Not many breeds have to deal with the stigma that surrounds the American Staffordshire Terrier. These dogs are put into a vague category called pit bull dogs and stories abound of their extremely aggressive behavior. As with many stories, however, it seems as if the media is involved in hyping up the Amstaffs aggressive tendencies based on a few isolated instances that were the result of very poor dog ownership practices. But is the Amstaff really that aggressive?
The ancestors of the Amstaff were originally bred to help farmers perform farm work, hunt wild pigs and other types of game and guard humans and their families; while Amstaff ancestors helped British farmers, the American Staffordshire Terrier was entirely bred in American and was used by American farmers for the same jobs as their English counterparts. Many experts claim that many American farmers would have never seen the success they had if it hadn't been for the Amstaff breed. Unfortunately, other breeders took the ancestors of the Amstaff and developed dogs whose purpose was to bait bulls and bears, stressing the aggressive nature of the dog in the fighting "pit," Once bull baiting and other such sports became illegal, these dogs were bred to participate in the sport of dog fighting.
As barbaric as these fighting sports were, though, the Amstaff was never originally bred to be aggressive towards people. Violent behaviors towards humans would have made it impossible to train and handle the dogs; instead, breeders of fighting dogs specifically bred affection and loyalty towards humans into the breeds to make them docile around their trainers and handlers, which wasn't hard as the breed was originally developed with these characteristics. The problems started when not so nice people decided to use these fighting breeds to guard their illegal activities and started breeding aggression into the dogs; besides this very unintelligent idea, the breeders that attempted to develop a fierce, aggressive dog to be feared also didn't understand much about proper breeding practices, nor did they care to. They also didn't know much about training or socializing their dogs; actually, they would purposely train them to be aggressive towards people. The result was an unstable breed that developed a reputation for violent, even deadly, behavior towards all living things.
This horrible reputation is truly a shame, because properly bred Amstaffs are amazing companions. Since they were bred to work for and protect humans, they are extremely friendly, intelligent and loyal; because they were bred to help perform arduous, sometimes dangerous, tasks, they are extremely tenacious and courageous. Many owners are convinced that their Amstaffs would give their lives for them. They are also known to be wonderful around children and other animals. However, not only do you need to make sure the Amstaff you purchase comes from a reputable breeder, you also MUST train the dog, starting as soon as possible. They are very intelligent and willing to please, so training will not be that difficult. You need to avoid any aggressive tendencies; this is more to avoid perpetuating the negative stereotype than to avoid any real danger. After all, the Amstaff is no more aggressive than many other large breeds.