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American Staffordshire Terrier Breed Overview, Facts & Care

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Last Updated: December 20, 2022 | 8 min read | Leave a Comment

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The American Staffordshire Terrier is one of the four bully breeds that is commonly included in the “Pitbull” group. Fans call this dog the AmStaff or American Staffie, and they are confident and intelligent dogs. When appropriately trained, they are loyal and loving canines worthy of a spot in the family home. They adore their family, especially children, and hate to be without their favorite humans. So, look no further than this pup if you’re after a lovable rogue who can offer the best companionship.

Unfortunately, “Pitbulls“, including Staffies, have a history steeped in fighting, which has earned them a poor reputation. But, with better education, they are becoming increasingly popular and more respected as family pets. Although AmStaffs are well-behaved, eager to learn, and bright, they need an experienced owner. They need a strong-willed master that is mentally and physically able to lead them.

AmStaffs are relatively popular in America, but their fighting history means there are a lot of poor breeders out there. You need to take your time to find a reputable breeder if you want a well-behaved puppy. Are you ready for a Staffie? Let’s take a deeper look at their history, personality, needs, and much more.

American Staffordshire Terrier
    • weight iconWeight40-70 pounds
    • height iconHeight17-19 inches
    • lifespan iconLifespan12-16 years
    • color iconColorsAny color
  • Child Friendliness
  • Canine Friendliness
  • Training Difficulty
  • Grooming Upkeep
  • Breed Health
  • Exercise Needs
  • Puppy Costs

History

The AmStaff is one of the bully-type breeds and is often mistaken for the American Pitbull Terrier.

You might have heard of many famous American Staffordshire Terriers in pop culture. Sgt. Stubby was America’s most decorated war dog, and Pete from the Little Rascals movies was the movie’s biggest star. Many other AmStaffs found their way into Hollywood thanks to being super bright and trainable.

They are descendants of Terriers and Bulldogs from Great Britain used in dog fighting, bull-baiting, and other blood sports. Thankfully these pastimes were outlawed in the UK, but immigrants took the dogs to America to continue fighting them. The most enormous and ferocious dogs were mixed to create even more powerful ones. American breeders developed a larger version of the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, now known as the AmStaff.

When dog fighting was outlawed in America, the calmer, more family-friendly specimens were bred. Over time, the breed became more mellow. The AmStaff was registered with the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1936 but was called the Staffordshire Terrier until 1976.

Temperament

The Staffie is a faithful and loyal companion.

They were bred to work alongside people and keep their masters company, so this close relationship with humans is incomparable. Many pitbull-type dogs are renowned for their love for children, hence their nickname, the ‘nanny dog.’ Nothing makes a Staffie happier than being around their family and feeling like an integral part of the pack.

The Staffie has a funny and goofy character which is why many breed lovers call them a personality dog. Nothing comes more crazy and fun than a Staffie. They are a top canine choice if you’re looking for a four-legged friend to play ball or exercise. Equally, they like to veg out on the sofa for hours, sitting next to their favorite human. They match their owner’s energy and activity.

Staffies are good-natured dogs who make great family companions. Although they are friendly with most people, they protect their humans if they sense danger. Sadly, they have a poor reputation for being vicious, but as long as you train them well, this is a myth.

Size & Appearance

The American Staffordshire Terrier is a stocky and muscular dog, giving the impression they have great strength. Females typically weigh between 40 and 55 pounds, and males usually weigh between 55 and 70 pounds. They measure between 17 and 19 inches tall, from paw to shoulder. Their shoulders are broad and muscular too. Despite their formidable appearance, they are also graceful looking.

AmStaffs have broad, square heads with well-defined jaws. Their neck is thick, and sadly, their ears are often cropped to give them a meaner appearance. They have large, dark eyes set wide apart and a wide cheeky grin that spreads from ear to ear. The AmStaff breed standard sets out the expectations of what one should look like.

Coat & Colors

The American Staffordshire has a short coat. It is stiff to the touch but glossy and sleek. They only shed seasonally, but not excessively compared to some other breeds. The AmStaff coat comes in many colors, including black, blue, brindle, brown, fawn, liver, red, and white. These colors can be solid or with various markings.

Exercise & Living Conditions

American Staffordshires have relatively high exercise needs. They need at least 60 minutes of exercise daily to keep them mentally stimulated and healthy. This exercise needs to be varied and challenging to keep them happy. These dogs are agile and athletic and take most forms of exercise and play. Doggy agility courses are a great way to burn all that AmStaff energy.

AmStaffs also need playtime and interaction throughout the day with their humans and tough dog toys. They have strong jaws, so fluffy teddies aren’t going to cut it. Thankfully, they also love an afternoon nap or evening in front of the telly, cuddling up with their favorite people.

Their closeness with humans makes them susceptible to separation anxiety, leading to destructiveness and problematic behavior. If you cannot offer the AmStaff company, they are not the breed for you. The same goes for meeting their physical and mental needs. If you cannot meet them, stick to a less intense breed that is happy to entertain itself. Like many bully breeds, they dig, chew, and destroy when bored.

Although they aren’t all that fussy about their house type, a tiny apartment will not cut it for this big pooch. They need access to a private and secure yard to prevent them from escaping. Although these pups are generally friendly, the delivery guy might not be too happy to meet one. And AmStaffs have a high prey drive and like to chase all the neighborhood cats.

Training

White American Staffordshire Terrier Playing
The American Staffordshire Terrier is bright and eager to learn.

