The American Staffordshire terrier and the Staffordshire bull terrier have similar names, but they are two separate and distinct breeds. Their physical features are slightly similar, but the temperaments of each breed are identical. The only real difference is the size -- Staffordshire bull terriers are about 30 pounds lighter than American Staffordshires.
About the Standard
The American Kennel Club, the registry for purebred dogs, officially recognizes 175 breeds as of 2013. The American Staffordshire belongs to the terrier group, which also includes the tiny Yorkshire terrier and the mighty Airedale terrier. Terriers are well-known for their tenacity and determination. The AKC describes the Am Staff's personality as being very "people-oriented" and does best when he's given a job; he needs to keep his mind and body occupied as he's also an athletic and energetic dog. The Am Staff is perfectly suited for agility and obedience competitions.
American Staffordshire terriers don't miss much. They are intensely curious and cognizant of their environment. They are also brave and loyal. Their intelligence and stable nature is legendary. Staffies are happy-go-lucky and quick to display their devotion; they are affectionate dogs who love to be around kids and have been carefully and selectively bred in the past few decades to be the quintessential family dog. Don't let their sentimental nature fool you, however, when provoked, the Am Staff can be a fierce defender of his family and property and will fight to the death if necessary.
A well-bred, well-socialized American Staffordshire terrier is a delight. Their desire to please is unmatched and, coupled with their intelligence, makes obedience training a pleasure. They do well in group classes as long as they have an owner who understands they need skillfull training and direction. Puppy kindergarten classes are perfect for young Am Staffs as it not only teaches them basic commands, but also socializes them to other dogs and people. This is important because if the Am Staff is not well-socialized beginning at an early age, he'll develop bad habits that will be hard to break later in life. It's much easier to manage and train an 8-week-old puppy than it is to correct a 50- to 60-pound dog. They can be stubborn when being housebroken, but will catch on if the training is consistent.
The American Staffordshire
Mixed-breed dogs born with physical features similar to American Staffordshire terriers and Staffordshire bull terriers are often called pit bulls, a term encompassing a wide range of terrier and bull dog type dogs. It's an archaic term harking back to the days when dogs were pitted against one another and forced to fight bulls, often in a pit. Before they were brought to America from their native England, they were called pitbulls, but the AKC bred them to be a little heavier and changed the name to the American Staffordshire terrier to distinguish the line from the original breed from Staffordshire, England.
By Michelle A. Rivera
About the Author
Michelle A. Rivera is the author of many books and articles. She attended the University of Missouri Animal Cruelty School and is certified with the Florida Animal Control Association. She is the executive director of her own nonprofit, Animals 101, Inc. Rivera is an animal-assisted therapist, humane educator, former shelter manager, rescue volunteer coordinator, dog trainer and veterinary technician.