American Staffordshire Terrier
The American Staffordshire Terrier is a medium-large, muscular, strong and athletic dog that descends from early Greek Mastiff-type dogs that were used for dogfighting, hunting, protection, etc. In the early 19th century these dogs came to England and were known as Pit Bull Terriers. In England, Pit Bull Terriers were used as fighting dogs against bulls and bears. In 1835 these “sports” were prohibited so people just started to fight dogs against each other. This continued on the American ground also, where these dogs were brought by immigrants from England, Ireland, and Scotland. In America, selective breeding increased the weight of these dogs and enlarged their jaws. Americans wanted a bigger, more powerful-looking dog.
In America, American Staffordshire Terriers dogs were mostly used as working, all-around farm dogs and companions, but their negative reputation for being fighting dogs followed them. This is why they are often included in Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) that bans them. Countries that have restrictions on the Amstaff ownership are France, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Switzerland, Romania, Ireland, Denmark, Norway, Russia, Israel, and Singapore.
17–19 in (43–48 cm)
40–60 lb (18–27 kg)
The origin of the American Staffordshire terrier can be tracked as early as 19th century England. Dog breeders of that time used original bulldogs and terriers and crossed them to create a new dog breed that inherited the most “desirable” characteristics of each of those breeds. The result of that crossbreeding was a fast and energetic terrier-type dog breed with the stubbornness of an original English Bulldog that also inherited its confidence. This newly created dog breed was called the bull-and-terrier Dog or a Pit dog since that is the main reason these dogs were created. Eventually, this dog breed was named in England as the Staffordshire Bull Terrier. Sadly, these dogs were mostly used for blood sports such as dogfighting and bull baiting. Even though dogfighting was declared illegal across Great Britain in 1835, it very much continued since it was extremely difficult to enforce and uphold the law.
The bull-and-terrier dogs migrated to the United States of America at the end of the 19th century where they were named pit bull terriers and then renamed as American bull terriers. The exact purpose is still unclear and there are some disputes on this subject, it is widely considered that the early Amstaff dogs were not mostly used as fighting dogs unlike their direct ancestors, but were mostly used as general farm dogs, hunting dogs, and companion dogs.
With time, this dog breed was selectively bred to achieve larger dogs with bulkier build than their English cousins. Originally, this dog breed was registered by the American Kennel Club in 1936 by the name of Staffordshire Terrier. They were later officially renamed in 1972 to have a clear distinction between the smaller English Staffordshire (today's Staffordshire Bull Terrier). Today, these two are registered as totally separate dog breeds.
Dog Breed Characteristics
Their head is broad and square-shaped, jaws are strong, and eyes set wide apart. The ears may be cropped. The body of the American Staffordshire Terrier is very muscular and strong, so make sure to train your AmStaff properly. If not trained properly, this dog will pull on the leash and your walks could be frustrating.
The American Staffordshire Terrier is mostly known as an excellent family companion that thrives on being around their family. Amstaffs are the happiest when they're involved in all family activities, no matter what that activity might be; an intense playing session, a long walk, or just lounging on the living room sofa.
These dogs have a nasty reputation for being aggressive guard dogs, but the truth is that they are more likely to greet strangers with lots of love and kisses and will probably expect a decent amount of belly scratches. It is mostly their strong physique and a nasty reputation as being aggressive "Pit Bulls" that intimidate strangers and make sure that they don’t come too close. With that in mind, a lot of Amstaff owners say that these dogs are excellent when it comes to judging people’s character and they can easily guess people's intentions and because of that, they can be great watchdogs.
There is a standard for this dog breed in all major Kennel Clubs since this is a dog breed that is recognized around the world. The two main standards we should keep in mind when talking about this dog breed is the FCI (Fédération Cynologique Internationale) and the AKC (American Kennel Club) standards.
The FCI standard describes these dogs as having great strength for their size and that they are dogs that are “well-put-together”. It also states that they are muscular yet agile and graceful. They should also be alert and keenly aware of their surroundings. It is also mentioned in this standard that male Amstaffs should have an ideal height of 18-19in (46-48 cm) and females should have a height of 17-18 in (43-46 cm) at the withers.
These dogs are in Group 3 (Terriers) Section 3 (Bull terriers) and these dogs do not have a working trial - that means that American Staffordshire Terriers do not have to take a working exam. Amstaffs were registered by the FCI on the 10th of June 1936.
American Staffordshire Terrier vs Pitbull
The general term “pit bull” was used to describe a lot of dog breeds that were used for illegal blood sports and Amstaff is sometimes mistakenly called the Pitbull terrier. They have a similar physique and is certainly understandable why an average citizen might get these two breeds confused.
