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February 10, 2012 at 8:21 AMComments: 2 Faves: 0

American Pit Bull Terrier and The American Staffordshire Terrier

By Victoria Swanson More Blogs by This AuthorFrom the Purebred Star Blog Series

The APBT is the only dog to be featured on the front cover of the Life magazine three times! Cover stars include "Pete the Pup" from The Little Rascals, as well as the most decorated US military dog in history, saving his fellow soldiers from a gas attack in World War I, "Sergeant Stubby."

Human Cruelty

Dating back to the 18th century, the American Pit Bull Terrier (APBT) and the American Staffordshire (AmStaff) Terriers originated from three different countries - England, Ireland, and Scotland - as the result of crossbreeding bulldogs and terriers. The APBT breed came to the United States with various immigrant groups in the late 19th and early 20th century. The AmStaff was not recognized independently by the AKC until 60 years ago, resulting in the distinctive name change. Since then, the AmStaff's have been bred separately from the APBT.

The APBT was originally bred to be a guard-dog, cattle-catcher, livestock driver, and companion. The AmStaff was bred as a guard and familial companion. Despite the common misconception, NEITHER was originally bred for dog-fighting. It was long after the breed originally came into being that they were used for that despicable purpose.

After betting "sports" like bull-baiting and bear fighting were outlawed, the wonderful strength, energy, and courage of the breed was twisted against them, and many were subjected to a violent and painful death for the sole purpose of human entertainment. It seems a cruel joke that these magnificent animals should be named for a form of torture that they were so unjustly subjected to. Pit Bulls were used in "pits" (a fighting ring to contain Pit Bulls, rats, and bears) as well as bull-baiting.

Today, dog-fighting is, of course, an illegal "sport", but sadly, some APBT and AmStaff are still being used for this purpose.

A Tendency Does Not a Rule Make

Despite their reputation, the Pit and Staffordshire Terriers are two of the nicest breeds that I have met - and I've had many opportunities to work with them. They are very smart and eager to please, so training is always fun, and they catch on to new things remarkably fast. The APBTs and AmStaffs I have had the pleasure of working have a sweet, gentle spirit about them.

Although I have worked with some dog to dog issues in these breeds, I work with many other breeds that have an even more difficult time being around other dogs. Though it's true that “Terrier” type breeds do have this tendency, it's certainly not limited to the APBT or AmStaff. Further, 90% of the time, this behavior is due to owner's negligence - a lack of early proper socialization and training on their part.

The APBT averages a height of 18 to 22" and about 35 to 60 lbs. The AmStaff is a little shorter and stockier. They range from 17 to 19" and about 40 to 80 lbs. on average. They both are a stocky and muscular medium-sized breed.

Both of these terrier breeds have a well-defined muscular frame. Their eyes are almond-shaped or round. The ears are naturally medium in length, however some people have the ears cropped (by a professional vet only) for appearance's sake. Their tail is long and thick with a point at the tip, and their coat is smooth, short, and glossy. With the exception of merle, it can be any color!

Gentle Souls

These terriers were known as the "Nanny Dog" for many years in the 1800's and 1900's. They love kids! Due to their wonderful disposition with children of all ages and their gentle spirit, these breeds were the favorite and most popular breed before and during World War I.

While the APBT is naturally quite friendly and comfortable around new people, AmStaffs tend to be more reserved and wary around strangers. Therefore, early socialization with unfamiliar humans is crucial for both breeds, but especially AmStaffs. With proper training, both breeds make wonderful Therapy Dogs, especially for children, but also with the elderly and everyone else in-between! They enjoy the one-on-one interaction of a human and they tend to like being the center of attention!

While these breeds are great with children, as you would with any dog, monitoring is a must. Teaching your children how to properly play with their pet dog - being gentle and kind - is of utmost importance.

The AmStaff is known to have aggressive issues with dogs of the same sex. Special care will need to be taken around other dogs if you own an AmStaff. Early spaying and neutering will help substantially.

Into Action!

The activity level of both breeds - like all terriers - is high, and you'll need a lot of your own energy to keep up! They require one to two walks of about 30-45 minutes every day or a good jogging partner for a daily 45-minute run. If they don't have a way to release their energy, both physically and mentally, they can become frustrated and bored. This may lead to excessive barking, or they may find their own way to entertain themselves by digging through your trash, ripping up furniture, and other less than desirable behaviors.

The APBT would make an excellent agility and working dog! Due to their intelligence, high-activity level, and strong work drive, they will do very well with the following activities:

  • weight pulling
  • dock diving
  • flyball
  • dog agility
  • lure racing/coursing
  • advanced obedience competition
  • search and rescue
  • police dog, participating in explosive and narcotics search
  • border patrol
  • service dogs in many capacities for the disabled

Unfortunately, the AmStaff is not a good candidate due to their tendency for same-sex dog aggression.

These two breeds are also poor candidates for apartment or condo living. They do best with a fenced-in yard to run and play in.

Dine Wisely

Typical life spans for the terriers are 12-14 years. Both terriers have a higher rate of suffering from hip dysplasia and demodex mange (a skin mite that can be extremely difficult to treat) than other dogs. They can also have issues with allergies, cataracts, luxating patella's, elbow dysplasia, thyroid problems, as well as congenital heart disease. As with any breed, avoiding some of the nasty dog food out there and selecting a high-quality food instead should lengthen their lives and decrease their chances of developing the sort of problems listed above.

Adopt First

As you begin looking for an American Pit Bull Terrier or an American Staffordshire, please check with rescue organizations first. Every year there are millions of dogs being euthanized - not because they are bad dogs, but because there is no home for them and insufficient resources to care for them at rescue agencies. By adopting a dog, you are truly saving a life!

At the very least, NEVER purchase any dog from a pet store. Unfortunately, those puppies almost always come from puppy mills. Instead, look for a reputable breeder to work with.

And on a final note, it is important to spay and neuter your puppy by 6 months old to have a healthy and happy pet for many years to come!

Want a sweet dog that wants nothing more than to play frisbee in the yard? Does a sturdy, high-energy dog that's ready for anything appeal to you and your family? If so, the APBT is exactly what you're looking for!

Looking for a furry jogging partner? Does the child-loving, "nanny dog" sound like a perfect fit for your family? If you live an active lifestyle, with a kid or two in tow, the AmStaff may just be the perfect dog for you!


Dog Bible, Edited by Kristin Mehus-Roe, 2005

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  • Love this Purebred Star blog, Victoria! All the pictures of these pit bulls are absolutely adorable. Makes me want one! Also I think it's amazing that this bred has been featured on the cover of Life magazine three times. I hope that people will see how truly friendly pit bulls are and get away from any negative stereotypes about them.

  • Thanks for the great information, this is one of my favorite breeds and I dog sit a friend's Pitbull, Dugan, on a regular basis. He's the sweetest and most obedient dog I know. That dog's will to please humans is off the charts.

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