“I don’t want a show dog, I just want a pet.”

“I don’t want a show dog, I just want a pet.”

This is one of the most pervasive sentiments that puppy buyers, especially families, express when they’re looking for a dog. What they really mean, of course, is that they don’t want a show BREEDER – don’t want to pay the high price they think show breeders charge, don’t want to go through the often-invasive interview process, and think that they’re getting a better deal or a real bargain because they can get a Lab for $300 or a Shepherd for
$150.

I want you to change your mind. I want you to not only realize the benefits of buying a show-bred dog, I want you to INSIST on a show-bred dog. And I want you to realize that the cheap dog is really the one that’s the rip-off. And then I want you to go be obnoxious and, when your workmate says she’s getting a puppy because her neighbor, who raises them, will give her one for free, or when your brother-in-law announces that they’re buying a goldendoodle for the kids, I want you to launch yourself into their solar plexus and steal their wallets and their car keys.

Here’s why:

If I ask you why you want a Maltese, or a Lab, or a Leonberger, or a Cardigan, I would bet you’re not going to talk about how much you like their color. You’re going to tell me things about personality, ability (to perform a specific task), relationships with other animals or humans, size, coat,
temperament, and so on. You’ll describe playing ball, or how affectionate you’ve heard that they are, or how well they get along with kids.

The things you will be looking for aren’t the things that describe just “dog”; they’ll be the things that make this particular breed unique and unlike other breeds.

That’s where people have made the right initial decision – they’ve taken the time and made the effort to understand that there are differences between breeds and that they should get one that at least comes close to matching their picture of what they want a dog to be.

Their next step, tragically, is that they go out and find a dog of that breed for as little money and with as much ease as possible.

You need to realize that when you do this, you’re going to the used car dealership, WATCHING them pry the “Audi” plate off a new car, observing them as they use Bondo to stick it on a ’98 Corolla, and then writing them a check and feeling smug that you got an Audi for so little.

It is no bargain.

Those things that distinguish the breed you want from the generic world of “dog” are only there because somebody worked really hard to get them there. And as soon as that work ceases, the dog, no matter how purebred, begins to revert to the generic. That doesn’t mean you won’t get a good dog – the magic and the blessing of dogs is that they are so hard to mess up, in their good souls and minds, that even the most hideously bred one can still be a great dog – but it will not be a good Shepherd, or good Puli, or a good Cardigan. You will not get the specialized abilities, tendencies, or talents of the breed.

If you don’t NEED those special abilities or the predictability of a particular breed, you should not be buying a dog at all. You should go rescue one. That way you’re saving a life and not putting money in pockets where it does not belong.

If you want a purebred and you know that a rescue is not going to fit the bill, the absolute WORST thing you can do is assume that a name equals anything. They really are nothing more than name plates on cars. What matters is whether the engineering and design and service department back up the name plate, so you have some expectation that you’re walking away with more than a label.

Keeping a group of dogs looking and acting like their breed is hard, HARD work. If you do not get the impression that the breeder you’re considering is working that hard, is that dedicated to the breed, is struggling to produce dogs that are more than a breed name, you are getting no bargain; you are only getting ripped off.

-Author unknown

But I cant find a BLUE puppy!

I see a lot of people new to the world of Staffords say that they are looking for a ‘blue’ and asking how to find one from a good breeder. Although I have addressed this topic several times in my blog the posts do tend to get lost over time so let me discuss this again. 

First of all – there is absolutely nothing wrong with having a color preference when looking for a pet. In Staffords we will often, mostly, see breeders who only own reds or only piebalds or only brindle/black brindle. Its normal to have preferences. 

Second, when seeking a new Stafford puppy no matter what color you are thinking about buying color and price should be the last part of the equation but its usually first thing we hear asked about. Again, normal – this is mainly due to not understanding genetics and responsible breeding. Usually, once a new buyer learns the differences in how different breeders operate they know better what to look for and what is a red flag to run from. 

I also understand that just like there are varying types of breeders, there also are varying types of buyers. Some just want to send money and get a puppy like an Amazon order. Tell the breeder what color, sex and price you are willing to pay and send your deposit – then receive your puppy. It is my very strong opinion this is a horrible way to buy an animal which will be living with you for hopefully up to 15+ years. 

So here is some more information – take it for what its worth – My opinions are based upon 16 years of helping with Stafford rescue, owning, breeding, studying the breed and mentoring others.  What I am about to say is just my understanding and my views based upon my personal experiences. Your mileage may vary. 

