Bullies are amazing! When I see a Staffy smiling or, puffing up the lips to do a ‘woof’, the sky instantly turns blue for me. I never stop getting impressed by the graceful athleticism of AmStaffs. There is not a chance that a Bull Terrier won’t make me laugh.
I have a special affection for these dogs. They are wonderful pet companions. They have incredible personalities. I know it out of years long experience. My childhood wouldn’t be the same without my AmStaff/Am Pit Bull Terrier mix friend. He was a bundle of joy. In his autumn years, he also turned out to be a devoted nanny dog, always supervising my little diaper-wearing sister and making sure she’s properly taken care of.
These days, my family and I receive a daily dose of hilarity from our three years old male Staffordshire Bull Terrier and sixteen months old female American Staffordshire Terrier. They make for an outstanding duo. Every day they do something worth a spot in a comedy show. Their games resemble the way I imagine a T-Rex and a Velociraptor playing together. Let’s say, the size difference is not that extreme. (Hello, dinosaur fans!) What impresses me about their relationship is the level of trust they have for each other; a true pack.
Obviously, I enjoy showing people pictures of the two funny troublemakers and, to my surprise, people don’t see the distinction between the two and simply refer to them as “pit bulls”. But, I think it is important to distinguish all breeds and recognize their diversity.
The purpose of my article is to tell our readers a bit more about the two wonderful members of the bully breed family from an intimate perspective. It can turn out handy if you are thinking to get a puppy or take a rescue dog that may be one of the two breeds or a mix of both.
What makes Staffordshire Bull Terriers and American Staffordshire Terriers so similar?
Both breeds share the same heritage and come from England. Originally bred for dog-fighting in the 19th century, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier was developed in Middle England from crosses between Bulldogs and local terriers. The resulting dog was named as Bull and Terrier and was small and agile but strong, with powerful jaws. Although it had to show courage and aggression when fighting in the pit, it needed to stay calm when handled by people.
During the 19th century, a group of enthusiasts sought to adapt the “Bull and Terrier” dog to create an animal suitable for the show ring and family home. This modified breed, named the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, was officially recognized by the UK Kennel Club in 1935. Some of these dogs ended up crossing the ocean and putting their paws on the American soil. The American Staffordshire Terrier is a direct descendant of this breed and was recognized as a separate breed in the US in the 1930’s.
As pets, they are very flexible because of their medium size and human-oriented personality. Fans worldwide, I included, admire the combination of stocky muscular body, bulky head, calm alertness and absolutely sweet, family-oriented disposition.
Staffy and AmStaff can do well in an apartment and are extremely easy to groom (due to their smooth short coat). I doubt you will have any problem keeping them clean or experience any bad odor. A well looked after Staffy or AmStaff smells like a cookie, has a dry leathery muzzle, a shiny heart-shaped nose and a pair of silky ears and a velvety forehead.
If you like your dog to sleep with you, there’s no problem at all. These guys are ready to be your snoozing buddies at any moment. They do love cuddles and tend to stay really close to you.
Both AmStaff and Staffy are active and require daily activities to get rid of the energy excess. They tend to be powerful chewers (Bulldog jaw power), so get them appropriate toys. Our boy and girl also tend to chew lots of sticks and rip off tree bark to engage in even more chewing. To my surprise, our AmStaff girl even managed to partially consume two black Kongs (those ones for power chewers). Thanks to their terrier origins, digging is an activity that your dog may favor, especially if you have a garden.
They belong to the Kingdom of Terriers, so expect some prominent terrier traits in them: feisty, energetic and eager for adventure. Terriers are ready to spring into action at the slightest provocation and make for excellent playful buddies.
Early socialization of pups, consistent training and a responsible attitude of the owner are a must. If you want to be lazy or are looking for a “status dog”, don’t get these breeds or, even better, don’t get a dog at all. They do not need yet another irresponsible owner to keep staining their reputation, media does the job anyway.
The Mighty Little Staffordshire Bull Terrier – The Staffy – The SBT
Height: 36-41 cm (14-16 in)
Weight: 11-17 kg (24-37 lb)
Life Span: 10-16 years
Come in a variety of colors.
Staffies are fearless dogs that love children and can achieve high levels of obedience with correct handling.
Staffies are hugely popular in both town and country. The Staffy is robust and boisterous and possesses legendary courage. Firm handling and early obedience training are essential, but given an owner who is an effective trainer, the Staffy will be an obedient and rewarding pet.
Sometimes they can be stubborn, but if you respect them and give them time to show their full potential, you will be pleased. Once you bond with your Staffy, he or she will respond well to you and respect your trust. Never disrespect a Staffy, as he or she can shut down and stop willing to cooperate with you.
A Staffordshire Bull Terrier is likely to respond if challenged by an unfamiliar dog, like many other dog breeds. Still, they do make friends with gentle dogs that do not try to dominate and approach politely. The breed is typically friendly and sweet-tempered with people and has a particular affinity with children. In other words, they love kids.
Staffies have a well-developed sense of humor and enjoy acting in a way that makes people smile. They are people-pleasers and love attracting your attention. On the opposite side, they can be overly sensitive and turn into drama queens if that is the only way to attract the owner’s attention.
