American Staffordshire Terrier
Other names: Amstaff
The American Staffordshire Terrier, or Amstaff as their fans call them, is a companion dog that is all too often considered dangerous. In reality, they are sociable, friendly and very affectionate. Their character selection limited their aggressiveness and made them softer. Only if they are provoked (e.g. with cruel methods), can aggressiveness reappear. This breed has a bad reputation due to the way people have treated them; there are no bad dogs, only bad owners.
Key facts about the American Staffordshire Terrier
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Origins and history
Unlike most Terriers, the American Staffordshire Terrier was not born in Great Britain, but in the English colonies of North America and Canada, hence their name. Their ancestors are the "Bull-and-Terrier" and the Blue Paul Terrier, an extinct breed that was previously raised in Glasgow, Scotland, before spreading to the colonies.
At the beginning of the 1930s, two breeding movements were formed. The first one tried to create dogs corresponding to a precise standard, with a strong but very balanced temperament: the result was the American Staffordshire Terrier. The second movement, was looking for a fighting dog: a larger, more aggressive breed, with a stronger jaw grip. The result was the American Pit Bull Terrier, now only recognised by the American Kennel Club and not the FCI.
FCI breed nomenclature
Group 3 - Terriers
Section 3 : Bull type Terriers
Physical characteristics of the American Staffordshire Terrier
Female : Between 17 and 18 in
Male : Between 18 and 19 in
Female : Between 55 and 66 lb
Male : Between 55 and 66 lb
Their coat can be single-coloured, multi-coloured or variegated. All colours are accepted, however dominance of white and a liver colour is not encouraged. It should be noted that the blue American Staffordshire Terrier is very popular.
Type of coat
Their coat is short.
Their coat is coarse to touch, shiny, and lies flat and close to the skin.
Their eyes are dark.
The American Staffordshire Terrier is a dog of great power in relation to its size: well-built and muscular, though at the same time agile and graceful. Their head, of medium length, appears large on all sides; the skull is broad. Their ears are set high. Their eyes are round, low and wide apart. Their jaws, especially the lower one, must be strong, to allow for a very good grip. Their muzzle should have a square appearance. The construction of their body is almost square-shaped. Their limbs are perfectly straight. Their tail narrows towards the tip, more or less at hock height.
Good to know
The American Staffordshire Terrier is part of the second category of ‘dangerous’ dogs, following the law of the 6th of January 1999.
It is thus necessary for the owner to apply for a detention permit from the town hall, which will only be issued following their participation in an aptitude training course and the results of the dog's behavioural assessment.
The aptitude training is completed with an authorised canine educator.
Their behavioural assessment should be completed between the age of 8 and 12 months with an authorised veterinarian.
The dog must be kept on a leash and wear a muzzle in public places.
The dog's possession permit and vaccination record may be requested at any time by a public service employee.
In addition, be careful not to confuse the Staffordshire Bull Terrier (known as the Staffie) and the American Staffordshire Terrier, which are two very distinct breeds, be it by their physical characteristics or their temperaments.
Being very loyal and devoted to their owner, the Amstaff is a loving dog that, despite their stubborn reputation, is a great choice of companion for the whole family.
Full of energy, lively and playful, this dog loves spending time around people to play and be active. Playful activities are extremely useful to help train the dog, channel their energy and strengthen their interspecific relationship.
Providing all their needs are met and if, and only if, they have been well trained, the American Staffordshire Terrier can be calm at home.
If the training methods used are consistent, caring and positive, the Amstaff can be very skilful and receptive. Agile, courageous and intelligent, they are predisposed to many activities.
Their heritage as a Terrier gives them a propensity for hunting, but it is not an activity in which they excel.
Fearful / wary of strangers
Despite their bag reputation, they are rather welcoming, even with strangers. However, should they not be well adapted to social situations or the people who approach them do not have good intentions, they can be challenging.
Although they are very loyal to their owner, the American Stafford is an independent dog that knows how to be alone, even if they prefer not to be.
Behaviour of the American Staffordshire Terrier
Providing their need for exercise is met and they were progressively exposed to the absence of their owner as a puppy, American Staffordshire Terriers respond well to periods away from their owner.
Easy to train / obedience
Although they are easy to live with on a daily basis, their Terrier heritage makes them naturally stubborn and tenacious, which can sometimes hinder their training.
Moreover, the sensitivity they inherit from their Bulldog cousins requires a training that is patient and gentle, though at the same time firm.
Their education must start early to establish authority and prevent the American Staffordshire Terrier puppy from developing bad habits. If the methods used are consistent and intelligent, this dog, contrary to what is believed, can be very docile.
