Choosing A Puppy

The following article was originally written by Helen Park for the International Stafford Online Magazine, Looking for your First Staffordshire Bull Terrier?, first published in about 1998 . It is with Helen's permission that we reproduce this updated article here. Since this article is intended as an informational guide, site visitors are encouraged to download and print out this article to use as a reference - but when so doing they must agree that nothing in the article will be modified or changed, and that if reprinted elsewhere proper credit is given - it should be mentioned that the article was found on the Staffordshire Bull Terrier Club Of America, Inc., website.

So, maybe you have seen a Stafford at your local dog show, or maybe you have just seen one while happily walking down the street with his owner. You may have said to yourself: "They sure are cute. I think I might like to have one of those.

If so, you are about to depart on a wonderful new adventure as you search for just the right dog for you. It is incredibly important to do careful research on the Staffordshire Bull Terrier to be certain that this is the breed for you.

The Staffordshire Bull Terrier is not a breed for everyone. You may have had other dogs, maybe a Working breed like the German Shepherd, or maybe a Toy breed like the Chihuahua or maybe the Maltese. Or maybe you have had in the past a trusty mixed-breed companion that was your best friend, as well a friend to all and sundry, human and animal alike. Maybe you allowed this old dog of yours to frolic off leash where ever you went.

Please keep in mind that a Stafford is not a dog like these. A Stafford is a Terrier, with all the characteristics that this name implies - and then some.A Staffordshire Bull Terrier is not a dog that should be allowed to roam off leash, and he can sometimes be quarrelsome with other canines and small animals - this varies between individual dogs, but it is something that should always be kept in mind, particularly with adult (over two years of age) dogs. A well-bred and well-socialized Stafford is always a friend to every person he meets - so much so that he does not make a good guard or watch dog. In short, a Staffordshire Bull Terrier is not a dog for everyone.Please don't buy a Stafford with the thought that if the dog does not work out for some reason, you can later get rid of it. A dog (of whatever breed) should never be considered as a "disposable commodity". Either be prepared to make a lifetime commitment to your dog, or, please, do yourself and the dog a wonderful favor - do not get a dog - and particularly a Staffordshire Bull Terrier - at all. Staffords are for life.


The Stafford is a small to medium sized dog of great strength and substance in relation to his size. He can truly be said to be a "big dog in a small dog package". He is extremely affectionate and loving, and many Staffords are great "talkers" using an amusing variety of grunts, groans, chortles, and sighs to let their owners know exactly what they want and what they are thinking.

However, the Stafford possesses - in very great measure - the typical freethinking Terrier attitude of "Why do I have to?" so he will do best if he is well socialized at a young age and obedience trained (also while young) either with a reputable trainer or, preferably, in a class setting (also with a reputable trainer in charge of the class). His owner will find that the Stafford will delight in this training, and will form a close, lifelong, emotional bond with his owner because of it.

The Stafford is content snoozing on the couch with his family, but it must be kept in mind that he is also an active, agile dog that requires vigorous physical exercise every day. However, he should never be allowed to run at large, because he has been known to have disagreements with other dogs and small animals. A good fenced yard is a requirement for him, as it is a place where he can play his favorite games of frisbee, fetch, tug, and roll-the-basketball in safety. A fenced yard is also a place that he can just calmly be himself.

A Stafford is not a dog that is happy living out in the yard. His smooth, short coat prevents him from feeling comfortable when the weather outside it too warm or too cool. To leave a Stafford out in the yard to live his life away from his people is a cruelty. He is, first and foremost, a family companion par excellence that is only content when living closely with his human family, whether it be stretched on the living room couch, tucked up under the covers of the bed, or industriously chewing on his toy while his family watches TV.

The Stafford is a dog that loves, indeed craves, the companionship of people. For this reason he is not a good choice as a guard dog. As a watch dog he is fine - he loves to tell you when someone is coming because he delights in meeting new people! But he will not protect the silverware - should someone enter your home while you were away like as not your Stafford would be pleased by the company.

For those who want an "outside dog", for those who do not have a fenced yard, or for those whose busy lives would leave him alone in an empty house or yard for eight or ten hours a day, for those who would not have nor take the time to properly exercise him, obedience train him, and socialize him, the Stafford would be an extremely poor choice.

