- Not a substitute for professional veterinary help.
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An often misunderstood breed, the lovable American Staffordshire terrier (AmStaff, Staff, or Staffy, for short) is a loyal, athletic, and highly trainable dog who shows attentiveness to their owners and surprising athleticism.
Interested in hosting a dock-diving competition? You just might be after reading about this incredible dog and their love of sport.
According to PetMD, The American Staffordshire terrier probably originated from mixing types of bulldogs with a variety of terriers, such as the English smooth terrier. Because of their strength and notable courage, these beauties were historically used in dogfighting, where they were pitted against other dogs and even larger animals.
In more recent history, these intelligent and athletic dogs were bred for different traits, such as helping to track down rodents and vermin on farms.
These little balls of energy have a reputation for their love of play. Many of the characteristics that owners associate with their “AmStaffs” have to do with this dog’s love of sport, like:
- Agile, graceful mover
- Energetic and springy
- Loves mental and physical challenges
- Highly intelligent
- Attentive to surroundings
Many of these traits probably developed due to breeder requirements in the dogfighting world, but don’t rush to conclusions and imagine undesired characteristics. Many of the traits that made them good fighters—strength, agility, intelligence—are actually desirable traits when encouraged in positive environments.
The American Kennel Club describes the American Staffordshire terrier as larger than the pit bull (although not all authorities recognize these as two separate breeds), standing about 18 inches at the shoulder, but weighing in at an impressive 50-70 pounds of muscle. This build gives them their famous stocky look. These dogs sport a short, shiny (and low-maintenance) coat.
The shape of their face definitely gives hints of their bulldog relatives, and they have endearing dark eyes and dark skin on their lips and noses. Like many terrier breeds, these dogs can come in pretty much every color and marking imaginable.
Paws down, this breed is one of the most fun-loving and loyal ones around. The fun-loving side gives you an energetic playmate who craves mental and physical challenges—and can probably school most of the neighborhood dogs in agility games. As much as they crave exercise and fun, they crave their beloved owners’ attention too. Their endearing and enthusiastic personality can make them ideal family pets.
The loyal side gives you a dog who can be quite docile, but also quite protective of their owners. And while they can be friendly to others in the presence of their trusted owners, they can become aggressive if they feel challenged.
They’re quick to learn and eager to please, and their attentiveness to their humans makes them great students. (And we weren’t kidding about that dock diving stuff…these little guys excel at this fun sport!)
One of the most important aspects of their upbringing is that they are socialized with humans of all ages and sizes, as well as other animals. This environment helps to make a well-rounded AmStaff.
According to PetMD, they do best when they’re able to spend a good amount of time both indoors and out. After all, they want to be close to their owners.
American Staffordshire terriers do well when they know their boundaries, and this can often be accomplished with a good, old-fashioned fence. Their protective nature means that they will probably sound off when strangers approach or make them feel threatened.
If you’re thinking about adopting an AmStaff, be sure to do a lot of research on their personality and how their particular traits will fit into your household. They make very loyal and loving companions, but they’re very strong dogs and are extra attentive to their surroundings. Some of the qualities that make them loyal also make them protective, and in some cases, they can exhibit aggressive behaviors even when well-socialized throughout their life.
According to Britannica, one of the most important things you can do as an AmStaff fan is to educate people about your dog and all of the wonderful qualities they possess. And there’s no better way than to show just how docile and playful they can be (perhaps on one of the vigorous daily walks they crave as part of their exercise routine).
If you’ve toiled away at training with other dog breeds before, training your Staffy will probably be a real treat. Think about it—these dogs are smart, they’re enthusiastically eager to please, and they love a challenge. The sky is the limit.
The American Kennel Club advises that training for this breed should start with obedience and socialization—it lays an important foundation for this dog’s education and well-being. And while they may excel at certain activities, they do have a few pesky vices that can be hard to break, such as digging and chewing (and not just puppy chewing…lifetime chewing).
PetMD classifies ailments that may afflict American Staffordshire terriers as minor (elbow dysplasia, hypothyroidism, heart disease) and major (progressive retinal atrophy, and hip dysplasia). These issues run in the family, so if you are using a breeder, be sure to ask pointed questions about the health of their dogs.
In general, however, AmStaffs live a pretty healthy life and enjoy an average lifespan of 12-16 years.
Think you’re ready for an American Staffordshire terrier? Once you’ve done an assessment of this breed’s personality and determined that it is a good fit for your particular home, consider which option is best for you: adoption or breeder.
Because this breed is more likely to exhibit aggressive behaviors if they have been abused, neglected, or under-socialized, they sometimes need special considerations when they’re placed in a forever home as part of a rescue. But don’t worry—advocates for this breed are well aware of these needs, and rescues will proactively help to make sure dogs and new homes are a good fit for everyone.
American Staffordshire Terrier Rescues and Breeders
There are many rescues dedicated to placing American Staffordshire terriers in their forever homes. The Staffordshire Terrier Club of America is a good place to start your research, and they may even be able to direct you to a rescue in your area. They also list vetted breeders by state.
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