American Staffordshire Terrier
Originally known as the Staffordshire Terrier, the name was changed to the American Staffordshire Terrier in 1972, although these days, it is more commonly referred to as the “Am Staff”.
Not to be confused with the English Staffordshire Bull Terrier, the Am Staff is much heavier than its transatlantic cousin.
A highly intelligent dog, the Am Staff is quick to learn and train and makes an excellent guard dog. Very intuitive, they have an uncanny ability of being able to deduce whether or not a person’s intentions are good or bad – if they are bad, they will most certainly let their owner know.
Unfortunately, the American Staffordshire Terrier has had far too much adverse publicity in recent years. Inaccurate generalizations of Am Staffs being aggressive, uncontrollable, killer dogs; the fact that it shares a common ancestry with the American Pit Bull and highly sensationalized reports in the press and on TV, have done its reputation no favors at all. As with any other dog, if it is inbred, inadequately trained, poorly socialized or abused, there is every chance that it will develop aggressive tendencies. Regrettably, too many owners of this breed of dog still use it for illegal dog fighting – is it any wonder that some of them become aggressive?
On the other hand, a well-trained American Staffordshire Terrier is a gentle, loyal and affectionate dog who loves to play. It has developed into a much more docile dog over the years, enjoying the safety and security that a loving and caring family can provide. A well-bred, well-socialized and properly trained Am Staff will make a great family pet, showing a side of his nature so gentle, you wouldn’t believe it.
That said, as they were originally bred to be fighting dogs, their instinct may make even the most laid-back Am Staff aggressive towards other animals – particularly if they feel challenged or threatened by them. With this in mind (as with many other breeds), socialization and training from the earliest possible age is essential, and should include training the dog to view adults and children as non-threatening.
American Staffordshire Terrier – Training
However, it’s equally important to teach all family members how to treat the dog.
It should be noted that an Am Staff puppy that grows to adulthood within a family which includes other animals will most likely live happily alongside them. However, serious consideration should be given to the appropriateness of bringing an adult Am Staff, who is not used to being with other animals, into a home where pets already live. If this is unavoidable, it may be necessary to seek the help of a specialist dog trainer.
A rigorous and structured training program is recommended for American Staffordshire Terriers, and, as they are strong-willed characters, confidence and patience will be required by the bucket load! It’s also essential that the training is carried out in a positive manner – praising the dog when he does well and correctly him firmly, but gently, if he does wrong.
It’s important not to use harsh or rough training methods with the Am Staff, neither of which he will respond to well. If they are used, he will become wary of the trainer and eventually, this wariness will develop into mistrust. This is not a good situation for the trainer or the dog.
Every day, an American Staffordshire Terrier will need a lot of exercise to use up their boundless energy and maintain muscle tone. Regular play sessions will also help to keep them alert and stimulated.
Because of this, the most suitable home environment for them is one with a lot of secure, outside space in which they can run around and play. Amongst their toys, it’s recommended that a number of tough chew toys or big raw bones are included. This big guy could happily chomp all day long, so the more stuff he has that he’s allowed to chew on, the less likely he is to destroy things that’s he’s not allowed to chew on, e.g.; shoes, furniture and anything else within reach that takes his fancy.
An adult Am Staff has an average height of 17″ at the withers and can weigh anything between 24 lbs and 38 lbs. They have big heads, large muzzles and a solid, well defined physique. A muscular body is supported by short, stocky legs and their tail is of medium length, fairly straight, and pointed. Their coats are sleek and short, and lie very close to the skin, thus making grooming easy and minimal. A good brush every so often and a bath when necessary should be sufficient.
On average, an American Staffordshire Terrier will live to around 13 years of age. He could have a perfectly healthy life, but ailments which Am Staffs are particularly susceptible to include heart disease, hives (often brought on by stress or anxiety), cataracts, retinal atrophy, hip dysplasia and allergies. They are also prone to very bad breath, but providing they are made accustomed to it early on in life, brushing their teeth can help to keep this under control.
Anyone thinking of bringing an American Staffordshire Terrier into their home should bear in mind the following information;
* Unfortunately, the stigma attached to the Am Staff means that some home insurances policies will not extend to covering this breed of dog. This is an important point to clarify with the insurance company before welcoming the dog into the family.
* The Am Staff must be welcomed into the family and treated as part of it. Excluding the dog from the home by leaving him alone outside is not a good way to ensure a harmonious relationship between dog and owners. The Am Staff thrives on, and needs, interaction with humans who will treat him well, play games with him and give him love and affection. Without this, there is every chance that he will develop aggressive behavior.
A well-trained American Staffordshire Terrier is a wonderful dog to have around and a joy to own.