Are Staffy Cross Dogs Good Pets?

Updated November 29, 2020

What do you think when you see a dog like this? Many people would say he’s not pretty, or pedigreed, and he probably doesn’t have too many fine manners. Of course we’d disagree. And more and more dog lovers are also seeing the rough diamond in these dogs.

What Staffies Are Really Like

marley staffy cross

I need to declare a conflict of interest: I love these dogs. They have an ‘old soul’ way of looking at the world that’s totally at odds with their reputation. Despite their size they love nothing more than to be near or on their favourite person for as much of the day as possible. Most of them would rather walk through the gates of hell than knowingly disobey their owners.

Maybe the Jack Russell Terrier owner in me just wants a rest.

Not that I get to see them much. I reckon along with working dogs they must be among the healthiest and least prone to the common illnesses of purebred dogs. Most of them just seem to visit me once a year for their annual checkup. That’s what you get for all that ‘outbreeding’.

Of course these are terrible generalisations, and you can be unlucky. Some dogs get atopic dermatitis, and others have behaviour problems like any breed. Inter-dog aggression is probably higher than average for example.

Why Did Staffy Crosses Have A Bad Name?

I think it’s mostly about the breed name. People would hear Staffy and think ‘aggressive’. There are two problems with this:

  • Breed of origin is a very poor predictor of aggression.
  • The breeds we think they are probably wrong anyway.

Thanks to recent DNA testing, we’re starting to realise that the so-called staffy cross is not what it seems. The tests we’ve done so far show very mixed origins with a low level of any particular breed.

It’s early days, but I’ll bet the more we look the more complicated it gets. Just like life!

Are They Pitbulls?

No. Have a look at these dogs commonly confused with crossbreeds.

Staffordshire Bull Terrier

Staffordshire Bull Terrier
Image by User Sannse CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The tallest they get is 41 cm at the shoulder and weigh up to 17 kg. There’s really no obvious similarity in either size or build with the clients’ dogs we’ve featured in this article.

American Staffordshire Terrier

american staffordshire terrier

The Amstaff is like the Staffordshire Bull terrier but generally taller and heavier. Although these dogs superficially resemble some Staffie crosses, we’re seeing low percentages in our DNA tests.

Bull Terrier

brindle bull terrier

These are fine dogs, but nothing like Staffie crosses.

Pit Bull Terrier

American Pitbull Terrier
American Pitbull Terrier with cropped ears

The media don’t seem to know what a Pit Bull looks like. The breed is ‘prescribed’, meaning there are very strict rules on its ownership and breeding.

Whenever they want to talk about Pit Bulls they seem to use a photo of a Staffordshire Bull Terrier or a Staffie cross. Which only adds to the prejudice.

The photo shows what Pit Bulls generally look like, though you will see another picture of an American Pit Bull Terrier here. They resemble taller, long-legged and skinny Staffordshire Bull Terriers with a remarkably smooth coat. Of course this one has had something unspeakable done to the ears.

What Is A Staffie Cross Then?

cat in dog bed
Who stole Cassie’s bed?

It often seems that the dogs called ‘staffie crosses’ are the result of really just being labelled by their size and shape. The thick-headed dogs, mainly. I’m guilty of doing this as well but I’m trying to change.

Are we just giving in to a very human tendency to have to put a label on everything? Why can’t they just be dogs?

What if the dog we call a ‘staffy cross’ is actually just a version of the dog that’s been with us all along. The breed that exists under the radar, taken for granted, but always there being awesome. Just like moggies are in the cat world.

Maybe trying to fit them to any breed is the problem. Since the only thing they all have in common is a boofhead, perhaps we should call them the Australian Boofhead.

These aren’t my ideas; most rescue organisations are now either avoiding breed labels or making up their own.

Why These Dogs Need Homes

I think that a lot of the behavioural issues can be blamed on the terrible raw deal they often get. These are the dogs most likely to be surrendered to a shelter, the most likely to get parvovirus in our clinic, and generally the ones less likely to get what they need in terms of care and socialisation.

cross breed dog

And the ones most likely to be on the other side of the wire in dog rescues and shelters.

The dogs that turn up in shelters and on rescue sites so often just don’t fit the desired breed for so many dog owners. This means many come away disappointed.

I can’t blame people: they aren’t for everyone. Their looks are definitely an acquired taste, and thanks to the media’s obsession with ‘pit bulls’, they get a lot of bad press. But I suspect more people would take them if they knew what they were really like.

