance. Picture the dog in motion and imagine how movement might be affected by a short leg, or a long body, or more weight than the animal should be carrying to be balanced.  Staffords should not look hindered in movement at all. They should move easily, with purpose and confidence. There should not be a rolling gait, like in bulldogs. They should not be panting, wheezing and gasping around the show ring. You should see their topline (more correctly the backline) being held level (not flat) on the move as well as when standing. The head can drop to level when on the move and the tail carriage should be held low – level or slightly higher than level wouldn’t be penalized from us. A male Stafford may show a challenge tail at a show, but when you watch him move outside a show ring that tail drops, as well as when he is simply standing. However, a gay tail is not correct. Nor is a tail tightly tucked between the rear legs. Nor is a badly curled or overly long tail. Interestingly the Standard doesn’t mention a short tail.

Staffords should not ‘crawl on their belly’ around the ring, nor appear frightened in its movement at all. They should not crab and if the dog is trained it shouldn’t be straining on its lead to pull the handler around the ring – but if it is doing so because of confidence and exuberance – and not out of fear or aggression – give it a chance to move again and see if you can detect correct movement.

Just a nice easy flow which is rear driven – looks to be ‘pushed’ from the rear with power, yet remaining parallel.  Watch for those rear foot pads to be shown as the dog moves away from you. Again – moving with purpose and ease. No struggling, no gasping for air, no rolling, crabbing or kicking.


Free, powerful and agile with economy of effort. Legs moving parallel when viewed from front or rear. Discernible drive from hind legs.

Construction in Relation to Movement

This article is an attempt to give a shortened version about construction as it relates to movement of the dog.  The whys and wherefores of the main points are discussed. Should you wish to pursue this further, there are several very good books that explain construction and movement in greater detail. We also have several articles posted on The Stafford Knot website about this topic.

Before we analyze the points of the dog, an overall view of the animal must first be obtained. How does the animal appear to you? Does it look like a representative of its breed? Is it balanced in its angulations front to rear? When moving, is your impression one of all parts flowing harmoniously, or three dogs trying to move at the one time?

To assess soundness of construction and movement, it is important to understand the ‘bits’ that make up the dog. Every dog has the same type and number of bones (apart from length of tail) but the relative lengths of the bones give the great variation of appearance to the breeds. There are ideal proportions written down for each breed (the ‘standard’), but the basic bone structure is similar. Ideal proportions for each breed usually relate to two main areas:- 1. height (at the wither) to length (from the point of the chest or prosternum to the rear edge of the pelvis or ischium) and 2. depth of chest (wither to the lower edge of the chest) to length of leg (usually measured from the point of the elbow to the ground). The proportions combined with the angulations that are ideal for the breed combine to produce the characteristic movement of the breed.

Think of the dog as a system of levers and pulleys. The back acts as a bridge connecting the front and rear assemblies. If the ratio of the lengths of the bones of the front and rear are even, then the dog is balanced for that breed. The ideal lengths vary between breeds, but the principle always holds.

When trying to justify why relative lengths of different bones give better movement than others, one can go quite insane if you try to fit all breeds of dog to the one ideal. Having bred German Shepherds, my idea of an ideal construction is very different to someone with a toy dog or a Greyhound. The best way to look at dog construction is through function. What is the function of the breed, what is the characteristic movement for that breed and so on.

Movement and construction by function

To try to group different construction and movement ‘styles’, I would divide dogs into three broad categories:-

1. The walking or strutting dog, e.g. Fox Terrier.

2. The trotting dog, e.g. the German Shepherd.

3. The galloping dog, e.g. the Greyhound.

All the breeds range between these three types depending on size, function and individual breed selection characteristics eg. Such as the need to work in muddy conditions in the Belgian Shepherds, others are required to be exceptionally flexible and nimble eg the Kelpie.

Type 1 – the walking or strutting breeds. These breeds have a short bouncy action, where quite often the forequarter assembly is steep, they often have short backs with a reasonable turn of hindquarter for agility. The pasterns are often short and upright, usually asking for short tight feet. An example of this is the Fox Terrier.

