The American Staffordshire Terrier is a smart and gentle dog with plenty of personality to go around. Although they originated in Britain, the Staffordshire has since proven to be an All-American pooch.
Also known as AmStaffs or Staffies, American Staffordshire Terriers have a much-debated genetic lineage and a history rooted in blood sport. Thankfully, dog-fighting is no longer a legal sport, and Staffies now enjoy peaceful lives as family dogs. Let’s get to know the American Staffordshire Terrier!
American Staffordshire Terrier Dog Breed Characteristics
The AmStaff is a mighty dog with a muscular, stocky build. It has a broad head, a well-defined jaw, pronounced cheekbones, and wide-set eyes. The average life span of the American Staffordshire Terrier is 14 years, though some dogs of this breed can reach an impressive 16 years of age.
Straffordshires’ Bull and Terrier genetics give them the athletic physiques of Bulldogs and the graceful agility of Terriers. This breed shares many characteristics with its close relatives, the American Pit Bull Terrier (commonly known as Pit Bulls) and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier.
Being a Bull and Terrier mix, the Staffordshire combines the strong physique of a Bulldog with the graceful agility of a Terrier. This breed shares many characteristics with the American Pit Bull Terrier (known commonly as Pit Bulls) and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier. Staffies are closely related to both of these breeds.
Staffies have a sloping back and forelegs set wide apart. These wide-set legs make way from the breed’s broad and deep chest. It has an egg-shaped head and high-set ears.
American Staffordshire Terrier Dog Breed Size
American Staffordshire Terriers may not be the tallest dogs, but they are among the most well-toned. AmStaffs are short and wide, with males standing 17 to 19 inches tall. Females are usually 16-18 inches in height.
Males Staffordshires typically weigh 55 to 70 pounds, while 40-55 pounds is a normal weight for females.
American Staffordshire Terrier Dog Breed Personality
The American Staffordshire Terrier has the stamina and confidence of a dog that was once groomed for brawling. Since dog-fighting has been outlawed for generations, these dogs have long been able to show their gentler sides. Staffies are good with children and ideal family dogs.
The American Staffordshire Terrier can be feisty, as can nearly every dog in the Terrier Group. Some common Terrier behaviors to keep an eye on are excessive chewing and digging in the yard. These can typically be mitigated through proper training.
This breed hasn’t been used in blood sports for a long time, but genetics can be challenging to overcome. Even a well-socialized AmStaff should not be left alone with other dogs because they may get aggressive. Look out for signs of aggression and contact a canine behavioral expert if needed.
American Staffordshire Terrier Dog Breed Exercise
All dogs need exercise, and breeds like the American Staffordshire Terrier can have loads of fun while going through training. Whether you’re honing a skill, training the dog for canine athletics, or merely going for a walk, a routine workout is a good bonding experience for you and your AmStaff.
Staffies have considerably high energy levels and require a decent amount of exercise for their overall health. Exercise not only minimizes their risk of developing diseases, but it also boosts their mental health.
Generally, you should give your American Staffordshire Terrier 60-90 minutes of exercise everyday. Though, if your schedule only permits a 30 minute walk each day, some exercise is better than none. Try to find some time in your routine to take your pet to the dog park to get more rigorous exercise.
American Staffordshire Terrier Dog Breed Training
To satisfy your American Staffordshire Terrier’s high energy level, consider training it for sports. Dogs have to practice memorization, strategy, and discipline to excel at canine athletics. This refines the animal’s fitness and coordination in addition to providing mental stimulation.
Some of the best sports for Staffies include competitions in obedience, agility, dock diving, and search-and-rescue. These sports allow your American Staffordshire Terrier to practice taking commands, unleash their energy, and experience the satisfaction of being praised for a job well done.
When it comes to behavioral conditioning, Terrier dogs sometimes need socialization training. Staffies are not as intimidating as they first appear, but they can occasionally slip into the aggressive behavior that defined this breed in years past.
To avoid this, expose your dog to new situations, pets, and people from a young age to curb aggression. Professional socialization classes are also a great way to introduce your Staffie to unfamiliar animals/people in a controlled environment.
American Staffordshire Terrier Dog Breed History
American Staffordshire Terriers were intentionally bred for a single purpose: dog-fighting. Since the second half of the 19th century, the United States has considered this horrific sport a felony offense in all 50 states. This breed’s early history is murky and interwoven with two other dogs: the Pit Bull and the British Staffordshire Bull Terrier.
In 1898, Staffies were recognized by the United Kennel Club (UKC). Due to its appearance, the dog was labeled the American Pit Bull Terrier. In 1936, the American Kennel Club (AKC) accepted 50 “Pit Bulls” from the UKC, and these were the first AmStaffs to come to the U.S. The UKC later renamed the breed the American Staffordshire Terrier.