When looking for a Stafford look for a breeder whom you can trust, who will offer support and mentorship and who is not just simply paying their bills by making puppies. Its pretty easy to get around a slick website just with a phone call, but if you still aren’t sure ask them some questions or send an introductory email. There is a popular list of ten essential questions to ask but really – make a list of issues important to you and ask. You are interviewing the breeder as much as they are interviewing you. At least – there SHOULD be interviewing going on. If not and all you get is – send a deposit – IMO that’s a red flag folks. You may want to look at what health testing is being done. Possibly look at how they raise their own dogs. You might wish to see living conditions where their dogs live and where puppies are raised. Perhaps have a look at how involved they are in the Stafford community. Mostly – read the contracts you are required to sign. Are you okay with a strict contract or are you seeking a no strings attached sale? We are all okay with different agreements. Just be comfortable with your purchase.

The main thing to concern yourself about as far as wanting a blue Stafford is this – is the breeder producing blue on purpose? Are they putting two blue parents together knowing they will get blue puppies? Is the only color they produce blue? Is every single litter all blue or blue/white? What do their dogs look like? Do they look the same as the brindles or reds or piebalds you see on FB from breeders you think are responsible people? Do they look like Staffords? Are you being fed lines about how they are producing ‘leggier/sporty/champion pedigrees’ or any other marketing flash? Are they more concerned about selling puppies than they are about getting to know you and how their puppy will live?

Unlike when a breeder mates two reds or two black brindles, when two blues are put together this is purposeful dilute combination breeding. This is breeding for a specific market instead of breeding for the whole dog. Breeding should be done carefully with much attention focused on health, temperament, structure, type and more. It should NOT be only about the color! Breeding only red or black brindle or white is an entirely different conversation – and (except for all white) usually doesn’t have the health issues which continuously mating blue to blue only has.

Putting two dilute affected dogs together can only produce dilute affected dogs. What’s wrong with dilute to dilute you ask? Genetically, its rather complicated and can lead to many long term issues, but the easy answer is dilute to dilute is furthering the dilutions causing other problems to arise such as allergy problems, coat breakage, coat thinning, alopecia, blowing coat, lacking breed type, lacking pigment, losing eye/nose/pad color and when done often enough the lack of breed type extends to temperament as well. We (rescue around the world) have seen ‘Staffords’ from long lines of dilute to dilute who are not as stable in temperament as the Stafford has always been known for. This is not a good thing. We see yellow eyes, bad feet, fleshy muzzles, fear aggression, shyness and other problems which seem to appear more often in these blue to blue produced Staffords. I can’t explain this scientifically but I have observed it.

If a breeder is putting two brindles together and they get a blue puppy that’s completely different. If a breeder owns a blue bitch and puts her to a brindle/black brindle dog the responsible thing to do is coat color DNA testing (now that this tool is available) to make sure that dog is not a dilute carrier. A black brindle dog who is a carrier should ideally only be used on a bitch who is not a carrier, and vice versa. These combinations are not as much of a health risk as continuous blue to blue, in my opinion. I bred my brindle bitch to a brindle dog who was known to have produced a dilute in the past. This was prior to coat color DNA testing being available. Instead I, and my mentors, researched pedigrees and we went back 9 generations without finding evidence of a blue puppy. We felt safe. Guess what we got? Two blue puppies! It happens. I kept one and I sold one. He was sold on a no breeding contract. My blue bitch was only bred to non dilute carriers and only produced brindle and black brindle. She also has a very different coat from the non dilutes we own. Her coat breaks easily, gets bleached in the sun easily and she blows her coat something fierce twice a year! Currently she is so bald I have to use sunscreen on her. The coat will come back and it will look beautiful and dark again, but I mention this b/c it is different from her non dilute family members.

The argument put forth by the masses is that breeders purposefully breeding blue to blue to blue to blue are only in it for the money. Sure, I would agree, no doubt this is the case – however – many breeders who only breed red to red, black brindle to black brindle, piebald to piebald can essentially be guilty of this as well so that argument fails for me. For me its more a matter of preserving the breed in ALL aspects. There are bad breeders of all colors and types. I know of some horrific situations coming out of kennels of colors other than just blue from my time helping rescue and also what I have observed in the show world. There are some excellent very slick and shiny fancy salespeople out there. Do your homework. If you insist you ONLY want a blue Stafford puppy – thats fine too – let a reputable breeder help you locate one from another responsible breeder who just happened to get some blue ones in a litter of non dilute puppies. Same rules apply – be comfortable with what you buy.

All I am saying here is STOP looking for your puppy and START looking for your breeder. 

So you think you want a Stafford?

