We’ve owned a Staffordshire Bull Terrier for almost three years now. The whole family adores her and she is so patient and loving towards my youngest.
I’d never had a Staffy before, but I’d heard they were nanny dogs and I was hoping she would be a good companion for my anxious teen. Sadly, we weren’t very knowledgeable about dogs, having only rescued dogs beforehand. We didn’t realise that it was better to leave a puppy with her mum until they were 8 weeks, as it was we brought Gwen home when she was 6 weeks old and she was the only one left from the litter.
As she’s gotten older, Gwen has gotten reactive. Mostly I put this down to my anxious teen’s behaviour and reactions towards her when Anon is feeling anxious. For Gwen’s protection, as she is a protective and reactive dog, we decided to be responsible owners and get her a muzzle. The muzzle protects her from being accused of biting as well as protecting others if she did decide to bite. I doubt she would, but I figured better safe than sorry, especially as we live in a popular and busy seaside resort.
Gwen’s behaviour has gotten better since we got the muzzle. She’s less reactive but has taken a dislike to other dogs. When the beach is quiet and empty, we do like to treat her by letting her off her lead and off the muzzle, especially when I don’t have the children with me to make her feel protective.
Being a Staffy owner has meant that I have heard other Staffy owners talking about how their dogs are judged by their breed and how people will accuse them of being vicious or how people would cross the road to avoid their dogs. I’ve even heard how when other dogs have attacked the Staffy, the Staffy has been the one blamed, even when the Staffy didn’t even retaliate.
Yet, Gwen and I had been lucky and had never had any negativity directed towards us. Not even when Gwen has her muzzle on and being reactive towards other dogs. That is until last night!
Last night I took Gwen for a walk after tea before hubby went to work. The beach was quiet so I took her without her muzzle and let her off the lead. She had been as good as good, coming back to me when I called her and ignoring everything except her stones which she was having great fun digging up and carrying in her mouth. I was about to call her off the beach and on to the prom so I could put her lead back on her, but as I saw a couple approaching, one of them disabled and using a walking stick and knowing Gwen doesn’t like walking sticks, I left her on the beach, laying amongst the dunes happily chewing her stone and ignoring everything else.
As the couple passed I heard a comment which shocked me. In fact, I had to turn and stare at them as my mind processed what I had heard and when I saw them glaring at Gwen I realised I had heard what I had thought they had said. What I had heard was “What a menacing looking dog. If it comes near me I’ll hit it with my stick”
I was shocked. There was nothing menacing looking about Gwen. As I turned my head and looked at Gwen, she raised her head and gave me a huge Staffy smile to show how happy she was to be off the lead and without her muzzle so she can chew her stones to her heart’s content. I turned back and glared at the couple, thinking how dare they judge my dog just because of her breed!
I called Gwen to me and she came running up, her tail wagging and trying to grin with a stone in her mouth. As I clipped her lead back on I whispered to her “Don’t worry baby. I don’t think you’re menacing and I wouldn’t let her hurt you!” feeling thankful that Gwen didn’t understand what I was saying or that even if she had heard the woman, she wouldn’t have understood her either.
Why are Staffy’s judged?
Staffy’s for some reason have a bad reputation. The media doesn’t help, quick to share all the posts about dog attacks and quick to blame Staffy’s or say it was a pit bull type dog with a picture of a Staffy. Yet if another dog attacks, such as a Labrador or a Jack Russell, you are less likely to find it reported in the media. Surprisingly, the pet insurer Animal Friends released data which showed that you were more likely to be bitten by a Jack Russell or a Labrador than a Staffy, yet when you say dog attack people automatically assume it was a Staffy.
The other problem which has tarnished the Staffies image is dog fighting and chavvies who have Staffies as a status symbol to make them look scary and fierce.
