The American Staffordshire Terrier
As with most dogs of this breed, the American Staffordshire Terrier is a reformed fighting dog. These pups have come a long way since their bull baiting days and have become loving, loyal, family companions. These dogs are now known as gentle canines that would sooner lick you to death than pick a fight.
The American Staffordshire Terrier is also often referred to as the AmStaff or AmStaff Terrier. However, before you run out and adopt an AmStaff puppy, it is wise to learn more about them and decide if they are the right fit for you and your family.
History of the American Staffordshire Terrier
The story of the American Staffordshire Terrier begins in the early 19th century. However, it was the Bulldog that began his history. Bulldogs were bred and used for the sole purpose of baiting bulls in England. The Bulldog on that time was not the wrinkle-faced bulky dog that he is today. In fact, his appearance was very much like that of the American Staffordshire Terrier.
The Bulldog was then crossbred with a Terrier (particular type unknown). The hope was to create a dog that would have the tenacity and courage of the Bulldog as well as the agility and spirit of the Terrier. This combination resulted in the American Staffordshire Terrier or the Staffordshire Bull Terrier as it is known in England.
Staffordshire Bull Terriers began to arrive in America in the 1870’s. Upon their arrival, their name began to change from the Staffordshire Bull Terrier to the Pit Terrier, Pitbull Terrier, American Bull Terrier, Yankee Terrier and of course the American Staffordshire Terrier. It’s a wonder how these dogs don’t suffer from identity crisis.
The AKC Stud Book eventually accepted the breed in 1936. Their name was officially changed to the American Staffordshire Terrier with the beginning of the New Year in 1972. By this time, the American Staffordshire Terrier was heavier and bulkier than the original Staffordshire Bull Terrier in England. By officially changing their name and revising their appearance slightly, they were able to separate the two as individual dog breeds officially.
Famous American Staffordshire Terriers
The American Staffordshire Terrier is a very common dog breed here in America. In fact, two pups are famous! The first of which is an American Staffordshire Terrier named Stubby.
Stubby was born in July 1916. He later became the most decorated dog of war! More specifically, he “served” in World War I as a mascot of the 102 Infantry Regiment of the United States. Stubby was assigned to the 26th Yankee Division. Through combat, he was promoted to sergeant and became the most decorated war dog.
His list of war accomplishments includes saving his team from mustard gas attacks, holding a German soldier by his pants until American soldiers came, as well as being a companion to the wounded soldiers. Stubby later died in March 1926, but his service to his country are forever marked in newspapers from the time and as an exhibit in the Smithsonian.
The second famous American Staffordshire Terrier is named Petey. You may know this as the adorable pooch from The Little Rascals movie!
The producers of the film were in search of a dog that could keep up with the children in the video as well as add personality to the movie. The trainer that was hired noted that Pete would be the perfect dog for the role as he was by far the brightest and the easiest to train!
Personality and Temperament of the American Staffordshire Terrier
The American Staffordshire Terrier is a natural born guardian! He is loving and loyal to his family members. They are impeccable at distinguishing between a trustworthy member of the household and a stranger that means his family harm.
The American Staffordshire Terrier is a powerful canine that moves with agility and grace. He is also bright, alert, and constantly ready for anything! This dog breed is courageous to a fault, and while he may not be the one who starts the fight, you can be sure that he will be the one who will finish it. However, this does not make the dog unsafe or aggressive at the drop of a hat. His core qualities revolve around tenacity and an excellent sense of humor.
Owners of the American Staffordshire Terrier need to take into consideration that while their dog might be loving and friendly, that there will be the occasional neighbor that has a prejudice against the breed. They will only see the intimidating appearance of the dog and classify him as dangerous. Owners need to be prepared to protect their pooch from these public prejudices that label him as aggressive, ferocious and downright unsafe to be around.
The best way to ensure that your American Staffordshire Terrier is tolerable of the other pets in the home, as well as your children, is to adopt an AmStaff puppy. As puppies, American Staffordshire Terriers are incredibly accepting and non-judgmental. They are far more likely to accept others as family members if they are raised alongside them. Adult AmStaffs have already grown into their personalities, for better or worse (even though the “worse” is rare).
Feeding the American Staffordshire Terrier
The American Staffordshire Terrier is a medium to large sized dog, and he will require a dog kibble that is formulated for their size. Their kibble should also be formulated according to their age, size, and activity level.
But, the most important aspect of dog food that you should pay attention to is the quality of the ingredients. American Staffordshire Terriers require a high-quality dog kibble that meets their nutritional needs (i.e. their high energy requires high protein content). Once you have found a dog kibble that matches your dog’s age, size, and activity level, then you should follow the feeding requirements provided on the packaging or by your veterinarian.
However, most American Staffordshire Terriers consume 2.5 to 3 cups of kibble on a daily basis. This daily portion is not given to the dog in a single feeding. Instead, it should be distributed throughout the day (i.e. breakfast, lunch, and dinner).
Caring for the American Staffordshire Terrier
The American Staffordshire Terrier is full of energy. It is your duty to provide him with adequate daily exercise in order for him to remain in tip top shape. Sufficient daily exercise will also promote a positive attitude for both you and your pooch.
