The American Staffordshire Terrier is a wonderful family dog with a strong loyalty for their owners. They are a high energy breed and can be brilliant for use in agility shows. With this adaptability, it is no surprise that the Amstaff is such a desirable breed with a high demand for purchasing. Therefore, breeders alike need to know how to breed American Staffordshire Terriers responsibly and what to be aware of.
In this free guide, we will explain the rich history of the American Staff and how they came to be. We will also tell you the health risks of this breed. Along with the symptoms you need to be aware of. Finally, we will describe American Staffordshire Terrier breeding history and answer the most frequently searched questions.
Background of American Staffordshire Terrier Breeding
When you begin breeding a new breed of dog, you may want to know their origins, popularity, and other factors that responsible breeders should be aware of. These factors can help you understand more about the Amstaff and help you educate future buyers about this wonderful breed.
In England in the early 19th century, blood sports were at an all-time high. However, in 1835 this became illegal. Dogfighting and rat baiting continued in secret. The Bull and Terrier breed was created through selective breeding shortly after. This breed was created with fighting and instinct in mind, hence their muscular build and strong jaws. Americans brought back a group of this breed with them. Then they were developed from the varieties brought across the ocean. Soon the result became known as the American Staffordshire Terrier, linking it back to the area they were first brought from.
You’re probably wondering how the breed evolved from their original fighting build and temperament to the household sweethearts we know today. Well, once the breed was brought across to America, people intended to use its natural instinct and strong jaws to hunt rodents and other pests on farms. This was combined with a gentle and patient temperament to create the breed we have today. Furthermore, they became recognized as a child and family-friendly dog after “The Little Rascals” aired on our screens to show “Pete the Pup“ in 1924.
In recent years, the popularity of the Amstaff has decreased slightly in America, according to the AKC. In 2017 they were ranked the 83rd most desired breed out of the 193 breeds registered. Now in 2019, their rank was reduced to 85th. England voted the Staffie to be the number one dog breed. This was based on a poll from 10,000 people and included 217 recognized dog breeds which were summarized into a list of the top voted one hundred. In 2017 they were voted third but have since grown in popularity.
Although the breed has genetic and evolutionary influence from both England and the United States, it seems the Amstaff is currently much more popular in the UK. But why has the breed’s popularity soared in the UK and remained middle of the pack in the USA? Although there are no confirmed reasons, some believe it is because this breed is commonly seen in British dog pounds due to their high energy levels. Now with increased levels of advertising, more and more have been rehomed and become an owner’s favorite breed.
In America, the number one dog breed of 2018 was the Labrador Retriever, a taller dog and with a more positive and calm reputation than the AmStaff. No one currently has any evidence-based theories as of yet but these are the two most agreed upon theories, reputation, and rehoming advertising.
When you think of an American Staffordshire Terrier, the image that comes to mind is a stocky, large-headed pup. Am Staffs have a recognizable muscular appearance. However, their height makes them classified as a medium-sized breed. The AKC states their height is usually 17 – 19 inches and their weight ranges from 40 – 70 pounds. Gender influences both their height and weight. This is because the average male is larger than the average female. This breed is also known for its agility and control. As with their strength, they have gained precision.
Their coat length is short and easily groom-able due to its smooth texture. The variety of colors they come in is vast including fawn, blue, white, brindle, red, and black. Their coats may be any two or three combinations of these colors. The AKC accepts any color combinations. However, they state that for breed standards ‘all white, more than 80 percent white, black and tan, and liver not to be encouraged’. Their jaws and cheekbones are well pronounced. Their head is broad, matching their shoulders and chest. The AKC desire pointed ears, although individuals may have either pointed or floppy ears.
A Dangerous Breed?
Many people have negative reputations on the Amstaff and their temperament from a wide variety of different areas. This breed is often viewed as a dangerous breed. This is because of their background and breeding history. Their ancestors were used predominantly for blood sports. Their cousin, the Pitbull, is still used regularly for this as is the Amstaff itself! Many may argue they are used for aggressive sports because they themselves are aggressive, but this is not the case. Any dog has the capability to be aggressive. Some dog breeds have more aggressive tendencies than others. Staffies are often used for illegal blood sports. This is due to their build and physical capabilities, not nature.
