Originally bred in England, the American Staffordshire terrier was developed from bulldogs used in both the baiting of larger animals, such as bulls, and dog fights during the 1800s. The breed was brought to the United States in the late 19th century and accepted into the American Kennel Club in 1936, where the name was changed to the American Staffordshire terrier. Although this breed is different than the American pit bull terrier, both are considered pit bulls, with a notorious reputation based on their aggressive ancestry. With proper training and responsible ownership, this breed can be loving, loyal and gentle.
If you're purchasing an American Staffordshire terrier, affectionately referred to as an "AmStaff," choose a responsible breeder registered with the AKC. Ask for paperwork proving that the dog is registered and inspect the breeder's facility to see the living conditions of the dogs. Breeders who refuse should be avoided because this breed can become aggressive and dangerous if not properly socialized or if bred improperly, encouraging these unwanted characteristics.
Avoid any breeders who participate in dog fighting or knowingly sell dogs to those who intend to fight them. Report these people to your local animal control or police. Dog fighting is a felony crime in all 50 states, according to the animal welfare organization BADRAP.
Consider adopting an AmStaff from a shelter or rescue organization. Not only are you saving a life, you're getting a chance to acquire a dog with a proven temperament. Before you adopt, request a full history and spend ample time with the dog or puppy to determine if the dog is well socialized and a good fit with your lifestyle.
Socialize your American Staffordshire terrier puppy from a young age of 7 weeks. Expose your new dog of any age to as many other dogs and people as possible, making all of these experiences positive ones involving play and dog treats. The most critical window of socialization lasts from 7 to 16 weeks, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. However, continue to socialize your dog after this time as well. Interaction with people and dogs confers lifelong benefits.
Take your American Staffordshire terrier to puppy and adult obedience classes. While basic training is required for this breed, intermediate or advanced training is recommended by PetPlace.com. This training not only allows you to keep firm control of your dog with verbal commands, it engages his mind as well, preventing him from developing destructive behaviors. Train your AmStaff using only positive, reward-based techniques; punishment-based training can encourage and foster aggression in this breed.
Enroll your AmStaff in the AKC's Good Citizen Program to ensure your dog is polite and well-behaved at all times; this also impresses potential landlords and insurance companies. This makes your dog a breed ambassador, showing others in your community that the pit bull can be well-behaved and well-mannered.
Feed your American Staffordshire terrier two or more small meals during the day to prevent gastric torsion, commonly known as bloat. This illness results from an accumulation of air in the dog's stomach, sometimes resulting from rapid eating. The stomach swells, then begins to twist and become obstructed, a condition that can become fatal very quickly. Avoid feeding your AmStaff dry food; instead feed him canned. Choose foods without animal fat or oils listed in the ingredients and don't use an elevated feeding dish, recommends PetPlace.com.
Spay or neuter your American Staffordshire terrier before six months of age to prevent aggressive mating behaviors such as territorial marking in the home, the desire to roam or the urge to fight with other dogs over mating rights. This is especially important in this breed, as the drive to mate can magnify aggression in your dog, leading to attacks on other dogs or people.
Exercise your American Staffordshire terrier daily with interactive games in your yard or a park, a brisk run or a scenic hike. Rollerblade with your dog or cycle alongside him to tire him out and prevent unwanted behaviors. Always keep him on a leash in public places, especially in parks, beaches, trails or plazas where he may encounter other dogs and potentially become aggressive. For this reason, avoid dog parks as a place of exercise due to the presence of other dogs.
Clean your American Staffordshire terrier's coat with a soft, damp towel, buffing the short, low-maintenance coat with it to give it some shine. Brush your dog once a week with a natural bristle brush; this breed does not require very much grooming because of its short, hard coat. Only bathe your dog when necessary.
Bring your American Staffordshire terrier to a veterinarian to keep him vaccinated against diseases such as parvo, which tend to affect this breed more than some others, according to WebMD. In addition, regular checkups will monitor your dog for conditions including hip dysplasia, cataracts, arthritis, deafness and progressive retinal atrophy, all of which can affect this breed.
Give your American Staffordshire terrier toys that are interactive, such as balls that hold treats inside and chew toys to keep him busy, especially when you're not present to keep him company. When you are around, give him tasks to do, such as fetching objects or performing tricks to keep his mind and body engaged. A lack of exercise or mental stimulation can cause excessive licking in this breed, called lick granuloma, which leads to open sores on your dog's skin.
Any dog considered a pit bull, including the American Staffordshire terrier, is subject to the breed-specific laws banning their ownership in many major cities and counties around the country, including Miami, Cincinnati and Denver. Ask your local animal control if your city has any pit bull breed bans in place.
Never keep an AmStaff in a location that doesn't allow them. Your dog won't receive the medical care it needs from a local veterinarian, you can't exercise him properly by hiding him indoors, causing him stress, and the authorities have the right to seize and euthanize him.
Some insurance companies won't offer insurance for any breed considered a pit bull. Check with insurance companies in your area. Because of this breed's reputation as a pit bull, in locations where the dog is legal, some landlords won't rent to residents with pit bulls of any kind. Before obtaining an AmStaff, check with your landlord to ensure the dog is legal in your building. When approaching a new landlord, make a pet resume highlighting your dog's obedience achievements and well-mannered temperament.
With the proper training through groups such as Pet Partners, you can train your AmStaff to be a therapy pet for children, the elderly or as a service dog. This helps to dispel myths about this breed and promote a good reputation for him.
Items You Will Need
- Dog food
- Treat-containing toys
- Chew toys
- American Kennel Club: AKC Meet the Breeds: American Staffordshire Terrier
- PetPlace.com: American Staffordshire Terrier
- PetPlace.com: Learn About American Staffordshire Terrier Diseases
- Petfinder: Adopt an American Staffordshire Terrier
- Dog Owner's Guide: American Staffordshire Terrier
- WebMD: Parvo (Parvovirus) in Dogs
- Dogster: American Staffordshire Terrier Dogs
- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: The Truth About Pit Bulls
- BADRAP: Breed History
- PetPlace.com: Is Your Dog at Risk for Bloat?
- Portrait of the american staffordshire terrier. Isolated 2 image by Sergey Sukhorukov from Fotolia.com