American Staffordshire Terrier

american staffordshire terriers as pets: care sheet

Illustration: Kelly Leigh Miller. © The Spruce, 2018

The American Staffordshire Terrier, sometimes called the "Am Staff," is a medium-large dog with a muscular build and square head. Though known for its courage and high energy level, the American Staffordshire also has an affectionate and loyal disposition. Contrary to its tough appearance, the Stafford is a gentle, loyal and highly affectionate dog breed. However, this breed is quite powerful and tends to be stoic in the face of pain.

Breed Overview

  • Group: Terrier (AKC)
  • Size:
    • Weight: about 50 to 80 pounds
    • Height: 17 to 19 inches at the shoulder
  • Colors: The American Staffordshire Terrier is seen in a variety of colors, including black, brown, blue, fawn, red and liver. Brindle pattern and or white markings are also seen in combination with these colors.
  • Life Expectancy: 12 to 14 years

Characteristics of the American Staffordshire Terrier

Affection LevelHigh
Exercise NeedsHigh
Energy LevelHigh
Tendency to BarkMedium
Amount of SheddingMedium

History of the American Staffordshire Terrier

The American Staffordshire Terrier's roots can be traced back to 19th century England. The Bulldogs and terriers of the time were crossed to create a dog that possessed desirable attributes of each breed. The result was an agile and energetic terrier with the Bulldog-like perseverance and confidence.

The breed was originally called the Bull-and-Terrier Dog, Half and Half, or Pit Dog. Eventually, it became known in England as the Staffordshire Bull Terrier. Sadly, the dogs were most commonly used for fighting until the early 20th century when dog fighting was made illegal.

The Bull-and-Terrier dogs came to the United States towards the end of the 19th century where they became known as Pit Bull Terriers and then American Bull Terriers.

Though there is some disagreement on the details, it is said that these dogs were not widely used for dog fighting like their ancestors but were more commonly used for general farm work, hunting, and companionship. As time went on, the breed was developed into taller dogs with larger builds than their English counterparts. The breed was registered with the AKC in 1936 as the Staffordshire Terrier. The name was changed in 1972 to differentiate between the shorter, smaller English version (today's Staffordshire Bull Terrier). Today, the two are completely separate dog breeds.

Are American Staffordshire Terriers the Same as Pit Bulls?

People often ask what the difference is between the American Staffordshire Terrier and a "pit bull." First of all, there is no breed called a pit bull. There is, however, a breed called the American Pit Bull Terrier. It is not recognized by the American Kennel Club, but it is recognized by the Continental Kennel Club and the United Kennel Club. Generally speaking, the American Staffordshire Terrier is nearly the same breed as the American Pit Bull Terrier. Today, the main difference is in appearance. The American Staffordshire Terrier is bred in part for AKC conformation and conforms to a stricter standard, particularly in size range.

Conversely, the American Pit Bull Terrier is more often bred as a companion dog and has greater variances in size (a range of 30-90 pounds) and other physical traits.

American Staffordshire Terrier Care

The very short, smooth coat of the Am Staff requires little more than routine grooming. This breed tends to shed at a low to moderate rate. However, shedding does tend to increase seasonally. Although some Am Staff will wear down their nails naturally from walking, most still need regular nail trims to keep their feet healthy. Give your Am Staff baths as needed to keep the skin and coat clean and healthy.

The Am Staff is an athletic dog breed with plenty of energy, so routine exercise is very important. However, be cautious not to overdo it in warmer weather, as the breed may be sensitive to heat.

Am Staffs will especially benefit from dog sports that challenge them mentally and physically. Regardless of the type of exercise, be sure it is provided about twice daily or more. Without a proper outlet for all that energy, your Am Staff may become destructive, hyperactive, or develop other behavior problems.

As with any dog breed,  proper training is a must for the Am Staff. This is a fairly smart dog breed that can be stubborn, following his own will if permitted. Therefore, obedience training is essential in order to manage your Am Staff. Training will boost your dog's confidence and provide structure. Because of the fact that pit bull-type dogs are commonly misunderstood and even wrongly portrayed, some people will fear your Am Staff. Dog trainers and animal professionals often recommend that Am Staffs complete Canine Good Citizen certification as an added step in responsible dog ownership.

Overall, the American Staffordshire Terrier is deeply affectionate, intensely friendly, and joyfully energetic. The breed can become a loving companion for many types of active households. However, be aware that the Am Staff has a strong prey drive and a history of dog fighting, so he should be supervised and carefully introduced when meeting other animals and small children. However, with proper training and socialization, the breed can get along very well with children and even other pets. The American Staffordshire Terrier is known to forge a strong bond with its family. This breed can become a loyal family pet and friend for life.

Common Health Problems

Any dog breed (or a mix of breeds) can develop health problems. Just like traits such as personality and appearance can be associated with the dog breed, certain health problems are inherited. Responsible breeders take care to maintain the highest breed standards as established by kennel clubs like the AKC. Dogs bred by these standards are less likely to inherit health conditions. However, some hereditary health problems can occur in the breed.

The following are some conditions to be aware of:

Diet and Nutrition

In general, American Staffordshire Terriers need a high protein, low grain diet, which helps prevent diarrhea and bloat. Choose a meat-forward pet food that’s formulated for a mid to large size dog. Always make sure that they have clean, fresh water for drinking. However, their diet needs, including the amount and frequency you feed them, will change over time as they age. Work with your veterinarian to figure out an individualized diet plan for your dog. 

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

Is the American Staffordshire Terrier the right dog for you? Before you decide, be sure to do plenty of research. Talk to other American Staffordshire Terrier owners, reputable American Staffordshire Terrier breeders and American Staffordshire Terrier rescue groups to learn more.

If you’re interested in similar breeds, look to these to compare pros and cons.

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