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The American Staffordshire Terrier, also known as the Amstaff or Pitbull, is a confident dog with a swagger-like walk and a lovable heart.
While their original purpose was for dogfighting, the Amstaff has ironically gained a solid reputation as a loving and loyal family dog. They even earned the nickname “nanny dog” for their attentiveness and being so good with children.
Suppose you know anything about the Amstaff or any dog for that matter. In that case, you’ll know that behavior always comes down to the individual dog’s personality, paired with how it’s raised and trained.
Keep reading to learn how to train American Staffordshire Terrier’s to be the family companion you’ve always dreamed of!
Table of Contents
How to Train American Staffordshire Terrier
Amstaffs are famous for being hardheaded, meaning both a literally strong skull and being strong-willed. Because of their high energy level and brute strength, using the proper training method is absolutely essential. They are all muscle, which means daily exercise is vital to keep them in tip-top shape.
Stubbornness aside, the Amstaff is a quick-witted, loyal companion. While they are known to be stubborn, they’re highly intelligent. They would do anything for their humans, which makes them relatively easy to train.
Get to know your American Staffordshire Terrier
The American Staffordshire Terrier is an extremely confident dog, sometimes even cocky. They are known to be stubborn, but underneath that shell is a heart of gold. Amstaff’s are one of the world’s most misunderstood dogs, so it takes learning about the breed to fully understand their behaviors.
These bold pups are famous for being protective and loyal. All they want is to be with their humans. They may be a little high energy, but they love a good snuggle with the whole family!
The breed originated in England, stemming from the Staffordshire Terrier that was bred for dogfighting. After the Staffie came to America in the 19th century, many generations of cross-breeding with breeds like the American Bulldog resulted in the American Staffordshire Terrier being recognized as a separate breed.
Like all dogs, your Amstaff will be very pack oriented. Be sure to always remain in control. You are your Amstaff’s alpha; they will look to you to lead and guide him. When disciplining an Amstaff, remember that these dogs are bred for aggression; it’s bound to happen once or twice during training. Remember to stay calm and remain firm but not forceful with your pup.
A spoiled Amstaff can quickly turn into what seems like a spoiled child. They may not throw a tantrum at the word “no”, but they will quickly take advantage of the lack of structure and are known to be destructive when bored.
For example, if you don’t teach an Amstaff the boundaries of what he is and is not allowed to play with, you will find your 300-dollar shoes in pieces.
Use Positive Reinforcement
Positive reinforcement involves rewarding good behavior and redirecting bad behavior using methods like clicker training or rewarding your Amstaff with words of praise, and of course, treats. These methods are by far the best option for training any animal. It’s 2020, and we’re all past the “flick on the nose”.
DO NOT grab your Amstaff by the scruff of the neck. Yes, their mothers carry them that way, but not by the time you bring them home at weaning age. A stern and straightforward “no” will suffice. Remember to stay patient. Your dog will not understand the frustration and translate it as aggression, which is a bad recipe for any dog.
Using treats, praising, and even giving your pup his favorite toy are all excellent ways of positive reinforcement. Be sure to use something enticing that even a stubborn dog couldn’t resist.
Keep it interesting and make it fun! Try new ways of performing good behaviors and switch up the treats every once and a while.
Establish Dominance Early
The most important part of training any dog is for him to understand that you are the alpha of this pack. If your Amstaff doesn’t see you as the alpha or sees himself “above” you, he’ll quickly gain control of the house. This doesn’t always mean terrorizing the house or getting violent. Still, they will take advantage of the lack of discipline by getting destructive and chewing or urinating on things.
Amstaffs can be bullheaded, so don’t get frustrated or aggressive with them. You don’t have to be forceful. Simply setting these boundaries, being persistent, and using positive reinforcement will work the best.
The earlier you start, the more effective your training will be. That doesn’t mean an old dog can’t learn new tricks. If you remain in control and stay firm with your boundaries, you’ll have no problem establishing yourself as the alpha.
Socialize Them With Other Dogs:
Have you ever heard of tunnel vision? This is common in hounds and other hunting breeds but is also quite common in Amstaffs. This means that they get a target in their sights and don’t stop until they’ve either got it or lost it.
As mentioned earlier, American Staffordshire Terriers were bred for the disgusting purpose of dogfighting. Because Amstaffs were bred to kill, these genetics have been passed down in some dogs. This doesn’t mean that they will all be aggressive, as we all know that they can be loving family dogs as well.
A non-socialized Amstaff is prone to be aggressive towards other animals, even if they’re good with children. They’re very protective of their humans, which can be useful, but if they see the other family dog as a threat, that is a problem. A well-trained Amstaff that has been socialized with other animals, on the other hand, can be the gentlest soul you’ll ever meet.
Use a Harness
A Amstaff’s neck is thick and strong. They can be incredibly stubborn and thicker-skinned than other breeds. Giving him a jerk on the leash won’t do much, which is why you’ll see many wearing pinch collars.