Type 2 – the trotting breeds. These breeds are used where a tireless, and preferably economical trotting action is called for. Many of the working breeds fit into this category, with differences mostly in the forequarter where added nimbleness is asked for, eg. the Collie breeds, which are lighter boned and more open in angulation than the German Shepherd. The Shepherd is not being asked to be especially nimble, rather a tireless worker at its natural gait, the trot. The ideal German Shepherd dog is one that covers the maximum amount of ground with the minimum amount of effort, ie. fewer steps, translating to good reach and drive. Pasterns are longer and more sloping, giving better spring or flexibility, feet toe length medium to short, preferably with tight ligaments.

Type 3 – the galloping breeds. These breeds are used where great turns of speed are needed. This type is mostly found in the hunting dogs, particularly in the sight hounds e.g. Greyhounds. Here the maximum amount of thrust comes from longer, very powerful and well muscled hindquarters which push the dog up and stretch well forwards with very mobile, muscular shoulders, and very flexible pasterns. The feet have medium to long toes with “flatter” but still very flexible toes.

Forequarter Angulation and Movement

This is made up of several major components, being placement of shoulder, height at the wither, relative lengths of the shoulder blade, upper arm, foreleg and pastern – these all combine to determine the length of reach of the dog. The effectiveness of the reach will ultimately also be affected by the chest formation (which can alter with maturity), the strength and effectiveness of the hindquarter drive as it is transmitted up and forward along the back. With good balance of angulation, both reach and drive should be equally effective.


Length of reach of the forequarter assembly is determined by the lay of the shoulder blade, the relative lengths of the scapula (shoulder blade) and the humerus (upper arm), the length of foreleg, and the ‘arc of movement’ that the foreleg moves through.

Placement of Shoulder Blade

The definitions or terms used in this area are:

Well laid back – with the prosternum prominent (ie. visible in front of the point of shoulder when viewed from the side), which allows for maximum arc of movement from the top of the shoulder blade.

Upright (steep) – lacking prosternum – level with the point of shoulder or not visible when viewed from the side. The effect on movement at the trot is one of loose elbows (or lack of support by the chest) when seen coming towards one.

The wither is the area along the top of the shoulder blades, which obviously in turn relates to the placement of the shoulder. Most breeds call for a prominent or well developed wither – which can have a different meaning between breeds. When viewing the dog from the side, the withers should be higher than the middle of the back (in most breeds – lower in the OESD) and shouldn’t dip below the backline on the move, nor should it have any wrinkle behind.

The height of wither is determined by how high the top of the shoulder blades are relative to the top of the dorsal spines of the vertebrae of the back.

High withers – the tops of the shoulder blades are higher than the top of the dorsal spines – this obviously gives the tightest muscling over the top of the shoulder blades (as there are shorter muscles), in turn giving firmer movement throughout the forequarter. Seen from the side the wither is higher than the middle of the back. Should be no wrinkle behind withers.

Level withers – where the top of the dorsal vertebrae are level with the top of the dorsal spines. This gives more room for movement over the withers, allowing the shoulder to drop slightly in movement. Viewed from the side the wither is level with the back.

Flat withers (low) – the top of the shoulder blades are lower than the top of the dorsal spines. This allows a large degree of laxity during movement, generally causing falling on the forequarter. Viewed from the side the wither is lower than the middle of the back.

** If there is balanced movement, the wither should remain slightly above the line of the back during movement, hence the term “maintained a good (or high) wither at all speeds while gaiting”

Forequarter angulation

1. Very good forequarter angulation, with a maximum shoulder angle of 90’ ie. very good lay back of shoulder and very good length and lay of upper arm. This gives maximum length and reach.

2. Most commonly seen shoulder angulation of 105’, with reasonable lay of shoulder and good length of upper arm, but slightly steep in placement – typical of a trotting breed. Good to very good reach.

3. Good layback of shoulder blade, but short steep upper arm, giving a restricted reach. Angle 120’. With a short steep upper arm, one is more likely to see a rather hackneyed gait in front.