Pit Bull Terriers are a dog breed that is not recognized on a definite basis by most of the major cynology associations. The breed enthusiasts are trying to get this breed registered on a definite basis but they are encountering a lot of problems. That specific dog breed is restricted in many parts of the world and some countries, or rather parts of some countries, like New South Wales in Australia, have restrictions that have mandatory neutering of this dog breed so it is practically impossible to breed the Pit Bull breed.
Pit Bulls have a negative image problem as being aggressive towards other dogs and animals. Breeding clubs and Pit Bull dog owners describe them as being completely reliable with people and they consider aggressiveness towards people a disqualifying quality. There is an American Temperament Test Society or ATTS that tests the temperament of dogs, as it is clearly stated in their name. They mention that Pit Bulls have an 87,4% pass rate and one of the most popular American family dog breeds the Golden Retriever has a pass rate of 85,6%. It clearly shows that these dogs are friendly and unlikely to be aggressive towards people. We are mostly afraid of them based on their reputation and physique.
FUN FACT: Although they are known as separate breeds for over 50 years, the American Pit Bull Terrier and the American Staffordshire Terrier have a lot in common. They share a similar personality and activity level.
The coat of the American Staffordshire Terrier is short, smooth, and easy to maintain. Regular weekly brushing using a firm-bristled brush will be enough. This regular brushing will help manage shedding and will keep the coat clean and healthy. These dogs shed at a low to moderate rate. The coat can come in almost any color (white, black, brindle, blue, fawn, liver, etc.) and pattern, except merle. Coats with more than 80% of white, black and tan, or liver are not preferred. The rest care is basic – trim the dog’s nails regularly, brush his teeth (American Staffordshire Terriers are known to have bad breath), and clean his ears.
FUN FACT: American Staffordshire Terriers usually don’t like to have their paws touched so start touching them on purpose since day one. This way they will get used to the touch, and it will be a lot easier to take care of the paws later.
The American Staffordshire Terrier is a highly energetic dog that requires regular, vigorous exercise. They need both physical and mental challenges. Routine exercise is very important. If American Staffordshire Terrier becomes bored or doesn’t have a proper outlet for all his energy, he will become destructive, or hyperactive. Remember that the American Staffordshire Terrier has a strong jaw that can destroy all of your furniture.
FUN FACT: Amstaff dogs love to dig, pull and chew.
The American Staffordshire Terrier is a loyal, tolerant, smart and playful dog that loves to be around his human family members. These dogs are deeply affectionate and they create strong bonds with their humans. As with any other breed, early socialization is a must. Training is a necessity, considering this dog’s physical strength and exuberance. They need a confident, assertive trainer.
American Staffordshire Terriers have a reputation among dog owners as being lovely family companion dogs and pets, and that they get along well even with children. That being said, they fit best in homes with a little bit of older children - over the age of six. This dog breed is very powerful and when they get carried on, they can play a bit rougher, and that might result in unwanted accidents and injuries. Younger children are likely to poke and pull the dog, so it is very important to teach your kids how to properly and safely treat and approach animals. Even if your dog is properly trained and socialized, playing time with children of all ages should always be monitored, no matter of the dog breed.
Amstaff and other animals
When it comes to other animals it is important to pay special attention. Amstaffs can be aggressive to other dogs, especially those of the same gender. This is why American Staffordshire Terriers should never be left alone with other dogs that they don’t know.
Today, American Staffordshire Terriers are used as police dogs, guard dogs or simply pets. Although these dogs are generally very friendly towards humans, some people fear them because of their muscular body and reputation for being fierce.
The Amstaff is generally a healthy breed, but, as most breeds are, this breed is also prone to certain health conditions that (future) owners should be on the lookout for. These dogs are prone to hip and elbow dysplasia, luxating patella, hypothyroidism (a condition in which the thyroid gland doesn't produce enough of certain crucial hormones which can cause the dog’s metabolism to slow down), cerebellar ataxia (a neurologic disease), allergies, and heart diseases. A healthy American Staffordshire Terrier has a lifespan of 12-16 years.
If you are interested in buying an American Staffordshire Terrier puppy be prepared to research this dog breed. The first thing you should do is to find a good Amstaff breeder. Any dog breed can develop some health problems but if you find a good breeder who will test his breeding dogs and who will take good care of his puppies will give you a better chance that your future dog will not develop any hereditary diseases.
Take your time and find out if this is the right breed for you and if it suits your lifestyle. You need to be firm and this breed requires an experienced owner to secure that your dog will develop in a well-balanced dog and that you do not get in a lot of trouble because of their future behavior.
World Dog Finder team