American Staffordshire Terrier temperament: what can you expect from this breed?
American Staffordshire Terrier temperament: an overview
American Staffordshire Terrier temperament combines some of the best traits that a dog can have. They are highly intelligent, courageous, outgoing, attentive and, even though they are friendly, they are always on guard. This is a highly energetic, highly motivated and engaged dog. They think about everything they do and can sometimes act very independently, although they always respect a good owner.
Amstaffs are very self-confident and independent: those traits were something they were bred for for centuries. During their fighting past, each dog had to be for themselves in the fighting pit. They had to make quick decisions about fighting strategy and the ways to survive. This has made these dogs such independent thinkers.
Because of this, an American Staffordshire Terrier is not the best dog for an inexperienced owner. They need a strong owner they can respect who would keep them in line at all times. Breeds like pitbulls and amstaffs have a reputation of dangerous breeds, and unfortunately, it can be true. But only because some people that own these breeds are not up to the task of raising these dogs correctly and training them. It’s up to the owner to make sure that this brilliant and powerful dog doesn’t become a public hazard! Training and socializing needs to start in puppyhood and go on throughout the dog’s life.
Your American Staffordshire Terrier temperament really depends on how you raise them. One of the important things is let your amstaff live with you, in your house. They are not great outdoors dogs – don’t keep them out in the yard, or, God forbid, chained! This intelligent and loyal dog needs to live in close proximity with their owner and participate in their life.
If it is separated from the owner and left alone for long periods of time, your amstaff will get lonely, bored, destructive, agitated and frustrated. All those negative feelings may change their personality for the worse, making them less intelligent and far more aggressive than they naturally are. You don’t want that in an amstaff. You don’t want that in any dog really, but at least other breeds aren’t as dangerous for the public, whereas a frustrated, angry, unsocialized amstaff can be a serious weapon and a hazard for everyone including you.
This doesn’t mean your amstaff can’t be let out to run in the yard. You can let them hang out outside for a few hours if you have a well-fenced yard. But you need to make sure the fencing is extremely secure. Amstaffs are smart – sometimes too smart! They are great escape artists, and because they are so curious and interested in everything, there is a big chance they will find their way out if the fencing isn’t 100% secure.
That, again, can make your amstaff dangerous for the neighbors, other dogs and small animals! That may also put your amstaff in danger of being reported being out on their own. People mistrust pitbull, amstaff and other bull terrier breeds, and won’t hesitate to report your dog.
Truth be told, I reported one free roaming amstaff-pitbull mix at a certain point in my life. My neighbors though it was OK to just let him roam around. The family looked like it wasn’t the most “put together” people: their house was unkempt, their children didn’t look like they were well cared for either. And of course they had to have an amstaff mix that they couldn’t care for properly! This is the case where the owner doesn’t deserve their amstaff/pitbull, and shouldn’t have adopted them in the first place. I and a few other neighbours have reported the free roaming amstaff, as did a few postmen that were terrified of the dog! I am not sure what ended up happening to the dog, but I certainly hope it was taken away from the family and given to someone capable of caring for such a unique breed.
American Staffordshire Terrier: home environment
American Staffordshire Terrier should have a place in your home. Of course, they will want to be wherever you are. Amstaff’s favorite thing to do is lounging with you on your favorite sofa! A lot of owners are just happy with that.
However, if you are an owner of American Staffordshire Terrier, it would be a good idea to intentionally control where your pup can and cannot go, or train them to only get on the couch or your favorite chair if you allow it. This way it shows your dog that you are the leader, you decide what they are allowed to do. For a strong-willed, stubborn dog like American Staffordshire Terrier, it is important to be tightly controlled by the owner and to be very clear about what’s allowed in the house and what isn’t. This helps create a hierarchy which is very important for any dog, but particularly American Staffordshire Terrier. This will make life easier for both you and your dog long term!
Of course, your dog should still have their own place in your house where they can go whenever they want and without your permission. It can be a dog bed, but it would be even better if it’s your old chair or an old couch that you don’t care much about and that your amstaff could consider their own. You’ll be surprised how much time they will spend lounging on that couch! (And they said amstaffs are active dogs, haha!)