4.Steeper placement of shoulder, but good length of upper arm. 120’ angle is typical of galloping breeds, slightly restricted in reach during the walk, but at  the  trot or gallop, the shoulder blade top moves backwards allowing for greater reach.

**In summary, the longer the upper arm (humerus), the better the reach, regardless of the length and lay of the shoulder blade.

Length of foreleg – each breed usually a fairly definite ratio of the length of foreleg relative to the height at wither and the depth of chest. In the GSD, this should ideally be 45% chest to 55% leg, ie. more leg than chest. Adult bitches may approach 50/50 by full maturity. Too short in foreleg, and or too deep in chest, both conditions detract from the ideal and will restrict the length of reach. Where dogs are excessively deep in chest, they tend to tire more easily when gaited for any length of time.


The pasterns act as the cushioning device for the load on the front legs during movement.

Short, upright pasterns have a reduced flexibility, and are commonly seen in the terrier breeds and those where a short bouncy action is called for.

Good medium length and angle of pastern (15’-20’) will allow great spring and flexibility of the pastern, reflected in a smoother gait as seen in the German Shepherd and the sight hounds.

Too long in pastern or too great an angle in relation to the foreleg, will result in loss of spring, over extension of the ligaments and a looseness (paddling effect) when viewed from front-on during movement. If severe, the dog will fall on the forehand.

Length of body – this is made up of several sections, and if correctly measured, is done so from the front of the prosternum to the end of the pelvis (the ischium). It is made up of the rib cage, the loin and the width of the hindquarter.

Rib cage – this area is from the prosternum in the front to the back of the ribs. It protects the heart and lungs, as well as the liver and stomach more caudally. Along the top of the rib cage is considered the true “back” and this extends from the wither to the loin. {*Many people when describing the back do so from the wither to the croup, or conversely, refer to the “backline or “topline” as a unit from the wither to the base of tail.}

Good length of rib – is considered a virtue in most breeds, allowing for greater lung room and endurance. “Well ribbed back” is a term used to highlight a good length of rib. Too short a rib cage – is generally considered undesirable as is too excessive a tuck up (“herring gutted”)

Spring of rib Most breeds ask for a good spring of rib, so as to allow for maximum lung expansion when needed, but other breeds may deem it attractive to be barrel ribbed, eg. the British Bulldog, and some go for the deep narrow chest, eg. the Borzoi.

The spring of rib when viewed from the front will affect the stance of the dog (see diagrams below).

The chest- generally refers to the forward section of the rib cage and must be looked at both from the front to see spring of rib and the side to see the depth – generally it should reach to the elbows when viewed from the side. If the chest is too shallow (side view) or too narrow (when view from the front), both result with insufficient support for the elbows, and looseness of elbows will result. Forward placement of the shoulders will similarly result in insufficient support for the elbows during movement.

Chests will with maturity, “drop” and broaden, and the elbows will become firmer. Too much chest development can result in excessive depth of chest relative to height and this will start to cause restrictions in reach and reduction in endurance. This can be seen more commonly in bitches after one or two litters. Narrow deep chested dogs have a higher risk of being affected by bloat as they get older.

From the side, the placement of shoulder relative to the chest becomes more obvious. Well laid back shoulder blade will generally have a good (more prominent) prosternum. Forward placed or steep shoulder blades have very little or no prosternum visible from the side view.

Stance in front (average breeds) – Diagrams

1. Correct – the legs drop straight to the ground. Elbows close to the sides of the chest, should move with tight elbows.

2. Barrel ribbed – too wide – wide front movement – elbows out, feet in, paddling effect, ‘loose at elbows’ and/or “out at elbow”

3. Slab sided – stands too narrow, elbows in, feet out (“east west”), looseness of elbow. Shallow chested dogs are similarly affected.


The back is an area which many people overlook as it seems to be so obvious that it connects the back end to the front. The back is, in effect, a bridge between the two halves of the dog, and the strongest bridge has a slight rise over its apex. The ideal back is firm in movement. Movement of the back will cause loss of forward drive.