However, for those willing to give to their dog all the love and consideration that their Stafford will joyfully give back to them - increased a hundredfold! - there can be no better choice of companion than the Staffordshire Bull Terrier.


There are many good books on the Stafford, and related breeds. Related breeds?, you might ask. The Staffordshire Bull Terrier is considered to be part of a group of dogs generally referred to as the "bull and terriers". The reason for this is that back in the 18th and 19th centuries there were breeders that were looking for a more agile dog than their bulldogs, and so crossed their bulldogs with some of the terriers that existed then. Thus, "bull and terrier". There are several modern breeds that are considered to be part of this subgroup. They are, generally, the American Staffordshire Terrier, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, the Bull Terrier, the Miniature Bull Terrier, and the American Pit Bull Terrier.

Some recommended books are "Staffordshire Terrier", by Deiter Fleig; "The Staffordshire Bull Terrier In America", by Steve Eltinge; "Staffordshire Bull Terriers" by Vic Pounds and Lillian Rant; "The Staffordshire Bull Terrier", by W.M. Morley; "The Staffordshire Terriers", by Anna Katherina Nicholas; "The Staffordshire Bull Terrier", and "All About The Staffordshire Bull Terrier", both by John F. Gordon, "The Show Stafford Handbook" by Alan Mitchell, and "Staffordshire Bull Terriers" by Dayna Lemke.

It is up to you, the potential new owner, to obtain these books, read them, study them, and absorb them to properly understand what this breed is all about. Equally important is to talk to Stafford owners, breeders, and fanciers to obtain a fully rounded impression of this breed. Only then, after you have fully done your research, should you make your final decision.

Also HIGHLY recommended is "Bandit, Dossier of a Dangerous Dog", by Vickie Hearne. Although not specifically about the SBT, it addresses many of the problems SBTs, and their owners, face in today's world. For those who are as yet unfamiliar with the Stafford, this is an important book.

Despite the title, the book is not about a 'dangerous dog' at all. Ms. Hearne's books are not cut-and-dried affairs, but rather go in for quite a bit of dog history, including the interrelated history of all of the bull-and-terrier breeds - of which the Staffords is but one

Read these books.

Unfortunately, most of these books are out of print. If you can't find them, try ordering them at your local library via inter-library loan. Most States have an interlibrary loan program in place whereby a library patron can request a particular book and the library can locate and retrieve it if the book is anywhere in that State's library system. Another thing to try is Ebay. These books, and others, come up for sale from time to time on Ebay.

Additionally, Becky Taylor McGovern's FAQ file is most informative.† To view this file, click here.

The only way to to know and to understand what the inbred characteristics of any particular breed are that one might be considering, one must read and study resources published about that particular breed.

If one cannot accept nor deal with the known inbred characteristics of any breed one is considering, this is quite probably not the breed for them, and one should look elsewhere.

Which is why it is so vitally important for ANYONE to read, study, and learn about ANY breed before they acquire an individual of that breed.

Were it ever thus. Then all of the dog pounds would all be empty.

If you have never seen an SBT, a good place to meet one might be at your local dog show. Exhibitors are usually pretty nervous and reserved before the start of judging of their breed, but are often quite willing to visit and talk about their favorite subject (the SBT, of course!) once breed judging is completed.

Additionally, there are often "vendors" at dog shows, and you might find one that may sell many of the above mentioned books.

Getting a pet from a responsible breeder is an important first step toward responsible pet ownership.

If you are considering an SBT, perhaps you might consider an older dog. Often older Staffords come into Rescue through no fault of their own (death in the family, divorce, moving, etc.) and make excellent, loving pets. Contact the Natonal Rescue Coordinator:

Your local kennel club may also be a good source for locating Stafford breeders. Check also the SBTCA Breeder's Directory.

Other information on obtaining a pet, including information on finding a Responsible Breeder (this is critically important!), can be found in Cindy Tittle Moore's collection of FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) at .†Although not specifically about Staffords, there is much excellent information here. To view this FAQ page, click here. While you are there, pay special attention to these topics:

Selecting A Dog Breed
Getting A Dog

Your New Puppy
Your New Dog
Crating Your Dog
Training Your Dog

All the topics listed on this page are excellent, but these mentioned above really stand out.