Because they are so strong, they tend to tug on the leash, which can eventually lead to throat damage. By using a harness, you can remain in control of your Amstaff is a safe and effective way. For a dog with such strength, obedience and handling classes are also recommended.
The point of a harness is to hold the whole body instead of just the neck. Not only is it safer for pullers, but it is more effective when holding onto your dog if they should feel the need to take off after a squirrel.
Just think of it this way, if a harness can control a horse pulling huge stones, it should be just as effective, if not more, in this case. Just be sure to do your research to ensure you’re getting the best harness for your Amstaff.
How do you Potty Train an American Staffordshire Terrier?
Potty training is usually a puppy’s introduction to obedience training. While Amstaffs are known to be a bit bullheaded, they are highly intelligent and obedient, making potty-training your puppy easy.
Here’s how to potty train an American Staffordshire Terrier:
Get On A Schedule:
The most important part of potty training your Amstaff is by having them on a schedule. Your puppy will need to go out every half an hour or so. On average, an adult dog will need to go about 2 hours after eating.
By keeping your dog on a schedule, you can teach your dog to be more well-behaved while you’re not at home. If you don’t have a schedule, you’ll end up with the coming and going kind of behavior, where you’re at the door every 5 minutes to let them in or put them out.
How To Tell When Your Amstaff Puppy Needs To Go:
You can tell when your pup needs to go outside when he puts his nose to the ground and starts to wander for a spot to mark his territory. When you get to know your dog’s body language, you’ll be able to quickly take them out to prevent any accidents.
Designate A Spot For Your Amstaff’s Potty:
Choose a spot on your lawn that’s specifically for your dog’s business. Not only is this good for him, but it’s handy for pickup purposes as well.
You can signal your dog by saying “outside” to let him know it’s time to go to do his business and “go pee” or “go poop” when it’s time for him to go. This gives your dog the signal that it’s okay for him to go and that it’s safe.
Dogs need to feel secure to do their business. That’s why some dogs go into the garden or to another hidden spot. Some will even stare at their humans; this is a way of them making sure you’re looking out for any “threats”. This is a primal instinct that many dogs have because of their ancestors, the wolves. It’s all a part of that pack-mentality.
Be Patient With Your Puppy
Don’t get frustrated if your Amstaff puppy doesn’t go on your schedule at first. Potty training takes time, and being patient and consistent is important.
Also, don’t scold them for accidents when you’re first starting; they’re bound to happen. A puppy’s bladder isn’t strong enough to control yet. This is why having a schedule is essential; it helps them control the urge to pee and poop anywhere and anytime they want.
Forget that old saying; a dog won’t learn anything from “shoving their nose in it”. Dogs don’t have excellent short-term memory. Chances are, they’ve already forgotten about the accident they had and won’t know why you’re disciplining them.
When accidents happen, make sure that you clean it up immediately, removing any odors. If your Amstaff smells the odors, they will instinctively repeat the accident by being so territorial by nature. They will be thinking that they’re only marking his territory.
Praise Your Pup When They Go Outside:
Never forget to praise your pup when he goes outside and on the set schedule. This teaches them that this is the right behavior instead of the disciplinary “no” for peeing in the house.
It’s a little like potty-training a child, except the diaper phase if you think about it. When you make a big deal out of your children learning to use the potty, they get excited about it and want to do it.
Likewise, when your dog does his business outside, and you make a big deal about it, they think they’ve done something good. And, when they get a reward for this behavior, they’ll want to do it again to get more praise or rewards.
American Staffordshire Terriers, more commonly known as Pitbulls or Amstaffs, have come a long way since they first came to America. Often misunderstood to be aggressive and dangerous dogs, they actually have much more capacity to be a gentle family dog.
All dogs are different, so it’s essential to know your Amstaff’s behaviors while training them. When you get to know your pup’s personality and the pack mentality, you’ll be able to understand how to better train him through his own behavior.
By establishing yourself as the alpha of your home, your dog will trust and respect you, which simplifies training. Always remain in control of your dog by using proper training methods like positive reinforcement to correct behavior.
Since they were bred for fighting, they may show aggression towards other animals, especially other dogs. By socializing them early on, you can totally prevent this behavior to have a friendly dog.
We all know Amstaffs can be stubborn and a bit pushy. They’re cocky, and they like to throw their weight around, but with the right training methods and persistence, you will be able to train them into the most polite house pet you’ve ever seen! You should now know how to train American Staffordshire Terrier’s!
About the Author
Hey there! I'm Jeremy and I’m the brains behind Pet Care Project, a website chock-full of pet-care know-how. I've got the experience and knowledge to help you keep your furry friends happy and healthy. And let's not forget about my own little fluffball, Lunar, my Ragdoll cat who keeps me on my toes.