If you see a dog called a Staffie cross and feel a connection, don’t ignore it. Check with the shelter about the history and known problems with that dog. Sit with him or her for a while and take the shelter’s advice on how to make the best assessment.

If things are still good, see if the shelter allows you to take dogs home on trial and don’t feel bad if it doesn’t work out. After all, you’re at least giving a needy dog a chance.

If you take that dog, a good dog training class is essential. These dogs are hard to walk if untrained, but then all dogs and owners benefit from training. Start with a checkup with your vet and follow their recommendations on where your dog would do best.

In the end, as we all know, it’s not the label on the box that matters. It’s what’s inside.

Have something to add? Comments (if open) will appear within 24 hours.
By Andrew Spanner BVSc(Hons) MVetStud, a vet in Adelaide, Australia. Meet his team here.

37 Replies to “Are Staffy Cross Dogs Good Pets?”

  1. Hi, just wondering what cross the dog in the header is? Looks almost identical to our puppy who’s mum is a staffy but not sure what dad is

  2. Hey, great article. I think you are on to something “Australian Boofhead”. We picked up a rescue, “Ruby”, recently and she was advertised as a 1 yo Kelpie Cross…. Now I reckon the Kelpie may be in there somewhere… but our girl also clearly has some Am Staffy in there as well. Physical characteristics are just too similar… But.. The classic dogs breakfast genetically. I have to say, of all the dogs we have had or cared for, from Labs to Malemutes and various Kelpie crosses (Kelpie x Rotty and a Kelpie x German Shepherd) this girl is the best dog we have had. Trainable, and devoted… dog and people friendly. I am over the moon! Ruby the great Australian Boofhead! Thanks

  3. Hi, what is the mix of the dog Marley you posted? It looks similar to my friend’s dog, Turkey. Thanks!

    1. Hi Ellie. He is 50% Red Australian cattle dog, 25% a mix of English and American Staffordshire bull terrier, and 25% unknown.

  4. I have a staffy x with a pointer, fro. The dog pound and 8 years on hehasproved to be the best dog I ever had. Loyal, adores my children a true family member.

  5. Hey, I was lucky enough to find a rescue English Staffy x Cattle (mixed with who knows what) to be company for my Sheprador, a more beautiful old soul I’ve not met in a long time and much more sooky than my Sheprador. That said between the two of them, you cannot walk past my house and any walk with them is ‘brisk’.

  6. I have a Shepard x staffy female puppy she is 8 weeks old so I’m trying to find out if it can be dangerous she is all black and some brown markings on her four legs.

      1. Hi Andrew,
        Thanks for the detailed information in your article. It is pleasing to hear caution in some people in choosing a staffy cross breed. Our experience has not been great. Two years ago a neighbours staffy cross entered our yard and killed our Kitten. Today a staffy cross could not be restrained by its owner and killed a poodle that my son was walking for a friend. While only anecdotal experiences, there seems to innate dog aggression present in this breed.

  7. Hi Andrew I have just got a brindle cross staffy pug, Will she have a good temperament as I have very young grandchildren and are they easy to house train, and how big do you think she’ll be. She’s 16 wks old thanks

    1. Hi Trish. As much as it can be predicted at all, pug crosses are almost always excellent around children. Staffy crosses are also much better than average.

  8. i have got a 8 week old staffie cross jack russle are they good with younge kids iff brought up with the kids as a pup

  9. Hi,

    I’m in the process of adopting. I lost my amstaff x boxer 6 months ago to cancer. We had such a great bond and she would do anything to please. But she was 39 kgs and I’m getting older. So I’ve applied to rescue a staffie x jack Russel. Is this a good mix ? I’m a bit concerned as everything I look at seems to emply that jrt are full on and require loads of stimulation and exercise. I do like a calm cuddle dog that’s why I like staffies but are up for big walks an hour a day. Oh and would be alone for 8.5 hours 4 days a week whilst I work. Any advise is this mix ok for me ??

    1. Hi Katherine. You are right to be concerned- I have a Jack Russell, and I love him, but he also drives me crazy. A JRT cross could work out OK but the only way to know is to see the dog. Temperament is more important than size.

