American Staffordshire Terrier

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American Staffordshire Terrier History

The American Staffordshire Terrier (sometimes known as the AmStaff) traces its origins to the United Kingdom when Bulldogs and Mastiffs were mixed to create ruthless and powerful bull-baiting dogs. After dogfighting was outlawed in Britain in 1835, breeders changed their tactics to create small muscular dogs for illegal fights by cross-breeding Bulldogs and Terriers. Sometimes called the Bull-and-Terrier or the Staffordshire Pit-dog, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier (or Staffy) was born.

Around 1850, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier was exported to the United States where breeders adapted them to increase their weight and head size. Heavier than its British counterpart, the American Staffordshire Terrier was used for fighting until the practice was eventually banned in the U.S. in 1900.

It is difficult to determine exactly which terrier breeds were used to create the British Staffy or even the AmStaff. However, there are hints in the American Staffordshire Terriers’ genetic background that Black-and-Tan Terriers and/or White English Terriers may have been used when creating the breed.

The American Kennel Club officially recognized the American Staffordshire Terrier as a unique breed in 1936. This designation differentiated it from its close cousins, the American Pit Bull and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier. Today, a well-bred AmStaff is more placid than its predecessors and is a popular family pet.

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What Does an American Staffordshire Terrier Look Like?

The American Kennel Club’s breed standard for the American Staffordshire Terrier says that the dog should be well put-together and stocky, appearing to have considerable strength for its size. Its head is a medium length, and its skull is broad with a distinctive stop, muscular cheeks, and a black nose. Its ears are set high and can be cropped. In some countries, the cropping of ears and tails is illegal.

Males stand at around 18 to 19 inches tall, while females are between 17 and 18 inches tall. AmStaffs can weigh anywhere from 50 to 80 pounds.

There are many accepted American Staffordshire Terrier coat colors. However, dogs that are mainly white, liver, or that have black-and-tan coats are discouraged by the AKC standards.

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American Staffordshire Terrier Temperament

The American Staffordshire Terrier’s fighting days are over. In modern times, the AmStaff is often kept as a family dog that loves to spend time with its owners. American Staffordshire Terriers read people well, which means they make exceptional watchdogs. That said, they are often very affectionate to strangers visiting the home.

Boredom can be an issue for these intelligent canines. When unstimulated, they will bark, chew, dig, and can cause considerable destruction around the house. Strong-willed and athletic, they can pull at their leads. For these reasons, owners need to be assertive and use positive reinforcement training early in the dog’s life to set clear expectations and boundaries.

Although friendly toward humans, AmStaffs can be aggressive towards other dogs if they are not properly socialized. Early training classes can help to remedy this problem.

Staffordshire Bull Terrier vs American Staffordshire

The AmStaff owes its heritage to the British Staffy. The main difference is that the American version of the breed is larger with a more powerful head. Both breeds are considerably more affectionate and calmer than their fighting ancestors.

American Staffordshire Terrier vs Pitbull

The main difference between a Pit Bull and an American Staffordshire Terrier is size. Pitbulls are typically slightly taller and more athletic than AmStaffs. However, with very similar facial features, it is often easy to mistake the two breeds.

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American Bully vs American Staffordshire Terrier

The American Bully is a heavier-set modern breed developed from the American Pit Bull Terrier. Bred to look a bit like British Bulldogs, these canines are typically kept as companions.

Bull Terriers vs American Staffordshire Terriers

Sharing some ancestry with the British Staffy, this distant cousin of the AmStaff is shorter and has a distinctive egg-shaped head. It is the only dog to have triangular eyes.

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American Staffordshire Terrier Health Problems

Although generally a healthy breed, American Staffordshire Terrier owners do need to be aware of some concerns that may affect their pets, including hip dysplasia, cerebella ataxia, urinary tract infections, skin allergies, and autoimmune diseases.

  • Hip dysplasia is a common problem for dogs of this size. This hip problem occurs as a puppy reaches maturity and the two halves of the joint develop at different rates. This affects hip function, leading to lameness. The two halves of the joint may also grind against each other causing arthritis. Dogs that exhibit a tendency to limp or hop may be experiencing the early signs of hip dysplasia. An X-ray and thorough examination from a veterinarian will determine whether this is the cause, and corrective surgery may rectify it.
  • Cerebellar ataxia is a degenerative neurological disorder that affects a dog’s coordination and the use of its muscles. It is important to get an AmStaff tested for Cerebellar Ataxia. The vestibular condition can lead the the dog’s eyes to drift and dramatically affect its gait. Unfortunately, ataxia cannot be cured. In many cases, pain management and support are the best ways of helping a dog live a comfortable life. In severe cases, euthanasia may be necessary.
  • Urinary tract infections. Often when a dog cannot urinate or there is blood present in the urine, it is an indicator of an infection or bladder stones. A consultation with a vet is recommended in these situations.
  • Skin allergies can be caused by fleas, food, or contact with allergens. They may manifest as hot spots. Although home remedies may be used, a vet should be consulted if the situation worsens.
  • Autoimmune diseases are conditions that result in the dog’s immune system to attack healthy cells within the body. These types of diseases require treatment and monitoring by a vet.

American Staffordshire Terrier Lifespan

Provided with the right home environment, a good diet, and exercise, these dogs can live for between 12 and 16 years. Regular checkups will identify the early signs of any health concerns, allowing a veterinarian to address these promptly. In addition, providing recommended vaccines (such as those for rabies and parvo) will help to ensure good health. BarkWiki also recommends providing preventive medication for fleas, ticks, and heartworm, which will help protect against flea infestations and Lyme disease.

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American Staffordshire Terrier Adoption

Although there are plenty of places to buy American Staffordshire Terrier puppies, there are always good dogs that need a new home in adoption centers. When looking for an American Staffordshire terrier for adoption, always check local no-kill shelters. With strict policies against euthanasia, such rescue shelters will never put down healthy animals.

It is also important that potential AmStaff owners have enough time to devote to training and walking their dog and that they have adequate space to keep it. Various U.S. states along with several countries have restrictions on owning these dogs. Always check local legislation before committing to adoption.

More Information about American Staffordshire Terrier

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