American Staffordshire Terrier

  • Overview

    In America, the two most common "pit bulls" or "bully" dog breeds are the American Pit Bull Terrier and the American Staffordshire Terrier. There are slight differences between the two breeds, but most importantly, American Staffordshire Terriers can be seen competing in the show ring and American Pit Bull Terriers are mainly bred to be companions.

    Although both breeds stand between 17 and 21 inches tall, American Staffordshire Terriers are much stockier. Male American Staffordshire Terriers can weigh up to 70 pounds; males and females weigh at least 40 or 50 pounds. The standard for American Pit Bull Terriers is less defined, because these dogs are not accepted by the American Kennel Club to be shown, but they are usually leaner and slimmer. Still, their personalities and grooming needs are similar, and in fact, many dogs with "pit bull" ancestry have features of both American Staffordshire Terriers and American Pit Bull Terriers.

    These alert, lovable dogs need plenty of exercise, tons of activity and even more love, attention and affection. In the company of a thoughtful, loving family who is willing to spend some considerable time exercising and training these athletic, playful dogs, they make excellent, considerate companions.

  • Personality

    These muscle-bound terriers are quite athletic. They require quite a bit of activity, either in the form of high-energy play, walking or jogging, to stay healthy, happy and out of trouble. They can be trained to be excellent fetchers, and they love games like tug-of-war, so there are plenty of ways to schedule some quality playtime with your pet.

    American Staffordshire Terriers and Pit Bull Terriers are valiant, loyal dogs who will go to great lengths to defend their family, but they should never resort to aggression or even protectiveness without provocation. Because they were bred to be responsive and submissive toward humans, these dogs are actually some of the least naturally aggressive toward humans. They generally enjoy meeting new people and are tolerant of children and strangers. Poor breeding for aggression and defensiveness resulted in strains of dogs who were temperamental and aggressive, but that is hardly a breed standard. These terriers should be naturally friendly, loving and incredibly affectionate around those they love and trust. They should be known for being goofy and clownish rather than stand-offish or angry. With very firm, consistent and dominant training that is gentle and positive, emphasizing good behaviors and reinforcing the dog's positive qualities, these dogs make absolutely adoring, ever-present family companions.

  • Coat Care

    American Staffordshire Terriers and American Pit Bull Terriers both have short, shiny coats. The coat should be stiff to the touch and hard. American Staffordshire Terriers should be more than 80% white, with markings in light shades of tan, brindle or gray. American Pit Bull Terriers are seen in all colors, including red, blue, brown, gray, brindle and black and white.  Help your dog become accustomed to having his teeth brushed weekly and his nails trimmed monthly by starting these activities as a puppy. This will also help your American Staffordshire Terrier learn to tolerate being touched by people and being handled by his owner.

Brushing

Grooming the American Staffordshire Terrier is not a challenge. They do shed, so their coat should be brushed down with a stiff bristle brush and wiped gently with a damp cloth to stay shiny and beautiful.

Bathing

With preparation, perseverance and a positive attitude, bathing can become a fun and fulfilling part of the regular grooming cycle, while helping your dog avoid many diseases and infections.

Smooth coated breeds adhere to the general rule of dog bathing: about once every three months. The coat should end up fresh smelling, shiny, with no loose or shedding hair. First give the dog a good brushing to remove dead hair and mats. Place a rubber mat in the tub to provide secure footing and fill the tub with three to four inches of lukewarm water. Use a spray hose, pitcher or unbreakable cup to wet the dog, taking caution to avoid getting water in the eyes, ears and nose. Massage in pet shampoo, saving the head for last. Immediately rinse thoroughly, starting with the head to prevent soap from dripping into the eyes. Towel dry. Wipe wrinkled breeds with a soft cloth and make sure they are totally dry after bathing.

Hair Clipping

Clipping or trimming your dog’s coat is far easier than you would ever imagine. With the right clipper, trimmer and scissors, giving your dog a haircut is easy on your wallet and your schedule.

Dogs with smooth coats generally only require trims and tidying up in areas of excessive hair growth using a trimmer or blunt scissors. It's always wise to take a dog for a short walk or exercise to calm them down before trimming. Remember to brush the coat first to remove any tangles and mats. Don't forget to trim around the paws, pads, tail, chest and sanitary areas, as needed. The coat should lay flat and smooth against the body when finished.

Nails

Many dog owners are apprehensive about trimming their dog’s nails because they are nervous about cutting into the quick. But with the right conditioning and careful cutting, nail clipping can be a simple, stress-free activity for you and your dog.

Provide your dog with plenty of positive reinforcement and even treats to help associate nail clipping with a positive experience.  As you start to clip, gently press on your dog’s paws to help him become accustomed to the feeling of having his nails clipped. Then, work gradually, shaving down just a thin portion of the nail at first to make sure you don’t reach the quick. Clip one nail, reward your dog with a treat, and stop to give him some positive reinforcement before moving on. Gradually increase the number of nails you clip in one sitting to help your dog get used to the process. Never trim extremely long nails down to a short nail in one sitting, because this is an excellent way to accidently quick the dog’s nail. Instead, work gradually, shaving small portions of your dog’s nails off each time.

You can tell if you’re getting close to the quick by the texture of your dog’s nail. The nail is hard closer to the surface and becomes softer as you get closer to the quick. If your dog’s nail starts to feel softer, that’s a good indication that you’re getting close to the quick.

Eyes / Ears

Not all breeds and coat styles require routine trimming in and around the eyes and ears but all should undergo regular inspection and cleaning around these sensitive areas. Doing so will help prevent the development of infections that could seriously damage these amazing organs.

It is always important to routinely clean your dog's eyes and ears, and examine for potential infections. Some smooth-coated dogs, like Basenjis and Boxers, and dogs with large ears, like Weimaraners and Great Danes, have sensitive ears that should be checked  weekly for infection and cleaned with a cotton ball. Gently wipe a cotton ball moistened with mineral oil, olive oil or witch hazel in your dog's ear, being careful to avoid the ear canal. Never use a Q-Tip, which could cause damage to the inner ear if your dog suddenly shakes or jerks his head. Bushy hair growth within the ear can be thinned with tweezers or blunt scissors. Use a small trimmer to trim excess hair around the eyes, ears and face. If you have a small dog, like an Italian Greyhound, take special care to  clean around their eyes with a cotton ball or soft cloth and use a small trimmer to trim excess hair around their eyes to make sure they are comfortable. Dogs with facial wrinkles, like French Bulldogs and Boston Terriers, should have their faces wiped down at least weekly to prevent infection.

Teeth

Many owners do not realize how important it is to brush your pet’s teeth on a regular basis. Some dogs are prone to dental problems and sensitive teeth, especially small dogs with tiny teeth and dogs with special diets. These problems can be easily combatted with frequent brushing.

Cavities are rare with dogs but gum disease caused by tartar buildup is not, which is why they require regular brushing with toothpaste and a toothbrush formulated specifically for dogs. While daily brushing is ideal, doing so on a weekly basis will be a big help in avoiding the need to bring your dog to a veterinarian for a cleaning, which usually has to be done under sedation.