American Staffordshire Terrier: Dog Breed Characteristics & Care

History, Care Tips, and Helpful Information for Pet Owners

American Staffordshire terrier

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The American Staffordshire terrier is a medium-to-large, muscular dog breed with a square head and short, stiff fur that was developed in the United States. Also called the Am Staff, this breed is known for its courage and power, but it also generally has an affectionate and loyal disposition. And, contrary to its tough appearance and ancestor, it is a gentle dog breed.

Breed Overview

Group: Terrier

Height: 17 to 18 inches (female), 18 to 19 inches (male)

Weight: 40 to 55 pounds (female), 55 to 70 pounds (male)

Coat: Short, stiff fur

Coat Color: Variety of colors, including black, brown, blue, fawn, red, and liver; brindle and/or white markings also possible

Life Span: 12 to 16 years

Temperament: Courageous, affectionate, protective

Hypoallergenic: No

Origin: United States

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Characteristics of the American Staffordshire Terrier

Most Am Staffs have a confident and friendly temperament. They typically don’t bark excessively, and they strike a good balance between being high-energy dogs and couch potatoes. However, they do have a protective side to their personality that must be managed with training and socialization. 

Affection Level High
Friendliness Medium
Kid-Friendly Medium
Pet-Friendly Medium
Exercise Needs Medium
Playfulness Medium
Energy Level Medium
Trainability Medium
Intelligence Medium
Tendency to Bark Medium
Amount of Shedding Medium

History of the American Staffordshire Terrier

The American Staffordshire terrier's roots can be traced back to the 18th and 19th century in England. The bulldogs and terriers of the time were commonly used in inhumane blood sports. And they were bred for desirable traits, including their muscular build, energy, stamina, confidence, and agility. 

A mix of these dogs went into creating the British Staffordshire bull terrier. While this breed still was used in blood sports, it also was kept as a companion and used on farms and for other work. Eventually, those dogs arrived in the United States in the mid-1800s.

U.S. breeders created a larger Staffordshire terrier that ultimately became a distinct breed from the Staffordshire bull terrier, bearing the name American Staffordshire terrier. They also bred it to have a calmer and friendlier temperament than its ancestors. Since their arrival on the scene, Am Staffs have had a prominent place in American culture, including in film and TV and in the armed forces. The American Kennel Club recognized the breed in 1936.

American Staffordshire Terrier Care

In general, the American Staffordshire terrier can become a loving and loyal companion for many types of households. With proper training and socialization, it can even coexist well with children and other household pets. And its exercise and grooming requirements typically aren't excessive.

Exercise

Am Staffs have a moderate energy level. They should get between 1 and 2 hours of exercise per day that includes walks, jogs, fetch, and other active play. Puzzle toys also can help to challenge them mentally, and dog sports will provide both mental and physical stimulation. However, be cautious not to overdo activity in hot weather, as this breed can be sensitive to heat. 

Grooming

The short, stiff coat of the Am Staff is easy to maintain. Use a soft-bristle brush on it weekly to remove any loose fur and debris and to distribute oils. You can expect heavier shedding in the spring and fall as the weather changes, which will likely necessitate brushing two to three times per week to help capture all the loose fur.

Give your dog a bath roughly every couple months or more often if it gets dirty. And trim its nails roughly every month. Also, aim to brush its teeth daily. 

Training

As with any dog breed, proper training is a must. Because there are misconceptions about pit bull-type dogs being labeled as dangerous, it's ideal for anyone who owns an Am Staff to be a positive ambassador for the breed with a well-mannered dog.

Am Staffs are a fairly smart breed, but they can be stubborn. Combine that with their exuberance and power, and training isn't always easy. So it's important to be consistent with your training and to start from puppyhood. Am Staff puppies should ideally go to puppy classes where they learn basic obedience and socialization. Consistent and positive reinforcement also can help both puppies and adults in training.

American Staffordshire terrier puppy
Laures / Getty Images

Common Health Problems

This breed is generally healthy throughout its life. But some hereditary health problems can occur in the American Staffordshire terrier, including:

American Staffordshire terriers as pets care sheet illustration

The Spruce / Kelly Leigh Miller

Diet and Nutrition

Offer your dog a quality, nutritionally balanced diet. Most owners feed two meals per day. But discuss the amount and types of food with your vet, as this can vary depending on such factors as age and activity level. Always monitor your dog's weight, and factor treats into their total daily food consumption. Also, make sure your dog always has access to clean water.

Where to Adopt or Buy an American Staffordshire Terrier

Check your local animal shelters and rescue groups for American Staffordshire terriers in need of homes. Expect to pay around $2,000 on average for a breeder puppy, though this can vary widely depending on bloodline and other factors. Shelters and rescues typically charge much less for puppies and adults. Make sure you're able to keep an Am Staff where you live, as some areas have breed restrictions.

A number of nationwide groups for Am Staffs provide online resources to find a dog, including:

American Staffordshire Terrier Breed Overview

Pros
  • Good-natured, playful, and sociable

  • Intensely loyal

  • Good watchdog

Cons
  • Requires early and consistent socialization

  • Can be overly protective

  • Stubborn nature can complicate training

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

Before you decide whether the American Staffordshire terrier is the right dog for you, be sure to do plenty of research. Talk to other Am Staff owners, reputable breeders, and rescue groups to learn more.

If you’re interested in similar breeds, check out:

There’s a whole world of potential dog breeds out there—with a little research, you can find the right one to bring home!

FAQ
  • What's the difference between an American Staffordshire terrier and a pit bull?

    There is no technical breed called a pit bull. There is, however, a breed called the American pit bull terrier. Generally speaking, the American Staffordshire terrier is nearly the same as the American pit bull terrier. The main difference is Am Staffs conform to a narrower size range, per the AKC standard, and American pit bull terriers have greater variances in size and other physical traits.

  • Are American Staffordshire terriers good family dogs?

    Properly trained and socialized Am Staffs can be good for families with children. However, their exuberance and strength might be too much around young children unless they are very well-mannered.

  • Are American Staffordshire terriers aggressive?

    American Staffordshire terriers are generally good-natured dogs. Like any dog, they need proper training and socialization to help ward off aggression. They don't always get along well with other dogs, especially if they haven't been properly socialized.

Article Sources
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  1.  American Staffordshire Terriers Dog Breed. Oxford Laboratories.

  2. American Staffordshire Terrier Puppies For Sale. American Kennel Club.