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Second thoughts about fostering a Staffordshire bull terrier

(38 Posts)
hmcAsWas Tue 03-May-16 12:27:02

Okay, Staffie fans please go easy on me.

There are certain breeds of dogs that I am wary of (ducks brick bats) like Staffies and Japanese Akitas. I know its all in how they are raised and they can be and usually are lovely, gentle etc....its just their potential to harm (with that scissor bite and strength) if they turn out to be the one in a thousand bad egg....after all you don't tend to read about people being mauled half to death or scarred for life by their labrador do you?

Anyway I responded to a post on a facebook dog walking group forum from a local dog rescue charity. Apparently there is a staffie who is not doing well waiting for adoption - he is sad, lonely, dejected and becoming ill. It pulled on my heart strings so I ended up responding to the post and putting myself forward as a potential fosterer. They are calling me to discuss this evening...but I am starting to worry because who knows what the staffies history is and whether its previous owners were honest about the dog when they relinquished it? I am imagining the dog attacking me / my children / my two dogs with catastrophic consequences (I am a bit of a worrier and inclined to catastrophizing). Am I being ridiculous? Should my opening gambit when they call be to say that I have changed my mind (am worried about being persuaded to do something I am clearly not comfortable with)

Buttwing Tue 03-May-16 12:30:03

I'm a staffer owner but I can understand your fears. Do you know how he is with other dogs? I have the softest staff in the world who adores my children how ever she hates other dogs. I've heard it can be a common problem.

almostthirty Tue 03-May-16 12:31:56

I think you should wait and talk to them. Ask lots of questions, you may not be suitable for him as he may need to be in a home with no other dogs or children.
Definitely tell them you are unsure and don't make any decisions because you feel guilty or bad. You didn't cause he situation and are trying to help. Take your time and if after all your questions have been answered you still feel unsure, walk away.

hmcAsWas Tue 03-May-16 12:34:50

Thank you Buttwing and almostthirty for understanding.

I will ask tonnes of questions....but am already feeling the guilt creeping in if I end up inclined to say 'no'. Thank you for reassuring me that it would be okay to do this.

Wyldfyre Tue 03-May-16 12:42:50

Dogs are what you make them - and yes children do get savaged by Labradors (mainly because people think they are super friendly and will put up with anything). You would no more know the history of a Labrador than this staff - I say give it a chance and judge to dog not the breed. There are many reasons people give up dogs - I know of a working lab that had to be rehomed after being sold to a couple in their 80s (one of whom used a Zimmer frame). Not a bad dog but too energetic and totally insuited to the home.
A responsible rescue will not foster or rehome if they think the environment would not suit the dog.

hmcAsWas Tue 03-May-16 12:47:47

Okay Wyldfyre good point - I've just googled 'mauled by a labrador' and found this

Will try to be open minded and will as the other posters have suggested - ask lots of questions about his history

makingmiracles Tue 03-May-16 12:58:15

All I can say is proceed with caution. Dps family adopted a rescue staffy a few years ago and his behaviour was/is terrible. He can't stand the sight of other dogs, children or strangers at the door. He can be lovely at times but equally he can be horrendous. After the death of dps dad he got significantly worse and is now got to a point where he can't be walked in public(can't muzzle him due to not being able to get it on him and if you do he manages to get it off)
It's a sad life for a dog that can't even be taken for a walk and a sad life for dps family who can't have a normal life/people round etc sadly at only 8/9 he's got a fair few years in him left yet although I think he should be pts.

Any chance you could test drive him in a safe space first before fostering? See how is is when confronted with cats/kids etc?

Personally I'd not take on any rescue dog with children in the house as you can never fully know there past history/how they've been treated and once they have problems it takes a great deal of time and money sometimes to fix.

InternationalHouseofToast Tue 03-May-16 13:11:06

It may be that you're not a suitable fosterer because of your children, in the same was as some dogs' home won't rehome to families with younger children. I would have no concerns about fostering a staffie that I wouldn't have for any other dog of unknown background - how they'd cope with noise, how house trained they are etc. Even Westies have bitten children before and I wouldn't compare a Staffie and an Akita.

hmcAsWas Tue 03-May-16 13:29:46

Thanks for that cautionary tale Makingmiracles.