The length of back can also affect movement. If it is too short, the movement is restricted, and the dog is unable to drive properly; if it is too long, there will be bounce and loss of drive (see section on coupling).

The overall “backline” or “topline” where one is referring to the outline from the wither to the tail base can be greatly affected by the strength of ligamentation as well as the relative lengths of the back, loin and croup.

Roached backs –  **If the middle of the back is arching up higher than the wither during movement, this is termed a roached back and is incorrect in most breeds.

Some breeds, notably GSD’s can be quite strongly ligamented over the back when young, and while standing may have a “roached” appearance. Additionally, many handlers unfortunately create this impression by setting puppies up in exaggerated stances. During movement, most of this rise should disappear. This effect should settle by 12-24 months, and while a firm back during movement is desirable, excessive roaching during movement even in the younger classes is not desirable.

As dogs age (particularly over 6 years of age), the ligaments stretch, loose some firmness, and the back transmission will suffer.

The loin. – this refers to the section from the end of the rib cage to the wing of the pelvis and consists of the lumber vertebrae. Most standards call for well developed muscling in this area, which generally should translate in movement to firm ligaments over this section of the backline.

There is considerable variation between breeds as to what is considered ideal length. The length of loin or “the coupling” is what creates most of the impression of length of body when considering the height to length proportions of a dog. Forward placed or steep shoulders can also give an impression of greater length of body.

Dogs which are too short in the coupling cannot extend properly while gaiting. Tall well angulated dogs that are short coupled cannot get their hindquarters under themselves sufficiently to drive effectively from their hocks. Most of the thrust of movement goes upwards, not forwards. Dogs which are too long in the coupling dissipate much of the forward drive along the back, particularly if the ligaments of the back are soft. The result is a back which bounces during movement.

1. Good length of coupling – the drive is transmitted with minimal loss along the back (providing the ligamentation is good).

2. Too short in coupling, can if well angulated result in a restriction of reach and drive, as much of the drive is transmitted up and over the back. If this is combined with a low or level wither, the effect seen is “falling on the forehand” – a desired trait in the OESD.

3. Too long in the coupling, where the drive is lost in the centre of the back due to the length, causing a bouncing movement. If combined with soft ligaments, the effect can produce a “swamp” or “dip back”.


The croup is the area from where the “wing” or front edge of the pelvis starts to the base of the tail. The length and angle of the croup affects the eventual width of thigh as seen from the side. While there are only small relative variations in the actual length of pelvis’ within a breed (bar a small variation for male versus female), the angle of the croup and the set of tail can very definitely visually alter the length seen when judging.

The angle of the croup affects the angle at which the hindquarter functions. Some believe that the croup has little effect, but most agree that too short and steep a croup, results in loss of hindquarter drive through an upwards rather than forwards motion. Ideally, a croup should be of good length and laid at a gentle angle to the back so that the drive up through the hindquarter flows forwards along the back without a break. A croup that is too short and in particular, too steep will considerably reduce the arc of movement that is possible from the hindquarter, resulting in restrictions in drive.

1. At 40º- too steep, where the angle of drive is too high, causing the back to rise during movement. Restricted in rear swing of the hindquarter due to the steep croup.

2. At 22º- croup good, the angle of drive is not too steep, where the thrust is forwards along the back. Good swing of the hindquarter (both forwards and backwards) is allowed by the croup.

3. At 10º – croup too flat, angle of drive is lower than the back, and considerable thrust is lost as it is not transmitted forwards. The forward reach of the hindquarter is slightly restricted.

The angle of the croup should ideally flow in smooth line from the backline, allowing for maximum transmission of drive along the back. The ideal angle of the croup would be between 20’-30’ (from the line of the back). This variation is needed to allow for differences in lengths of backs and croups. The stronger back would probably tend to the 30’, whereas the longer back would tend to the 20’. The steeper the angle of the croup, the more it will affect the forward motion of the drive or hindquarter thrust.

The angle of the croup can change with age – young dogs with strong (dare we say slightly roached backs) may be rather steep in the croup, as the back settles down, so the angle of the croup may improve (seen around 12-24 months).