Blame the Deed
Personally, I never judge a dog by its
breed or what it looks like. For years I was scared of sausage dogs and I’ve known vicious Jack Russell’s and Chihuahua as well as the same amount who are friendly and would lick you to death. This is why I have always said that you should Blame the Deed, Not the Breed. All dogs could attack given the right incentive and just like I wouldn’t judge anyone on their race or religion, I won’t judge a dog on its breed.
What about BSL?
BSL or Breed Specific Legislation is a horrible horrible law, that has been proven to be ineffective in dealing with dog attacks.
BSL was introduced 26 years ago as part of the Dangerous Dog Act 1991 to restrict the ownership or certain types of dogs assumed to be dangerous. In the UK the four dogs which are banned under the BSL are the ones traditionally bred for fighting which is the pit bull, Japanese Tosa, Dogo Argentino and Fila Braziliero.
Dogs which are suspected of being a banned type can be seized by the police, spending time in kennels away from their owners whilst they are assessed to determine if they are a banned breed. Whilst some dogs will return home to be kept under strict conditions, such as muzzled in public, sprayed or neutered, contained in a kennel with specific requirements etc some have to be euthanised. Just because of the way they look.
The saddest part is that Staffies and Pit Bulls look very alike and I’ve heard of people having their Staffy seized just because someone believed it was a Pit Bull and being euthanised because no DNA tests are carried out and the person charged with judging the dog has decided it looks like a Pit Bull. This could even be a pedigree Staffy who sadly has no papers, perhaps it was a rescue and the papers were lost.
BSL applies only to dogs of a certain appearance. It does not take into account how the owner has raised, trained or managed the dog. It doesn’t even take into account the dog’s actual behaviour!
BSL also includes a “substantially similar” clause or “any dog with an appearance or physical characteristics that are substantially similar to the aforementioned breeds”. In other words, dogs can be subjected to BSL because they look similar to a particular breed or have general physical appearances that someone might consider “breed-like”.
Yet even with BSL, there has been no research to prove that these banned breeds or types are more aggressive than other dogs.
Whether or not a dog is aggressive can be influenced by many factors, including how they are bred and raised and experiences throughout their life. Breed is not a good predictor of risk of aggression and despite the legislation, dog bites in the UK continue to rise!
I remember when I was little we had a labrador cross. He was a tiny puppy of only a few weeks old when he and his 5 siblings were put in a black bag and thrown into the sea. The bag washed up on the beach and was found but sadly three puppies had passed away. When we got Loui his eyes hadn’t opened properly, he would take 3 steps and fall over and I could place him on my 7-year-old palm. My mum had to syringe feed him milk every few hours for the first few days of his life. As he got older he began to display unpredictable behaviour and eventually the vet diagnosed him as schizophrenic because of inbreeding! In Loui’s case, it wasn’t his breed that made him dangerous, it was the inbreeding and his genetics.
Breed Specific Legislation not only fails to protect the public, it has also resulted in the suffering and destruction of hundreds of dogs which are deemed dangerous just because of how they look.
Why is BSL Wrong?
- BSL does not improve public safety or prevent dog bits.
- BSL ignores the plight of victims and potential victims of non-banned breeds.
- BSL is costly.
- BSL requires each and every dog to be identified as a breed, something that is impossible to do accurately and objectively.
- BSL makes banned breeds more desirable to irresponsible and criminal owners.
- BSL does nothing to make irresponsible dog owners accountable.
- BSL punishes responsible dog owners.
- Not a single canine welfare organisation supports BSL.
The Dangerous Dog Act affects all dogs, not just banned breeds.
Whether you own a large dog or a miniature breed and however calm and friendly your dog is, the Dangerous Dog Act still applies.
Under the act, it is illegal for a dog to be “out of control” or to bite or attack someone. The legislation also makes it an offence even if a person is only worried or afraid that a dog might bite them. This means that a dog barking at someone and making the person scared the dog might bite them is enough to have the dog classed as a Dangerous Dog (hence why I used a muzzle for Gwen for her own protection). This is why it is important to make sure your dog is kept under control at all times and everywhere.