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Staffies in Agility

Faster than a speeding bullet...

The Breed Standard of the Staffordshire Bull Terrier requires it to be bold, fearless and totally reliable. It is one of only two Breed Standards that mentions suitability with children. So it is surprising that Staffords (aka Staffies) receive such bad press. A very high percentage of dogs in rescue centres are Staffordshire Bull Terriers or SBT crosses. A lot of places are overrun with the breed and refuse to take any more in. Avril Taylor and Lesley McFadyen wonder why as they make wonderful family pets and super agility dogs.

Originally a cross between a bulldog and a terrier, the Stafford's temperament comes from both breeds.  It's love of people is well documented. They crave your attention and want to please, and most of them also love their food.  Following some displays by the East Anglian Staffordshire Bull Terrier Club in the Good Citizen ring at Crufts in 2002 and 2003, team members did a Stafford agility display in the Special Events arena the following year. This attracted the comment from one spectator that they were like 'canine bullets'.

So is the Stafford the ideal agility dog?
They are fast, athletic, powerful and very enthusiastic which gives them the potential to be wonderful agility dogs.

The biggest problem you may find is that they have no respect for the agility equipment and they will blast through anything they can't go round or over! Their reliability around other dogs also needs to be taken into consideration. Some Staffords love other dogs but a lot don't and won't tolerate other dogs in their face. Once focused on agility, however, they can be fine but they may require their space carefully managed whilst queuing, in group training sessions etc.

Staffords in agility today
There are now more and more Staffords competing in agility around the world at all levels.

The East Anglian SBT Club is the only Staffordshire Bull Terrier breed club in the UK to have held agility shows specifically for Staffords in the past. The first one attracted a couple of dozen dogs from across the country, but unfortunately the second one was scheduled just as the measuring changes took place and not everyone could get their dogs measured in time.  As there are considerably more Staffords now competing around the country, the Club is now considering holding another breed specific agility show in the near future.

The Club is very fortunate to have members who are very dedicated to agility, and in 2011 the Staffordshire Bull Terrier Agility League was set up. There were 42 members in the first year and currently just under half of the Staffords that are registered with the League are rescues.

The EASBTC Display Team was formed which is now performing around the East Anglian region throughout the summer and also at Crufts and Discover Dogs on a regular basis. The team consists of home bred dogs and rescues, some KC registered and some not. Every opportunity is taken to show the general public the positive side of the breed and dispel some urban myths. The message is also given out that while rescue homes everywhere are full of bull breeds, they are great dogs.

Even if you find that competitive agility is not for you, why not aim for one to one training and get some equipment for your garden. Generally most Staffords enjoy the challenge and stimulation.

They aren't the right breed for every family so make sure you research before committing.

For more information on The Staffordshire Bull Terrier Agility League and East Anglian Staffordshire Bull Terrier Club, please visit the following websites:

Staffie v. Stafford
A lot of people, mainly people who show and breed SBTs, dislike the term 'Staffie,' probably because 'Staffie' has become a term for dogs that look like SBTs (probably crosses) and not necessarily pure bred SBTs. Most pet dog owners and agility people use the term 'Staffie' but Breeders and Show people use 'Stafford.'

About the authors...
Lesley McFadyen has had Staffords in her life since the mid 1970s, raised her family with them, shown them since the mid 1980's and not a day goes past when they don't feature in her life. She has bred over those years some lovely dogs, some show Champions and a fair few that have gone on to agility homes, including one who represented Canada at the EO Championships in 2013.Through those she's bred she has made some lifelong friends in their owners.  

She has been Secretary of EASBTC since 2000, having been on Committee since 1990, has judged around the world (Australia, NZ, Spain, Ireland, France, S Africa) but her biggest strength is organising and bossing around her lovely display team members!

Avril Taylor got her first Stafford in 2002 and now lives with Saffi (13 year old SBT), Dakota (8 year old SBT), Milo (4 year old SBT X Labrador) and new addition Jersey (8 week old SBT.) She has been doing agility for about 18 years, runs the Staffordshire Bull Terrier Agility League and is a member of the EASBTC Display Team.

First published 10 May 2015