The American Staffordshire Terrier is pure muscle, it has strong jaws and large teeth and therefore possesses the capabilities to be dangerous. However, any dog who is treated well, loved and trained properly can be the perfect pet. Surprising to many is the fact that this breed can be better suited for families and children than many other breed types. This is because these individuals are very loving and good-natured. Many AmStaffs can have high energy, and this trait without training can be difficult to manage. But with the proper care, training and enrichment, this dog is ideal for a family and is no more aggressive than any dog.
AmStaffs can be an ideal breed for nearly every type of canine sport or competition. They are muscular, athletic, and high energy. This means that they need an outlet to release this, and training and shows are the perfect way to do so. Your dog may become frustrated or anxious if not properly stimulated. This may lead to negative behaviors such as being destructive. Getting them involved in training and sports will give them an outlet and give you a way to manage their energy. Furthermore, these are fun activities for the two of you to do together.
Some releases we recommend include weight pulling, agility shows, and even trick shows. Weight pulling is a sport Staffies excel in, using a harness they must pull a cart of a certain weight in the quickest time. This should be done after research of the appropriate weights and harnesses. Improper weight pulling can lead to your dog being affected by an injury. This should be a fun activity for both of you and therefore only participate with either prior knowledge or after a lot of research. Agility shows and trick shows are also beneficial as they engage your dog both physically and mentally. These are also tricks and training you can implement at home and can be a bonding experience between the two of you.
Health Concerns When Breeding American Staffordshire Terriers
With an average lifespan of ten to fifteen years, it is clear this breed lives longer than the average dog. However, this means there is more time for health conditions to pop up. Therefore, you need to be prepared for any symptoms you may witness.
Cerebellar Ataxia is a disorder that causes the interruption or degeneration of the cerebellum. Although commonly caused by injury, the American Staffordshire Terrier is a carrier of a gene that causes cerebellum degeneration from age three to five years. The affecting gene can be found in about 40% of the Staffy population. A DNA test can check your stud and dam to prevent the litter from receiving the disease-causing gene. You can tell if a dog is affected by watching their movements. They will begin to lose balance, struggle to walk, and generally be wobbly. Your dog will feel dizzy and this can lead to nausea and vomiting.
As time goes on, your dog will get worse in symptoms, both behavioral and physical as they may begin to sleep more to avoid the feeling of dizziness and nausea. Eventually, they will not be able to walk and this will result in euthanasia.
Unfortunately, many Am staffs are prone to be born with cardiac disorders or defects. These may not affect them severely enough for you to be aware until it becomes dire. One of the most common heart defects found in Staffies is an Aortic Stenosis. It is also one of the most difficult cardiac diseases to diagnose. It occurs when a pup is born with a narrow opening to the aortic valve, this can lead to difficulties pumping blood around their body through this major artery. This is believed to be polygenetic. This means that there is thought to be one or more origin as to how this came to be prominent in the breed.
The symptoms can vary and as it only affects those younger than a year old, it is difficult to place what is out of character and what is a dog maturing. If your pup has a change in appetite, the amount they exercise or appear generally tired or out of breath, monitor them. Usually, a vet will offer suggestions as to how to manage the condition, unless it is severe, then dilation or surgery may be involved.
Urinary tract infections
A Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) is usually caused by a bacterial infection. These can affect your dog’s bladder and urinary tract. This can lead to pain, difficulties urinating, and even a fever. Initially, this is not as severe but can progress to something more dangerous without treatment. Amstaffs are particularly susceptible to getting UTIs so it is important to be aware of symptoms.
Treatment is usually relatively simple with your veterinary prescribing ten days worth of antibiotics to destroy the bacteria. Severe, untreated cases may result in the need for surgery. Your dog will only require surgery if there is long-term damage to the bladder or urethral tract/opening.
It usually occurs from bacteria entering the urethral opening or from an inappropriate diet. In order to prevent these worries, do your best to keep high hygiene standards where your dog is living and spending their time. Also, be sure that their diet is balanced for their breed and age type. Prevention can be done using a cranberry supplement for dogs.
Hip dysplasia is where the hip joint of your dog is not functioning properly, the ball either does not fit well in the socket or the ball is not round and is rough, etc. The basis is, your dog will have trouble with the movement of their hips and legs. This can lead to anything from dull aches to sharp pain for your AmStaff. Staffies are more prone to hip dysplasia than other breeds because of a number of different reasons, but many suspect their genetics, muscle mass and general body shape and weight placement to influence it. Be aware of their changes in movement or leg sensitivities to identify is your Staffy is okay.
