‘The Nanny Dog’ – Staffies, They’re softer than you think

The Staffordshire Bull Terrier’s reputation is built on hearsay rather than fact. On the way it looks, rather than the way it acts. It is often identified incorrectly. In reality, many of the dogs that show aggression are bull breed crosses. The purebred Staffie is a whole different ball game. It has a nickname, ‘The Nanny Dog’.

That nickname came about because this breed is known to be so good with children. The Staffie is the breed that is recommended for a family with young children by many of the welfare and re-homing organisations. These organisations and rescue centres believe it is probably one of the best family dogs of all the dog breeds. It is the only breed that has been described as “Totally loving to its family “, and is the only dog to have “totally reliable” in its breed description and standard. The very breed that many describe as vicious, unreliable and a killer.

The Kennel Club describes the breed’s suitability to young children. One of only two breeds, to have this recommendation. So how did it become so good with children and adults, and why is it such a loyal and loving family dog?

For that answer, we have to look at how the breed started, what shaped its temperament, size, nature and behaviour. For within that information lies the key to its genetic and social temperament and disposition.


Staffordshire Bull Terriers have consistently been one of the most popular choices of terriers around and for good reason. They are renowned for the kind natures when they are around people. Staffies have also become one of the most popular and favourite dogs in the show ring and luckily, this has not affected their traditional strong, rugged, muscular and what has become much loved looks.

Staffies are fun to be around and although boisterous by nature, with the correct breeding, handling and training these small to medium sized dogs develop into lovely characters that boast big personalities. Staffies like nothing more than a warm lap to curl up on and an owner they can look up to with loyalty and devotion for all the direction and guidance they need.


Originally bred for blood sports, it is generally accepted that Staffordshire Bull Terriers came about by crossing a Bulldog with a terrier type to create a dog which was used for dog fighting and bull baiting, both popular sporting entertainments in the 19th century. However, by around 1835, animal fighting was outlawed although it still took place in secret and more frequently in the poorer areas of a city or town. As such dogs of this type grew in popularity although many of them did not survive in the ring or were cast aside for having lost a contest.

It was only in the 1930’s that the Kennel Club officially recognised the Staffordshire Bull Terrier as a breed in its own right, with the breed standards having been developed by a group of enthusiasts in the Midlands later that year. While the heritage of the Staffie is one of fighting other dogs and animals, this noble dog was recognised for its malleable personality and eagerness to please which has led to their popularity the world over.


Height at the withers: Males 36 – 41 cm, Females 33 – 38 cm

Average Weight: Males 13 – 17 kg, Females 11 – 15.4 kg

Staffies are small to medium sized dogs that boast a compact, stocky and muscular appearance which gives them their tenacious look. They boast a broad skull with pronounced cheeks and short foreface with a very distinct stop that’s unique to the breed. They have black noses and dark coloured eyes although some dogs with lighter coats may have lighter coloured eyes which is totally acceptable as a breed standard.

Eyes are nicely rounded and medium in size with dark rims which are set in a dog’s head which means they look nicely to the front. A Staffie’s ears can be half pricked or upright and nicely proportioned in relation to their head. They have ultra-strong jaws with a perfect scissor bite and very strong, muscular short necks that go down to broad and powerful shoulders.

A Staffordshire Bull Terrier boasts strong forequarters with well boned legs that are set wide apart. Their feet turn ever so slightly outwards and their shoulders are powerful and well laid back. Their body is nicely proportioned and well defined with a deep brisket and strong rib cage.

Their hindquarters are extremely muscular and built to provide dogs with a lot of power when needed. Their feet are very well padded and medium in size being very strong and nails are always black. Staffies have medium length, straight tails that they carry quite low in relation to their bodies.


Staffies are known for their bold and courageous natures, but the breed is also renowned for being totally reliable and intelligent. However, Staffies need to be handled and trained correctly because they are such smart dogs which in short means they are quick to learn new things and this includes the good and the bad. With this said, a well-bred and well socialised Staffie is a real pleasure to be around. Their reputation for being aggressive by nature is totally unfounded.

Again, being intelligent dogs, Staffies are easy to train and this includes house training puppies. They just love being around people and don’t do well when left on their own for any length of time which could lead to destructive behaviours around the home. Staffies just cannot help themselves when it comes to showing their affection and will jump up so they can lick your face, something that even the best trained Staffie cannot resist doing because it’s just part of their loving personalities.