Hindquarter angulation and movement.

As with the forequarter, the relative lengths and angles of the croup, upper and lower thigh and the length of hock with greatly affect the drive and its effectiveness.

Correct hindquarter angulation must be seen relative to what is desired in the breed, relative to its characteristic movement. This is best be assessed from the side when the hind leg is positioned so that the hock is perpendicular to the ground.

The ideal angulation is one where the length of the femur is equal to the length of tibia/fibula (lower thigh). The longer both the femur and tibia/fibula are, the greater the turn of stifle for that breed. A quick way to check for equal lengths of femur and tibia is to raise the hock (perpendicularly, of course) up to the end of the pelvis. If the point of the hock extends beyond the rear edge of the pelvis, then the tibia is too long in relation to the femur. Rarely if ever is the femur too long.

Over angulation. This occurs when the length of the lower thigh is too long in the relation to the length of femur or upper thigh. This results in the hock (when perpendicular) being placed considerably further behind a line dropped behind the pelvis than when the lengths are equal. (The term over angulation also occasionally applies to those breeds with well-turned stifles, eg. the German Shepherd.)

The longer the lower thigh is in relation to the length of femur, the greater the amount of turn of stifle. The longer the hock in combination with a longer lower thigh, the more unstable the hock during movement. Shorter hocks will give greater stability, particularly where there is a longer lower thigh

1. Short femur, long lower thigh, long hock.

2. Short femur, long lower thigh, short hock.

3. Short femur, longer lower thigh, where the point of the hock is behind the end of the pelvis when raised perpendicular from the ground.

Insufficient angulation (straight stifled). This is desired in some breeds, excessively so in the Chow Chow. It is, however, not a good direction to follow due to the increasing instability of the knee as the leg becomes straighter, placing more and more stress on the knee during exercise.

The knee is the major pivotal joint of the hindquarters and it takes all the strain of braking and twisting. Hock problems can be present as they become very upright, and will occasionally even bend forwards (‘double jointed’).

Hindquarter too steep, eg. the Chow Chow – In a hindquarter lacking angulation, the hock when perpendicular does not extend behind the end of the pelvis.


The knee (or stifle joint). This is (from side to side) not as stable as is the human knee which is a lot wider. Due to this narrowness and in conjunction with a straight stifle (lack of good turn at the knee), the knee cap (the patella) can become unstable, and patella luxation may occur. Patella luxation is when the knee cap ‘jumps’ out of its groove and the dog cannot bear proper weight on the leg. This condition is considered genetic in origin, particularly so in toy breeds, but can also develop after accidents involving the ligaments of the knee. If the patella groove is deep, then patella luxation is less likely to occur.

The relative instability of a straighter stifle can cause the larger breeds to be more prone to damaging the anterior cruciate ligament – like a human football injury. This type of injury is not however, totally confined to those dogs with straighter stifles. It can occur in any hyperactive dog.

Due to the abnormal stance from a straight stifle, problems associated from excessive wear of the cartilages of both the hocks and knees can occur in the heavier breeds, particularly Rottweilers. This condition is often associated with overweight young dogs.


Tightness and firmness of the hocks during movement is desirable. The stability of the hocks is related to the relative lengths of all three sections – the upper thigh (femur), lower thigh (tibia/fibula), and the hock. Too long a hock, particularly when accompanied by a long lower thigh, allows for considerable instability of the hindquarter drive. Some breeds may stand cow hocked due to more angulation of the hindquarter eg. German Shepherds, but during their natural gait (the trot), the hocks should be firm and remain upright.

Length of hock relative to end size in puppies. Long hocks tend to go with increased size of the adult dog and a straighter hindquarter. Shorter hocks are more desirable in most breeds as they often go with better turn of stifle and greater firmness of hocks, therefore better transmission of drive. (*This is well worth noticing when purchasing a puppy, particularly in breeds with a top size limit of adults.)