In almost all cases puppies found in pet stores come from horrendous puppy mills. Puppies born in terrible conditions, then shipped hundreds, or thousands, of miles away to be placed in a store as "merchandise" rarely thrive and often remain sickly throughout their entire lives. If they survive past puppyhood at all. To purchase a puppy from a pet store only perpetuates and encourages the puppy mill business.

Ultimately, it is the buyer's challenge and duty to get their new Stafford from a responsible source with whom they can communicate comfortably.


You should ask the owners of the parents of any puppy you might be considering for purchase if they have:

1) AKC registration on both parents?

2) Litter registration for the puppies?

Registration papers are important. If you want to be sure that the cute puppy you are considering for purchase grows up to look like a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, a pup from a registered sire and dam will go a long way towards assuring that this will come true. Puppies that are sold "without papers" but that are "Purebred Staffords" often grow up to look nothing like the breed they have been purported to be. Usually by that time the seller is long gone, and you are already attached to a dog that is obviously not a Stafford. Be sure. Always ask to see registration papers - at minimum, the Litter Registration certification on the pups should be available.

You should also ask if the Breeder will be transferring registration of the puppy to you at the time of sale (as recommended by the American Kennel Club click here), or if the Breeder intends to retain the registration and only sell the puppy to you "on contract".

Quoting from the AKC website from the link referenced just above:

"If you are buying a dog that is supposed to be registerable with the AKC you should realize it is your responsibility to obtain complete identification of the dog or you should not buy the dog. Failure to get AKC "registration papers" causes more grief for buyers of pure-bred registerable dogs than any other problem except sickness. It has long been common practice to explain the inability saying "AKC hasn't sent the papers yet." The essence of this and similar excuses is that because the American Kennel Club is at fault, papers are not available. The fact is that the processing of any AKC registration item takes approximately three weeks. If a breeder is doing his paperwork in a regular, careful manner, there is ample time to obtain the necessary "papers" from AKC prior to sale of any puppy. When "papers" are not available at the time of delivery, it is a red-flag warning sign to exercise extreme caution. "

If a Breeder is selling the puppy to you "on contract" and will NOT be transferring registration to you at the time of sale, what this might mean is that the puppy is being sold to you with "strings attached". With bitches (females), some breeders require "puppies back" out of any future breeding you may do with the animal you are purchasing; some breeders require entire litters, or even sometimes more than one litter, from your new puppy to be given back to the Breeder, at your expense. Generally, the Breeder considers this to be part of the original purchase price of your puppy, and you will NOT be financially renumerated for the costs involved in producing this litter, nor paid for the resulting puppies. Generally, you will only receive registration papers on your dog only if, and when, these conditions are met.

It is up to you as to whether or not you agree to, and with, such an arrangement, but you should be aware that most Responsible Breeders generally do not require these kinds of conditions.

In the case of a dog (male) sold "on contract" the Breeder generally requires that the Breeder can use (in future) your dog at stud for any bitch owned by the Breeder, or sometimes that your dog can be used at stud for any bitch (female) that the Breeder sends to you for this purpose, without your approval of the bitch that is being sent. You will also generally NOT be paid for these kinds of stud services, as the Breeder considers this to be part of your original purchase price. Generally, you will only receive registration papers on your dog only if, and when, these conditions are met.

It is up to you as to whether or not you agree to, and with, such an arrangement, but you should be aware that most Responsible Breeders do not generally require these kinds of conditions.

What most Responsible Breeders will do is sell a "pet quality" puppy on an AKC (American Kennel Club) ILP (Indefinite Limited Privilege) registration, the signed application for, or certificate of, will be given to you at the time of sale. For "show quality" puppies a Responsible Breeder might sell you a puppy and supply you with full AKC registration, but remain on the registration certificate as a "co-owner". This is quite common, especially with buyers who are new to the SBT breed. The reason for this is that the Responsible Breeder really cares what happens to this puppy and would like to be there for you to help and guide you in your future breeding or showing endeavors.

However, it should be noted that the AKC is generally opposed to co-ownerships.



