I love American Staffordshire terriers, also known as the American pit bull terrier or “pitbull.” With so many pitbulls sitting in shelters across the country (more than 9,000 on Petfinder alone), I thought I’d share how great these dogs are. My next dog just might have to be a pitbull. The guy in this photo is Matty, and he needs a home. (9/21/09 update: Matty has been adopted!)
Staffordshire terriers have a bad reputation because they have been used as fighting dogs since the 1800s when they were first bred in the United States, according to the Encyclopedia of Dog Breeds by D. Caroline Coile. They are known as pitbulls because they would fight other dogs in “pits.” However, be aware that the term “pitbull” refers to a group of dogs, including the American Staffordshire terrier and the Staffordshire bull terrier. Several similar breeds are often inaccurately slapped with the name pitbull such as the Cane Corso, the American bulldog and any mix resembling these breeds.
American Staffordshire terriers were bred to be affectionate to people because their owners had to handle them even in the middle of a dogfight. Because of this, Staffordshires are friendly to strangers and generally love children and make loyal family pets.
American Staffordshire terriers weigh about 55-70 pounds, larger than the Staffordshire bull terrier. American Staffordshire terriers come in colors ranging in solid or mixes of white, brown, red and black. The American Staffordshire terrier and the American pit bull terrier are the same dog. The breed has two different names.
Advantages to owning an American Staffordshire terrier:
1. Staffordshires are playful and gentle around people. They love children and affection. This is why it is so sad to see a Staffordshire terrier unsocialized and tied up in a yard all the time. These dogs thrive off of human interaction and companionship.
2. Staffs require very little grooming. Their coats are short and smooth. They still shed, of course.
3. This breed is easy to train because of its desire for attention and to please its owner.
4. Staffordshires make great watchdogs and will protect their owners if threatened. Unfortunately this trait is abused when owners encourage their Staffordshires to be aggressive.
5. They are beautiful dogs to look at, with muscular bodies and a strong, sturdy appearance with smooth, shiny coats.
Disadvantages to owning an American Staffordshire terrier:
1. Staffordshire terriers require dedicated owners who will give them the training, attention and exercise they need. They are powerful dogs and need their owners to encourage the gentle side of the breed and provide positive outlets for their dogs’ energy.
2. Staffordshire terriers have an inaccurate reputation for being aggressive. Of course, this is the same as assuming one nationality of humans is aggressive. If you own a Staffordshire, some people will be afraid of your dog and you will be treated differently just for owning one. If your dog so much as growls at another dog, expect other dog owners to freak out even though the same behavior would be tolerated from a Yorkie, a golden retriever, a beagle or many other breeds.
3. Many laws ban “pitbulls,” especially apartment complexes and some cities. Be aware of the inconveniences and stereotypes you will have to deal with if you own a Staffordshire.
4. Staffordshires need to be properly socialized around other dogs and small animals. Because they were bred to fight dogs, they are fearless of other dogs and can be aggressive to other animals.
5. Because of their strength and size, Staffordshires can be difficult to handle. A pinch collar or Gentle Leader help with walking a Staff that pulls on the leash.
If you would like to write a profile of your favorite breed, send me an email at Lindsay@thatmutt.com. I’ll use pictures of your dog and link to your site. I’m happy to feature any breed! Click here to see all the breed profiles that have been done. Below is Ace hanging out with the Staffordshire we fostered for a short time last fall. He thought she was great!