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.

Reference: Cruisin Kennels

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".

Reference: De Paco X - Z Kennels

Interview with Paco Zanoia of De Paco Kennels

Hello Am Staf people let me introduce my self. My name is Paco, Renato Paco Zanoia. I was born in the 1959. Since 1973 my passion is dogs, I am the only owner, founder and curator of the De Paco’s bloodline, the first and the only A.K.C. Exclusive Am Staf bloodline outside the United States of America. My bred-by dog "Ice", BIS/BISS Ch. De Paco XZ Gold Number won the Best of Breed and Best in Show award - at the A.K.C. Staffordshire Terrier Club of America (S.T.C.A.) 2001 National Specialty in Texas.

Since 1936, he’s still the first, and until now, the only, non-American male, bred outside the U.S.A. to win the Nationals. In 2009, always as breeder/owner I won again the Best of Breed and Best in Specialty Show with a female named "Goody", BIS/BISS Ch. De Paco XZ Hollywood Gold Bolt at the historical Montgomery County and S.T.C.A. National Specialty in Philadelphia, PA., and she’s also the only, non-American female, bred outside the U.S.A. to win the Nationals. De Paco’s Am Stafs also won the Best of Winners titles at the S.T.C.A. National Specialty in both 1999, 2000 and 2005. Award of Merit in 2001, 2006 and 2009. Won the A.K.C. Montgomery and Westminster Shows' B.O.B., B.O.S. & A.O.M., and on several occasions, in different years and Countries, De Paco’s  males and females, became F.C.I. World Show’s Best of Breed and B.O.S. Winners.

R. Paco Zanoia
Could you describe as a breeder your idea of a perfect Amstaff?

I believe that my ideal Am Staf is reflected fully in the “moderate-type” of Am Staf that the seminar of STCA recommends to all the breeders to pursue, both as how it is represented in its designed tables, and also in the ideal description dictated in its comment for the standard. All the best Am Stafs that I have seen in my life are moderate type. The male should be of moderate type “but, mannish” and the female should be moderate type “but, feminine” in no case in front of these specimens I have had the necessity of controlling the gender … under the tail ;-). After saying this, always according to my point of view, I can never accept any compromise in the Temperament of our dogs: reliability, sociability, playfulness and above all reluctance in attacking people are the essential components in my ideal type of Am Staf.
Consanguinity or cross breeding? Why?

Depends on what I want and the aims that I have fixed in a certain phase of my breeding program. Each genetic treaty explains how to use in the best way the various selection techniques in blood relationship, it is not the theoretic answer that will bring to success in breeding Am Staf, our breed is a strain in the strain and all that normally works for instance for the Doberman we cannot obtain a satisfactory result with Am Staf. I believe that it is fundamental for us to have a deep knowledge in our re-producers’ phenotype blood-line progeny.
In the case of Consanguinity, what degree? In-breeding o Line-breeding?

As previously mentioned when we have the personal and physical knowledge of our ancestors (direct or indirect relatives) of at least the last three generations (F1-F2-F3) then we can decide the adequate technique of selection; linebreeding or inbreeding or outcrossing or top crossing. Consequently to our choice we will have the correspondent grade of blood line.
Which is more important as regards breeding? The male or the female? Why?

As for the most part of the successful breeders that I have known, I too agree on the decisive importance of the female. In reality the female is dominant in the descent of the phenotype of open pairing. But only some outstanding males have given as much contribution to the offspring in the open pairing. See Tryarr Diamondback Redbolt, Patton Red Rock Skillet and De Paco XZ Red Rascal, to mention some of the most famous.
How would you assess, in order of importance, type, temper, soundness and health?

Temperament, heath, type, style, condition, soundness and movement… I prefer dogs that answers the demands of the breed standard, the one that meets the standard, I’m a very rare example of breeder in the breed these days.
How would you assess, in order of importance, head, structure, movement and type?

As above
In your opinion, must judges penalize hard those dogs which are out of standard?

I believe that all of us know that it is 43-46 cm ca. for the female e of 46-49 cm ca. for the male, therefore if we are the breeders and judges that are seriously concern about this breed we should try our best not to lost sight of the requested standard. We should not breed dogs which are out of size and if it is tolerated by the judges, this should not be a fixed regulation. And if the Judge award the World Champion to a male of 56 cm or the BOB at Nationals a female of 52 cm of whiter, do not worry about it, they will be remember, both the breeder and judge, as well for this issue. It happens, it will happen and it has already happened even though it should not be happening. In my opinion Judges should penalize them self when they lack in knowledge, so specialist or all rounder makes no difference, the important issue is the preparation of the Judge and his capability to recognize the best subject basing on the quality that it possesses, respecting, other than “defect”, also the aim for which Am Staf is being selected, placing therefore more attention to the temperament and to the functionality. Knowledge, integrity, incorruptibility and lucidity that are demonstrated in the rings make the difference between a normal judge and a Judge to be preferred, and to which I will always re-bring my dogs back for a judgment.
What height do you prefer, the tallest or the shortest?

I do only like and prefer Am Staf conforming to the A.K.C. breed standard’s size.

Which in your opinion are the outstanding characteristics of the Amstaff head?

Head: Medium length, deep throat, broad skull, very pronounced cheek muscle, distinct stop; and ears should be set high. The head should not have a muzzle which is too short but medium length. The correct cranial axis of the face is the ones that are parallel or very lightly convergent. The convergence of the Am Staf is determined by the temperate movement of the facial muscles when the dog contracts the muscles to pay attention.

How important is the natural lack of teeth (premolars) in the Amstaff?