The “bad” press the breed has been given over recent years is not merited or well-founded because Staffordshire Bull Terriers when well trained and cared for make for wonderful, well-behaved and affectionate family pets that boast endless amounts of energy and enthusiasm for life. They are a real pleasure to have around and share a home with.

Staffies need to be well socialised from a young age for them to accept being around other family pets and any introductions to new animals has to be done gently, carefully and slowly to avoid any aggressive behaviour. In general, when well handled, the Staffie shows a gentle and exceptionally loyal nature, especially to one person which is typically the person who feeds them. They will also learn to obey commands relatively quickly but be warned – they can have a stubborn streak and can choose to ignore you if they want!

They are also powerful chewers and will resort to chewing anything they can find around the home if left alone for long periods of time. This is simply because Staffies quickly become bored or stressed when left to their own devices. They also need to chew on things to keep their teeth healthy and in good condition. Chewing also helps older Staffies stay relaxed when they are feeling any stress.

Intelligence / Trainability

Staffies are intelligent dogs and in the right hands with the correct amount of training, they are quite easy to train. However, Staffies are known to have a stubborn streak in them which means they need to be handled with a firm, yet gentle hand. Getting a dog to focus can be problematic especially when Staffies are still young because they can be boisterous and quite headstrong as puppies and in their “teenager” years. With this said, once you’ve got their attention they will listen and learn, but it’s essential for Staffordshire Bull Terriers to be well socialised from a young age for them to be more manageable adult dogs.

Children and other pets

The Staffordshire Bull Terrier is known to be kind towards children although because they are also known to play rough and therefore boisterous at times, Pets4homes advises that Staffies are not the best choice for families with babies or very young children. Anyone who already shares a home with a Staffie and who have younger children should always make sure they are never left together unattended. It is also crucial for parents to teach young children how to behave around dogs and when to stay away from them, particularly when there is food around or during playtime.

Staffies need to be well-socialised when they are still puppies and introduced to as many other animals and situations as possible for them to be well-rounded mature dogs. However, they can show aggression towards other pets which is why it’s important they be introduced to each other slowly and carefully to make sure things go smoothly and that no pets get stressed out which could lead to aggressive behaviour.


The average life expectancy of a Staffordshire Bull Terrier is between 12 – 14 years when properly cared for and fed an appropriate good quality diet to suit their ages.

Although a healthy breed, the Staffie is known to suffer from a few hereditary and acquired health issues which are worth knowing about if you have decided to share a home with one of these delightful and affectionate dogs. The most commonly seen health disorders are as follows:

Hereditary cataracts (HC) – tests are available

L-2- hydroxyglutaric sciduria (L2HGA) – a metabolic health issue – DNA test available


Persistent Hyperplastic Primary Vitreous (PHPV) – tests available throughout a dog’s life

Mastocytoma (mast cell tumours)

Caring for a Staffordshire Bull Terrier

As with any other breed, Staffies need to be groomed on a regular basis to make sure their coats and skin are kept in tip-top condition. They also need to be given regular daily exercise so they remain fit and healthy. On top of this, Staffordshire Bull Terriers need to be fed a good quality diet throughout their lives to ensure all their nutritional needs are met.


Having a short coat means the Staffie is not a high maintenance dog when it comes to grooming. A weekly brush is all it takes to keep their coats and skin in good condition. The same can be said for bathing them which should only really need to be done from time to time. Overbathing a Staffie can destroy all the natural oils found in their skin and coats, upsetting the PH balance and this can result in a dog developing skin allergies. As with other dogs, Staffies shed more during the Spring and then again in the Autumn which is when more regular grooming is needed to keep on top of any loose hair.


The Staffordshire Bull Terrier is a high-energy dog and needs to be given a minimum of an hour a day when it comes to exercise or boredom will set in leading to some unwanted and often destructive behaviours. The more exercise a Staffie is given, the better and more relaxed a dog would be and the old adage of a “tired dog being a good dog” is never truer than when it comes to these energetic little dogs. Because they are such intelligent dogs, they also need to be given lots of mental stimulation for them to be truly happy, relaxed and well-balanced dogs. After a good amount of physical exercise and playing lots of interactive games, a Staffie likes nothing more than to relax on a couch with their owner, tired, but an extremely happy dog.