Some believe that this breed originated in Staffordshire, though the claim has not been proven. In America, breeders wanted to differentiate their dogs from the British Staffordshire Bull Terriers, a closely related but separate breed. They started breeding AmStaffs to have traits that less resembled Pit Bulls.
This is because Pit Bulls were the primary breed associated with dog fighting at the time. The AKC recognizes AmStaffs and Staffordshire Bull Terriers, but not Pit Bulls for this reason. Breed-specific legislation was introduced to combat blood sports like dog-fighting by limiting the registration of typically aggressive breeds.
Breed-specific legislation refers to banning a particular dog from registration or ownership based on its lineage. Some take this legislation even further, and registries like the AKC will not accept Pit Bulls regardless of parentage.
Since this legislation is up to each registry’s discretion, the American Staffordshire Terrier and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier are occasionally included in bans. If there is a specific kennel club where you’d like to register your dog, make sure they accept AmStaffs.
American Staffordshire Terrier Dog Breed Health Problems
True to the formidable “Bull Terrier” genes that reside within these dogs, American Staffordshire Terriers are typically hearty. However, these genetics make them predisposed to a few conditions. We collected the most common diseases that affect this breed, so if your furry friend does experience an issue, you’ll be prepared!
Common health conditions that affect the Staffordshire Terrier include skin allergies, urinary tract infections, and autoimmune diseases. We’ll cover the symptoms and treatment options for these diseases and more so that you can provide your Terrier with the best possible care.
AmStaffs are susceptible to canine allergies, which usually affect a dog’s skin. While this condition often causes humans to sneeze or get itchy eyes, dogs commonly feel allergies on their feet, stomach, and ears. The symptoms of allergies are paw licking, red or bumpy skin, face rubbing, and frequent ear infections.
There are many treatment options for canine allergies ranging from medication to skin therapy. Anti-inflammatory, shampoo, and hyposensitization (or desensitization) therapies can help your dog manage allergies. The best treatment will depend on the allergens that are irritating your Staffie.
Urinary Tract Infection
A urinary tract infection (UTI) can affect Staffordshire Terriers in a similar way to humans. Symptoms include frequent urination and difficulty/pain when urinating. Other signs are bloody urine, excessive licking of the genitals, or urine with a strong odor. A vet will use a urinalysis to confirm the diagnosis of a UTI.
A UTI is caused by bacteria that travel through the urethra and infect the dog’s bladder. The results of the urinalysis will determine which antibiotics are best for your dog. Prevention of a UTI often requires a change in your pet’s diet, and your vet will tell you which changes should be made.
The term autoimmune disease refers to a wide variety of health conditions. A dog’s immune system affects all parts of its body. The Staffordshire Terrier’s immune system is more susceptible to diseases that target it than other breeds.
These include systemic lupus erythematosus, autoimmune hemolytic anemia, immune-mediated thrombocytopenia, and pemphigus. Signs of autoimmune disease include weak joints or muscles and excessive thirst or urination. Other symptoms are ulcers, lesions, kidney infections, thyroid problems, and hair loss.
If your AmStaff shows these symptoms and other, more common illnesses have been ruled out, they may have an autoimmune disease. Take your Staffie to a vet for confirmation and treatment options. Treatment may involve dietary or lifestyle changes, supplements, hydrotherapy, or acupuncture.
Also known as degenerative joint disease, osteoarthritis refers to deteriorating joint cartilage. This results in the joint becoming inflamed, causing pain and reduced mobility for the dog. Osteoarthritis can be caused by age and obesity. Other causes include athletics, injuries, infections, poor nutrition, or genetics.
This condition’s symptoms are a “bunny-hopping” walk and stiff limbs (often the hind legs). Other signs are a refusal to play or jump onto furniture. An affected dog may gain weight and lose muscle mass due to limited movement.
Treatment includes joint supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin. Weight management and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can also help your pet.
Spondylosis deformans are bone spurs that grow along a dog’s spine. The condition usually occurs around the chest, lower back, or hind legs. Spondylosis is associated with aging, and in many Staffies, it develops around 10 years old.
This disease does not always require treatment. This is because most older dogs with spondylosis deformans don’t experience pain. However, this is not the case for every dog. Some AmStaffs might need non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, physical therapy, or weight management.
Cerebellar ataxia affects the dog’s cerebellum — part of the brain located near the brain-stem. The cerebellum helps the brain send motor signals to muscles, so an affected dog may show signs of awkward movement. This may include tremors, kicked out legs, and swaying when the dog is still.
This condition shows itself when a Staffie is three months old, and the symptoms will quickly worsen. Unfortunately, there is no cure for cerebellar ataxia.
