Understanding Temperament

Published by TSK Editor on

Written by: John Cocchiola 

I read, and responded to a thread on a Staffordshire Bull Terrier forum.  Someone who was researching the breed was concerned with their potential dog aggression.  

Yeah, I have an opinion on that.  What attracted me to the breed, what still attracts me to the breed is the spirit.  Yeah, I love the way they look and their goofy expressions, but it’s really those precious intangibles that I fell in love with…it’s what’s buried inside the dogs; it’s something that can’t be seen, it needs to be experienced.  It’s not the dog aggression (although that goes along with it), it’s the “yeah, I’m ready…let’s go” attitude that every Stafford should have, and “yeah, I’m ready…let’s go” includes a proper response when they’re challenged by another dog.  

These dogs are fantastic companions, but they weren’t originally bred to be companions.  No true terrier was originally bred to be a companion.  Every terrier breed was created by human beings; they were selectively bred to do a job…to kill.   So anyone that gets a Terrier (a cute little Cairn or a Scotty or a Bedlington), and sets it loose in their backyard and is horrified to see it ripping a bunny rabbit apart is completely naive and living in a pretend fantasy world.  That dog was bred to rip bunny rabbits apart.  There’s a spark inside that dog that fires up when it sees critters.  No, it’s not “how they’re raised”…it’s called “instinct”.  Dogs aren’t blank slates that can be molded and shaped to suit your lifestyle.  They come already programmed.  Some of their wiring can be overridden with our conditioning, but the instincts don’t get erased.  They’re still there and can pop back up.  Don’t be surprised.      

I was a little uncomfortable looking at some of the dog aggression responses.  Some even made me squirm a bit.  I wanted to respond, but I didn’t want to put myself on the internet, treadmill to nowhere argument route.  I wanted to respond, but this will be my response.  

I’d really like to use the word “stupid” to describe some of the responses on that thread, but I’ll use the words ignorant and naive to describe them.  On the other hand, I will use the word “stupid” to describe someone that responds (with authority) on something they really don’t understand.  “It’s how they’re raised” is bullshit.  You’re not going to override all of those hard wired instincts with love, hugs and affection.  If you want a stuffed animal, go to the mall and build-a- bear or something.      

People like to refer to Staffords as “foremost all purpose dog” and the “nanny dog”.  I don’t like either of those to be honest.  Those handles promise too much and are misleading.  While friendly with human beings (to a fault), Staffords can bowl over toddlers and send them flying through the air like bowling pins.  It’s not the worst thing in the world.  Kids bounce pretty good.  Staffords play rough.  Old folks with tissue paper thin skin might need to buy their bandaids and disinfectant in bulk.

No dog breed is perfect, no individual dog is perfect and not every breed is suitable for everyone.

Before you choose a breed, educate yourselves on what it was bred for.  What its traits are, what it’s capable of.  Ask yourselves “can I live with that?”  Be honest.  Sometimes the easiest person to lie to is looking at us in the mirror.    

If you choose a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, the worst thing you can do is underestimate them.  They’re faster than you think, they’re stronger than you think, they can jump higher than you think and they’re more determined than you think.  They can look like they’re asleep, then dart off at full speed if there’s something out there.  Ten seconds later they’re a mile and a half down the road chasing squirrel.    

If you’re honest with yourselves and still choose the SBT and it’s a good match, they will make you happier than you can imagine.  I can’t even think of living with a different breed, but I’d never try to talk someone into one unless they understood what they’re all about.  After that if they still have the “yeah, I’m ready…let’s go” attitude, it might be a good match.


The Staffordshire Bull Terrier is an English breed of dog and should not be confused with the American Pit Bull Terrier.

The Staffordshire Bull Terrier is a direct descendant of the old Bulldog and Terrier. 

The Stafford is renowned for loyalty to their owners and stability of temperament. When properly bred and socialized, they are fond of people, playful, energetic, and not naturally aggressive. They have extremely high energy, which makes them more than a handful for inexperienced owners.

The breed is naturally muscular and may appear intimidating; however, because of their natural fondness for people, most Staffords are temperamentally ill-suited for guard or attack-dog training.

The Staffordshire Bull Terrier has arisen from centuries of careful breeding to develop a strong dog that is placid towards people. Most Stafford owners refer to their dogs as, Staffords. We are not fond of the the term, Staffy. 

Owning a Stafford is huge responsibility and not for everyone. Staffords are very powerful dogs and we as owners are responsible for all of their actions. It is our job to protect and preserve this breed.

Staffordshire Bull Terriers, unfortunately are categorized as a dangerous breed. Some homeowners insurance companies do not allow for the owning of Staffords, as well as some HOA guidelines. Staffords will almost always be listed on a breed restricted list.