Staff puppies need to be fed a good quality diet that provides them with all the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients they need to grow and develop properly. Ideally, puppies need to be at least 3 to 4 times day. If you are just about to get a puppy from a breeder, they would recommend you feed them the same diet as they have been on and to gradually change this over a period of a few weeks to avoid the puppy developing a tummy upset.

However, adult Staffies can also be fed a small breakfast and then another meal in the evening, but again their diet needs to be higher in protein because they are such energetic dogs and need the extra nutrients to meet their daily needs. The one constant no matter whether you feed a Staffordshire Bull Terrier wet or dry food, you have to make sure they always have access to fresh, clean water at all times.

Average Cost to keep/care for a Staffordshire Bull Terrier

A well-bred Staffordshire Bull Terrier can cost you anything from £250 to well over £1000 for a pedigree puppy. The cost of insuring a 3 year old Staffie in the north of England would be £20.76 for basic cover up to £40.81 a month for a lifetime policy (quote as of March 2016). It’s worth bearing in mind that lots of things are factored into a pet’s insurance premium and this includes where you live in the UK and a dog’s age.

When it comes to food costs, you would need to buy the best quality dog food whether wet or dry for your dog throughout their lives and to suit the different stages of their lives. This would set you back between £30-£40 per month.

On top of all of this, you would need to factor in veterinary costs if you want to share your home with a Staffie and this includes their initial vaccinations, neutering or spaying a dog when the time is right and then their annual health checks, all of which quickly adds up to over a £800 a year.

The total average cost to keep and care for a Staffordshire Bull Terrier as a rough guide would be in the region of £50 – £100 a month depending on the level of pet insurance cover you opt to buy, but this does not include the initial cost of buying a pedigree Staffordshire Bull Terrier puppy.

(Article source: Pets 4 Homes)



‘The Nanny Dog’ – Staffies, They’re softer than you think — 18 Comments

  1. Would a staffie be a good dog to train for autistic boy? Companion and service?
    As in help child not wander into unsafe areas? Or out of a yard?

    • personally yes. I have and been around these breeds all my life. They will quicky learn what you want from them. I have a new staffie called Billy (4 months old) and he has learnt in under 3 weeks lay, sit, paw, show teeth (so can clean them), high five, stay, naughty corner and nearly got him to wave bye.

      They just want to make you happy no matter the cost. But please be warned they can be at times very stubborn which you which will need to be nicely taken out of them. All the staffies i’ve had love to lay on your lap and that i think be good for him. They can’t help but try and lick you too.

      Staffies can learn anything if you take your time and want to teach them. They need to be around other dogs at a young age because of how they was breed they can otherwise be aggressive to other dogs. But if mixed with other dogs at a young age that will never be a problem.

    • The only thing I could say 2 u is be prepared for what happens when the dog has to be put down. I lost my Alfie 2 years ago after 11.5 years and I am still heart broken. My wife never had a dog before and she became his ‘mum’ for the last couple of years of his life and she was devastated at losing him. I can’t comment really on how one individual would be with a dog or vice versa but I swear to god if you got a staff, you would probably never get another breed of dog again. You/your son/your family will develop a bond with that dog unlike anything you could ever imagine. My wife’s brother suffers with severe agoraphobia and never had a dog (they had cats) he loved Alfie and was genuinely upset when he went. My wife’s cousins children only met him twice and cried when they found out he went.
      I guess what I’m saying is a Staffordshire bull terrier will touch the heart of everybody it meets and if they don’t then it’s that person who is the problem. Just look on you tube and watch some of the Dodos videos about pit bulls (umbrella term) there is a video of a man who has to sing his pit a lullaby before it goes to sleep. I believe part of the reason why there are so many staffs in dogs homes isn’t just because of ‘chavs’ breeding them and not looking after them properly. Part of the problem is the scumbag liberal media has demonised that’s breed so much that many ‘middle class’ dog owners simply will not own one as it doesn’t suit their image.
      I leave u with a story, where I live there was a stuck up dog owner type who loved whippets who would consider herself to be a dog lover. When one of them had to be put down she arranged a big community dog walk on the beach, this woman made an effort to speak to everyone and say hello to the dogs, except mine because he was a staff. Saw the woman in the vets about a year later, she came in and made a point of saying hello to all the dogs, all except my dog who sat there looking at her waiting to be stroked and made a fuss off, clear breed prejudice.