Treatment will differ depending on the severity, measured using the OFA grading system. In less severe cases, vets will recommend pain killers, weight loss and even physical therapy. The more extreme cases may require surgery.
Three common American Staffordshire Terrier eye diseases include Cataracts, Distichiasis, and Entropion. Cataracts are the cloudy covering of one or both eyes, leading to deteriorating vision and eventual blindness. Monitor your dog’s eyes and if cataracts become severe, surgery may have to be an option. Distichiasis is a problem of extra eyelashes growing and rubbing at the eye underneath the eyelid. It can lead to ulcers, swelling and pain. There are multiple treatment options but they all involve visiting the vet and your dog undergoing a procedure to remove the hair and prevent it from growing back.
Lastly to consider is Entropion, where your dog’s eyelid rolls inwards and pushes eyelashes to rub on their eye. This can be a severe condition and usually requires surgery to correct. Although, it does have a high success rate if caught early.
Other problems include skin sensitivity and hypothyroidism. AmStaffs have quite sensitive skin. The disruption of the natural balance of oils can lead to irritation, dandruff, and even a bacterial infection. Monitor your dog’s skin generally to see if they have any allergies as this can interrupt your dog’s normal skin response. You should also be aware that if your dog has a shampoo sensitivity, there are dog skin sensitive shampoos. Furthermore, consider monitoring your pooch to see what they come into contact with. For example, after spending a lot of time in the laundry room do they begin scratching? If so, limit their access and consider a new softener, etc.
As for hypothyroidism, this is where the thyroid is functioning less than normal. Do not get this confused with hyperthyroidism. Symptoms can include weight gain, hair loss, and fatigue. Taking your pup to the vet can get them prescribed on the right medication to help them feel better.
How To Breed American Staffordshire Terriers
Breeding American Staffordshire Terriers isn’t too difficult. They are relatively healthy and well-kept so you should not have too much of a problem. However, the problems that do affect AmStaff during breeding can be severe.
The average puppy litter size for an American Staffordshire Terrier is between five and ten puppies. Make sure you prepare for a large litter outcome. Ten puppies are more unlikely but still possible.
There is, in fact, a cousin breed –the miniature Staffordshire Bull Terrier breed– which usually has the same number in a litter. Not too many problems exist with a litter this size.
Regardless of whether you have bred a miniature Staffy or a standard, you will need enough room and food for the pregnant mother to support all the pups. A larger litter can increase the selling price. Furthermore, you may be paying more costs for registrations and vaccinations.
Dystocia, a fancy term for birthing problems, is not too common in this breed luckily. However, due to the female’s small hips and the puppies’ possible large heads, multiple problems arise.
For the puppies
Firstly, there is a possibility the female may struggle to push the puppies out. This breed has quite a large head compared to its narrow hips. Therefore the mother may struggle to push the puppies out. Another issue with pushing the puppies out is due to their muscular build and broad shoulders. Again, the bitch may struggle to push the puppies out to this point. When a bitch is unable to push the puppy, who is in the birthing canal, out, there are multiple problems that can occur. The puppy can suffocate. The cord can become wrapped around their throat and prevent them from breathing. Or, your puppy may become suffocated in the canal because of pressure and not being able to move their head or mouth.
This can be a terrible tragedy, especially if it happens to more than one of the puppies. As breeders, we want all the animals in our care to be healthy and happy. One of the best ways to prevent this problem is to ensure that the male is smaller than the female during mating. Or that he has narrower shoulders or a smaller head. This increases the chance that the puppies will be small enough to easily fit through the birth canal. It will keep your bitch comfortable and the puppies safe. The other option is to choose a female with larger hips to breed to ensure she can sustain a pregnancy and birth.
For the mother
If the puppies become stuck, the female may continue to push and have contractions to no avail. This may lead to Uterine Inertia. This is a type of dystocia that can lead to the death of the litter and the bitch. One cause is from the uterus rupturing or blood loss.