Balance and Transmission

Balance – With balanced angulation both front and rear, and moving with a firm back; a dog of moderately good construction can generally out move a dog with just a good front, or just a good rear end. Ideally both fore and hindquarter angulation and construction should be such that the reach and drive are of equal power and effectiveness – inbalance will result in restrictions and a failure to maintain an even flowing gait.

Transmission is the force generated from the hindquarter thrust (or drive), which transmits along the back pushing the forequarter forward. The forequarter movement is more of a reaching, grabbing movement; and the hindquarter thrust allows maximum use of the forequarter construction.

If the back  and the croup are good, then the transmission of the drive from the hindquarter through the back into the forequarter, will be transmitted smoothly and without loss of power.

If the back is too soft or too long  and then the transmission forward is somewhat dissipated and the overall picture is one of a reduced ‘flow’, ie. the back will bounce around losing much of its power. Dogs with backs that are too short or too roached are similarly affected by a reduced transmission of power.

If there is good hindquarter construction and poor forequarter construction, the hindquarter drive tends to overrun the forequarter and so create the impression of ‘running down hill’ or falling on the forehand. The transmission is up through the back, then down, ie. a pounding effect, as the drive is excessive in relation to what the front can achieve.

If there is good forequarter construction and poor hindquarter construction, the hindquarter drive is insufficient to move the forequarter properly and consequently movement is restricted both front and rear and the hocks do not reach under the dog to achieve a good drive.

With balanced fore and hindquarter angulation, with good proportions and firm ligaments, the well constructed dog should approach the ideal movement for that breed.

A well constructed dog that has balanced movement is a joy to watch, the reach and drive are equally effective, and the dog seems to flow effortlessly around the ring with minimal effort and maximum ground cover. Unfortunately, it can be a rare event as well!!!

Construction in Relationship to Movement

Thank you goes to Tom & Julie Bridge of Astana GSD’s for this article

Not much can be said about the hindquarters bit of the standard as it is fairly clear and concise. When you are looking at a dog’s rear assembly, their are multiple points to look at. BUT, they cannot be viewed as separate points. They have to be viewed as one assembly and how it fits together.

Well muscled means hard and distinct but shouldn’t mean bunched and bulging, although the upper thigh should have strength to it. The appearance of power should balance the forequarters so that the dog doesn’t look like a ‘tadpole’ or look too overdone in the rear.  The muscling should be long and lean and well defined.

The hocks should be ‘well let down’. They should be straight and not overly long or too short. From the side view look at the imaginary line drawn from the point of the hock down towards the inner most curve on the stifle. That line should be at a downward angle. Keep in mind that the musculature of the stifle extends itself beyond the point of the hock. This slight difference will enable the dog to achieve greater drive off his rear.

The ‘bend of stifle’ includes the entire front portion of the rear leg. When you look at the stifle in profile, you have to look at the entire front of the leg. This should be a nice, deep curve that does not stop until it is beyond the point of the hock. Let your eye travel from the beginning of the front of the leg all the way to the top of the toe. You want to see a nice long curve.

When you view a dog from the rear, you should see well-developed musculature on both the inside and outside of the leg. The hocks should be perpendicular with no turning in or out. The foot should be well padded. Take a close look at the toe pads from this angle. What you do not want to see is a lack of muscles on either the inside or the outside of the leg from the rear.

Again, you want to see a nice tight, well padded foot in the rear same as in the front feet . Nails trimmed.


“The hindquarters should be well muscled, hocks let down with stifles well bent. Legs should be parallel when viewed from behind. Dewclaws, if any, on the hind legs are generally removed. Feet as in front.”

The easiest way to determine correct coat on a Staffordshire Bull Terrier is to put your hands on them. Run your hand along the coat from shoulder to croup. The coat should feel hard and smooth and sit close to the skin. The hairs themselves should be short and lie flat. When you rub your hand along in the opposite direction, the hairs should feel spiky.

The hairs should not be soft, wirelike, silky or long. They should be short and straight. The Stafford should have equal covering of coat, not appear balding on the underside of the neck or chest.

We have observed that Staffords of different colors have different coat textures and types. Even in pied animals the coat may appear a different texture in the white areas than in the brindle or red areas. We can offer no explanation for this, just noting here.

