Why is the Staffordshire Bull Terrier Called the Nanny Dog
Although aggressive to other dogs, Staffordshire bull terriers or Staffies are extrememly tolerant of toddlers and children. This is how they got their nickname of "nanny dog." But one should never leave a small child unsupervised with any dog.
In the UK, Staffordshire bull terriers, best known as "Staffies", also have another nickname - "nanny dogs." This nickname has been steadily going out of fashion in the UK but has been picked up in the United States and in South Africa. It could be argued that Staffordshire bull terrier breeders in those two countries are the ones that are promoting the nickname, but Staffies are, generally, very good around children, even toddlers.
Staffordshire bull terriers get their name because they were bred for the blood-sport of bull-baiting. As their name suggests, they did originate in the county of Staffordshire in the midwest of England. This was a working-class or downright poor county of England. Dogs had to serve specific functions in a farm or family or they were either killed outright or run off of the property.
Staffies had to be fearless against bulls but yet tractable around their masters. When bull-baiting was outlawed in 1835, a lot of Staffies found new jobs as guard dogs for livestock, property and young children. Unfortunately bull-baiting was soon replaced with dog fighting and the Staffie was one of several breeds suited for the job.
Staffies were then bred to hate other dogs but adore people. This was mostly so the owners could control their money-making animals better. Any dog that suddenly attacked a person for no known reason was put to death. Over generations, this made a dog that loved people far more than its own species.
Dog and Child Behavior
Staffy puppies will treat children like other puppies. This means they can play rough because they do not know their own strength. Most Staffies are so sensitive to the emotions and body language of people that just scolding them or swearing at them is enough to get them to cringe. But all Staffies need to be taught how to behave with other dogs and with people.
Because they were bred to be fighting dogs, Staffordshire bull terriers have a higher tolerance to pain than many other types of dogs. That's the theory, anyway. They do not show pain as often as other breeds. This means that Staffies can tolerate a bit of rough-housing from a child. They are also active enough to keep up with an active child. They also are strong enough to protect a child from other dogs or other intruders - or at least, the type of intruders a child would have encountered back in 1900.
Although people in the UK back in the Industrial Revolution left their dogs with their kids all of the time, this is not recommended today. The American Veterinary Association advises parents to never leave a small, toddling child completely unsupervised with any kind of dog. Both the dog and the dog may in danger from each other. The high squealing voices and sudden movements of babies or toddlers may scare a dog.