Courageous, attentive, loyal, and friendly, the Am Staff is by nature a fun-loving, affectionate animal – but when posed with a threat, it may morph into a vicious, relentless killer. As a terrier, this breed has an instinctually high prey drive; since its breed history includes decades of fighting in the dog pits, an Am Staff may be aggressive towards other animals (particularly other dogs). Contrary to many people's opinions, though, these dogs are naturally warmhearted animals, and if provided with proper temperament training, will make excellent family companions.
That said, consistent (but by all means gentle) discipline, along with early socialization with all types of people and animals, is an absolute must for this breed. Much has been written about the various methods of instilling proper behavior in breeds like the Am Staff, but most professional trainers agree that this obedience training should start when the dog is a puppy, and should be positive and reward-based. Something as simple as teaching a young Am Staff to "sit," and then giving it a dog treat when the command is carried out, is a basic tool that will help the puppy learn discipline; as the commands – "heel," "stay," and "come," for example – become more complex as the dog gets older, it should instinctually follow them, as it will usually know the owner is the boss. In addition, trainers recommend that Am Staff owners have their dogs spend time with a variety of people – friends and strangers, adults and children – with the dog closely supervised, of course. Am Staffs are very intuitive, and will normally take cues from humans as to how people should be treated. Some new Am Staff owners who feel unable to fulfill the above-mentioned necessities enroll their dogs in obedience classes (or puppy kindergarten, if the dog is young).
The typical Am Staff is a people-pleaser, but it can also be stubborn and at times difficult to train, particularly when teaching it to be housebroken. These dogs need a lot of attention, and may become catastrophically destructive if bored or left alone. (In particular, they love to chew things, so experts suggest providing plenty of bones and rawhide – better it chews on those than on shoes or furniture.) But this breed is intensely devoted to its human family, and will fight (to the death, if necessary) to defend them; it probably goes without saying that the Am Staff is simply unmatched in its guard-dog abilities.
Whether loving or vicious, protective or stubborn, this breed can be quite a handful, and will likely be too much for a first-time dog owner to handle.