Whether you have a toy Chihuahua, an English mastiff, or any other breed of dog, your furry family member needs to undergo training and socialization. Training your pup will not only make your life easier, but it will also make your bond with your pet stronger, and it will allow them to live a happier life, too.
Training is essential for all dogs, but it’s highly necessary for American Staffordshire terriers, also known as Amstaffs or Staffies. This dog breed is a descendant of the Staffordshire bull terrier, a breed of dog created for the awful, inhumane bloodsport, dogfighting. They may be relatively small dogs, but they are powerful, and without proper training, you run the risk of becoming the owner of a dangerous pet.
If you’re the new owner of an Amstaff pup, or you’re considering making one a part of your family, read on for all you need to know about training this beautiful dog breed.
What Is the American Staffordshire Terrier?
As you may have already guessed, the Amstaff is a type of terrier. They are believed to hail from Staffordshire, England, initially, and they’re known to be affectionate, loyal, and very playful. Amstaffs may have a somewhat intimidating appearance, but a well-trained Staffie can be the consummate family companion.
The average male Amstaff is about 18-19 inches tall and between 55 and 70 pounds, while the average female is around 17-18 inches tall and weighs between 40-55 pounds. The breed’s life expectancy is 12-16 years, which is above average for dogs.
Amstaffs have short coats, meaning they’re low maintenance in the grooming department. They should only require a quick brushing once every week to keep their coats shiny and clean. You can also give them an occasional bath to keep them from getting too smelly.
The History of the American Staffordshire Terrier
You may be aware that there is a negative stigma around American Staffordshire terriers—that they are violent and aggressive dogs. Although it’s worth considering where this stigma comes from, it is primarily untrue, provided you give your pet the proper training and attention that it deserves. That includes the right diet, which, for an Amstaff, means high-quality meat-heavy meals.
This dog breed is thought to be violent because they are the descendants of the bull and terrier, which were originally bred in 19th century England for dogfighting. Staffies are closely related to other short coat terrier dogs, such as the Staffordshire bull terrier and the pit bull terrier, both of which have the same unfair stigma.
According to the American Kennel Club, Amstaffs are “smart, confident, good-natured companions. Their courage is proverbial. A responsibly bred, well-socialized Amstaff is a loyal, trustworthy friend to the end.” In other words, if you’re willing and able to give your American Staffordshire terriers the training they need, they will be absolutely fantastic family pets!
The Benefits of Dog Training for Your Staffie
Dog training isn’t just about getting your pet to do some cool tricks (although that can be a lot of fun). It’s about ensuring that they are aware of who is the leader of your pack (you) and who should follow (them). A dog that doesn’t know its role within the pack will become unpredictable, possibly destructive, and potentially dangerous. To help you avoid those issues, let’s look at some different training methods for your Staffie.
We’re pretty sure we don’t need to explain the benefits of housebreaking here. Nobody wants to have a home that doubles as a Staffie’s bathroom or a Staffie that shows no regard for your personal property. Instead, let’s look at the finer points of ensuring your pup knows when and where to go.
Housebreaking should only begin once your Amstaff is at least four months old. Before that, you’re going to want to start the process by making sure you feed your pup on a very regular schedule and arm your home with a sufficient amount of puppy pads to avoid any awful smelling, destructive messes.
Once they’re ready for potty training, be sure to let them out very frequently (at least six times a day), especially first thing in the morning, every morning. They should learn a great spot where they can use the bathroom, and you should always bring them to that spot to reinforce the behavior.
If you carefully follow these tips, your Amstaff should be perfectly housebroken in about 4 to 6 months. Just remember that accidents do happen, and punishment for those accidents will not be helpful. Positive reinforcement, however, absolutely will.
Ensuring that your American Staffordshire terrier is obedient is extremely important, as this strong and dynamic breed can cause a whole lot of chaos if you don’t train them. An aggressive Staffie is a danger to humans and other animals alike.
To properly train your Amstaff, you need time and consistency. Sporadic moments of dedication are often a waste and generate no results. Be sure to give your pup a bit of training every day and not stray from your particular regimen.
Always praise your Staffie’s good behavior and don’t show frustration or anger to them. They just want to be loved, but they’ll also walk all over you if you don’t assert yourself, so be sure never to let them eat unless you give permission and never allow them on furniture unless invited. That is all part of showing that you are the benevolent leader of their pack.
