Questions breeder

(Questions by Lenka (Perunstaff), breeders and judges staffordshire bull terrier Peter Rhodes (Staffordshire-UK)

My involvement with the show Stafford started 22 years ago and continues to this day. I am a committee member of the Potteries Staffordshire Bull Terrier Club and have been for a total of 15 years. During this time I have held the positions of Show Manager, Publicity Officer, Breed Council Delegate and Newsletter/magazine editor.

Scottish SBT Club Championship Show, 20 May 2012 - Judge: Peter Rhodes
Notts & Derby District SBT Club Championship Show,
25 July 2010 - Judge: Peter Rhodes
Western SBT Society Open Show, June 2006
Judge: Peter Rhodes

I first judged staffords in December 1995 and my first breed club appointment was in February 2000. I have judged at 8 breed clubs at limit/open level before awarding challenge certificates in 2010 where dogs were judged at the Notts & Derby District Staffordshire Bull Terrier Club. Since then I have judged bitches at the Scottish Staffordshire Bull Terrier Club in 2012. My next appointment in the UK will be judging dogs (again) at the Western Staffordshire Bull Terrier Society in 2015.

This will be my first judging appointment outside of the UK.


A I became interested in the SBT in the mid eighties due to some of my friends owning them. I thought they were a magnificent-looking dog: strong, robust and full of energy. I soon learned that they were a very loyal and affectionate dog towards people, especially with family (the pack). As soon as my wife and I bought our house we purchased our first Stafford and have never looked back on our choice of breed.


A The SBT should give an overall impression of a muscular powerhouse capable of exceptionable stamina when called for. A Stafford should be very active and agile and display confidence in abundance. He should not be a heavy cloddy dog nor should he be too fine and lack substance. A balance of bull and terrier from head to tail is essential for him to have the strength to compete and the endurance to carry it through. A true canine athlete.


A The standard states that the SBT should have rose ears. They should not sit too high on the head, be large or heavy. A half-prick ear is acceptable but any carriage other than a tightly folded ear is more susceptible to being a target during any confrontation and if ripped will bleed severely. Eyes should be round in shape and of a medium size set relatively wide in the head and looking straight ahead. A dark colour is preferred but may reflect coat colour. Both ear shape/carriage and eye colour are of cosmetic value and should be judged accordingly although they do contribute to typical Stafford appearance.


A The Stafford's head is very distinctive and should be functional. The head should be balanced with the body. Exaggeration should be avoided as it only hinders the dog especially during movement. The head should be broad with enough width for correct eye and ear set and be deep through. Prominent cheek (masseter) muscles should be evident when viewed from the front with fill under the eyes to allow for solid molar anchorage. The muzzle should be strong and free from excess flesh. From an aerial view, the head should not be too rounded in shape but more oval with a prominent muscular split down the centre of the skull. Head and muzzle should be proportionate. In profile, there should be a rise over the skull (temporal muscle) but should not be too domed. The length from the occiput to the stop is important to achieve the correct head/muzzle proportions which should be approximately a 2:1 ratio. The stop should be distinct but not too steep/deep as this tends to promote bulbous eyes. Lips should be tight and clean and a good strong underjaw is required to house large teeth.


A The standard of the SBT does not differentiate between a dog and a bitch other than by weight, dogs (28-38lbs) and bitches (24-34lbs). Consequently, the same conformation applies to both sexes but the bitch should be a smaller version of the dog, as indicated with the weight recommendation.


A As a breed the SBT, in my opinion, is over handled in the show ring by judges. Most of the assessment of the dog can be achieved visually. I always like to observe the dogs around the ring standing naturally as opposed to "stacked up" and do this in between judging each dog. This helps me form a more accurate opinion of a dog's conformation. Once a dog is presented to me (statically) I look firstly at the dog from the front concentrating on whether the head and front are balanced. This assessment includes size of head, expression, width to the front and straight legs with good weight of bone. Feet should turn out slightly and be well padded and of medium size. Feet that lack padding usually accompany long toes and this reduces the amount of exercise/work that a dog can sustain resulting in more frequent damage in that area. A Stafford's front should not be too narrow (pinched) nor too wide as both these will affect the dog's movement. I will span the dog's head to give me an indication of the actual size then check for shape. There should be a clean appearance with no excess flesh. Eyes should be round, of medium size and should look straight ahead being set reasonably wide to aid the correct expression. The head should be deep through and the dog should exhibit a strong underjaw and a clean muzzle. A distinct stop is desirable but not too deep/steep. Correct head/muzzle proportions should be checked. Next is the examination of the teeth which should be large. Incisors, canines and molars are examined for correct alignment. The Stafford should have a scissor bite, the tips of the lower canines should be visible and not protrude into the gums or roof of the mouth.

Moving behind the dog, I will again look for balance of the head and body with clean lines. Viewed from above, the neck should taper down to the shoulders and be reasonably short and strong. The shoulders should have a clean outline and not give the impression that they have been tacked on which would indicate poor length of bone and angulation. The ribcage should be a little narrower than the shoulders and be well sprung not slab-sided or barrel-shaped. A distinct waist should be visible leading to well muscled hindquarters. The pelvis should have adequate width to balance out with the front. An examination should be made of the coat condition and length. Tail length should also be checked and testicles (on males).

Now observing the dog in profile, I once again check for balance and quarter angulations. The height (floor to withers) and length (fore chest to point of pelvis) should be of similar dimensions. Front angulation should be examined (shoulder blade and upper arm) and also slope to the pastern to make sure that the weight is sitting through the back pad and not on the toes. Rear angulation should have a good bend of stifle (not to be mistaken for over-angulation). The hock should be vertical to the floor and the feet should be positioned just behind the point of pelvis. Straight stifles tend to produce a stilted rear action moving from the hips (not to be confused with pacing which many dogs will do at a slower gait). Over-angulation will result in an erratic rear movement usually trying to compensate in order not to interfere with the front. Rear angulation is a combination of the pelvic slope, femur and the tibia. If this is correct, then the rear weight distribution will also be correct. Tail set should be low as there should a slight slope to the croup.

Ribs need to be carried back and not cut up too soon (herring gutted) as this deprives the heart and lungs of valuable space. The dog should be light in the loin and have a definite tuck up (this should be confined to the loin area) and not carry excess fat as this restricts correct diaphragm operation. The lower rib line, in my opinion, should be level with or just below the elbow. The dog's topline should be examined both in profile and on the move. This should not be like a table top and rigid as the spires of the vertebrae slope at a different angle where the withers meet the backline and there should be a slight rise over the loin. The backline should not be bobbing up and down whilst the dog is in motion.

Movement will be assessed forward, rearward and in profile. I look for a free flowing action with no wasted energy with front and rear assemblies working together with sufficient propulsion coming from the rear. Limb movement should be straight when viewed from behind with the rear pads just becoming visible when lifted off the ground before returning for another stride. The front assembly should reach out but not rise from the ground too far and, in profile, the length of stride should be checked. Any deviation from this resulting in erratic, awkward gaiting indicates structural faults to the front, rear or both.

A judge has a limited amount of time to assess the dogs in front of them and all dogs have faults. The aim should be to concentrate on a Stafford's virtues and not purely fault finding. Any judge of this breed will have differing priorities as to the more important aspects of the breed standard. Personally, I endeavour to pick a dog type that is muscular, active and agile with a clean outline and unexaggerated features that makes a very respectable attempt at free flowing movement.

Peter Rhodes
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