Training this breed is relatively simple, which is why they were such a big hit in Hollywood! However, they need an experienced and tough leader to train them. Otherwise, they might get too big for their boots. Start preparing early, and they should be a very obedient companion.

Socialization training is essential for all bully-type dogs. Their history of dog fighting means they can be temperamental with other dogs if not exposed to them from an early age. Reputable breeders start this training from day one. But as soon as you bring them home, take them to the local doggy park. This increases their confidence with other dogs. Otherwise, you risk fear and aggression becoming a problem.

Health

The American Staffordshire Terriers is a relatively healthy dog breed and typically lives between 12 and 16 years. Like all breeds, there are certain conditions that they are predisposed to. Although they might only suffer from one, some, all, or none of these conditions, it’s essential to make yourself aware of them.

Joint Dysplasia

Hip and elbow dysplasia is one of the most commonly found conditions in this breed. The joints do not form properly, become painful, and deteriorate faster. Feeding your developing Staffie food designed for puppies helps to prevent this condition. Reputable breeders only breed dogs with a hip score of fair or better. Look for a breeder who can supply you with Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) certificate or PennHIP Evaluation.

Neuronal Ceroid Lipofuscinoses

Neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis (NCL) is a group of progressive degenerative diseases affecting the central nervous system. Symptoms begin to appear between three and five years old in most Staffies. Symptoms include constant circling, anxiety, aggression, compulsive behaviors, and loss of skills. Unfortunately, there is no cure for this, and euthanasia is the most humane outcome. Ask your breeder for an NCL DNA test.

Eye Conditions

The three most common eye conditions found in the Staffie are juvenile cataracts, progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), and distichiasis. Juvenile cataracts and PRA can lead to blindness if not treated. Distichiasis is where the eyelids grow abnormal hairs that can cause discomfort and ulcers. Breeders should subject their dogs to ophthalmologist exams.

Thyroiditis

The Staffie is at high risk of this autoimmune disease that is formally called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. It occurs when the body makes antibodies that attack the cells in your thyroid, meaning it cannot function properly. All dogs should undergo a thyroid evaluation, so ask your breeder about this.

Skin Problems

All bully breeds are prone to skin problems. Many are susceptible to poor and itchy skin from allergies such as grass or food intolerances. Others experience conditions such as demodectic mange or impetigo. Whatever the condition, it is usually spotted because of sore, inflamed, itchy, or blistered skin. Skin conditions are typically easy to treat with topical ointments, medications, a medicated shampoo, or a change in diet.

Nutrition

Cute puppy pit bull terrier, portrait. American staffordshire terrier puppy
Young dogs need food specifically designed for growing puppies.

All American Staffordshire Terriers are different, and how much they eat depends on their age, size, activity level, and the food you give them. All food comes with feeding instructions, so be sure to follow them. A typical adult Amstaff eats between two to three cups of dog food per day. This helps to mitigate the risk of musculoskeletal problems related to rapid growth, such as joint dysplasia.

Always pick a high-quality diet to meet your dog’s nutritional needs. High-quality diets might be more expensive, but you’ll probably prevent health problems and costly vet bills. A high-quality diet includes meat protein, healthy carbs, omega fatty acids, fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

Grooming

The American Staffordshire Terriers is low maintenance when it comes to grooming. They have short coats that shed seasonally but only need brushing once a week to keep them looking their best. AmStaffs need bathing when they become dirty or every 8 to 12 weeks. Dental cleaning is required weekly, and their nails should be clipped monthly.

However, if your AmStaff has skin problems, they might require more grooming. They might need weekly baths with medicated shampoos, or they might need daily topical treatments. This depends on what the skin condition is and what your vet recommends. Shampoos designed for sensitive skin are advised for AmStaffs regardless of their skin condition.

Breeders & Puppy Costs

Working with a reputable breeder is always essential, especially when welcoming a powerfully large dog into your home. They start the socialization process from day one, which creates a confident and friendly dog. They handle them regularly and expose them to different people, dogs, sounds, and experiences. A great place to start your search for a top breeder is with the AKC’s American Staffordshire breeders list. Always conduct your own research.

The average starting price for an AmStaff puppy is $1,000. If you’re looking for a champion bloodline, you can expect to pay much more than this. You also need to consider buying everything puppies need, such as beds, crates, training, toys, food, and insurance. And many of these costs are lifetime commitments.

Rescues & Shelters

If you are considering rescuing an American Staffordshire Terrier, you have a few options. Head to your local rescue centers and speak to the staff who can point you in the direction of any local AmStaffs needing a forever home. Alternatively, some organizations deal solely with rescuing AmStaffs and other bully-type dogs. The American Staffordshire Terrier Rescue site is a great place to start your search. The cost of rescuing is usually much cheaper than buying a brand-new puppy.

As Family Pets

  • Are full of fun and goofy energy
  • Adore their family and are very loyal
  • Don’t like to be left alone for too long
  • Are usually healthy and long-living dogs
  • Need around 60 minutes of outdoor exercise every day
  • Are bright but need early training and socialization
  • Require mental stimulation throughout the day
  • Are prone to skin conditions and might need extra grooming

Final Thoughts

The American Staffordshire Terrier is a faithful American companion. They are friendly, fun, courageous, have a soft spot for children, and make tolerant siblings. If you’re looking for a loyal canine to keep you company, look no further than this breed. Just be sure to give them the company and attention they need to be happy. They are also seriously bright and easily trained with the right trainer and early efforts.

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