I wanted to write this blog, to try and portray to people how damaging stigmatising a breed can actually be. For those Staffordshire Bull Terrier Owners out there, is this just me or do you get this? And to those who are thinking of buying one, here is my experience of owning such a dangerous dog!
Recently my partner and I have been looking to buy a dog together. We had agreed on most things, such as; buying one which is not a puppy, being no more than £400 and also the dog had to be local. I really wanted a small, fluffy dog whereas he, wanted a masculine dog, one that he could walk without like he was walking a rat. Countless times I would get so excited, running to him showing him a dog that I found, ‘this is the one’, but he always said no. So when he came up to me declaring that he found the perfect dog, my heart sank as quickly as it got excited. I looked at a photo of a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, brindal coloured with a huge scar covering half of its back. He was not fluffy, cute or even friendly. Instead I looked in to the eyes of a dog I was fearful of, fearful just like so many people are towards this breed. I tried persuading my partner, but did not want to shatter his excitement so had offered to drive to view the dog, as I was driving my worries grew.
As we arrived, the dog was in the flat, quiet and friendly. My partner and the dog owner were chatting and the dog came over to me, looked me into the eyes and then flopped on my feet. I could not help but think, aww how sweet. Then my partner played with him and tested him, trying to determine is temperament as best as he could. We were told he was a rescue dog and the scar on his back was from his first owner who abused him with burning liquid, which has scarred. He is scared of the hoover, which the dog owner presumed that he used to be hit with it, so he tends to try and attack it, so one person has to cuddle him when you use it. Once again, I could not help but think, aww.
The whole drive back, to settling him down I completely forgot my initial fear, I forgot how stigmatised his breed really was. I was just so emmersed with my partner trying to make the dog feel comfortable. It did not take me long to realise the lovely characteristics and personality traits he had, when people say they are sociable dogs, eager to please, it really was true on our case. Despite the hard work and change I knew he was just perfect for us. It was not however until I took him for a walk, people on the street would cross the road, people would stare. An old couple who were, should I say brave enough to walk past me said , ‘you do know they are illegal? Horrible dog, absolutely dangerous’. I just couldn’t react, partially because I questioned whether they were actually illegal, and secondly because I once thought they were horrible like they did, but I knew he was the opposite. I did think of going back up to them, to let them know I once had their view, and in fact it is wrong. But I didn’t. I went home and the first thing I did was googled to see if he was in fact illegal. Turns out that was a myth!
Now we have had him for a couple months, he is settled, he knows that both my partner and I are his boss. Taking him about with me, whether it be it to the local pub, shopping or a casual walk people make it very clear to me that the dog is dangerous, and I am a danger to society for having such a dog. When I term ‘people’, I do not even mean strangers, but family and friends too. At the beginning it took them 5 minutes of being in fear of him, and stepping back when he came towards them, to actually realise he is so lazy and sweet and now they love him, seeing him as a part of the furniture.
To the some dog owners I have had a chance to speak to on our dog walks can be quite sweet, I always mention that I am not quite sure what the dog is like with other dogs just so the other dog owner can be aware and keep a watchful eye. Whilst I will be ready to pull him back if need be, because I am not stupid, you just never know with dogs, which I wished more dog owners could have a similar attitude. For dogs alike to play together or greet are so beneficial for the dog aswell as well as their owners, which unfortunately my staffy lost out on a month of animal contact because other dog owners refused to go near him. Forgetting about the negative connotations, this contact between owners continues to offers insight into owning a dog, opening discussion and sharing of advice and tips. It also offers other dog owners to realise that their opinions can be changed of this breed. It brings me such happiness and galore to hear them say, ‘its a shame Staffy’s get such a hard stick,’ or ‘I never knew Staffy’s could be so calm and gentle’ or even ‘isn’t he loving?’. But it such a shame that those few still haunt my partner and I on our dog walks or outings.
It is this stereotype, and stigma that people have towards Staffy’s that are damaging many dogs around the country and possibly around the world. Walking into rescue centres today you will see Staffy’s as the most common breed, once breed for fighting and owners damaging their name are now discarded and unwanted. Overbreed and super cheap. But our staffy, is amazing with people children or dogs, either friendly or not bothered. Children he is not bothered with either, he recognises the difference between children and adults as he does not play around children. He is just such a delight to our household, he can be protective such as barking at the door when someone approaches. This to some may scare, but to us, just offers that sense of protection with him. He is so loving too, constantly attaching himself to either of us as we walk around the house. Training him was not difficult too, his old owner allowed him to jump up, which my partner and I had come to the agreement that would not be happening with us, training him to not jump took us 3 weeks, which was a habit he must have had for 18 months before.
What more can I really say, other than stereotypying dogs makes everyone feel uncomfortable, and although dogs can be wild they are a product of its owner. Lets treat dogs with humanity, even if you are scared please do not make comments or turn this fear into anger. To other staffy owners out there, I really am interested to see whether you experience this type of labelling and how you deal with it.
To those thinking of buying one, as long as you can be firm and can care for one properly, do it, treat them like any other dogs. At the end of the day, dogs are capable of so much damage, even small dogs.
PS I do like to point out that my partner and I do take our new role extremely seriously, we had to be strict and firm with him and still today to ensure that we are doing our best for his own safety, ours and the wider community. Which I like to hope other dog owners have the same mindset to ensure safety for our society.