Judging a person by their pooch: Are Staffordshire Bull Terriers just ‘chav dogs’?

Manchester have revealed their tendency to stereotype Staffordshire Bull Terrier owners as unemployed, male smokers, aged 18 to 24, wearing tracksuits, with tattoos with shaved heads.

Current research shows the canines are the third most popular dog in the UK despite often being associated with modern ‘chav’ culture.

But in 2013 more than a third of the dogs that came through the doors of Battersea Dogs and Cats Home were of the same breed.

The reason so many of these pets have been given away or abandoned may be linked to their reputation for being vicious.

Originally bred in the 19th Century as fighting dogs, Staffies have been at the centre of numerous high profile and violent attacks on humans.

Wigan teen Jade Anderson was the victims of one of these tragic attacks – and died as a direct consequence of injuries sustained when she was savaged by more than of these one dogs in 2013. 

With all the controversy surrounding this often very misunderstood breed – and it seems their very misunderstood, or at least pigeon-holed, owners – MM took to the streets to ask the question:

Is the stereotypical Staffordshire Bull terrier owner an accurate reflection?

Claire Willis, 22, from Salford said a stereotype of the type of person to own a Staffie immediately jumped into her mind as soon as the breed was mentioned.

“There is definitely a stereotype – you immediately think of a young man smoking, he’s probably unemployed and always wearing a tracksuit,” said the McDonald’s crew member.

“Thinking about dangerous dogs, the first one that comes to mind would be a Staffie and if someone was walking towards me I’d be thinking I hope it doesn’t bite.”

DANGEROUS DOGS: Claire said she would be worried a Staffie might bite if she saw one approaching

Ashton Coates, a student from Macclesfield, agreed that there is a typical terrier owner but that it is a misconception that the dogs are dangerous.

“I grew up in Bradford so I saw a lot of lads walking around with the dogs that fitted that image of wearing tracksuits with their shaved heads,” said the 22-year-old.

“But I’d be much more scared of a bigger dog like an Akita and I even had a Shitzu that went a bit mad but nobody would say they were dangerous.”

Gorton resident Faisal Uhammad, 20, said that his biggest fear would not be the dog but what the owner might do to him.

“In Gorton there are loads of gangs there and they keep these dogs and they’re really vicious towards everyone,” said the student.

“It’s not the dogs fault, it’s the owners that are breeding them like that and making them vicious so I would still worry more about the person.”

OWNERS TO BLAME: Faisal said Staffies are not all vicious but some bad owners raise them to be that way

Katie Seward, 21, thought that although Staffies are associated with that type of owner but the dogs are unfairly judged.

The Rusholme insurance broker said: “I would say Pit Bulls are much more dangerous, there’s a reason there on the dangerous dogs list and Staffies aren’t.

“I like most dogs so I’d want to pet it because they’re normally sweet and docile. It’s the owners and environment that shape them otherwise.”

Makeup artist Victoria Whiteside, from Sale, didn’t think the stereotype was quite so strict and would expect as many female owners as male.

“People think there is a stereotype but it’s probably not true – I don’t think it matters if you’re male or female or what clothes you wear,” said the 26-year-old.

“On occasions I think dogs and owners can look alike as people say but I don’t think the look of someone determines what dogs they have.”

Andrew Matthison, 27, from Tameside, said he could speak from firsthand experience and that his ex-girlfriend’s new partner exactly fits the bill.

The investment banker said: “My ex-partner has a Staffordshire Bull Terrier and her new boyfriend is in that kind of mould with a shaved head and tattoos.

“I think it’s down to the owner to make the dog aggressive in my opinion – I think all dogs have an aggressive side to them but it comes down to training them.”

Unemployed Sheree Myers from New Moston said that age and clothing did not really have an impact on who she would consider to be a stereotypical Staffie owner.

The 36-year-old said: “I would say they could be any age really and I wouldn’t think that they have to wear certain clothes or be a smoker.

“I’m not afraid of dogs so if someone came towards me with any breed it would not bother me, they’re always walking around town and nobody gets attacked.”

Medical student Laura Honeyman, 23, also bucked the trend, saying that she knows several nurses that work in Manchester hospitals that own the Staffordshire Bull Terriers.

BUCKING THE TREND: Laura did not steretype Staffie owners like the majority of Mancunians

“I’d say most owners are between 25 and 35, female and smokers – outside of the hospital I’d say they would wear tracksuits though,” said the Ancoats resident.

“A Doberman would scare me a lot more anyway so if I saw one of the nurses with one I’d be thinking he looks cute, can I pet him?”

Greg Thomas, 27, from Tameside also thought that professions did not necessarily mean that someone should a certain type of dog.

The engineer said: “I don’t think it’s a prerequisite that because you have a certain job or wear certain clothes you should have a certain dog or pet.

“But stereotypically you do think of a young male or female, smoking, probably unemployed and wandering around with their dangerous dog.”

Northern Quarter administrative worker Martine Humphreys said she was surprised that Staffies are as popular as they are considering how dangerous they can be.

“It’s certainly one of the most dangerous breeds as far as I’m concerned but I don’t think it’s all to do with the type of person that normally owns them,” said the 20-year-old.

“I believe there is a stereotype associated with their owners but there can also be a variety of dangerous dogs, they’re just more recognisable than most.”

FITS THE BILL: Andrew said his ex’s new beau matches the shaved head, tattooed image of a Staffie owner

See the full results of our questionnaire below:


Male: 75%

Female: 25%

Age range?

18-24: 60%

25-35: 40%

35-45: 0%

45-55: 0%

55+: 0%

Job title?

Nurse: 3%

Unemployed: 82%

Other: 15% (factory worker, bricklayer, white van man)

Teacher: 0%

Banker: 0%

Bartender: 0%


Yes: 73%

No: 27%

Body adornments?

Nothing: 28%

Chinese symbol tattoo: 10%

England crest tattoo: 54%

Face piercings: 8%

Type of clothing?

Tracksuit:  71%

Casual: 29%

Suit / dress: 0%

Uniform: 0%

Beachwear: 0%

Goth: 0%


Long hair: 25%

Shaved head: 54%

Bald: 21%

Quiff / trendy: 0%

Name a dangerous dog:

Staffordshire Bull Terrier: 66%

Doberman: 11%

Akita: 8%

Pit bull: 17%

First thought when you see a Staffordshire Bull Terrier?

How old is it? 41%

How cute! Can I pet it? 20%

I hope it doesn’t bite me 27%

I hope the owner doesn’t mug me 12%

Main image courtesy of Tim Simpson, with thanks.

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