American Staffordshire Terrier temperament: dealing with aggression
Aggression is a very touchy subject when it comes to American Staffordshire Terrier temperament. An amstaff, like any other dog, may have aggression issues in terms of aggression towards other dogs or towards humans.
Aggression towards other dogs is something that can show up in American Staffordshire Terrier temperament. This is simply because they have been bred as fighting dogs for centuries! Untamed, this inborn, genetic aggression can make your dog a hazard for every other dog they meet on their way. This is why early socialization is so important for American Staffordshire Terriers. You as the owner need to teach them, from a very young age, that other dogs are friends, play buddies, or neutral passers-by – never subjects for aggression.
Some owners like flaunting how strong and protective their dogs are, but it’s an awful strategy when it comes to amstaffs. Aggression towards other dogs may lead to an accident and another dog getting hurt (as well as your amstaff). This, in turn, may lead to your amstaff being put down or taken away from you. So, if you are an owner of a juvenile amstaff, remember that your goal is to raise them as friendly towards other dogs as possible. That means lots of time spent in socialization, walks and play in the park with other dogs, from a very young age.
Don’t worry if there is some rough play at this age. When they are still puppies, the dogs won’t hurt each other too much, but will learn to play gently. Barking and growling is all a part of the game at this point. After your pup is vaccinated, you should take them everywhere with you. This includes walks in the park or along city streets, onto buses, trains and other public transportation and other public places. This will help get your pup to start trusting the outside world and seeing dogs and people as friends and play buddies instead of enemies.
Unfortunately, even after extensive socialization, as amstaffs age, their natural instincts may start to kick in. After all, they have been bred for centuries to be highly aggressive towards other dogs. They may attack regardless of whether another dog is the same gender with them (which often happens with other breeds), male, female or even puppies. They were also bred to fight till the death, which is an unnatural behavior for dogs, and which makes your amstaff even more dangerous for other dogs. Ideally, you should take a few classes with an instructor that understands dogs very well, particularly fighting dogs. Learn how to break a fight between two dogs in case you ever need to do it.
When it comes to aggression towards humans, it is rarely a part of American Staffordshire Terrier temperament. (Provided the amstaff in question is raised correctly. ) An amstaff will be happy to protect their owner or their family from actual danger, for example, if you are attacked by someone. They will also stay on guard around strangers, although they may behave friendly. However, unprovoked aggression without any reason should never be allowed. If it happens, it is a sign that you are doing something wrong with your dog’s upbringing. They may need more socialization around humans, more exercise, or more training, and you are responsible for it. If your dog displays any unprovoked aggression towards humans, it is your duty to look into this matter and make sure your amstaff is not a danger for others.
American Staffordshire Terrier: amstaffs and children
Despite their reputation and potential aggression towards other dogs, amstaffs are generally great with kids. This is especially if they are used to being around kids (which they should be, if you did a good job socializing your dog). If you have an amstaff and kids, you probably know that you can trust your amstaff with your kids. Even when you are not supervising! American Staffordshire Terriers are very tolerant and will take any play, including rough play, with dignity and patience.
However, you may watch that your amstaff doesn’t get too excited and doesn’t jump onto your kids while in play. Amstaffs aren’t very big, but they are powerful and can be heavy. They may inadvertently hurt a younger child just by jumping onto them or pushing them off of their feet. And, of course, you should closely watch your amstaff around other people’s kids. Kids are often curious and want to play or pet a dog that they haven’t met before. Generally an amstaff shouldn’t hurt a child but you never know if a loud voice or an unfamiliar smell may frighten your dog. To avoid accidents, introduce your amstaff to other people, including children, slowly and carefully. This doesn’t mean avoiding strangers: quite the opposite. Just use common sense and be careful.
All in all, American Staffordshire Terrier temperament is well suited for an experienced owner who is ready to invest plenty of time in their dog. That means socialization and training from early puppyhood till the dog’s last days on Earth. If you are that kind of owner, an amstaff will bring joy and happinness into your life. They will be a loyal friend, a devoted protector and guard, and a source of laughter every day.