I should say that my dc are not tiny - they are 12 and nearly 14

sparechange Tue 03-May-16 13:45:45

I have fostered and adopted a few staffies.

There have been 2 types of fostering. The first is to asses them with other dogs and cats, and children, and see how they cope in the house. Are they house trained, destructive, ok to be left alone, do they sleep all day or want lots of attention.
This is done by experienced fosterers who will know how to assess their behavoiur and therefore recommend what sort of permanent home they get.
It is highly unlikely that this is the sort of fostering they will want you to do.

Then there is the 'respite' fostering.
Staffies seem to do worse than other breeds in kennels and rescues, and get a lot more stressed out.

This in turn means they put off prospective adopters coming to look at the dogs - barking, looking glum, being frantic etc.

Giving them a weekend or longer in a home setting can calm them down. They get more walks, they get cuddles, they get interaction with other dogs if they like it. This gives the rescue some time to find new owners, who can view the dog with you rather than in a kennels. Or it means that when the dog is returned to kennels, it is less stressed and therefore more likely to find a home.

If a rescue is full, they might also put some of the dogs out to foster to free up room in the homes - this is more likely to be long-term residents, or breeds like staffies who dislike kennels the most. Same for after an operation or illness, but they are less likely to put an ill dog in a house with other dogs.

Have a chat with them and find out what the background is for this dog. It is almost certainly one of the latter types of dog, who just needs a bit of a holiday away from kennels and has already had their behavioral assessment done. They aren't just going to give you an unknown dog and hope for the best...

PM me if you want any more info on what it involved. I found it really rewarding, and was happy to have played a part in getting some of the staffies into their forever homes

tabulahrasa Tue 03-May-16 13:59:21

A couple of things firstly about staffies...they don't in fact have any different bite to any other dog, their jaw anatomy is exactly the same.

And while yes they are strong for their size, so compared to another medium breed like a cocker they're strong, but not compared to large breeds like Labradors (as you mentioned them).

People are mauled and killed by all sorts of breeds and roughly dog bites match up to breed numbers, the more of a breed there are in a country the more likely they'll be a higher number of bites by that breed.

So yes, be cautious about any dog with an unknown history and ask lots of questions...but not because it's a staffie, just because you're thinking of taking a dog into your house.

Staffies btw don't tend to do well in kennels because they're not with people, they love people sad

hmcAsWas Tue 03-May-16 14:04:35

Thank you sparechange - that is really interesting and informative. I shall ask them if he has already been assessed. I hadn't really appreciated the two types of fostering. Thank you also tabulahrasa.

I hope to be able to help this dog if everything checks out okay....

hmcAsWas Wed 04-May-16 11:03:49

Phone call yesterday. The dog is based in Leicester and we and the charity are based in Hampshire so there is no going to see the dog before they present him to you! The caller in Hampshire didn't know much about his background and said she would speak to the lady from the kennels in Leicester to glean more. She did say he had passed an assessment as okay with other dogs. I am not happy knowing diddly squat about his background - could have been owned by a drug dealer who abused him and used him as muscle teaching him aggression (hell, no!), or he might have been owned by one loving family who could no longer keep him (alrighty then!)

hmcAsWas Wed 04-May-16 11:04:53

She also said that once he leaves kennels there is 'nowhere for him to go' ??? don't take him on if you are going to give up on him

ScrotesOnFire Wed 04-May-16 11:47:22

You don't hear about people being mauled half to death by Labradors, that's hilarious!
And quite terrifying at the same time.

Labradors and golden retrievers are consistently some of the most popular breeds responsible for bites on children requiring hospitalisation!
Probably because people have this dangerous assumption that they all love kids and therefore allow behaviour that they simply wouldn't tolerate from a child around a different breed.