When to Start Training Your Amstaff
Much like human children, you won’t be able to start teaching your Amstaff certain things until they’ve reached a certain age.
Their attention span will be too short for formal dog training until they’re about six months of age, but they will be ready for puppy training as early as seven weeks. That means basic obedience training, like teaching them to sit and stay or even to lie down.
Proper training includes socialization, which can also begin at about seven or eight weeks of age. This aspect of dog training is essential with Amstaffs, as socializing from an early age will help prevent aggressive tendencies. Should your pup begin to show any signs of aggression, you may want to consider speaking with a professional dog trainer before the issue has an opportunity to escalate.
How to Deal with Bad Behavior
Let’s face it—it’s not always easy to handle a misbehaving dog how a seasoned dog trainer might. But remaining calm and properly discouraging poor behavior is of the utmost importance. Every time your dog does something you don’t want it to, you may actually be reinforcing that behavior by not taking appropriate action. Because the predecessors of Amstaffs were bred for dogfighting, you may be encouraging your dog to become a dangerous liability. So again, proper training is imperative!
When your Staffie exhibits bad behavior, you should identify what is triggering the behavior in the first place. That can help you to remove that trigger. For instance, if the dog jumps on you when you walk in the door, the trigger may be that you express excitement, which in turn excites them into acting up. Remaining calm in this scenario and all other instances of unwanted behavior is critical to the success of your training efforts.
You may not be able to prevent every unwanted behavior in your doggy, but giving them less harmful outlets for that behavior can make things a lot easier on you. For example, If your dog chews furniture or digs in the backyard, give them toys. If they’re otherwise excitable and destructive in your home, give them more exercise each day. If they jump on you or others, show them the attention they’re craving (although be sure it isn’t a direct response to the jumping). And if all else fails, consider professional obedience training. There’s nothing wrong with calling in the reinforcements!
What Is the Best Amstaff Training Regimen?
A proper training regimen for your Amstaff shouldn’t look too different from any other dog training regimen. Still, you will want to account for their higher-than-usual energy levels and their greater need for thorough socialization. That means lots of exercises and allowing them to meet plenty of strangers and other dogs once they’ve reached about seven or eight weeks of age. Puppy training should start right around the same time, with some basic obedience training beginning right around then as well.
Socializing and Training Your Puppy Early
You know now that socializing with new people and new dogs is key to American Staffordshire terrier training, but you should also keep in mind that it’s just as important to train them to be social in family settings and at home, as well. That is something dog owners don’t always recognize, yet it can be the difference between their Staffie being too much to handle or being one of the best family pets anyone can have.
Home training methods can include playtime with the whole family as well as individual time with each member. Allow your pup to become comfortable with mom, dad, and the kids because there will be a different dynamic between your Staffie and each of them.
The Importance of Positive Reinforcement
Scolding and shouting at a dog that’s done something you didn’t want it to may be the instinct for many dog owners, but it isn’t the proper training method, nor is it helpful. What is useful is positive reinforcement. American Staffordshire terrier training is no different than any other type of dog training in this regard.
Give out dog treats when your pup does something you’d like to reinforce, and you’ll soon find that they’ll be quite willing to repeat those behaviors over and over again. When they exhibit bad behavior, it’s best to remain calm and ignore it to the best of your ability. Dogs may take your negative attention as positive reinforcement. Consequently, you may form bad habits in your dog that will be difficult to break.
Establishing Leadership Around the Home
Dogs are pack animals, meaning they will either look to a leader within your family or assume that they are the leader. When they believe that they are the leader, this can lead to an uncontrollable dog that exhibits bad behaviors. That’s why you need to establish leadership early and often. You can do this with constant and consistent dog training, keeping a regular schedule, and setting rules and boundaries that you do not break.
American Staffordshire terrier training can be a lot of work, but it is well worth it if you’re willing and able to commit to it. These pups are not only great family dogs when well-trained. They can also be courageous watchdogs who can help ensure the safety of you and your family. But your Staffie is likely to be neither of those things unless you show it that you are the leader of your pack, not them.
Now you have all the basics of how to train your American Staffordshire terrier to be one of the most wonderful pets you’ve ever brought into your home. Dog training is quite simple when you really look at it. But just because something is simple does not mean it is easy, and dog training is definitely not easy. However, if you put in the necessary work, you will be well rewarded with a loyal, affectionate, well-behaved Staffie.