Our Staffy boy knows well that if he spins around trying to catch his tail, we laugh and applaud him. To increase the effect, he suddenly drops on the floor upside down like a beetle, playing dead. What I find particularly amusing is that he has to make eye contact with whoever he’s “dancing” for. And if the person ignores him, he stays there watching their back before sitting down with a sad face. The moment that person looks at him he’s ready for show-time again. But do not mock or poke on him. He can grow bitter and steal your slipper.
An average Staffy enjoys playing various games but, at the same time, this breed doesn’t mind comfort and snoozing on a comfy spot near the owner. They tend to snore from time to time, which I find very cute.
Despite their compact size, Staffies posses an incredible physical strength.
The Great Athlete American Staffordshire Terrier – The AmStaff – The AST
Height: 43-48 cm (17-19 in)
Weight: 26-30 kg (57-66lb)
Life Span: 10-16 years
Come in a variety of colors.
By the mid-1800s, Staffordshire Terriers had arrived in America. U.S. breeders developed a Staffordshire Terrier that was larger than the English version. Eventually, the AKC recognized the two types as separate breeds: the Staffordshire Bull Terrier and the American Staffordshire Terrier.
The American Staffordshire Terrier is more heavily built and taller than its English counterpart, but shares all the characteristics of the original “Staffy”. They are confident, smart and good-natured. A responsibly bred, well-socialized AmStaff is a loyal, trustworthy friend to the end. And I can sign under this statement out of personal experience with this wonderful breed.
AmStaffs are incredibly affectionate.
The AmStaff movement is agile and graceful, with a flexible gait that advertises the breed’s innate confidence. Fans of the breed describe their dogs as keenly aware of their surroundings, game for anything, and lovable “personality dogs” around the house. AmStaffs like mental and physical challenges.
If you are an active person and enjoy playing games with your dog, you can be a good match for an AmStaff. AmStaff is a people-oriented dog who thrives when he or she is made part of the family. Long play sessions with the owner develop their physical and psychological health. This breed can do exceptionally well in canine sports (obedience, agility, dock diving) as their willingness to participate in physical challenges is legendary. They are good climbers, love to run and jump, swim and chase toys. AmStaffs are even trained in search-and-rescue and excel at it.
Our AmStaff girl is very young, but already represents all the famous qualities of her breed. As an exceptionally human-oriented dog, she likes to bring toys to engage family members in playing, be that indoors or outdoors. During walks, she likes to run, jump different obstacles, chase toys, chew sticks and invite other family dogs to get active with her. At home, she prefers to cross distances by jumping back and forth from the large living room sofa, just for the sake of it. She is highly trainable and understands what you want from her quickly. It didn’t take long to teach her to drop the toy on demand or if she wants to play fetch, which means chasing the toy and bringing it back, round after round.
On the other hand, she is a perfect cuddle buddy. She has absolutely no limits when it comes to how you want to place her next to yourself. Canine pillow? Ok. Warm cuddles? Yes, please. Muzzle kisses? Love that! She seems to take any shape you want her to be. I believe she could be an outstanding therapy dog.
Due to her high energy and young age, she can be a little bit impatient. But the breed’s intelligence and desire to please make training a fun, easy process. She responds well to positive training, especially when you use dog treats. I’ve also tested training her using affection and it works just fine.
Early lead training is mandatory because AmStaffs are very strong dogs and there is no chance human physical force can balance that. They can and will pull on the lead if you don’t teach them the game of a polite walk. If you’re interested in that, you can find more information in “Before You Get A Dog” book by our author and dog behaviorist Simone Burani.
There are some behaviors that you should be aware of. Chewing and digging are not unfamiliar to AmStaff. Our girl is one such digging and chewing enthusiast. We have moles in the garden and they just drive her crazy. She’s a fast digger and doesn’t mind to get muddy, so it’s a huge plus that washing her is not a problem. The short coat doesn’t need a brush or plenty of shampoo and dries quickly.
It must be noted that dog aggression can develop even in well-socialized Am Staffs; an AmStaff should never under any circumstances be left alone with other dogs. Just be aware that your best friend may not be every dog’s best friend. Our AmStaff lives together with a male Staffy and a female giant Central Asian Shepherd, but it is a different story because they are a pack.
What makes them different?
To sum things up, my personal opinion is that the main difference is their respective sizes. Both dogs are robust and strong, but AmStaffs are much more flexible and agile. I observe our dogs a lot, and Staffies tend to have more of a Bulldog attitude in them and they have a particularly funny “bully” way of walking. They keep their front feet wider apart and walk with their forehead first, which makes them looks like little cute bulls.
At the same time, our AmStaff’s attitude resembles a cross between a kangaroo and a grasshopper and she seems to be made out of rubber.
Staffordshire Bull Terrier breed has a well-developed ear standard. They usually have small and delicate rose ears, which really benefits their head shape and creates a prominent Staffy look. On the other side, there are still many AmStaffs with cropped ears around, even if it’s now preferred to leave their natural ears intact. This practice should promote the natural look, as years of cropping have taken everyone’s attention away from distinct natural ears.
If you ask me, I can easily recognize if a puppy is an AmStaff or a Staffy. AmStaff puppies are obviously bigger, but what strikes me is how different their paws are. They are bigger and rougher looking, while Staffy paws are rounder and softer looking.
If you are thinking about getting a dog and you feel like a right human for a Staffy or an AmStaff, give them a chance. They are incredible dogs that can steal your heart. The more responsible and loving owners they will have, the better their welfare will become.
I hope you have enjoyed this article and if you like to learn more, please, feel free to subscribe to this blog.