AKC Official Standard of the Staffordshire Bull Terrier

General Appearance: The Staffordshire Bull Terrier is a smooth-coated dog. It should be of great strength for its size and, although muscular, should be active and agile.

Size, Proportion, Substance: Height at shoulder – 14 to 16 inches. Weight – Dogs, 28 to 38 pounds; bitches, 24 to 34 pounds, these heights being related to weights. Non-conformity with these limits is a fault. In proportion, the length of back, from withers to tail set, is equal to the distance from withers to ground.

Head: Short, deep through, broad skull, very pronounced cheek muscles, distinct stop, short foreface, black nose. Pink (Dudley) nose to be considered a serious fault. Eyes – Dark preferable, but may bear some relation to coat color. Round, of medium size, and set to look straight ahead. Light eyes or pink eye rims to be considered a fault, except that where the coat surrounding the eye is white the eye rim may be pink. Ears – Rose or half-pricked and not large. Full drop or full prick to be considered a serious fault. Mouth – A bite in which the outer side of the lower incisors touches the inner side of the upper incisors. The lips should be tight and clean. The badly undershot or overshot bite is a serious fault.

Neck, Topline, Body: The neck is muscular, rather short, clean in outline and gradually widening toward the shoulders. The body is close coupled, with a level topline, wide front, deep brisket and well sprung ribs being rather light in the loins. The tail is undocked, of medium length, low set, tapering to a point and carried rather low. It should not curl much and may be likened to an old-fashioned pump handle. A tail that is too long or badly curled is a fault. Forequarters: Legs straight and well boned, set rather far apart, without looseness at the shoulders and showing no weakness at the pasterns, from which point the feet turn out a little. Dewclaws on the forelegs may be removed. The feet should be well padded, strong and of medium size.

Hindquarters: The hindquarters should be well muscled, hocks let down with stifles well bent. Legs should be parallel when viewed from behind. Dewclaws, if any, on the hind legs are generally removed. Feet as in front.

Coat: Smooth, short and close to the skin, not to be trimmed or de-whiskered.

Color: Red, fawn, white, black or blue, or any of these colors with white. Any shade of brindle or any shade of brindle with white. Black-and-tan or liver color to be disqualified.

Gait: Free, powerful and agile with economy of effort. Legs moving parallel when viewed from front or rear. Discernible drive from hind legs.

Temperament: From the past history of the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, the modern dog draws its character of indomitable courage, high intelligence, and tenacity. This, coupled with its affection for its friends, and children in particular, its off-duty quietness and trustworthy stability, makes it a foremost all-purpose dog.

Disqualification: Black-and-tan or liver color.

Approved November 14, 1989 Effective January 1, 1990.  AKC.org

A wonderful Illustrated Standard can be found at The Stafford Knot, here.

Stafford Health 

The OFA (Orthopedic Foundation For Animals) sponsors a program (Canine Health Information Center akaCHIC) where they work with a Breed’s parent club and the AKC to establish a set of “Required” health screening pertinent to that breed to help research and maintain on a breed’s specific health issues and/or concerns.

There are 5 required tests for the Staffordshire Bull Terrier to receive a CHIC number.

Hip Dysplasia: OFA Evaluation – or – PennHIP Evaluation

Canine Hip Dysplasia typically develops because of an abnormally developed hip joint, but can also be caused by cartilage damage from a traumatic fracture.With cartilage damage or a hip joint that isn’t formed properly, over time the existing cartilage will lose its thickness and elasticity. This breakdown of the cartilage will eventually result in pain with any joint movement.

No one can predict when or even if a dysplastic dog will start showing clinical signs of lameness due to pain. The severity of the disease can be affected by environmental factors, such as caloric intake or level of exercise. There are a number of dysplastic dogs with severe arthritis that run, jump, and play as if nothing is wrong and some dogs with barely any arthritic x-ray evidence that are severely lame.

