Why we ignored the myths and adopted a senior staffy
A guest blog by senior staffy adopter, Kalyani Lodhia.
For as long as I can remember I've wanted a dog but we were never allowed one as children. After my brother and I moved out, my parents finally warmed up to the idea of getting one and we finally found Stella, a beautiful senior staffy.
I've worked with and around dogs for years; my first job was in a boarding kennel, where we looked after pet dogs as well as some of the Ministry of Defence's dogs, as their kennels were getting redone.
So, I've met them all - giant dogs, tiny dogs, dogs with dreadlocks, tough army dogs, anxious dogs, disobedient dogs, old dogs, blind dogs, dogs with an endless supply of energy - the lot!
But one breed always stood out to me, and they were the staffies. As someone very young, with no exposure to dogs growing up (no one we knew had a dog and there weren't many in our neighbourhood), I was baffled as to why they often had such a bad reputation.
"Sadly, staffies don't always hold a very positive place in peoples' imaginations"
Despite being the third most popular dog breed in the UK, staffies often have an unjust reputation for being aggressive. Sadly, staffies don't always hold a very positive place in peoples' imaginations, with bad press about staffies in the news, feeding misconception around the breed. When I tell people that staffies are my favourite breed, I'm met with shocked reactions and comments along the lines of: "but they're so dangerous!".
One of the biggest misconceptions about staffies is that they have an increased tendency for aggression. However, a study by the Royal Veterinary College in 2020 reported no significant difference in the risk of aggression between staffies and non-staffy breeds.
Few robust and comprehensive studies have been done into the statistics of dog bites per breed and in the UK there is no requirement for dog bites to be recorded. What data does exist can be misleading. For example, in some studies, Britain's most popular breed, the labrador, has been reported to be responsible for most dog bites in the UK. This shouldn't be that surprising though as other studies have found that the most commonly owned dogs were those most likely to have bitten.
Pair skewed data with sensationalist headlines and staffies have garnered a very unfair reputation. The truth is that those few who do bite represent the minority of the breed and we can't rule out a whole breed of dog based on the few.
Of course, there are a myriad of factors that cause dogs to be aggressive and to bite such as feeling threatened. A dog's choice to act aggressively is dependent on how they have been bred, reared and their lifetime experiences. . Despite there being millions of dogs in the country, there are very few involved in very serious incidents and fatalities, and this mostly comes down to the way they were raised and socialised, which is no fault of the dog.
In 2018, PETA campaigned to add Staffordshire Bull Terriers to the Dangerous Dogs Act, which bans the breeding of certain types of dog, prevents the sale of these types and prohibits them from being kept unless certain conditions are met including they are neutered, muzzled and kept on a lead in public at all times. Despite best intentions, I believe that legislations like these do nothing, but to further demonisation of particular breeds.
"I know that if she were in a different body, more people would stop to say hello to her on the street."
Staffies are also the victims of classism; they are often portrayed on the streets or being the dog of choice for certain, misrepresented groups, such as working-class youths. They are rarely depicted in domestic family settings and so have negative connotations often involving violence and macho-ism.
When I walk down the street with Stella, in my sports clothes, people will often avoid making eye contact, cross the road and do everything to avoid us. It breaks my heart because Stella adores people, she wants to say hello to everyone and I know that if she were in a different body, more people would stop to say hello to her on the street.
However, if you've ever met a staffy, you'll know just how unfair their reputations are. Stella is loyal, loving, soppy and they're absolute bundles of joy. She also has the most beautiful heart-shaped head, round, shiny eyes and dazzling smile.
"Despite staffies being such loving animals, they're also the most likely dogs to be abused and abandoned"
Sadly, despite many staffies being such loving animals, they're also the most likely dogs to be abused and abandoned and so are the most common breed in rescue centres across the country. Pain this with their misleading reputation and they can also take longer to be rehomed. Not only can staffies be lovable family pets, but there are several other reasons why staffies can make the perfect dog for many families:
- Like all dogs, they're often easy to train because they are highly intelligent and of course, it doesn't hurt that they tend to be food motivated too!