    2. I have one like that too. He has the run of outside and inside. He doesn’t like to be left alone but is well trained. I come home to my bed messed up (has some anxiety issues). I work with him not against him. We walk every day. Does dig holes at times. Is very affectionate. Sleeps on bed until i fall asleep then goes to own bed. Would haved another anytime

  10. Hi I adopted a staffy cross from a shelter. She’s absolutely amazing . After a day with me she bonded very quickly . She s so loving … It’s extremely rewarding to adopt a rescue dog . She’s now my best friend . People shouldn’t be afraid let’s give those poor dogs a chance

  11. We adopted a 3 and a half year old staff cross called Prince. He has the most loving nature and didn’t take long to settle in with us. Within half an hour he had settled in and playing wih his new toys. I really don’t understand some people’s attitude towards Staffs. I have had people picking up their pets before they pass. Also comments keep you dog away from me. He just walks passed. He loves to play and most people let their dogs meet him. The very small dogs he even gets down to their level before he approaches them, as if he knows he would frighten them. We love him so much and being retired he loves the fact we are with him nearly all the time. We are taking him for training and he loves it.

  12. I have adopted Staffie x Kelpie and for me it is perfect pet but I see why most people would have problems.
    He has Duracell battery in his butt and after 4 hours of running at full speed in “dog park” he goes back home with big smile. 5 min rest and he brings ball to play again. I only managed to tired him once.
    I would say he is not for people with little energy or little time.

    1. Our boy was a staffy X Kelpie….best dog ever…and so handsome…sadly we lost him this year April 24th,he was 13 would love another oneday.

  13. Thanks for writing this. My Staffy-kelpie cross, Otto, is pure delight. A complete sook. Loves his little tribe (me and my son) and swimming in the river. He has the energy and smarts of a Kelpie and the stockiness and gentleness of a staffy. He’s perfect. And terrified of cats.

  14. I had a staffer x jack russell from the local pound. She’s been abused as when you picked up a stick to throw for her, she’d run a mile scared.

    But she was what to learn and please. She eventually understood we were her family and loved her.

    Seriously to this day (as I’m surrounded by 3 other dogs including another rescue staffie ) she was my very favorite dog. She was amazing. I will never forget her.

    1. Hi- I’m not aware of a specific name for this cross- let me know if you find one! Though you might find some people not happy with calling an Amstaff not purebred!

  15. Hello Andrew,
    really enjoyed reading your article. We adopted a 7 year old staffy cross from the RSPCA 2 and a half years ago. I was a bit worried about controlling her as she weighs 26kg. As you say when she does not want to do something you cannot force her. But she loves to please us and can often be reassured to obey. She brings us so much joy and she is the gentlest soul.

  16. Hi Andrew
    Im about to have a trail with a seven year old amstaff x bull terrier, from your artical i shouldnt be worried about aggression.


  17. My hubby wants to adopt a 7 month old staffy cross (Lucy). I want a rescue cat. Will they get on? If so, should I choose an older cat or a younger one???

    1. Hi Lauren. Unfortunately, some dogs of this type can be quite predatory. It really depends on the individual as others (such as one pictured in the blog) get on fantastically well with cats and in fact enjoy their company. My personal advice is to get a younger cat who is able to learn to like being around a dog. That will also allow the dog to bond with the kitten. Usually the key is that the cat is not scared of the dog, then they will stand up to them and tell them off instead of running and then being chased.
      This page on introducing cats to dogs might help too.

    2. I rescued my Staffy Patch age 4yrs old, Dec 2012 & HE LOVES cats, when my cat died, Patch became very depressed & sick, his vet said he is depressed, so we went to RSPCA & he pick another cat, Patch picked a small female cat that has a bent tail, bent ear, she was recovering from ear mites & was handed in as a stray street cat the RSPCA told me Patch liked Indy the best..I liked the nice big make Tabby cat..
      It’s all about how you bring up a dog, Staffys have sooooo much love to give & they will do anything for their owners love so if they have an asshole of an owner then the poor staffys suffer, its not the breed its the human holding the lead..

    1. Hi Willo. The dog was sold as an American Staffy but is probably a crossbreed. That’s about all we can say!

    2. What cross breed of dog is Aggie as my dog from a shelter looks just like her with those huge ears. She was nervous and a little aggressive out of fear but now secure she loves to meet and greet strangers still working on her anti social tendencies with other dogs but no big deal more fight or flight response than true aggression in my opinion These dogs need to feel secure if they have been neglected/abused to respond appropriately so they need time and lots of company but very rewarding. Please advise if you know the likely breed thanks ? Jenny

      1. Hi Jenny. Aggie is a classic ‘camp dog’ from the Anangu-Pitjantjara lands in the North of South Australia, so her ancestry is highly mixed. She is also not very dog-social, which we suspect is caused by early bad experiences with other dogs.

    1. Sorry Peter, we are a vet only. There are lots of good shelters linked via for example.

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