Elbow Dysplasia: OFA Evaluation

Elbow dysplasia is a general term used to identify an inherited polygenic disease in the elbow. Three specific etiologies make up this disease and they can occur independently or in conjunction with one another. These etiologies include:

  • Pathology involving the medial coronoid of the ulna (FCP)
  • Osteochondritis of the medial humeral condyle in the elbow joint (OCD)
  • Ununited anconeal process (UAP)

Studies have shown the inherited polygenic traits causing these etiologies are independent of one another. Clinical signs involve lameness which may remain subtle for long periods of time. No one can predict at what age lameness will occur in a dog due to a large number of genetic and environmental factors such as degree of severity of changes, rate of weight gain, amount of exercise, etc.. Subtle changes in gait may be characterized by excessive inward deviation of the paw which raises the outside of the paw so that it receives less weight and distributes more mechanical weight on the outside (lateral) aspect of the elbow joint away from the lesions located on the inside of the joint. Range of motion in the elbow is also decreased. Read more.

Hereditary Cataracts (Juvenile Cataracts): DNA Test, we use PawPrint Genetics.

Hereditary Cataracts is an inherited eye disease in Staffordshire bull terriers. Cataracts are opacities in the lens of the eye caused by structural changes in lens proteins. A normal lens allows light to pass through it to the Retina in the back of the eye. Light cannot pass through the parts of the lens affected by cataracts and vision becomes blurry. Dogs with Hereditary Cataracts most commonly present within a few weeks to months after birth with small cataracts that are visible on a veterinary eye exam. Cataracts from this disease will eventually affect the whole lens in both eyes leading to complete blindness between 2-3 years of age. Of note, not all forms of cataracts are inherited and environmental factors such as UV damage can also play a role in the severity of disease.

Eye Examination by a boarded ACVO Ophthalmologist – minimum age 1 year; Results registered with CERF – or – Results registered with OFA

There are quite a few eye conditions however the Stafford is affected by two other than Hereditary Cataracts below.

Persitent Hyperplastic Primary Vitreous – PHPV

This is another eye disorder that appears to affect Staffordshire Bull Terriers and it’s one that vets are not sure how puppies inherit it from parent dogs. With this said, puppies are born with the condition so it is a congenital disorder and as such they can be tested for PHPV when they are around 6 weeks old. The good news is that it is not a progressive eye disorder so if a puppy is born with the condition it will not get any worse during the course of their lives.

A vet would be able to correct the condition through surgery if they feel it to be necessary although the procedure tends to be quite expensive and it can cause a dog quite a lot of trauma. The other thing to bear in mind, is that because the condition is a hereditary disorder, some insurances would not cover the procedure to put things right. All Staffs need to be screened for the condition before they are used in any breeding programme to reduce the chances of offspring inheriting PHPV.

Posterior Polar Subcapsular Cataracts – PPSC

Staffs are also more predisposed to developing Posterior Polar Subcapsular Cataracts along with a few other breeds, namely the Golden Retriever and the Labrador. The good news is that it’s an eye disorder that does not generally interfere with a dog’s vision. The bad news is that puppies cannot be tested for this sort of cataract and how they inherit the condition from parent dogs is not known either. Dogs of any age can show symptoms of the condition developing which is why it’s essential that every Staff should be tested every year to establish whether or not they have the condition or not, especially if they are being used in a breeding program.

A lot of veterinary clinics in the UK will send you the swabs and the kits needed to test Staffies for eye disorders free of charge with a full set of instructions on how to use them. All that’s left to do once the swabs have been done, is to send them back to the laboratory so they can be analysed. Any dogs coming back with positive results should not be used in a breeding programme and when it’s established a Staff puppy may have inherited an eye disorder from parent dogs, they need to be fully examined by a vet as soon as possible so the condition of their eyes can be assessed. https://www.pets4homes.co.uk/pet-advice/staffordshire-bull-terriers-and-eye-disorders.html

L2HGA (L-2-Hydroyglutaric acidurea): DNA Test, we use PawPrint Genetics.

