Thursday, 2 January 2014

2014 - the year of the Stafford?

It's not lie that Caesar is that 'type of dog'.  The type that everyone and his next door neighbour seems to have an opinion about.  Just today, I was sitting dogless in the vets when a woman who was sitting with her border collie leaned over to her husband, pointed at a Staffordshire Bull Terrier and said "don't let her near that, it's one of those vicious ones..."  I looked at the black Stafford.  It was a little unhappy at being in the vets and panted and squealed but showed no sign that it was going to maul her collie.  I'd be lying if I said I didn't know why Staffords have such a bad rep

"Did you know that we were the wrong 'type' of dog Gemma??"

An owner of 'that type of dog'
A few weeks ago I got a bit of a shock.  I received a direct hit via a newspaper website.  I was called "an owner of one of 'those types' of dog".  I'm not going to lie, I took it hard.  And this is why...

A few months ago a tragic incident occurred near to where I live.  To cut a long story short:
A dog-aggressive Staffordshire Bull Terrier ran away from the person who was looking after him and killed an old ladies dog. Also, injuring the old lady.

There's not a lot to say about the story other than how horrifically sad it was for the poor woman who lost her dog.  The SBT in question was put down.  This too, although justified, was sad for the owner who had left his dog with someone whom he thought to be responsible when the incident happened.  I don't think though, anyone could argue that the victims of this were the poor old lady and her dog.

However, what I did see as unfair was the chosen picture of a Staffordshire Bull Terrier.  One which looked a lot like Caesar.  It was not a picture of the actual dog but a stock image of the breed.  The dog looked to be barking viciously towards the camera and the tag-line given to the image was "a Staffordshire Bull Terrier Dog" as if this was a bog standard example of the breed.

I commented on the article giving my sympathies to the owner whose dog was killed but adding that I felt it unfair to use the given image as an example of this breed.  Also noting that the same thing happened only weeks earlier where two Labradors killed a puppy but this was not reported in the paper.  The response I got from another reader was that on articles like this it was common to see someone who owned 'one of these types of dog' trying to defend the breed.
Life is hard when you're that 'type' of dog...

So are all Staffy's vicious?
Before I go on I would like to say this; I went to the rescue centre in search of my ideal pet.  I had never owned a dog before and suggested that I would like something along the lines of a Jack Russell or West Highland Terrier.  I came back with Caesar.  I had no pre-existing knowledge of the breed and have not needed any particular expertise to own him.  He is a Staffordshire Bull Terrier cross.  

Would I trust every Staffordshire Bull Terrier?  Definitely not! My advice to anyone, for whatever it's worth, is never trust a dog straight away whatever it's breed.  Never trust them off the lead and never with children, even if Staffordshire Bull Terriers do carry the nickname 'Nanny Dog'.  

In the same way that I would not say "never trust an Italian" or "always trust the Irish", I would never label a breed of dog to be 'trustworthy,' or 'not trustworthy' and anyone who does would be foolish.

I can vouch for the fact that some Staffies just want a cuddle...

Educate Yourself
According to Argos Pet Insurance, Staffordshire Bull Terriers remain the seventh most popular breed in the UK (see below) ahead of Yorkshire Terriers and West Highland Terriers.  If it were the case that all or even most Staffordshire Bull Terriers were vicious, then I highly doubt that they would account for this much of the doggy population.  In addition, rescue centres and agencies would not put themselves at risk by pushing the breed.
Here are just a few examples of rescue associations who are encouraging people to give SBTs some real consideration:
Battersea Dogs Home have a huge campaign for Staffies -

What Now?
People need to be educated about these dogs.  There shouldn't be cases, like the one that happened today, of people warning of "vicious" breeds.  Each dog is an individual and should be treated as such.  All SBTs are not vicious nor are they all placid, each one is an individual, as are the owners who choose to adopt them.

Just for fun here's a poster with some common truth's/misconceptions.  To download a link and print the poster, click here.

There's still time to donate to SARA (Saltburn Animal Rescue Association) for the Christmas Advent Calendar Project.  Make your donation now by clicking here.