The American Staffordshire Terrier may not be the biggest fan of the water. It is not uncommon for him to put up a fight during bath time and he may avoid swimming while at the beach. However, they require a lot of physical exercise on a daily basis. He is a fantastic running companion, enjoys hiking through the woods, and will play a game of fetch or Frisbee for hours!
He is also prone to doing whatever his owners are doing. Therefore, if you are a couch potato, then he will be a couch potato. Physical exercise is far too important for an American Staffordshire Terrier to allow him to lie on the sofa all day. His lifespan and his health depend on it! If you fail to provide your American Staffordshire Terrier with sufficient exercise on a daily basis then, you may find that he is more anxious, stressed, depressed, aggressive, and destructive towards household items.
Even though he could make an incredible couch potato dog, he should avoid living as such. Therefore, he should live in a home with a fenced in backyard and access to it throughout the day. His quiet and friendly nature are excellent qualities for an apartment dwelling dog, but he would thrive and be much happier with a yard of his own. He will do very well in a home with children as he is a very patient and tolerable dog breed. He is also not afraid to make friends with the family cat (if she will allow it).
Training and Barking
As with most dogs in this family, the American Staffordshire Terrier should have an owner that has some experience with medium to large dogs. These canines will thrive if they are in a home with a firm leader that understands the importance of training and socialization. The AmStaff is an intelligent dog breed that excels in obedience, competition, agility, and as a working dog.
Typically, the American Staffordshire Terrier is a quiet dog that may only become loud or bark excessively if there is a reason to do so.
The American Staffordshire Terrier is a very easy dog to Petey. They have an easy-to-care-for fur coat that is smooth, short and lies close to the skin. Their fur is also tough to the touch rather than soft. If his fur were to become matted, it should be able to be removed via comb and potentially a bath.
The American Staffordshire Terrier should be brushed with a firm bristle comb regularly to reduce the amount of dead fur on your furniture. These pups are known to have a “heavy shedding period” about once a year when the weather changes. Otherwise, he will rarely shed. A bath will only be necessary when he is dirty or as the owner feels it is necessary. However, American Staffordshire Terriers should be wiped down with a dog-safe coat wipe or dry shampoo (for dogs) every other week to keep their coats shiny, clean and odorless.
Nail trimming is another important grooming aspect for the American Staffordshire Terrier. Typically, their nails should be trimmed when you are able to hear them hitting the floor when they walk. It is key that you do not allow his nails to grow too long as they will begin to curl under, cause pain and often times he will avoid walking to avoid the pain.
It is also critical that his nails are not trimmed too short as this can cause his toes to bleed, and he will be in severe pain. If you are unsure about cutting your dog’s nails, then you should consider enlisting the help of a professional groomer or veterinarian. His hair between his toes will likely grow quickly and may need to be trimmed a couple of times per year. This will help avoid other issues that can arise with his paws.
Various parts of his body should be taken care of or checked regularly. For example, his ears will need to be checked for ear mites. They will also need to be cleaned to avoid odor caused by infection and inflammation.
Do not attempt to “dig” into your dog’s ears. If you are uncomfortable performing an ear cleaning or check then enlist the help of a professional groomer or a veterinarian. You will also need to search through your American Staffordshire Terrier’s fur to check for fleas, mites and various other skin issues that may develop over the course of the changing seasons.
Potential Health Conditions of the American Staffordshire Terrier
- This is one of the top skeletal issues among canines.
- This is a disease that is diagnosed by the incorrect (or lack of) connection between the dog’s hip joint and thigh bone.
- Often believed to be a hereditary condition.
- Occurs as a narrowing of the aortic valve or underneath it.
- Causes a restriction of regular blood flow, thus causing the heart to work harder than it should.
- Believed to be a genetic disorder in the American Staffordshire Terrier.
- A disease in which the heart muscle becomes enlarged, rigid, or thick.
- In rare cases, the muscle tissue of the heart is replaced by scar tissue.
- A severe disease that occurs when the thyroid glands and the hormones produced by them are misrecognized as threats to the body.
NCL-A (Cerebellar Ataxia)
- Takes place when the cerebellum (area of the brain responsible for muscle coordination) becomes damaged or inflamed.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)
- Loss of vision, or an obstruction of vision.
- Hereditary in most cases
- Often begins as Night Blindness
- A common condition among elderly humans and animals.
- The disorder appears as a cloudy film covering the eye which impairs the ability to see clearly.
- Can sometimes be corrected with surgery.
- Occurs by the incorrect growth of the tissues, cells, or bones related to the dog’s elbow.
- Another very common condition in canines.
- Demodectic mange
- Occurs when a dog lacks appropriate thyroid hormones.
- Often leads to canine obesity, infertility, muscle loss, hair loss, decreased heart rate, and lethargy.
Another very common condition in canines is Deafness
- Often a genetic condition in the American Staffordshire Terrier breed.
- Sometimes can be cured with the help of veterinary professionals, as well as a family that is equipped to put in the time, effort, money, and patience to see their dog through this lifelong process.