An American Staffordshire Terrier as a therapy dog will be an AmStaff who will be trained to share its affection and who will make people feel comfortable. This can be, for example, in clinics, rest homes, residential care centres, schools, or institutions. They can be of great help in disaster areas as well. People or patients with autism, movement restraints, or Down syndrome often find great support in this form of therapy.
There are several institutions in the Netherlands that specialize in the training of these type of dogs. Main characteristics that the puppy or mature dog should possess are:
- The will to please humans,
- Stable in character,
- Not afraid of loud noises and if they are they need to recover from this as quick as possible,
- Not being afraid of unexpected movements,
- Respond well to unexpected situations,
- Respond well to voice,
- Able to withstand compulsion tests without any problem,
- They need to be relaxed when they get stroked or touched with just that little bit more force,
- They need to have the drive to follow us humans.
All of these points are usually recognizable in the American Staffordshire Terrier, of course, as long as the dog is a result from breeding from a balanced and a correct bloodline. Our breed is a sensitive breed that picks up emotions very well and has a gentle character. At an older age, he often perfectly peers the mood of another person. Another striking characteristic of our breed is, for example, that they often prefer not to get involved in a fight.
In addition to this all, we often see “clownesk bully” behaviour: making everyone “crazy” around them, they let everyone run around and then sit down and watch the stage play. The behaviour of our AmStaff will be the same as with any other dog, it will be formed by the dogs basic character and the influence of its education, environment and learning experiences. All this together, makes the American Staffordshire Terrier a beloved and very good therapy dog.
Patients who work together with an AmStaff therapy dog dare to open up more towards the dog, they feel that the dog takes them as they are, they feel automatically attracted to animals and often take them out of their own world (often by asking continuous attention and keep this up), they are encouraged to talk better, they are stimulated to play with the dog first and later with their own brothers / sisters and then followed for example with children at their school, patients feel safer and relaxed near the dog , They feel more emotionally balanced, they get calmer, make contact easier, and ultimately they get more self-esteem.
The reason to specifically address this part is the fact that the American Staffordshire Terrier is often seen by many as a “fighting machine”, the above text emphasizes once again that our breed has multiple faces and thereby can help our society in a variety of positive ways.