If you're the proud owner of an American Staffordshire Terrier, you know the struggle is real. Picture this scenario. You leave your dog in his crate while you head out to work. Thinking ahead, you've left Fido with a Kong filled with peanut butter then frozen in the hopes it will take him longer to work through it and will help keep his mind engaged that little extra bit of time. Just for good measure, you've also included a favorite stuffed toy and a Nylabone. Surely that is enough to keep Fido occupied until you get home. You arrive home hours later to find Fido ready to greet you at the door. You survey the damage. As you gingerly step through the wreckage, you uncover couch cushions torn to smithereens, books with half-eaten pages lying scattered all over the floor, and the contents of the garbage can selectively perused then discarded throughout the kitchen. What happened? How did Fido get out of his crate, and when did he have the time to dismantle your entire house? American Staffordshire Terriers are a fun-loving, happy breed, but they do have an appetite for destruction.
The Root of the Behavior
American Staffordshire Terriers, also affectionately known as Amstaffs, sometimes get a bad rap. Though sharing similar bloodlines and traits to the original American Pit Bull Terrier, Amstaffs have become a gentler version of their former selves. While it is true that these dogs were originally bred to fight other dogs in a pit; today, they are much more at ease wrestling with children, playing in the backyard, or cuddled up on the couch with their owners. Many Amstaff owners claim that they are an ideal choice for family living and are well-suited companions for their children. Though strong of body, they are deliberately gentle and affectionate with people. However, because of their origins as fighting dogs, unless well-socialized and raised in a home with other pets, dog aggression is possible. This breed, like most terriers, is also prone to exceptionally high prey drive, so proper containment when outdoors is an absolute necessity. Amstaffs are a breed with higher activity requirements than some other dogs. If these exercise needs are not met, the dog can become frustrated and bored.
Like most terriers, Amstaffs will create their own fun in the absence of other things to engage their minds and wear out the energy in their bodies. Because American Staffordshire Terriers are very strong dogs with powerful jaws, they can wreak a lot of damage in a short amount of time. This breed is born with a penchant for chewing things; perhaps even more so than some other breeds. Because of this, it is critical to ensure that your Amstaff has access to a lot of toys that can stand up to the regular, intense chewing that is a hallmark of this particular type of dog. Dogs love to chew not only because it is a means of alleviating boredom but also because it provides a sense of stress relief. It is a natural habit for a dog, and it feels good to them to chew. If there are not adequate items provided for Fido to chew on, he will begin to source his own items in your house. This invariably is never good. Fido's top choices might include the legs on your grandmother's antique dining set or the headboard of your cherished maple sleigh bed. Also satisfying to the Amstaff is tearing apart items that are stuffed with foam, down, or fluff.
Encouraging the Behavior
It's easy to see the bigger picture. Your Amstaff likes to chew either because he is bored or needs to burn off some energy. The best way to combat this problem is by making sure your Amstaff has access to a lot of toys to keep his mind and his mouth engaged in appropriate activities; otherwise, your furniture might bear the brunt of his attention. As with most destructive behaviors, chewing inappropriate items is usually far worse during puppyhood when your dog is both teething and still discovering his world with his mouth. It is important to always fill your home with toys in diverse shapes, sizes, and colors. You want to encourage him to become an enrichment seeker. This is rarely difficult to achieve in any terrier since this group of breeds is known for their independent spirit and problem-solving capabilities. However, you want to teach your dog while he is young that there are things that are intended for his fun and things in your home that are off limits. It is best to accomplish this during puppyhood. The key is to provide toys that do different things and challenge your dog's brain. Amstaffs are a very smart breed, and they lose patience with things that aren't very interesting or that don't test their intelligence. This is why having diversity and variety in your selection of toys is so important.
It is not necessary to break the bank by investing thousands of dollars in toys to keep your dog from becoming bored. Simply select a few toys that you can add to an ongoing repertoire then rotate them daily to keep your dog's interest piqued. While Amstaffs do possess stronger than average jaws and thus go through toys more quickly than smaller, less powerful breeds, you do not have to spend a fortune to build your dog's toy box. Making use of services like Bullymake that send a monthly shipment of toys designed specifically for tough chewers can be a wise investment and form the basis for toys that will stand up to abuse. You can then round out your toy selections with things from your local dollar store. Nothing will last forever so spend your money on things that you think will keep your dog's attention but don't spend a fortune on any one item as it is not likely to last. With Amstaffs, toy acquisition is an ongoing conquest.
Other Solutions and Considerations
The American Kennel Club highly prizes this breed for its "gameness" and tenacity. This is part of what makes them so driven to toy destruction. Toys that contain squeakers can sound very similar to animals the dog might consider prey. Because of this, his nature is to find the source of the noise and "kill" it. It is a normal instinct in the dog, and in truth, is present in all terrier breeds to a greater or lesser degree. This act in and of itself is not harmful to the dog, but it does need to be channeled into items that are appropriate for your dog to chew. If your Amstaff is chewing things like your shoes, mats, or blankets, you can simply move the objects out of his reach. Sometimes a little bit of prevention can save a lot of heartache. Small, shreddable items often don't just get destroyed; they also end up eaten. This can lead to gastrointestinal distress or even serious blockages requiring surgery. If your dog is particularly stubborn and resists all training opportunities in spite of your best efforts, containment is your best option.
Be certain to include a variety of toys in your dog's crate to prevent boredom; otherwise, your Amstaff might take it upon himself to shred and eat his blankets and even his crate! It has been said that necessity is the mother of invention, and Amstaffs take this adage as a personal challenge when they are bored. Another positive way to channel your Amstaff's energy is through training. Amstaffs are incredibly smart and are highly trainable dogs. They excel in many different sports including Rally, obedience, and weight pull to name a few. Amstaffs are generally both food and toy driven, making training a fun prospect for you both. Because this breed has been the subject of Breed Specific Legislation, it is also a great idea to prepare your dog to take the Canine Good Citizen test. This award is based on assessing several different basic obedience commands that evaluators deem essential qualities dogs should have in order to be considered well-mannered neighbors. This is a great opportunity to showcase a wonderful breed and your dog's solid temperament.
Are Amstaffs destructive? They can be. As members of the terrier family, they'll find their own fun if nothing fun is provided for them to do. Amstaffs are incredibly smart and have high daily exercise requirements that need to be met to keep their tendencies for destruction at bay. To ensure your Amstaff is not up to mischief, provide toys and bones to keep your dog's mind and mouth productively engaged. You can also employ a professional dog walker to take your dog out for a walk if you work all day away from home. Your furniture will thank you for it!
Written by a Parson Russel Terrier lover Jason Homan
Veterinary reviewed by:
Published: 03/28/2018, edited: 01/30/2020