You should ask for certification that the puppies are guaranteed healthy at the time of placement, as well as the breeder's return/refund policy or guarantee (Responsible Breeders should always offer this!) should the puppy become ill during the first few days. You should also be sure that the breeder can provide documentation showing that the puppy has received regular puppy vaccinations appropriate for the puppy's age, as well as regular worming.

If you find a breeder you are considering working with, it is fair to ask for names of previous puppy buyers, to ask for vaccination records, and to request information on what kinds of health screenings have been done (hips, eyes, elbows, etc.). If a breeder is unable or unwilling to supply these kinds of information, you might consider taking your search elsewhere.

If you are told that the "puppies have had their shots" inquire further. One session of vaccinations is not enough, because maternal antibodies interfere with the puppy developing its own immunities - and it is uncertain just when the vaccinations will "kick in", and the maternal antibodies will "kick out". In other words, if the puppy is vaccinated, but maternal antibodies are still present in the puppy's bloodstream, the vaccinations will have no effect, leaving the puppy vulnerable to common (often fatal) puppy diseases. Which is the reason for the frequent vaccination cycle of young puppies. Additionally, puppies should be wormed every two weeks starting at about four weeks of age. Puppies can become infested with worms via their mother's milk.

Be sure to ask your breeder is if the parents of the puppies you are considering have OFA certification†( a certification stating that both parents are free of hip displasia - a problem in some lines of the SBT . OFA: Orthopedic Foundation For Animals - to view the OFA site, which includes statistics on the incidence of hip displasia in the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, click here) the OFA number is now included on many registration certificates CERF certification - certification stating that both parents are free from any eye abnormalities, such as Juvenile Cataracts (CERF: Canine Eye Registry Foundation, and if their dogs have any Obedience Training titles, the minimum being "CGC". Your breeder should be able to produce these certifications for your examination when requested. Explanations of these terms follow:

CGC: Canine Good Citizen. This is a title that is offered by the American Kennel Club and must be trained for. It is a series of exercises (a test, actually, which one pays a fee to take from an AKC representative) which include letting your dog - on lead - meet other dogs, walking on lead through crowds, meeting strange people, and having the dog do a "down stay" (lay down and stay in the place indicated by the handler - the dog is not tied to anything, but must remain where told with the handler out of the dogs sight for 5 minutes), among other exercises. Once the dog passes this formal test, he is awarded the CGC title by the AKC. The object being, of course, to prove that the dog has excellent temperament and trainability. Of course, a young puppy will not have a CGC title, but it is a plus if either or both of the puppy's parents do.

OFA: Orthopedic Foundation for Animals. This certifies that a dog's hips have been x-rayed by a qualified veterinarian and that the x-rays have been examined by the OFA and been certified free of hip displasia Ideally, BOTH parents of your potential puppy should have been screened in this manner. Hip displasia is a problem in some Stafford lines, and may be considered hereditary. Hip displasia causes a dog to become crippled for life, sometimes at a rather young age. Of course, a young puppy will not have an OFA certification, but it is a plus if either or both of the puppy's parents do.

CERF: Canine Eye Registry Foundation. This certifies that a dog's eyes have been examined by a qualified veterinary ophthalmologist and certified free of eye abnormalities or disease. Again, BOTH parents of any puppy you are considering should be so cleared. Juvenile cataracts are known in the breed, and are considered hereditary. This causes the dog to go blind at an early age - sometimes as early as one year old. Unfortunately, this test cannot determine if JC is carried as a genetic recessive, but it can determine if the dog being examined is clear. Of course, a young puppy will not have CERF clearances, but it is a plus if either or both of the puppy's parents do.

For a breeder to care enough to worm and vaccinate their puppies, and have these tests done on their breeding stock is expensive, and will be reflected in the price of the puppy.

"Bargain" puppies can, and often do, sicken and die once they are brought home. Or develop tragic genetic diseases later on. Even the cutest puppy, if he or she later develops hip displasia, can become crippled for life. Likewise, if your adorable puppy presents with Juvenile Cataracts a month or two after you have brought him home, he may become permanently blind.