I can tell you, that my parents adopted a 6 month golden retriever who was promptly sent back after viciously snarling at children and aggressively guarding food and toys.
I have been backed into a corner by a chocolate Labrador that ran at my (very placid, utterly disinterested) dog teeth out, snarling and lunging.
I have read quite a few articles about attacks by Labradors....

staffies are no more dangerous than any other dog, they don't have lock jaw, they are listed by the kennel club as excellent with children and known as nanny dogs.
While there are undeniably, dangerous individuals out there, I have never come across one.
And I have met a lot of dogs.

hmcAsWas Wed 04-May-16 13:40:20

I'd like to see your evidence on labs and golden retrievers Scrotes - not because I am disputing this, but because I have been goggling for a good half an hour and can't find anything to support that assertion

Wyldfyre Wed 04-May-16 13:58:41

Ask any A&E nurse - loads of low end bites which are not serious enough to be newsworthy from breeds not traditionally defined as agressive, including labs and spaniels

tabulahrasa Wed 04-May-16 13:59:47

hmcAsWas Wed 04-May-16 14:10:06

Not to be pedantic but that article does state : "Certain large breeds are notably under-represented in bite statistics such as large hounds and retrievers (e.g., Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers)31,39—although these breeds may have aggressive subtypes."

Although I will go with the conclusion that breed is a poor predictor of propensity to attack.

hmcAsWas Wed 04-May-16 14:13:25

I am happy to consider taking on this poor dejected lad (the charity say that he is not eating and is really sad) as long as they can give me some background on him (so far not forthcoming), and it worries me that I can't meet him before they bring him here to stay. Is that typical of fostering? Perhaps I am not cut out for it

ScrotesOnFire Wed 04-May-16 14:19:48

I couldn't find any UK statistics, for any breeds really but in America the Labrador is right up there and I do remember reading a study a year or two ago that specifically mentioned Labradors/Goldens and spaniels as topping the list of admissions in the UK.

ScrotesOnFire Wed 04-May-16 14:22:32

Probably due to their popularity and owners being too relaxed mind rather than them being generally aggressive.
I don't believe any breed is particularly aggressive.

tabulahrasa Wed 04-May-16 14:32:29

I didn't write the's just a literature review grin

There are issues with studies about breed and biting, the huge one is breed identification, which isn't a huge surprise given that I've been asked if my dog is, a black lab, a Doberman, a mastiff and I'm often asked if he's a cross of his actual breed, but also some fairly random ones.

For the record, I own a Rottweiler, a very very typical looking one and I'd have thought an identifiable enough breed that I'd never be asked if the Black and Tan dog was a lab, never mind more than once, lol.

The general public are not good at breed identification.

You've also got that small dogs are always going to be under represented because they've done less damage and various other issues like that.

So when studies add up to overall breed isn't a major factor even with stuff like that going on - I believe it.

Looking at other sources of information, media reporting is really biased, they have an agenda, over here you get things like staffy pictures being the stock photo for dog attack stories even when there's not one involved and in America you get papers running for days with a story about a pitbull killing a child when it was in fact a lab retriever cross.

They've done studies about what the most prevalent correlations are in serious incidents and breed wasn't up there as a high risk, things like dogs not being treated as a family pet, the owner not being present and unpredictable/vulnerable victims were the biggest risk factors.

I have no clue how fostering works...but I'd want more information if you can't meet him, given that he's going to have to fit in to a family and with existing dogs, but his breed wouldn't bother me in the slightest.

sparechange Wed 04-May-16 14:33:23

The nature of rescues means that they often just don't know about their background. But of the dog that has been trained to be aggressive, it would most likely be picked up in an assessment as it would be showing other dodgy behaviours.

To be honest, it doesn't sound you really want to foster this dog, and your preconceived ideas of the breed mean you are going to be quite on edge around it. The dog will probably pick up on this, and yours certainly will.
I don't know anything about existing dogs, but my concern would be that they pick up on your tension around the new dog which could lead to a number of potential issues.

You seem a really hung up on dog bite stats where as you would do better to read up on body language so you can learn to read cues from dogs long long before they get to an aggressive or bite situation. It will be invaluable for your dogs training and also make you more confident and comfortable around strange dogs.

But as long as you see Staffies as a timebomb, you probably aren't the best person to foster one from a rescue.
Maybe an organisation like Cinnamon Trust would be worth contacting, as the backgrounds of the dogs will be more known.

Wolfiefan Wed 04-May-16 14:35:55

I wouldn't want to foster a dog without it meeting existing pets first. If your dogs don't get on it could be a disaster.

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