Guest blog – my life with Staffordshire bull terriers – Jo-Ann Essex

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I first met Jo Ann when we were both filming for Dogs Trust with our dogs, me with Barley my lurcher and Jo Ann with Poppi her lurcher (stafford x whippet).  Jo Ann is a Stafford expert, she has bred Staffords for many years and currently has 4 generations from the same lines.  Below Jo Ann chats to us about her life and her dogs.  Jo Ann’s replies are in italics.

 

(Jo Ann with Tate)

Jo Ann, thank you so much for agreeing to answer some of our questions about your breed the Staffordshire Bull Terrier.

How long have you had Staffords ?
I got my first Stafford in 1997

How many dogs do you have at the moment?
8 dogs in total, 6 Staffords and 2 lurchers – all girls apart from Mouse my male Stafford.

Why do you only have one male dog?
Because my current Male Stafford would not be happy living with another Male Dog. And I personally wouldn’t keep two Male Staffords together. I also would not sell a Male pup to a household who already has a male dog.

(Mouse competing at Crufts)

 

Do your dogs like other dogs?
They like their friends. These are dogs they have been brought up with and are allowed to play with. They don’t like strange dogs just approaching them. They are people Dogs not Dog, Dogs. They would not actively go and approach another dog and this is not something I would want them to do.

(Queenie, Poppi and friends)

Do you let them socialise with other dogs when they are puppies?
Only dogs that I know or dogs I know they will be around for their whole life. For example my friends’ dogs.

(Tate and friends)

Do you let them off the lead in the park with other dogs when they are puppies?
No. I don’t want my dogs running off to other dogs in the park at any point In their lives. So I don’t encourage it when they are pups. We may have controlled quick hellos on lead but I don’t let them off the lead  just to “ go and play “.

What about when they are adults, do you walk them off lead in the park?
Only if I know the park well or can see for a long way. My dogs will not just go over to other dogs. If I see dogs coming off lead I will call mine in and clip them on. Hopefully others we will see this as a clear sign my dogs don’t want to mix with theirs.

(Poppi lurcher, Tyger and Queenie)

What age do you start to do agility with your dogs?
They don’t start proper agility training till at least 12 months and things like weaves I don’t start till they are around 18mths – 2 yrs. but we do loads of foundation work with them from tiny pups, things like balance work, recalls, tricks, stays etc all age appropriate. I also do Hoopers with my dogs and this is a great starter for puppies and older dogs especially.

(Agility rosettes from a recent weekend away competing)

Why do you do agility with them?
Because me and the dogs totally love it. We love the challenge and all the fitness training involved.

(Queen training)

Do you do any other dog sports with your dogs?
Yes, lure racing, Hoopers and long jump.

Do you think that Staffords, as a general rule, are good with other dogs?
No, of course there are always exceptions to the rule. If you want a dog to take up the park and just let off with strange dogs don’t get a Stafford.

Do you think that Staffords, as a general rule, are good with people and kids?
Absolutely. They are known for their love of people and children and are one of only two breeds that are recommended by the KC for their love of children. That does not mean children should be left unattended with them just as with any dog.

Does reward based training work with Staffords the same way it does with other dogs?
Yes. Most Staffords love food and a good game of tug. They love any sort of praise from their owners. Staffords do not like raised voices or arguments.

(Tate learning to tug)

What makes your dogs happier than anything else?
Agility, spending quality time with me. A lovely long walk on the beach.

Do Staffords get over aroused or excited quicker than other breeds?
In my opinion yes. They love working and are highly intelligent. If they are not given things to do they will find things to do themselves such as chewing (they love chewing ) this is one of the reasons the find themselves in rescues 🙁 lack of stimulation from their owners 🙁 lots of things excite them and they can take a while to come down from that excitement if it’s not channelled.
This is one reason things can quickly change into a fight. Other dogs don’t always get them and their rough play. Staffords don’t generally start fights intentionally but they don’t back down once things have escalated.

Is there anything you think Staffords find hard or difficult?
Not really they are a very hard working intelligent breed that are eager to please. There are Staffords competing in all sorts of sports, heelwork to music, police sniffer Dogs, sheep farm hands, assistance Dogs, search and rescue and even Staffords that have learned all by themselves to alert their owners to fits and hypo episodes.

(Jo Ann with the East Anglian Staffordshire Bull Terrier display team at Crufts)

 

Do Staffords like living with other dogs? are your dogs affectionate with each other?
My dogs are happy living with their house mates although due to the number of dogs I have they are managed well. I would honestly say all my dogs would happily live as only dogs.

(Three generations together Queenie, Peppa and Tyger)

Do your dogs wear harnesses? if so why?
Yes. They sometimes pull with sheer excitement and I would not want that extra pressure on their necks. In fact I wouldn’t walk any dog on a collar.

Would you ever have a different breed?
Yes their are lots of breeds I would like to own ( I love all dogs ) but I will always own a Stafford while I am fit and able enough. There are also breeds I would not want to own as they would just not fit in with my life style.

Many thanks Jo Ann, for this fascinating insight into your dogs and your lovely breed.