The Nanny Dog
When I was 9, my best friend got a family dog. Her name was Lacie (the dog, not the friend) and was a black Staffordshire Terrier.
At this time I was a little wary of dogs (bad experiences on holiday) but Lacie was friendly, playful and was great with my friend’s even younger sisters.
Years later, I realised there was a stigma attached to this breed of dog, along with other breeds now identified by the Dangerous Dogs Act (1991).
The Act bans the breeding of certain types of dogs (Pit Bull Terrier, Japanese Tosa, Dogo Argentino and Fila Brasileiro) but as you can see, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier is not on the list.
Despite this, Staffies do seem to get banded together with other more breeds that may pose a threat to humans, if raised in a certain way. But Staffies are very different in their nature, despite the resemblance to their scarier cousins.
So why the stigma?
- Appearance – Well, for one the Staffie does have a resemblance to the less stocky but larger terriers, the American Staffordshire Terrier and the American Pit Bull Terrier.
- Cross-breeding – When you cross a Staffie with another breed, you are diluting the good traits with other potentially more aggressive traits, so purebred Staffies might be mistaken for these less reliably good-natured crosses.
- Aggression to other dogs – Because of their history (below), they can show aggression to other dogs and animals. But with puppy socialisation classes, this can be eradicated.
The fact is, they actually make terrible guard dogs – they like people too much!
Here’s a little history about the breed…
The History of the Nanny Dog
In the 17th and 18th centuries bull and bear baiting were big sources of entertainment. It was believed that fear in the bull supposedly made the meat more tender and therefore taste better, so they would set dogs were on the bulls. If the bull meat was tender, it could be legally sold for eating.
The dogs used were Old English Bulldogs, who were later crossed with Terriers resulting in a breed known as the Bull and Terrier.
When bull and bear baiting was made illegal, dog fighting still continued in private. The Staffordshire potters carried this on strongly, and bred dogs to be smaller, more resilient and generally tougher for fighting.
But these dogs were not bred for aggression – at least not to humans.
Because they were kept in such close quarters with families and young children, any dog that was becoming a threat to the family was put down instantly.
This made the purebred Staffie what it is today – a breed known for being trustworthy even amongst the youngest of children.
Hence the nickname…
“The Nanny Dog”
Only two other breeds are recognised by the kennel club as being so good with young children (Labradors and Boxers being the other two).
Here’s what the Kennel club says about the traits of the Staffordshore Bull Terrier:
- Indomitably courageous
- Highly intelligent
- Affectionate, especially with children
- Totally reliable
The effect of the prejudice
Battersea Dogs and Cats Home sees more Staffies come through its doors than any other breed.
The reason for this is the very same as the reason that they make good pets! They are not aggressive to us, so are useless to those who want them as weapons of intimidation.
In truth, the Staffie has been given a bad reputation because of what it looks like, and not what it acts like. They do make a great family pet, are loyal, loving and brilliant with people.
So if you’re considering adopting a family dog, don’t dismiss the Staffie!