The standard does not mention the complete dentition but it only limit itself in indicating the type of closures of the teeth which should be orthogonal (like scissors). For me it is very important that my champions has all the premolar, I would say it is one of the priority.
To your view as a breeder, considering the breed as whole, what virtues are the most important in these dogs?

In all my life’s interviews this is my favorite question. Please, try to translate my answer in your language with great care and attention. Well, I respond: TEMPERAMENT COMES FIRST – because the most beautiful dog - the world winners and the more prized one – worthless if its temperament is bad! In other words, I think that the most important thing it is to maintain gameness, of course.

Some of us know that this trait has nothing to do with conformation and everything to do with temperament! The backbone of gameness includes extreme confidence. It also includes a desire to please the human master. Our breed is like no other. It is the most versatile of them all. No other comes close. We have a challenge, it is to carry on and maintain in our Am Stafs the confidence, stability, reliability, and above at all, reluctance to bite or threaten people without a damn „good reason” MUST BE MAINTAINED.
Do you have any favorite color?

Black and white like my De Paco XZ Hollywood Dream which in this moment after about 25 years is one of the best color that I have even seen personally. Then, the brindle mahogany of De Paco XZ From Here To Eternity, the blue brindle of Willynwood Bluebonnet Lady and the red with white of De Paco XZ Wild Belle Bolt. They are the color that I prefer to use in my breeding program.
Does any color, favour or harm when the dogs are exactly the same in the ring?

I don’t think so. Although almost all that is not fawn or red are penalized by most of the judge in the dog show. Especially the black and blue color. All this is absurd and deleterious for the breed, the standard admits almost all the color combination and different type of markings.
As regards 80% White, which the standard shows, would you fail it or not? Why?

No, because the Am Staf white is not albino and nevertheless, the white in our breed is a solid color, a real color. It is also really impossible and little practical to fix a percentage on this issue.
Is there any color that you relate with physical or psychic problems? Which?

No. Physical and psychic problems in our breed comes only from poor breeding made it - without ATAXIA, hips and cardiac tests - by dishonest persons, and today that should be unacceptable.
As of 2010, how do you see the Amstaff level in your country?
In Italy, as all around the world we can gauge that good Am Stafs are no more than the 20% of the whole breed population, and the main reason is that too many makeshifts people are involved  in our breed without invest nothing nor in dog’ knowledge.
Which are the affinity lines and objectives for which you use these lines?

In the beginning I have mostly used the Am Stafs which are the descents of the bloodline “Sky King” date back to Sky king of Har-Wyn: son of X-Pert Rowdy Rascal. I have crossed this progeny with the lines “Northern Yuma”, “Major Thor” and “Humes Texas Jack”, and they also derive prevalently from dogs of Cliff Ormsby (X-Pert). Only recently I have inserted also a descent which I have wanted it from some time, the “Knight Crusader” through the bloodline Willynwood of my teacher Bill Peterson. In anyway, every three or four generations “De Paco”, I use and will use a very well fixed subject in outcross and anyhow coming from the “transparent” bloodline of which I can obtain documentation and access information through the registration of the American Kennel Club.
Do winner dogs reproduce winner offspring?

Absolutely no. Can be, but almost never with the modern dog show winners, Any way, there’re few rarity even today, let me recommend a couple as De Paco XZ Texas Rascal and Willynwood Redneck.
Define an Amstaff in two words? Why do you choose them?

Wonderful dogs, truly unsurpassable in their combination of reliability, courage, intelligence, heart and charisma. They choose me)… or you do still believe to be able to choose a woman? LOL
What led you to decide to breed with this line on which you base your work?

The precise motivation for which I have decided to breed this Dog was the consequence of the study of more then ten years and the attendance which I had from the late 80s in the USA. Attending the exhibition of AKC and in particular seeing some Am Stafs presented by John McCartney at that time, it was born and created, inside myself, something important and ambitious which bought me, after 10 years, to breed my first litter alone. Only after having evaluated my breeding program, guided by the mentors like my dear friend John. Without a qualified and authoritative teacher or a mentor you cannot be good student and in the future, your time and your sacrifice will not give you the right reward. You will remain disappointed from what you don’t know. The advise that I give you is to find mentors beyond the ocean from positive and qualified person. Personally, I owe all to Bill Peterson, Dick Pascoe, John McCartney and Gigi Sager just to name few. I will never stop thanking them. Am Staf is an All- American Dog and I think that it is good to import, beside the dogs also its centenarian tradition and culture.
Do you feel the present Amstaff lacks character and attitude regarding its purpose? what must be done to improve the breed?

Step back my friend. Since 1936, we wanted to push “The Grand Old Breed” into a different direction, for the purpose of being the best companion. The stability behind the breed was its loyalty to its owners. We wanted to keep the reliability with children and their families that the breed possessed. The breed’s unswerving loyalty to master and household is sufficient within itself to gain the admiration of the most discerning. They will guard your home or protect your car, and do it with an air of authority that counts. The Am Staf craves their master’s attention, and asks for no better place than to be by his side. The Am Stafs are so tolerant with children that they would never harm a child no matter how rough a child played or handled them. An Am Staf would never bite the hand that feeds it, for it know who its family is, and protects them under all circumstances. The Am Staf's only desire is to please its family. In essence the American Staffordshire Terrier already possessed the temperament traits to be the best companion, and these were the traits that I carry on into my De Paco Line. All of us from all the Continents, the entire dog fancy and all the others concerned need to make a concerted effort in this direction to really - take care of breed.

Thank you.
Your friend  in “The Grand Old Breed”.