There is no need to trim the Stafford, however, many people do trim the underside of the tail. The Stafford is to be shown with full whiskers.

(* Authors note – We have here a bitch who has an obsession with whiskers, whether on other dogs or on the face of men. She is constantly trying to chew them off, bite them and pull them. We have no idea why she does this but in her 6 years we have been unable to get her to stop. As a result, we often find ourselves showing dogs with short, stubby whiskers and have had to explain to judges how they got that way, thru no fault of our own. This bitch has been spayed, as part of the reasoning behind it was obsessive, neurological behaviors which we did not wish to pass along. One line of thinking behind this type of behavior in dogs goes back to vaccinosis – not of this particular animal perhaps – but the over vaccination of those behind her. There are various articles on this theory on the internet. We are currently treating this bitch with homeopathic remedies in an attempt to curb her obsessive behaviors.)


Smooth, short and close to the skin, not to be trimmed or de-whiskered

The easiest way to determine correct coat on a Staffordshire Bull Terrier is to put your hands on them. Run your hand along the coat from shoulder to croup. The coat should feel hard and smooth and sit close to the skin. The hairs themselves should be short and lie flat. When you rub your hand along in the opposite direction, the hairs should feel spiky.

The hairs should not be soft, wirelike, silky or long. They should be short and straight. The Stafford should have equal covering of coat, not appear balding on the underside of the neck or chest.

We have observed that Staffords of different colors have different coat textures and types. Even in pied animals the coat may appear a different texture in the white areas than in the brindle or red areas. We can offer no explanation for this, just noting here.

There is no need to trim the Stafford, however, many people do trim the underside of the tail. The Stafford is to be shown with full whiskers.

(* Authors note – We have here a bitch who has an obsession with whiskers, whether on other dogs or on the face of men. She is constantly trying to chew them off, bite them and pull them. We have no idea why she does this but in her 6 years we have been unable to get her to stop. As a result, we often find ourselves showing dogs with short, stubby whiskers and have had to explain to judges how they got that way, thru no fault of our own. This bitch has been spayed, as part of the reasoning behind it was obsessive, neurological behaviors which we did not wish to pass along. One line of thinking behind this type of behavior in dogs goes back to vaccinosis – not of this particular animal perhaps – but the over vaccination of those behind her. There are various articles on this theory on the internet. We are currently treating this bitch with homeopathic remedies in an attempt to curb her obsessive behaviors.)


“Legs straight and well boned, set rather far apart, without looseness at the shoulders and showing no weakness at the pasterns, from which point the feet turn out a little. Dewclaws on the forelegs may be removed. The feet should be well padded, strong and of medium size.

Most everyone will agree on this portion of the breed standard but they may not interpret it the same way. Looking at the Stafford from the front you should see pretty much exactly what you see in the above photo. This dog has an excellent front in our opinions. He is well boned, but not course or bull doggy in any way. The bone is substantial and round, but not heavy or bulky. The legs are straight, the pasterns upright and the feet should turn out slightly. In fact, the dog above may have been ‘stacked’ as I have seen him stand on his own in person and his feet usually do turn out a little bit more than in this photo. Handlers tend to straighten Stafford feet making them appear to point forward, when our standard clearly states they should turn out a little. The legs are set ‘rather’ far apart – wait – there’s that word again – ‘rather’. And who is to say what degree determines the feet turning out ‘a little’….well, the standard has its vague points. We discussed this in the first entry here.

Check to see if the elbows bow outward or seem tight. Check for any looseness in the shoulder. In puppies and young dogs a little looseness will correct itself, hopefully. Check length of upper arm. Length of upper arm  should be equal to the length of scapula. Use your hand to measure, dont rely on your eyes, especially with marked or brindle dogs. Your eye could very well deceive you. There should be some daylight under the dog – remember this is a square breed, not a low to the ground ‘squatty’ breed (even though we were told by one judge that they are to be ‘low and squatty’. He obviously didn’t know the breed standard at all). Check that the feet are well padded, tight, strong and not too large or too small. Poor feet are one of our pet peeves. Toes should not be splayed, flat or cat like. Toes should touch each other and the pads thick. Nails should be neatly trimmed. Some say that in a Stafford with an ideal foot the nails rarely need trimming, especially if they are kept fit by regular roadwork. One other thing we want to mention – it isn’t necessarily a fault in our standard, however, given the history of this breed it could prove dangerous to the dog – a short outer toe. You see this every now and then and it isn’t correct. A short outer toe could get caught on something or get pulled out, broken or off completely in a scrap.