A C-section can solve any of the problems we have dictated today. However, do not use this solution to justify unethical breeding. This solution is the last case protocol for a female and litter at risk. It can still lead to deaths and is a huge surgery regardless. Breed for a healthy litter and for puppies that should avoid health problems during birth and life as much as possible.
American Staffordshire Terrier – FAQ
In order to make sure we have answered all of your questions and that you have all the information you came for, we have also answered the six most searched questions about breeding American Staffordshire Terriers.
What is the best kennel club for Amstaffs?
There is not one kennel club that is better for Amstaffs than another. It depends on what kind of club you would like to join and for what purpose.
The AKC is the most popular and most used in America, therefore there are more members, resources, and shows. If numbers are what you are interested in, then the AKC may be the best for you.
However, if you are more interested in a specialized club, then the UKC may be more appropriate. It is important to note that the UKC does not offer full AmStaff registration. They are known for their focus on pit bull-like breeds just like the staffy!
The AKC and the UKC are both well-renowned clubs. It just depends on what you would rather focus on. Some people consider joining both to see what they prefer.
Can I breed American Staffordshire Terriers legally?
Some countries such as Denmark and Germany have an outright ban against the American Staffordshire Terrier. America, on the other hand, has rules regarding the ownership but not a direct ban.
An American Staffordshire Terrier is legal to own and breed in America under certain circumstances in differing states. This may include putting up signs, possessing dog insurance over a certain amount of money or being at least twenty one years of age.
Check the legal requirements for each state to see what the laws are regarding their ownership. Furthermore, although this breed is not generally banned, it is banned from being housed in American military cantonments. Be aware of this in case you or your family member works for the military.
Is the American Staffordshire Terrier a pit bull?
The American Staffordshire terrier is not an American Pit Bull Terrier, but it is a type of dog commonly known as pitbulls, or bully breeds.
The American Staffordshire Terrier comes from a genetic heritage of pitbull-types according to the AKC. However, it is a separate breed to the American Pit Bull Terrier. Physically they are both similar and are both very family-orientated and loyal, though they are in fact separate breeds. However, the American Staffordshire Terrier is a Pit Bull type, therefore, it is easy to see how there is confusion.
So, to summarise, being a pitbull-type of dog does not mean that the Amstaff is an American Pit Bull Terrier as a breed.
What are the differences between the American Staffordshire Terrier and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier?
There are in fact some key differences between the American Staffordshire Terrier and the more British Staffordshire Bull Terrier breed.
Most obviously are their skull shapes and ears. The Amstaff has a prominent jaw, cheekbones and a gradual descent from the back of the skull to the muzzle. The Staffordshire Bull Terrier has a much more block-shaped skull with a shorter muzzle. Although there are Amstaffs with floppy ears, more have pointed, whereas the Staffordshire Bull Terrier almost always has floppy ears.
Behaviorally, both breeds are similar in their loyalty and gentle natures towards their families. However, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier has a much higher energy level than the American Staffordshire Terrier. So they often need an owner with more time for training.
Should Amstaffs eat more proteins than other dog breeds?
American Staffordshire Terriers need an increased amount of protein because they have a larger muscle mass than the average breed. There are brands of dog food specialized for pitbull-like dogs such as Amstaffs, and American Bullies. This will have a larger percentage of protein to make sure they are getting their required nutrients.
Furthermore, if your dog is involved in sports, such as pulling weights, they may require an even higher level of protein. You can contact your vet or a dog nutritionist for the exact amount for your individual. Otherwise, you can do some research and find the percentage that best suits your dog and their activity level.
Are American Staffordshire Terriers good with kids?
Every dog and every dog breed has the capability to be a brilliant family dog and good with kids. However, this is only possible with hard work. A dog needs to be well socialized with children of different ages and energy levels. This will help them to be as prepared and calm around any possible interaction.
Similarly, if you want a family and dog-friendly dog, you have to socialize your dog gently and from a young age with those, they will be interacting with. Aggression and angst come from an unhappy dog with no restraints or understanding. If you provide your dog with training and the option to leave to their bed and not get touched by children in that area, they have control both in and out of the situation. All dogs are different and can be the perfect pet for your home with enough love and effort.
Now you should feel a sense of confidence and understanding regarding this wonderful and historical breed. Be sure to check out any of the hyperlinks for further understanding on health and breeding so you are fully prepared for this new profession.