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Bringing up an Amstaff

It’s not about the breed. It’s about the dog, and not even about the dog. It’s ultimately about the human. So raise your arm if you’re willing to raise an American Staffordshire Terrier.

New Delhi, January 26, 2020: Before we begin, a word of caution: raising your pupper doesn’t begin any later than your first meeting with the little furbud. First things first, selecting the right puppy for yourself is your first step towards raising a canine. Besides keeping in mind common factors, like adopting a puppy from the right breeder and not from a puppy mill, considering the temperaments of its ancestors – any history of involvement in dog fights etc – it is important to assess the energy of the puppy you are about to adopt from that corner full of cuddly littermates.

Though they say you don’t choose the puppy, the puppy chooses you. Before we begin writing about raising our own Amstaff, let us be educated a little about the breed. A very muscular, stocky, agile and a mighty-headed breed, the American Staffordshire Terrier, more fondly known as Amstaff, is a medium- muzzled canine distinctly characterised by a strong jaw, raised or half flying ears, thick, and glossy hair coat. The commonly recognised colours are grey, black, fawn/brown and brindle, which may be solid or white patched. The American Staffordshire Terrier is an intelligent, happy, outgoing, stable and confident dog. Gentle and loving towards people, it is a good-natured, amusing, extremely loyal and affectionate family pet.

It is generally good with children and adults and wants nothing more than to please its master. Born with a heart full of courage, this breed will fight an enemy to death if the enemy tries to harm or threaten its loved ones. Talking about its living conditions, the Staffordshire Terriers will do okay in an apartment if they are sufficiently exercised.

They prefer warm climates. Daily exercise is paramount and cannot be compromised with, failing which you may find yourself living with a very hard to handle dog. More often than not, the Staffordshire Terrier is confused with the American pit Bull Terrier. While both share the basic DNA, the American’s Staffordshire Terrier was the label given to show trained dogs and the non-show trained ones were labelled as the American pit Bull Terrier. While both the breeds are separately recognised today, the American Staffordshire Terrier was recognised by the AKC in 1936.

When we first saw Pluto (named even before he was adopted) on March 12, 2017, he sat quietly amongst his littermates, radiating medium energy, submissiveness and a bright twinkle in his eye. A few dominant ones tried to overpower the others, while this little pup stood there looking at us indifferent to the commotion around him. Walking on his little legs, he came to us and sniffed while his tail was still wagging with joy. That was the moment when we knew he had chosen us. After a few basic checkups, which included giving him a belly rub to see his response to human touch, making him walk a little to see his gait etc., Pluto was ready to board our car (now also his car), of course after taking a leak for claiming his territory.

The 160-km-long car ride back home seemed quite a walk in the park as he slept through the journey and did not show any signs of discomfort, which continues to be so till date. The first thing that followed after bringing him home was basic housebreaking training, which took consistent and patient effort. The golden rule we must remember while imparting any training to the puppy is to deal with them in a calm, assertive manner while establishing pack leader status.

The key to assertive training is not to get swayed and moved by those puppy eyes and little paws but to let your cannine know that when humans live with dogs, we become their pack, the entire pack operates under a single leader and the lines are clearly defined. Most importantly all other humans must be higher up in order than the dog. The initial few days with Pluto witnessed a small little puppy, partially scared, forever weeping and sometimes shivering due to separation anxiety from his canine pack. As we put him down in a small little box besides our bed, he would cry and
shiver almost throughout the night. The important thing here was not to let him submit and succumb under his anxiety which meant not giving him affection during his anxious moments. That later on went on to teach him that he is going to do just fine if left on his own for some time. The fear and anxiety vanished in a week and the constant shivers turned into joyful tail wags.

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