How to Care for an American Staffordshire Terrier
The American Staffordshire Terrier should get daily exercise. Brush your Staffie during shedding season, bathe as needed, and supply a diet appropriate for their activity level. All of this, combined with a healthy dose of cuddling as needed, will make your Staffie swoon from excellent pet care.
As we’ve mentioned, the AmStaff can sometimes become aggressive. Obedience training is not a correction for a bad dog but instead as a normal part of healthy development. Fortunately, the American Kennel Club (AKC) has created an excellent program for ensuring your Staffie is well-trained.
The Canine Good Citizen Program (CGC) is a helpful training tool for Staffies that pairs you and your pooch with a trainer. The goal is to complete the CGC tests, which involves mastering 10 basic skills. Those skills are:
- Accepting a friendly stranger.
- Sitting politely for petting.
- Appearance and grooming.
- Out for a walk (walking on a loose lead).
- Walking through a crowd.
- Sitting down on command and staying in place.
- Coming when called.
- Reaction to another dog.
- Reaction to distraction.
- Supervised separation.
Nutrition and Feeding for an American Staffordshire Terrier
Feed an American Staffordshire Terrier 2-3% of its body weight in dry dog food designed for mid-to-large size dogs. If you have a puppy, choose kibble made for a growing pooch. As with all pets, each dog’s size, activity level, and metabolism greatly affect its dietary needs.
The quality of dog food you serve your AmStaff is an important variable in their nutrition. If you choose a low-quality kibble with little nutritional value, you’ll need to feed your Staffie more of it to satisfy their needs. This can lead to obesity as well as diminish their overall health.
Top-shelf brands can pack more vitamins and nutrients into fewer calories. Do your best to find a dog food with probiotics and at least 20% protein. Also, try to avoid artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives.
When feeding your Staffie, put their kibble in a bowl that is suitable for the dog’s height. Find a bowl that is 5 inches shorter than the height of your furry friend. For example, if your Staffordshire is 19 inches tall, its bowl height should be 14 inches.
Coat Color And Grooming
AmStaffs are not like most Terrier dogs due to their Bull-type ancestry, which gives this breed a smooth, short coat. They can come in many different colors, the most common being white, black, and tan.
Many Staffies have white hair covering their chests. Dogs with white fur covering more than 80% of their body should not join kennel clubs. Additionally, many canine registries do not like to see a liver or black-and-tan coat color.
The cornerstones of pet care are nutrition and exercise, but no dog’s health is complete without adequate grooming. The Staffie is not an excessive shedder, but its hair loss increases during shedding seasons (Spring and Fall). During those seasons, use a de-shedding tool made for short-haired dogs.
Brush your Staffie’s coat once every few weeks to remove dirt and loose hair. You can bathe your dog as needed, but try not to go more than two months without. Since this breed is prone to skin allergies, a dirty coat can increase the chance of irritants affecting your AmStaff.
Children And Other Pets
The American Staffordshire Terrier is friendly, loving, and loyal. They are good with children, though we recommend early socialization. This ensures the animal has positive foundational experiences with young ones. If you have other dogs, never leave the animals alone together until you are positive they get along.
This breed hasn’t been in blood sports for a long time, but genetics can be challenging to overcome. Even a calm AmStaff should not be alone with other dogs because they may get aggressive. Look out for signs of aggression and contact a canine behavioral expert if needed.
After becoming familiar with the other animals in the house, Staffies are affectionate and sometimes even protective over them. However, this takes time, training, and patience. AmStaffs are quick to fight if challenged, so be sure to supervise early interactions.
Ready to provide a home for one of these delightful dogs? Petfinder is an excellent place to start your search. You’ll find plenty of canine lovers looking for a good home for their Staffies.
If you’re looking for a specific type, Petfinder lets you refine your search with filters for color, size, and whether the pooch is good with a family. You can also contact the seller if you have questions about the animal’s activity level or special needs.
Another good resource is the American Staffordshire Terrier division of the Rescue Me organization. This site makes it easy to search for dogs based on location. Check out their website to see if there are any available Staffies near you.
The American Kennel Club (AKC) is the largest canine registry in the world. They may not accept Pit Bulls, but fortunately, the AKC does not include the AmStaff in its breed-specific legislation ban. The official AKC Parent Club for this breed is the Staffordshire Terrier Club of America.
Founded in 1936, the Staffordshire Club of America’s mission is to preserve the integrity of the breed, establish a more uniform conformation, and exhibit Staffies at dog shows.
More About This Dog Breed
The American Staffordshire Terrier is a confident, loyal, and family-friendly dog. An imposing Bull and Terrier mix, the AmStaff is one of the most powerful dog breeds around. With supervision and support, the Staffie can be a devoted companion to anyone looking for a furry friend!