L-2- hydroxyglutaric aciduria (L-2-HGA) is an inherited neurometabolic disorder affecting Staffordshire bull terriers. Affected dogs have a Mutation in the Enzyme that breaks down L-2-hydroxyglutaric acid resulting in increased levels of L-2-hydroxyglutaric acid in urine, blood and Cerebrospinal Fluid and progressive damage to the brain. Affected dogs typically present between 4 months and one year of age with symptoms of neurologic disease including “wobbly” gait, tremors, seizures, muscle stiffness with exercise or excitement and changes in behavior. In some cases, affected dogs do not present with disease until later in life.


There are 2 optional tests for the Stafford.

Patellar Luxation: OFA Evaluation

The patella, or kneecap, is part of the stifle joint (knee). In patellar luxation, the kneecap luxates, or pops out of place, either in a medial or lateral position.
Bilateral involvement is most common, but unilateral is not uncommon. Animals can be affected by the time they are eight weeks of age. The most notable finding is a knock-knee (genu valgum) stance. The patella is usually reducible, and laxity of the medial collateral ligament may be evident. The medial retinacular tissues of the stifle joint are often thickened, and the foot can be seen to twist laterally as weight is placed on the limb.
Patellar luxations fall into several categories:

  1. Medial luxation (toy, miniature, and large breeds)
  2. Lateral luxation (toy and miniature breeds)
  3. Lateral luxation (large and giant breeds)
  4. Luxation resulting from trauma (various breeds, of no importance to the certification process)

Numbers 1-3 are either known to be heritable or strongly suspected.

Congenital Cardiac Database: OFA Evaluation. Not something that is common in the Stafford.

Congenital heart disease in dogs is a malformation of the heart or great vessels. The lesions characterizing congenital heart defects are present at birth and may develop more fully during perinatal and growth periods. Many congenital heart defects are thought to be genetically transmitted from parents to offspring; however, the exact modes of inheritance have not been precisely determined for all cardiovascular malformations. The most common congenital cardiovascular defects can be grouped into several anatomic categories. These anatomic diagnoses include:

  • Malformation of the atrioventricular valves
  • Malformation of the ventricular outflow leading to obstruction of blood flow
  • Defects of the cardiac septa (shunts)
  • Abnormal development of the great vessels or other vascular structures
  • Complex, multiple, or other congenital disorders of the heart, pericardium, or blood vessels


Other Staffordshire Bull Terrier Health Considerations & Potential Issues

Brachycephalic Syndrom: Brachycephalic syndrome is a term used to describe a combination of primary and secondary anatomic abnormalities found in brachycephalic breeds that leads to varying degrees of upper airway dysfunction and obstruction. The primary abnormalities include stenotic nares, enlarged tonsils, and an elongated soft palate. It is most commonly a condition of breeds with short fore faces or upper jaws such as Pugs, French Bull Dogs, Staffords and the like.

Heat Sensitivity and Heat Stroke: Unfortunately since the Stafford is considered of the Brachy breed variety, they can be highly heat sensitive. Heat stroke can come on quick and if not treated, is deadly. Because the breed is easily excitable especially when doing sporting or other activity that they love such as walks and hiking we take every extra precaution to minimize the chances of Heat Stroke. This includes keeping a “kit” with us at all times – lots of water, alcohol pads or sprays for the bottom of the paw pads, cool coats, as well as crate fans and shade cloths for sporting events.

Degenerative Myelopathy: Degenerative Myelopathy is an inherited neurologic disorder caused by a Mutation of the SOD1 gene known to be carried by Staffordshire bull terriers. This mutation is found in many breeds of dog, though it is not clear for Staffordshire bull terriers whether all dogs carrying two copies of the mutation will develop the disease. The variable presentation between breeds suggests that there are environmental or other genetic factors responsible for modifying disease expression. The average age of onset for dogs with degenerative myelopathy is approximately nine years of age. The disease affects the White Matter tissue of the spinal cord and is considered the canine equivalent to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease) found in humans. Affected dogs usually present in adulthood with gradual muscle Atrophy and loss of coordination typically beginning in the hind limbs due to degeneration of the nerves. Read more.