American Staffordshire Terrier Traits and Characteristics
The ideal American Staffordshire Terrier temperament :
Characteristics (not specified)
Although not specifically addressed by the standard, this breed has been long domesticated, as a farmer’s and family dog, and even with the early fighting background, should absolutely never appear aggressive toward humans. They are not a guarding breed by nature, and trust most people to be their friends, confident in these relationships. They develop strong bonds with humans and are eager to please them – thanks to their working background. They are not solitary dog, preferring the company of humans. They are not subservient of fawning, but confident and friendly in dealings with humans.
The ideal specimen must always appear confident and friendly with humans. Absolutely no consideration should be given to an exhibit that appears aggressive, threatening, or shy toward humans. These are completely incorrect for the breed and are inexcusable.
The first and most important impression should be the dog’s temperament. No matter what the dog looks like, it cannot be a proper Am Staff without the proper temperament. The official standard is spare and is often faulted for not giving enough information to the student of the breed. However, the words used are beautifully descriptive of the breed’s temperament.
"Keenly alive to his surroundings": Describes a lively intelligent disposition that watches what is going on around him and misses nothing. Further, he not only watches, but interacts – he is quite aware of and very responsive to his surroundings. He is ready for whatever comes his way – in all the best sense of this term.
"his courage is proverbial": Proverbial, according the Webster’s dictionary is defined as follows: The embodiment or representation of some quality. The byword for it. A commonplace truth. A common reference for some quality. This is perfectly apt to describe the correct temperament of this breed. They are nothing if not courageous. This courage is inherent in their history. These dogs have faced death in all its forms, and have long ago had fear bred down. They should appear supremely confident in all situations. NO excuses can be made for a specimen that lacks this quality. Courage has no similarity to aggressiveness, which often masks insecurity. The ideal Am Staff should not display aggression toward other animals or humans. They should only appear confident and interested, prepared to deal with and take part in whatever situation develops. Many legends have grown surrounding this breed’s courage.
The Ideal specimen must always display courage and confidence to a marked degree. Absolutely no consideration should be given to an exhibit that lacks this quality.
Temperament Comes First
"Gameness is defined as the willingness to see a task through to its end, even under penalty of serious injury or death."
This idea, which I fully endorse, forms the basis and the backbone of Am Staf selection. We have already seen that a breeder has it in his power to establish priorities in terms of morphology and thus to assign various degrees of tolerance with regard to certain phenotypical characteristics. All specialist breeders, as well as the S.T.C.A. in its training sessions, advocate and insist on a policy of "zero tollerance" when judging Am Stafs that demonstrate bad character and therefore are of the wrong temperament. Therefore, what is the determining characteristic that may be said to typify the right temperament?
My categoric answer to this question is: gameness. In the jargon of dog-lovers the term "gameness", of course, covers quite a wide range of interpretations. Given the origins of our dogs, there are those who seek to limit its meaning to the capacity and ability of one dog to beat another in a fight. My own priority when selecting future sires to be included in my breeding program is to place great emphasis on the "gameness" factor, knowing full well that it has nothing to do with conformation, little to do with an aptitude for battle and everything to do with the temperament I am looking for.
Indeed, as some of us know and as Bill Peterson on the basis of his 50 years of breeding experience teaches us: "The backbone of gameness includes extreme confidence. It also includes a desire to please the human master. I define it as willingness to complete a task no matter how tired, discouraged or hurt it is." In my writing I have often used the expression "True Am Staf" I would like it to be absolutely clear from this point on that this expression refers to the American Staffordshire Terrier that possesses the abovementioned characteristics. Having said this, I write without fear of contradiction that the Am Staf possesses a temperament that very few other recognized dog breeds have and that it is, moreover, remarkable for its extreme versatility: it can be used as a family pet, a guard dog, in situations of emergency and natural disaster, for protection, for pet therapy, and even for competitions like obedience, agility or schutzhund trials. If at that point the "True Am Staf" also becomes conformation's champion, so much the better!
Personally, I will consider it, therefore, a fine dog and a great champion only if it shows a potential for work. Every serious breeder's aim must be to preserve the temperament that characterizes the breed and thus to work on the aspects of dependability, stability, sociability and, above all, the true Am Staf's reluctance to bite or attack people "without a damn good reason".