- Staffies are also a generally healthy breed, with relatively few breed-specific health issues, unlike many popular designer breeds.
- They're so easy to groom because of their short hair.
"I knew that there were plenty of dogs in shelters in desperate need of homes"
When my parents said they were thinking of getting a dog, I was so excited, especially since I'd moved back during the pandemic. They were thinking about what breed to get and I immediately got on the case convincing them that a staffy would be a great idea!
Initially, my dad wanted a puppy but, having been around a lot of dogs, I knew that a puppy wouldn't be the best fit for them. Plus, I knew that there were plenty of dogs in shelters in desperate need of homes.
Young dogs are very quickly snapped up from rescue centres, often having huge waiting lists of individuals and families wanting an adorable puppy, and sadly, leaving the older dogs behind. Senior dogs are often overlooked as they're "not as cute", don't live as long, and there can be a misconception that they'e problem dogs and untrainable. However, getting an old dog can be an incredible experience for so many reasons...
6 reasons why older dogs make the best pets
- You know what you're getting with an adult/senior dog. They're fully grown, so there won't be any surprises there, and you already know what their personality is like so you can find a dog that you know will fit with you and your family.
- They often come ready trained; Stella already understood basic commands when she moved in with us which made the whole process much easier.
- Old dogs can learn new tricks! Want your senior dog to give paw? They can still learn that! And, if they do have behavioural problems that need work, there's lots of help available.
- They're a lot less work than puppies (in some ways!)! You usually don't have to worry about toilet training your dog, they won't (usually) eat your furniture and they don't (usually) need constant supervision.
- You are aware of health problems (if any). If you end up buying a puppy from a bad breeder, they can often come with health problems that they will not necessarily make you aware of. Reputable shelters and rescue centres give their animals health checks and will always inform you if your prospective pet has any known health conditions.
- They need love too!
The main argument against getting an old dog is that you get less time with them. However, you never know how much time you have with anyone! It just makes all the time you do have even more special and you don't take it for granted. Dogs, unfortunately, don't live forever so compromising on potentially a few years didn't matter to me, as long as the dog that came into our lives would have a second chance at happiness.
Older dogs need us more than we need them. Sometimes we know what happened in the lives of our rescue dogs and often we don't. It breaks my heart to think about all the dogs, who have either never had a chance at happiness or had theirs taken away from them, being overlooked simply because of their age. At the end of the day, a dog is a dog and they're all special. They all deserve to be given all the love in the world and for the chance to give it back.
"We instantly fell in love with her beautiful, big smile and how she was filled with so much energy"
So, we decided on an older staffy and ended up looking through all of the dogs on the RSPCA website. We found a couple we liked so made an application to the Chesterfield branch. I got a call back from the lovely team who asked a little bit about us and our home, to ensure their dogs would be in safe and loving environments, and I told them a little about what we were looking for.
The lady I spoke with instantly thought Stella would be a great fit so she sent us some photos and videos. We instantly fell in love with her beautiful, big smile and how she was filled with so much energy! We couldn't believe she was 12 years old! And that's how Stella came into our lives.
Stella was anxious the first night, barking and crying when we left her downstairs, but, since realising we're not going anywhere, has settled in seamlessly and so quickly. Her favourite things to do are: destroy toys in five minutes or less, get lots of cuddles and go on walks!
During the day, she sits next to me while I work, sometimes snoring away or sometimes making tail-fans during my meetings. We're not entirely sure what her past was like but she's nervous around other dogs and around people who are nervous of her, so that's something we're all working on.
At the end of the day, we're not entirely sure how long we have with her but we absolutely adore her and so are making every second count. Giving a retirement home to a dog who lost their happiness through no fault of their own, and might find it harder to find a new forever home, is utterly priceless.
Looking to adopt a rescue dog?
We have lots of animals in our care ready and waiting for their forever home.