Also important is to determine before your bring your new puppy home, is if there are rules in your housing development/apartment complex/condo against the owning of a Stafford.† Or if Breed Specific Legislation affecting the Stafford exists in your area.† If it does, and you bring your puppy home and fall in love with it, it is quite possible, even likely, that you will be forced to give it up.† Don't think this can't happen to you.† It can, and it does - with alarming frequency.

There are those in our society whose ultimate goal is the outlawing of companion animals, including dogs. When even one breed falls victim to such laws, it is only a brief matter of time before the next breed is targeted. If this is allowed to continue, eventually ALL breeds of dogs will be outlawed. Breed Specific Legislation is insidiously creeping into regulations all over the United States, and in many foreign countries. It is everyone's challenge and duty to fight Breed Specific Legislation wherever it appears. Before you bring home your first Stafford, consider visiting the Canine Legislation Site. To visit the Canine Legislation site.

Responsible Breeders will likely interview potential buyers in depth, because they care about the puppies they must place. They will most probably have you sign a contract stating that if the dog ever leaves your care, for any reason, *at any time during the dog's life* it must be returned to the breeder. Responsible Breeders love their dogs, even the ones that they must sell, and should always stand behind their stock. Ask if you are able to contact a "satisfied customer", perhaps someone who has purchased a puppy from a breeder's previous litter. A Responsible Breeder will be happy to supply you with this information, because it shows that you care, and that you are informed.

If the breeder you contact seems only interested in making the sale, does not interview you, offers no guarantee once the puppy leaves his premises, or brushes off any questions you might have regarding puppy health, vaccinations, worming, registration, OFA, CERF, a written contract, or any other questions you might have, be wary, and, perhaps, look elsewhere. Even if the prospective puppy seems to be offered at an attractive price. You get what you pay for.

Before you buy, get out and see and meet as many Staffords as you possibly can. At the Stafford's place of residence is the best place to do this, a place to make contacts for, hopefully, home visits later on are at the AKC conformation shows, obedience trials, and agility events. See if you like (or can put up with!) the often exuberant, high-energy Stafford personality. Many people cannot.

Lastly, keep in mind that those who need to advertise "puppies for sale" in the classified section of your newspaper, on the internet, or just about anywhere else, those that nearly always have "puppies on the ground", or those that tell you that they can "get a pup for you in either sex and in any color you like", and those that breed many litters per year are generally breeding puppies for profit, rather than for the good of the breed, and care only about "making the sale".Responsible breeders have waiting lists for their quality, screened, and bred-to-the-Standard stock. To view the Breed Standard, please click here. They do not have to advertise.† Do yourself a favor: contact a responsible breeder, and be prepared to wait several months - or longer -† for your pup.† You will be glad you did.

For further information on finding just the right dog for you, and in how to determine if the Breeder you might be interested in is one you might also be comfortable in dealing with, be sure to read the Staffordshire Bull Terrier Incorporated Official Code of Ethics. To read The Code Of Ethics, click here.


There are many Staffordshire Bull Terrier websites from around the world that can be found on the Internet.

Also, most any search engine will bring up enough Stafford sites to thrill even the most ardent enthusiast. There are also numerous bulletin boards and newsgroups on the Web where much interesting information about the Stafford is exchanged.

Still another another way to find out about the breed is to join a Staffordshire Bull Terrier email list. Email lists generally keep up pretty lively discussions on all aspects of these dogs, from serious breeder concerns to silly dog anecdotes.

However, when visiting bulletin boards, newsgroups, and websites, or when participating in an email list, it should always be kept foremost in mind that anyone - from the rank beginner to the experienced breeder of many years standing - may post their thoughts and opinions to such venues. Even those who may never have owned a Staffordshire Bull Terrier can be participants, and are able to post their thoughts and beliefs.

Since it can often be difficult to make a determination of the accuracy of information gleaned from the Internet, any information obtained in such manner should always be carefully researched further to determine it's validity.

Finding just the right dog for your requires patience. The search for a Stafford can be an enjoyable experience, and the results, a source of great accomplishment and pride for its owner. Take your time, ask lots of questions, and you will find a the dog of your dreams.

© 2002-2018 Staffordshire Bull Terrier Club Of America. All rights reserved.
No part of this website may be reproduced in whole or in part without the permission of the SBTCA.
Address all requests in writing to the SBTCA Webmaster.