The All Purpose Dog
There is a common perception among many American Staffordshire Terrier owners, breeders, exhibitors and fanciers that some individual members of the breed are show dogs, some are just companion animals, and some are performance dogs, including agility, obedience, carting, service, and many other forms of work suitable for canines. That is certainly true when the only consideration is the actual use of the individual dog. The owner or other controller of the dog can label the dog as they wish.
The negative aspect of the concept is in the acceptance of the idea that there can be more than one guideline used for the creation of the dogs. This is where the potential for a decline in overall breed quality can be proliferated. In other words, the ideal working or performance dog likely would conform to the dictates of the breed standard because it is primarily a description of just that, with the emphasis on physical attributes conducive to performance excellence. Our Breed Standard was written to describe the ultimate working dog.
The theme running through this description is a blueprint for the ultimate canine athlete. The beginning paragraph of the Breed Standard is important in summarizing what each individual should convey to an observer; "General Impression: The American Staffordshire Terrier should give the impression of great strength for his size, a well put-together dog, muscular, but agile and graceful, keenly alive to his surroundings. He should be stocky, not long-legged or racy in outline. His courage is proverbial.
Ideally, all of the requirements described in the Breed Standard should be present in the most likely candidates for performance dogs, both in physical conformation and temperament. Logic would imply that the best conformation and thus the best show specimens should be those also best suited for performance. It is good to remember that before they were show dogs, our dogs were performance dogs, doing many types of work and earning their keep. The important relationship of proper adherence to the Standard for both performance and show dogs should be a prime requisite for all fanciers of the breed, including those who are only interested in a good and reliable companion dog.
So often, poor conformation contributes to health problems and the resultant expense and heart-ache that accompanies them. We have a very good Breed Standard that was written by people who had a strong and able performance dog in mind when they wrote it and it has been in force since the AKC recognition of our dogs in 1936. All those who want to promote the best interests of what should be the most sound breed of dog in the world should study the Standard and strive to abide by it in choosing their breeding stock and when acquiring dogs, regardless of the purpose.
Bill Peterson 4-28-2010