As a dog concerned by the law on so-called "dangerous" dogs, when they are a puppy, the priority is to teach them to walk on a leash without pulling and to accept the muzzle positively.
This ‘dangerous’ dog rarely barks. Their physique alone is sufficient for intimidation.
Tendency to run away
Protective and very loyal to their owner, the American Stafford never leaves their home.
This dog has a lot of energy to spare. In fact, if their energy is not channelled through mental stimulation and other activities, the dog may "explode" through destructive behaviour.
Greedy / Gluttony
Treats can be a good way to motivate this sometimes unpredictable dog to cooperate.
The American Staffordshire Terrier is a very good guardian, not because they are suspicious of strangers but because of their reputation as a ‘bad dog’ that makes them particularly intimidating.
Although they have been chosen as companion dogs for several years, they still have a strong instinct to protect their own. Completely devoted to their owner, they are not afraid of pain and would even sacrifice their live to save that of their owner.
Adopting an Amstaff requires time, investment and a lot of responsibility. Indeed, in addition to being a dog that is not easy to train, their categorisation generates a lot of rules that, if not respected, lead to sanctions.
It is preferable that this dog be accompanied by experienced and knowledgeable.
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American Staffordshire Terrier in a flat
Even if daily life in an apartment is not ideal for an American Staffordshire Terrier, they can adapt, as long as their needs are respected.
It is without doubt that they need space, however, should they benefit from several rich and stimulating outdoor walks, they can adapt well to an indoor life. In the city, it should not be forgotten that category 2 dogs are required to be on a leash and wear a muzzle in public places.
If they live in the countryside, in a house with a fenced garden, they must under no circumstances be isolated from the family and kept solely outside.
Need for exercise / Sporty
Having the strength of the Bulldog combined with the agility and vivacity of the Terrier means the American Staffordshire Terrier has an important need for exercise.
This dog must be able to use up its excess energy every day. This can be achieved through long walks or canine sports (agility, tracking, cani-cross, etc.).
Travelling / easy to transport
Travelling with your Amstaff is not complicated, as long as you put aside the legislative obligations associated with the breed.
In addition, as a puppy, they must have been exposed to a variety of social situations in different places to enable them to remain calm when travelling.
American Staffordshire Terrier and cats
If they are well educated and used to social situations, they can live with cats. However, certain precautions should be taken, for example always leaving the possibility for the cat to take refuge out of the dog’s reach.
American Staffordshire Terrier and dogs
Due to their fighting background, conflicts may arise with other dogs. However, it is easy to expose them to social situations when they are a puppy.
American Staffordshire Terrier and children
Despite being stubborn and powerful, they know how to adapt their strength when around children. They can easily integrate into family thanks to their intelligent, gentle and very affectionate nature.
American Staffordshire Terrier and the elderly
This dog should be looked after by dynamic and firm owners, meaning that they are not always the best option for elderly people, who are less active. In addition, they require a lot of exercise and stimulation to keep them happy.
The price of an American Staffordshire Terrier varies according to their origins, age and sex. On average, the price of a dog registered with the KC is around £965.
It will cost on average £35/month to meet the needs of a dog this size.
This dog's short coat doesn’t require any special maintenance, except a weekly brushing to maintain its beauty and protective qualities.
As with all dogs, their ears and eyes should be monitored and cleaned regularly.
Hair loss is moderate but increases during their annual moulting in autumn and spring. During this period, brushing should be more frequent to remove as much hair as possible.
Nutrition of the American Staffordshire Terrier
This dog is not difficult to feed; they are content with little and, despite their physique, they do not require big portions.
High quality and protein-rich kibbles are perfect for them, though it is important to choose them carefully so that they are adapted to the dog's age, weight and physical condition.
They can be fed once or twice a day but it is advised that they are given their meals at more or less fixed times and never at self-service.
Health of the American Staffordshire Terrier
Their estimated lifespan is 11 years.
Strong / robust
Being very robust, this dog is often spared from the major health problems experienced by many breeds.
As with heat, the Amstaff has a high tolerance to the cold. Being very resistant and energetic, the cold does not stop them from their activities. On the other hand, being inactive may result in shivering.
The Amstaff has a high tolerance to heat, though it is preferable to make sure there is some shade when temperatures are high.
Tendency to put on weight
This breed is rarely overweight. As a very dynamic dog, calories are generally burned quickly.
- Cerebellar ataxia (degeneration of the nervous system and cerebellum)
- Hip dysplasia