All breeding programs have a goal in mind and Rockstaff Kennels is no exception. Some kennels are interested only in producing conformation show champions. This is okay as long as the structural soundness of the dogs produced is not sacrificed for the sake of the fad look of the day. You need go no further than to look at English Bulldogs to see what happens when you breed only for a certain look without regard to soundness. If you were to look at pictures of English Bulldogs of 200 years ago you wouldn't believe they were the same dog and you would be partly right. The Bulldog of years ago was an agile, tough, working dog that had stamina and strength. Contrast that with todays English Bulldog. Todays Bulldog is beset with breathing problems, can't stand heat, is about as agile as a lump of clay and routinely have to have C-sections to have pups. What in the world happened?
Breeders are the cause of the change. By breeding for a fad look the breed has been done a great disservice. It didn't happen over night but little by little the breed changed to the sorry shape it is in now. Staffordshire Bull Terriers have not been shown that long so the breed still has a lot of the wonderful original qualities present. It is up to breeders to not bend to the whim of the day for the sake of personal glory at the expense of the breed. With that in mind I would like to go over the breeding philosophy I use here at Rockstaff Kennels.
Conformation To The Standard
A Staffordshire should look like a Staffordshire. This sounds obvious but the question is, what does a Staffordshire Bull Terrier look like? There is a written breed standard that I suggest you read. It can be found at the AKC site at the following link (Staffordshire Standard). The problem with written standards is that they are open to interpetation by breeders and judges. If you take the requirement that the breed be heavily muscled to the extreme without taking into account that they be agile too, you can wind up with a dog that looks like Arnold Schwarzenegger but can't scratch it's ear.
Fortunately with Staffy's we don't have to guess what they should look like, we have pictures. When the breed was first allowed to be shown in conformation classes in England in 1935 photography was readily available and there are many fine photos of those early champions to guide todays breeders in how to interpet the standard. If our champions of today do not closely resemble the pictures of these first champions it is a sure sign the breed is getting off course. It is my opinion the breed is beginning to show signs of a course change.
Here at Rockstaff Kennels it is my goal to breed Staffordshire Bull Terriers that closely resemble those early champions. For examples I look to pictures of CH. Lady Eve the first female champion in 1939 and CH. Gentleman Jim the first male champion in 1939. My Staffys should bear a strong resemblance to these early champions.
These early champions were working dogs. After a show a dog might be taken to a fight that night. I abhor dog fighting but I use the example to make the point that these early champions had to be agile, have remarkable stamina, courage and drive. These were not the plodding, muscle bound dogs you often see today. Jim the Dandy, on whom the breed standard was patterned, was 17.5 inches tall, 1.5 inches taller than todays standard allows, yet he only weighed about 36 pounds. This was a lean, agile, terrier type Staffy.
Here at Rockstaff Kennels I try to maintain a dog with stamina and agility while trying to breed out dog aggression. I work my dogs on a spring pole, play ball with them hard nearly every day, run them behind our 4-wheeler and play tug of war with them. All these things allow me to evaluate the agility and stamina of my dogs. If a dog I'm considering keeping to breed can't keep up the pace they are not a candidate for breeding. They must also conform to the structural pattern of those early champions.
I believe a dog being considered for breeding must be sound structurally. I don't care how pretty a dog may look standing or walking around a ring if they pull up limping every time they run hard chasing a ball for 15 minutes they should not be considered for breeding. The present trend to breed for dogs very broad in the chest and very heavily muscled is bound to start having shoulder problems and this will come out after working a dog hard. Breeding for a very large head of the bulldog type can cause breathing and bite problems. I believe a dog considered for breeding must have stamina and a sound scissor bite. If they have a good bite but produce a large percentage of offspring with bad bites I believe they should not be used for breeding. Doing so does not help the breed.
Movement is very important to me since I use our dogs working around the farm. They live outside so they must have endurance to both heat and cold. If a dog has no heat tolerance and has to stay in air conditioning it would be useless to me. Being outside most all the time my dogs need good coats and skin. I try to stay away from dogs with skin problems and believe those with bad skin conditions should not be bred.
The one area where I intend to vary from the early Staffy champions is temperment. The early champions were fighting dogs with a strong streak of dog aggression. This simply will not do in todays society. Breeders of Staffys have come a long way curbing this tendency and I intend to work on breeding dogs to lessen this trait.
At the same time I want to maintain the quality of people friendliness that is a hallmark of the breed. This friendliness, especially with children, has earned the breed the nickname of "Nanny dog" in England. This trait is one I strongly look for in a potential breeder. Any aggression towards people is an instant disqualification from breeding in my opinion.
Fertility and Whelping
This is an area that is important to me that is often overlooked. A female should be able to have litters of consistantly 4 or more pups. Small litters of constantly 3 or less on average is a sign of low fertility. Breeding for females of excessively heavy muscle will bring about fertility problems.
Females should also be able to whelp naturally. If a female has to have more than 1 C-section I believe they should not be used for breeding any more. None of my females has had to have a C-section yet, and my goal is to breed for females with little to no whelping problems. I can understand the rare emergency but failure to cull out breeders on this trait will lead to future problems for the breed.