    • Did you get one? My autistic kids love our staffie. They are loving children but can be quite rough and noisy. Our staff is so calm and strong she can absorb all the meltdowns etc without becoming distressed. She will let it all flow over her then snuggle up for cuddles.

  2. Staffies like to touch and be touched, so they will lie against your body, or on your feet or lap. Have you tried your boy with another service dog to see if he likes dogs, if he doesn’t like to be touched this may be a problem. But a Staffie will never leave his side if it works out, it would be a perfect dog for your boy or any child.

    • Couldn’t agree more. My staffies LOVE my children and she begs to go up at nights to sleep with my daughters.if raised correctly they are amazing family pets, mine even sleeps with my cat

    • Having lost my beautiful staff after 15 years last week I can honestly support the term “nanny dog”. She was around my children since they were 1, 2 & 5. She was gentle and playful throughout and adored their company, right through to them being teenagers and her being partially sighted and her back end failing her. She loved nothing more than being around the family and of course sunbathing.
      Would I have another Staffy? Without a doubt the most friendly, loving dog I have ever experienced with no aggression ever, it’s all about the owners not the breed with these animals.

    • I have been around staffies before at young ages. I can safely say that, while they are large, they are definitely gentle giants

  3. I have a retired racing greyhound and he has been lonely and has acted out since our blue heeler passed away. were looking at another dog, would a staffie be a good companion for him throughout the day?

  4. yes, especially if your doggie loves cuddling. I’ve grown up with and still have staffies, mostlyy rescue ones, and they love people and dogs. i always have two but one of my rescue stafffoes died just befroe Christmas and can’t get another rescue with this lockdown.
    The one i have now, 12 year old Frankie (found on the streets at 18 months old dying of starvation and mange) is known in the area for being friendly and a softie with other dogs and children. he’s missing his (rescue) sister too.

    Go for a rescue staffie! happy for your doggie to meet mine – i’m in South London, Battersea

  5. Just lost our 12 yo staff mix. Found an 8 wk old at the shelter. We have had her for less than 6 weeks. She fetches, sits, lays down with minimal training. Smart like our late Georgia girl. Very mouthy as pups. Thank god her puppy teeth are loose. Love all bully breeds. Technically she is my wife’s dog, and mine is a bull/lab mix. He is very gentle with her with their play level increasing with her age. Wouldn’t have any other breed type. Always get bull mixes since they get looked over at the shelter opposed to a purebred… she just jumped on my iPad/lap…gotta go

  6. Back to the Autistic child..
    My Autistic daughter is not really fond of Animals, & when she tries to pet our staffie the poor dog gets so excited (i think that is half the problem), but the dog watches and gards the kids.
    The dog has even fetch my wife when the little one was playing to close to the edge of the deck.
    Obedience school was an issue as the dog always walked a set distance infront of me and not at my heal…. Half way through i put to and to together.. that distance infront of my was the same distance when we walk with the kids in the stroller. Every so often the dog would turn and put her head in the stroller and check on the kids…

  7. The “nanny dog” idea is unfortunately a myth. The expression was first invented by a breeder in 1971 in order to try to improve the image of Staffies. The breeder made up the story that these sorts of bull terriers were so safe that the Victorians used them to look after or even “babysit” children in the absence of adults, and this is not true. All your dogs may be lovely, kind pets that you know and trust implicitly with your children but however well behaved your own dogs, repeating this myth could lead to somebody else believing that is it safe to leave any such dog alone with a baby or small child, which could have tragic consequences.

    • Complete bullshit, get your facts right. Its ignorant people like you that give a breed a bad name. Only cross breeding bull dogs and encouraging fighting can deliver a dangerous dog. Why don’t you shell out $2,500 or much more for a pure bred Staffie and see for yourself how they are instead of coming onto these site spouting pure unadulterated shit!

      • Staffies are wonderful dogs BUT they have NEVER been known as a “Nanny Dog” it is a myth started by an American woman to push Pitbulls, not staffies. I wish this WHOLE page could be removed it is, basically, totally false information. For truthful information about the ESBT I suggest you try the English Breed Club page, they will tell you the actual FACTS…http://thestaffordshirebullterrier.co.uk/history

  8. I have a staff she is loving affectioate and hardly ever barks she has lots of dogs she walks with best freind a beagle bull dogs dalmaition and westie a staffie can socialize my staff is our baby they are the best dogs ever i have worked long hours and the house is untouched by my staff

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