A Stafford needs a good spring of rib. They shouldn’t be slab-sided nor barrel chested. You will see a barrel ribbed Stafford usually with more Bull Dog traits such as a rolling gait. It has been described to us as having the greatest radius in the center of the ribcage whereas a correct well sprung ribbed Stafford has the greatest radius about a third of the way down when viewed from the top. Slab sided Staffords are more difficult to asses as they may not fill out before 3-4 years old. We saw a handsome black brindle male at a Specialty one year. We noticed him right away but he seemed a bit slab-sided. We recently saw this same dog again a couple years later and he was no longer slab-sided. He had excellent rib spring at 3-4 years old.

A Staffords shoulders should be well laid back. This can easily be measured using your hands on the scapula and upper arm – and also evident when the Stafford is viewed from the front position in that upright shoulders may be indicated by shallow brisket. With proper layback, the brisket will appear to be deep and have width to it. A good way to measure is to place your hand on the brisket from the front and measure. An average four finger width is about right.

From the side view, the elbow should line up to the bottom of the brisket. Sometimes the brisket falls just below the elbow but shouldnt be significantly above or below that point. There have been many arguments as to what percentage of layback is correct. It is generally said that that the scapula should lie someplace between 30-45 degrees  to the earth – or at a slightly greater than 90 degree angle to the humerus. If the angle is too upright it can result in a stilted gait and a dip in the topline behind the withers (quite evident on the move – but can be hidden in Staffords carrying excessive weight) and looseness in construction of the forequarters. Another issue that can crop up is overloaded shoulders which is not only unattractive, but will alter movement. This is very evident when the Stafford is viewed from the front.

*Authors note – If you view Staffordshire Bull Terriers judged in show rings around the world you will notice that at the end of a class as the judge is making his final decisions he will ask the handlers to face the dogs forward, towards the center of the ring and facing the judge. Only in America do they sometimes skip this part of the assessment. By viewing the dogs from the profile position only, the judge cannot accurately see front and rear construction, but for some reason they don’t bother. Our guess is that American judges are unfamiliar with our breed and judges education in the country is severely lacking. It is for this reason we decided to add ‘our two cents worth’ to this website. Another bothersome habit we noticed in America is that judges rarely watch the dog the entire two minutes of judging. They do not usually watch all of the movement part of the judging and sometimes only perform a cursory exam. In other countries, after a thorough exam looking at and for specific things like we describe on these pages,  the Stafford is asked to be moved two times up and back down the center diagonal mat – or at outdoor shows – from one imaginary corner along a line to the other. It is the judge who moves into position to look at forward, rear and side gait as he/she needs to view it. The handler is responsible for watching where the judge is and switching the lead thus keeping the Stafford on the judge side at all times. They may ask for one more ‘down and back’ if they are looking for something specific or if the dog wasn’t moving correctly for some reason. Usually it can be put down to either poor handling skills or poor training. In America they seem to rush onto the next dog and stay on a very tight schedule. In our opinions, this can be very irresponsible since judging outcome can be responsible for breeding results and should be taken more seriously. Also, each exhibit has paid the same entry fee and respectfully deserves equal time in front of the judge. We cant tell you how many times when showing under invited breed specialists from around the world we hear handlers exclaim how appreciative they are of getting the judges full attention and respect no matter who they are or what type of dog they bring into the ring. We also hear the flip side of that from some who will complain that the judging is ‘taking all day’. We have to laugh at that as it seems to say if they rush they will point to anyone – if they take their time they just may find the good ‘un.