Every morning I check my email and usually see a request or two for a Staffordshire Bull Terrier puppy or re-home/rescue. Since I run The Stafford Knot and rescue pages I hear all the time how “I have had ‘staffy’ mixes, or I have had ‘pit bull dogs’ or some other story about how prepared they are and how familiar they are with Staffords. I bite my tongue sometimes but often I come right out and tell the people – no…no you didn’t own a Stafford ‘mix’ or a real APBT and even if you did you honestly have no idea what a purebred Stafford is like to live with.

Shelters will label all boxy headed bulldog looking mix breeds as ‘staffy mix’ because that will adopt our more easily than pit bull mix will. Therefore 1000’s of people think they own a ‘Staffordshire’ and will swear to the end of their lives that is true. Then they feel a purebred Stafford is the same as all of the mixed breeds out there. Again, not true. But you cannot convince these people. Temperament of a Stafford is so much busier than most APBT mixes. There are similarities, but once you have spent time with purebred Staffords you can just ‘feel’ or ‘see’ a difference… the nuances may be small but they are there.

This is not the breed for everyone.

I have told countless people after hearing what they are seeking to look at other breeds. Sometimes this is met with resentment, anger, arguments . . . and other times I am thanked for my honesty. I have seen Staffords in shelter pulls for rescue who were sold to the wrong families and released due to just being Staffords. I have had owner surrenders come in because ‘the dog cant stop moving, too energetic, too mouthy, hates my neighbors dog/cat, jumps on people/furniture/my head. . . . knocks the kids down, too pushy trying to be on the baby’……you name it, I have heard it. AND I could have told these people prior to the sale they weren’t a good match.

Now, don’t misunderstand what I am telling you….Staffords are AMAZING companions….just not for every person/home/family….in my opinion. There are other people who think anyone can own the breed. Since being tightly involved in Stafford rescue for 16 years now I know this not to be true. Same way as a sighthound or a northern breed may not be the right breeds for our home. Sure, we could manage one….but if we are honest we aren’t a good match for either.

Two years ago my good friend John posted to his FB wall his thoughts on the topic:

“New stafford owners should be made aware of a few things before they take the plunge. Staffords are not average dogs, they are other than average. If you think your Stafford is strong, it’s probably stronger than you think. It can probably run faster and jump higher than you think too. They should not be underestimated. They have a lot of energy. They love people and can’t be cool about it. They might dislike other animals and they can’t be cool about that either. They need human companionship. They need to be with you. They play rough. They might play with their teeth. They’re affectionate to a fault. They can be relentless. They’ll be the best dog you’ll ever have, but people need to understand them going in, and be ready for the ride.”

John is a wise man in more ways than I can count. Trust his words.

But I want a blue puppy…..

Staffords come in many colors and while many of us have personal preferences about the color of a future member of the family, Type – Temperament – Soundness should come before your preferred color.Black Brindle, Brindle, Red, Faun, Pied (white with red or brindle patches), solid white and blue are all accepted colors in the AKC Staffordshire Bull Terrier Breed Standard. Black and Tan (with or without white) and Liver are also genetically possible colors in the breed and in the USA they are considered a disqualification, other parts of the world they are undesirable.Merle is NOT a color in our breed genetics, if you see a merle stafford consider it a bully mix and not a purebred staffordIf you find a breeder breeding for any of the following, please consider their motives before purchasing a puppy from them

  • Breeding specifically for blue (dilute of black) and only blue or a non standard color
  • Breeding 2 blue staffords together
  • One color sold for more money than another color – a reputable breeder will sell all pups at the same price regardless of color or sex

Breeding dilute to dilute can not only cause a lack in breed type and temperament, but has also been shown to cause health issues with those puppies. If you really just love blue then go to a breeder who not only fully health tests and can prove results (L2-HGA, HC, PHPV, CERF, Cardiac, OFA Hip, Patella) has non dilute Staffords which carry one copy of the dilute coat color gene and occasionally produce dilute coated puppies.As breeders we can’t order up specific colors and markings when we plan a litter, though we can genetically know what combinations the parents are capable of producing. White socks or a black eye patch are all up to mother nature.Find a breeder who’s dogs you like, let them know you lifestyle and what you are looking to do with your new pet and let them pick the puppy that will fit that lifestyle, whatever color they happen to be…..


Thank you Jodie Berry for helping to write the above article which mirrors the sentiments of many reputable Stafford breeders everywhere. I have written on this topic extensively since we had a litter from two brindles which produced two blues. Now breeders have access to reliable DNA coat color testing so we no longer need to get surprises. Stop shopping for color and start looking for a breeder who can help guide and mentor you through the process of finding your next healthy, well bred puppy. Please heed the well meaning advice of those who have experience and are willing to share their knowledge with you. We have this breed close to our hearts and are seeking to preserve it and introduce people to the breed in ways which promote the well being of Staffordshire Bull terriers – not pay our bills off of them.