Despite its zest for life and playfulness, the American Staffordshire Terrier is on the breed list in almost all German states (except Lower Saxony) as well as in Denmark, Austria, and Switzerland. In this article, we’ll go into detail about the “AmStaff” and clarify the reason for the polarization of this dominantly gentle breed.
History and Origin
Like the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, the American Staffordshire Terrier (also called AMStaff) comes from a cross between Bull and Terrier dogs. This was bred from the obedient bulldogs and the wild terriers in the early 19th century and was used primarily in dog fights. In the so-called “blood sports” they competed in the area around Staffordshire (in the English Midlands) against their own kind and against other animals (such as badgers and rats).
The aim of breeding was a persistent, fast, and intelligent dog, which should prove its qualities in fights in the arenas (“pits”). Animal fighting was banned in 1835.
From 1865 (after the American Civil War) they came to America as part of the British emigration and were increasingly used as guard dogs on farms. The emigrants now began crossing the bull and terrier crosses with other, larger dogs to further increase life expectancy.
This was a necessary procedure, especially in the fight against coyotes and wolves, which led to mixing with the Airedale Terrier and the Irish Terrier. By the turn of the century, they were bred to be show and companion dogs, which finally put an end to dogfighting for the AmStaff.
The “AmStaff” has been given a variety of names throughout history. Until it was officially named by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1974, it was called Half and Half, Bull and Terrier, Yankee Terrier, or American Bull Terrier. The AKC first established the breed designation “Staffordshire Terrier” in 1936 and added it to “American Staffordshire Terrier” in order to differentiate it from the English Staffordshire Terrier.
Character & Essence
The American Staffordshire Terrier is extremely intelligent, playful, alert, and gentle with children. The AmStaff owes its high stimulus threshold and family friendliness to the Bulldog, whose offspring were able to pass on a balanced character.
But due to the genes of the wild terrier, he is very active in dangerous situations and consistently protects his master. His strong bond with the owner and his dominant nature can sometimes lead him to falsely become defensive in order to keep potential dangers away from the “human pack”.
Despite their contrasting ancestors, they have an even balance and are therefore an ideal candidate for keeping as a family and guard dog. It is also often used as a disaster and medical service dog, but not as a protection dog (its use as such is still controversial). If properly trained, they can even act as a therapy dogs.
Optics and Fur
The AmStaff makes a dangerous impression due to its medium size, but above all because of the pronounced and dry muscles. A strong bite and a wedge-shaped head with rose ears (or tipped ears) are typical features of a fighting dog. Its maximum weight of 33 kilograms also promises physical performance and stockiness.
The short, dense, and glossy coat comes in all color variations and combinations, with some colors being considered undesirable by breeders. For example, if the proportion of white is more than 80%, the probability of genetic deafness is very high. Lack of pigmentation is also atypical for an American Stafford and is more likely to be found in American Pit Bull Terriers.
Care and Attitude
The Amstaff is a very easy-care dog whose glossy short coat looks clean with just a few brush strokes. Once a week the coat needs treatment with a brush. This is not only important for the coat, but also for the dog to get used to the grooming.
It is important to train the AmStaff from a young age. This bundle of energy can only be controlled and trained through early socialization and regular visits to the dog school. In addition to the leash obligation, a muzzle is also necessary, which can possibly be dispensed within the case of a character test.
An American Stafford wants to be challenged, both mentally and physically. Jogging, ball games, and fetch are often included in the warm-up program for the muscular builders, while agility, obedience, and flyball round off the demanding activities.
Therefore, he will feel more comfortable in the open countryside than in the built-up city, where he can pursue his urge to move. Notable is his bounce, which makes him unpredictable despite his immobile appearance. It is therefore recommended to place a fence around your own facility that is approx. 1.60 m high. You can find more information about dog fences here.
Due to his high demands, the master must show a consistent and self-confident attitude. You have to clearly show the AmStaff which behavior is undesirable and carry out your actions consistently. This does not mean penalties in the sense of beatings. On the contrary. Consistency means demanding things from the Amstaff. Be patient and persistent, and use positive reinforcement when the behavior is implemented correctly.
The holder should never show weakness or abandon commands that are not immediately implemented. With clear rules and gentle care, the American Stafford sees a leader in the halter that he can rely on.
An American Staffordshire should therefore not be raised by a beginner with no knowledge of dogs. The fact that he wants to please his master (“will to please”) and has a high willingness to learn, on the other hand, makes training easier to a certain extent. When he has spent most of his energy in the foliage or on long journeys, his calm side will come out and he will show his people-friendly, obedient side. However, it cannot tolerate high temperatures.
Basically, the American Staffordshire Terrier is a robust breed that is not often prone to illnesses. If they do, hypothyroidism and clouding of the lens of the eye (cataracts) are the most common. Occasionally, hip dysplasia, hereditary heart failure, or knee problems can also occur.