American Staffordshire Terriers are one of the most popular Bully breeds in America. These loyal, courageous and good natured dogs are wonderful companion animals. I have worked with AmStaffs as a dog walker and loved my visits each week. Owners relied on me to provide their dogs with the attention they crave when left home alone.
So can American Staffordshire Terriers be left home alone? As a whole American Staffies can be left home alone for short periods of time. Though this is not their preferred situation. American Staffordshires love being around people, especially their owners, and can suffer separation anxiety when left alone.
In my years as a dog walker this was made very clear to me with breeds like the American Staffordshire Terrier. Although they can be left alone, some resort to destructive or neurotic behaviors if their needs are not being met.
I learned very quickly some effective ways to help American Staffordshire Terriers, and their owners, in preventing these unwanted behaviors. Part of my job was to assist in providing the best, anxiety free life I could for these dogs. This post will cover a few tips to help calm an anxious AmStaff.
How Long Can You Leave An AmStaff Alone?
On average an American Staffy can be left alone for 6-8 hours as an adult, and 2-4 hours as a puppy. Though an AmStaff can be left alone for a longer time period, it is recommended they are only left alone for up to 4 hours to allow for potty breaks and some exercise.
A well balanced American Staffordshire Terrier can manage just fine being at home alone for an entire work day. Older adult dogs fare much better than younger adults. When your dog is kept in a crate, 4 hours is the maximum amount of time they should be kept inside.
Crates should be used for short term alone time. Any breed of dog will need a break from the crate to stretch their legs and have a potty break after 4 hours.
Hiring a dog walker, or asking for help from a friend or neighbor half way through the day is optimal for all dogs, but a must for dogs kept in crates.
If your AmStaff is not kept in a crate, and is not prone to destructive behaviors, they can be left alone for much longer periods. Dogs younger than the age of 2 should not be left alone, outside of a crate for more than a few hours. The potential for mischief at this age is much higher.
Do American Staffordshire Terriers Get Separation Anxiety?
American Staffordshire Terriers can be prone to separation anxiety. American Staffies are very people oriented, and have very high energy levels. When left home alone for long, or even short periods of time, they can display varying degrees of separation anxiety.
How To Calm An Anxious American Staffordshire Terrier
American Staffordshire Terriers are an overall confident and well balanced dog. They can however be prone to different kinds of anxiety. From separation anxiety to general over alert or fear based anxiety.
Oftentimes this is a result of the needs of an AmStaff not being met, or improper training or treatment. This is not a sign of being a bad owner. Perhaps just inexperienced or unaware of what might be causing these issues.
There are several ways to tackle this problem when dealing with an anxious American Staffordshire Terrier. From exercise, to training, to supplementation, all of these techniques will help calm your American Staffy and bring more balance to everyone’s life.
Exercise & Mental Stimulation
The number one cause of anxiety in American Staffordshire Terriers is lack of exercise and mental stimulation. The American Staffy is a highly energetic, and very intelligent breed of dog. When their needs to release this abundance of energy is not met, anxiety and problem behavior ensue.
Many times anxious behavior such as destructive chewing, obsessive digging, and constant barking are signs your American Staffordshire Terrier is being under exercised and mentally stimulated.
This is the AmStaff’s way of releasing all the pent up energy, and it can be directed to more positive activities.
Daily walks are critical for American Staffordshire Terriers. Not only does this allow them to burn off excess energy, but it gives them time to bond with you as the owner. 2-3 daily walks of around 30 minutes is optimal for an American Staffy.
Mental stimulation through training activities, games and other physical activities like agility need to be included in your American Staffordshires daily routine. These dogs are among the smartest Bully breeds, and need to use their brain every day.
Activities such as fetch, tug of war, flirt poles, spring poles, agility, rally obedience, and search & find are all fantastic ways to stimulate your AmStaff.
Crate training is one of the best tools you can use to help prevent separation anxiety. I have crate trained both my Staffordshire Bull Terrier and now my Pocket American Bully puppy. It has been a tremendous way to keep them feeling safe, calm, and comfortable when I leave the house.
Using the crate as a place for your American Staffordshire Terrier to relax, have a snooze, and be at peace is essential in treating separation anxiety. Setting this environment up as a safe place for them to be will pay huge dividends in removing anxiety.
Introduce the crate gradually. Allow your dog to enter the crate with the door open. Reward them for entering and remaining calm. Gradually close the door and reward calm behavior. Open the door and let them out calmly. Repeat several times gradually increasing the time spent with the door closed.
