If you divided all of the dogs currently housed in rescue centres in the UK into breed and type subsections, the one dog that you would find most frequently being cared for by interim shelters would certainly be the Staffordshire Bull Terrier. Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, the UK’s largest pet rescue and rehoming shelter, states that at any given time, up to 80% of the dogs under their care are Staffordshire Bull Terriers or cross breeds/ mixed breeds with Staffordshire Bull Terrier breeding and looks, and most other dog welfare organisations would return similar statistics. But why is this the case? It is certainly true that the Staffordshire Bull Terrier (or ‘Staffy’ as they are often known) and cross breeds of Staffy type dogs are probably the most popular and widely owned dog breed within the UK. So is it simply a case of doing the maths- the amount of Staffys awaiting rehoming is simply indicative of the prevalence of Staffys in the UK as a whole? The figures would seem to indicate that this is not the case. So that being said, why are dog rehoming centres full of Staffordshire Bull Terriers? Read on to find out our thoughts.
The Staffordshire Bull Terrier or ‘Staffy’ is a British dog breed from the terrier grouping, that has a history going back many centuries within the UK. Staffys were kept and bred in the 18th century for use as fighting dogs, and were highly prized for their courage, determination and ability to inflict damage upon their opponents when encouraged. This behaviour was trained and enabled by the dog’s owners, and not something in the nature of the dogs themselves. Over time, as the UK’s animal rights laws and policies evolved and this behaviour was outlawed, the Staffy remained popular due to their adaptability and calm, trustworthy natures, leading to them becoming popular and much valued as family pets.
In order to be able to address the question of why rescue centres often house a disproportionate number of Staffordshire Bull Terriers and dogs with part-Staffy breeding, it is firstly important to understand the reasons for the popularity of the breed itself. The Staffordshire Bull Terrier has enjoyed a long and distinguished history as a popular family pet that is calm, quiet, loyal, tolerant and good with children- and not prone to aggression or erratic behaviour or other undesirable traits. The Staffy has a large and committed following of fans and responsible owners who class their Staffy as part of the family, and really appreciate the breed and its traits for all of the right reasons. That being said, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier’s impressive businesslike appearance and the fact that they can be easily trained, has led to them unfortunately also becoming popular with the type of dog owners who give genuine dog lovers and canine enthusiasts a bad name. The type of people who wish to have a dog to enhance their own ‘street cred’ or status, and to make themselves look impressive, threatening or worthy of respect, will often choose a Staffy as their pet of choice to help them do this. Sadly, for a small proportion of people who do not have the wherewithal and ability to stand on their own two feet without using another animal to boost their ego, the Staffy is simply an accessory used to enhance their perceived status. Understandably, wanting to own a dog because it looks ‘impressive’ or enhances their owner’s perception of themselves, are not the right reasons for owning a dog. People who would choose to keep a dog for these reasons are unlikely to see their dog as anything more than a tool of convenience, and are exponentially more likely to not take good care of their dog, neglect it or mistreat it, or even deliberately bully and train it to show aggression and to use as a threat. This is the key to why rescue centres are full to bursting with Staffy dogs and Staffy types- Irresponsible owners who either mistreat their dogs to the point that they themselves can no longer control them, or that find that the reality of owning a status dog is more trouble than it is worth and so neglect them. This then leads to a disproportionate number of Staffys being abandoned when it becomes clear that owning a dog is hard work and requires a lot of effort, or in some cases, police or RSPCA intervention removing the dog from an untenable living environment.
Any poorly trained dog that is bullied into aggression, or encouraged to act out, is a difficult or potentially dangerous dog. This is not unique to Staffys- even the smallest teacup Yorkie can be a terror if mistreated or incorrectly trained. Humanity domesticated dogs from wolves in their wild state many centuries ago, and as such, humanity has shaped the behaviour, temperament and attitude that every single dog displays today. We are responsible for the animals that we have tamed, and any dog that lives in the UK today is the result of the way it has been treated. So put simply, while the vast majority of Staffys are calm, easygoing, loyal and non-aggressive dogs, some Staffys are difficult or even dangerous- and this is all down to the people that owned and trained them before giving them up. One key fact to note about Staffys, is that what causes some Staffys to be bad tempered, aggressive or badly behaved, is also what can potentially be their salvation- their receptiveness to training and overriding desire to please their masters. Staffys are intelligent, loyal dogs and in the vast majority of cases, Staffys that have been trained to be aggressive (or simply not trained at all) can be successfully re-trained to become the type of dogs that would be a welcome addition to any home. This is a large part of what dog re-homing centres do with the Staffys (and other dog breeds) in their care- assess their temperaments, training levels and personalities and work on re-training them so that they are suitable for re-homing. It is also important to note that only a very small proportion of abandoned Staffys will have been trained or bullied to aggression- most will simply have been neglected, poorly treated or left to their own devices, or put up for rehoming by caring owners for very genuine reasons. Only a very small percentage of the Staffys available for rehoming are likely to have ever been taught that aggression is good or encouraged.
If you are looking for an easygoing, friendly, loyal and trustworthy family pet that constantly tries to please, a rescue Staffy is definitely worthy of a second look. Just as when considering adopting any dog with an uncertain history, it is of course important to research thoroughly and find out as much as you can about the dog in question. Spend a lot of time with your potential future pet before agreeing to take it home, and ensure that you are able to commit a significant amount of time to its training, supervision and development. Dog ownership is infinitely rewarding for the caring and responsible owner, and there can be few pursuits more rewarding than taking a dog in need and giving it a loving, caring home and allowing it to reach its full potential. Give it some thought! Our Pets4Homes website has lots of Staffordshire Bull Terriers for adoption from rescue centres around the UK.
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