Over time your dog will come to enjoy the crate and use it freely to take some time to themselves. It took me one afternoon to get both of my dogs accustomed to their crates. Rewarding calm behavior, and ignoring the little tantrums until they became calm was the trick. And it worked after only a couple hours of practice.
Never use the crate as punishment. Your American Staffordshire Terrier should never consider being placed in the crate as a negative. This space must always be considered a safe, calm, comfortable, and positive experience.
I touch on desensitization training in the section above on crate training. Ignoring the little tantrums your American Staffy might throw in their crate is an important part of desensitization. I know my dogs are not in distress, and are just being fussy.
Ignoring them in this state, and rewarding them calmly when they are calm reinforces the wanted behaviors.
Desensitization training is much the same. Leaving your home without making a big event of things, and returning to the home in much the same way. This means no “Goodbye my baby Boy!” or “Daddy is gonna miss his little princess!”. It means just leaving the house without getting the dog excited at all.
Some might view this as cold. Trust me it is not. In fact I find it much more cruel to get a dog excited and then just leave them alone to deal with the hyped up energy you left them with.
Returning back to the home in a calm manner is also part of desensitization. Showing the dog that coming and returning is not a big deal will help them manage being left alone. When your dog is amped up when you come through the door. Ignore them until they become calm. Then calmly reward them with affection or food.
Practice this technique much like crate training. Start with very brief time periods, and gradually work your way up to longer periods of time. Remember, leave calm, return calm, reward calm.
Control The Environment
American Staffordshire Terriers can be a very alert breed. Sometimes to the point of obsessive territory behavior such as guarding the home from potential outside threats. Behaviors like barking at the windows can keep an AmStaff in a constant anxious and guarded state.
This is where controlling the environment needs to take place. If your AmStaff is constantly at the windows watching for potential threats, you need to block their access to the window, or cover the windows up.
Loud noises, or excited activity in the home from young children can place your American Staffy in an anxious state. Providing them a quiet space to go when these noises and activities are taking place will help them take some quiet time away from the chaos.
Introducing things like music to help create a calming environment can also help. When I first started leaving my Staffy alone I would leave her with classical music playing.
There is some research that shows this can work great for anxious dogs. There are even specific TV programmings for dogs over at DogTV that have become a big hit recently.
Distractions & Activities
AmStaffs can become hyper focused and obsessive and when this is in an anxious state it can be very unhealthy for them. Redirecting the attention of an anxious American Staffordshire Terrier to a more engaging activity can aid in relieving anxiety.
For example if you have an American Staffordshire Terrier that is anxious during fireworks or thunderstorms, try distracting them with things like Kongs. This can provide a mentally stimulating activity and food reward to take their minds off the scary noises.
I did this with my Staffy when she was a puppy. Soon fireworks and thunderstorms were no big deal to her. She stopped viewing them as a negative experience because her brain stopped focusing on the sounds, and was more involved in the activity.
Ignore Unwanted Behavior, Reward Wanted Behavior
Sometimes an American Staffy can just be needy, whiny, and a little high maintenance. Ignoring this behavior is your best approach at the moment. Any acknowledgement of this behavior will only reinforce with them that this is how to get your attention.
Instead wait until they have given up and calmed down. Reward the calm behavior and engage with them. Sometimes they are just wanting to go for a walk, but whining to get what they want is not to be encouraged. Take them for a walk only after they have reached a calm state.
Consider Using Supplementation
Supplementation can be a last resort for chronically anxious dogs. When exercise, training, and environment have all been used to treat an anxious AmStaff it may be time to introduce supplementation. Consult with your vet first to rule out any health problems that may be causing the anxiety.
There has been some great results in the realm of supplementation for anxiety over the years. Things like CBD oil, and herbal chews are just a few of the possible solutions.
There are a variety of chews and treats available to help naturally calm and relax your American Staffordshire Terrier when they suffer chronic anxiety. Products like PetHonesty premium hemp chews use ingredients like chamomile, melatonin and valerian root in their delicious chew formula.
I have created a fantastic resource for CBD Oil For Dogs on my resources and reviews page that will break down the benefits and the best brands on the market to consider for your Staffy.
I have covered the various techniques I have used over the years to help dogs with anxiety. Proper exercise, training, environmental controls, reinforcement of good behaviors and supplementation have all served me well.
Sometimes chronic anxiety can be a sign of underlying illness, and consulting with a vet should be done immediately. They can provide professional help beyond the tips and tricks I have mentioned in this post.
Leaving your American Staffordshire Terrier home alone can, and should be a simple everyday thing. Anxiety can get in the way sometimes, and being able to determine the root cause of the anxious behavior is key to solving the problem.