Complete Guide To The American Staffordshire Terrier: Health, Feeding, Exercise and More

The American Staffordshire Terrier is an intelligent, intuitive dog. Descendants of Britain’s Staffordshire Terrier, their fighting days are behind them. Warmhearted and outgoing, they’re US-bred to be loyal, fun-loving companions.

I’ve been around long enough as a veterinarian to have seen the evolution of the AmStaff reputation from fearsome fighter to lovable clown. This is one of the most popular breeds that I see and 99.9% of them are friendly, loving, and a pleasure to work with.

Me Scratching The Belly Of A Funny AmStaff Patient – Who’s Having More Fun?

How Big Do American Staffordshire Terriers Get?

Male18″-19″ at the shoulder55-70 lbs
Female17″-18″ at the shoulder40-55 lbs

Is The American Staffordshire Terrier A Pit Bull?

For the average person walking down the street, the AmStaff is going to be called a Pit Bull. We’ve had too many publicized issues with the breed along with a ton of positive news regarding their temperament and rescue situations for people to not equate the two. People know this breed, but they just call them the wrong name.

The difference is that there are a lot of other breeds that can technically be called a Pit Bull as well. So an American Staffordshire Terrier is a Pit Bull, but not all Pit Bulls are American Staffordshire Terriers.

What Do American Staffordshire Terriers Look Like?

American Staffordshire Terriers, or AmStaffs, are broad-shouldered bull-type terriers. Well-muscled but lean, they slope gently from front to back and carry themselves with dignity and pride.

Their short coats come in a remarkable array of solid and brindle colors, including:

SableRedAnd More!!

A broad head with pronounced cheeks and powerful jaws is characteristic of the breed and gives them their trademark smile. Eyes are round, dark and wide-set.

Cropped or natural ears are both acceptable shows, but uncropped ears held rose or half-pricked are preferred. Tails are long, thin and undocked. This is a breed that has greatly benefited from a move away from its more sordid past to a present where it is a cherished family dog.

The old standards of ear cropping and tail docking “fighting dogs” don’t apply to this breed anymore and that’s a great thing. The breed looks infinitely better with the longer tails and ears and it really fits with their general goofy nature.

Instantly recognizable, AmStaffs aren’t often confused with other breeds, but they’re similar to the Boxer in size, color and conformation.

What Kind Of Personality Do American Staffordshire Terriers Have?

AmStaff owners describe their dogs as almost human. They seem to have an innate sense of what people are feeling. Family-oriented, they form lasting bonds with their social group and want to be part of everything they do — sensitive, they’ll be unhappy home alone.

Alert and energetic, they’re avid explorers. They need lots of exercise but enjoy most activities from walks in the park to canine agility. If it’s fun, they’re in.

Breeders have strong opinions about the AmStaff’s trustworthiness with children and other pets. Like many breeds, these are highly instinctive animals with potentially unpredictable territorial and protective tendencies. The consensus is that they make excellent family companions, but early socialization, training and supervision are musts.

How Much Grooming Do American Staffordshire Terriers Need?

The AmStaff’s coat virtually cares for itself. A weekly once-over with a soft brush or grooming mitt is all it takes to keep them clean and control limited shedding.

Frequent baths aren’t necessary unless they have an odor — their hair lays flat so it’s naturally dirt-resistant. Spirited, they’ll roll around in anything that smells intriguing, so keep a mild shampoo handy. A pH-balanced formula made just for dogs is gentle enough for anytime use.

While most AmStaffs get enough exercise to keep their nails short, keep an eye on them — thick, they tend to become brittle if allowed to overgrow. Dogs that are squeamish about nail clippers may prefer a file or grinding tool. The key to cooperation is to handle their paws often as puppies, so they’re less fearful of nail trims as adults.

How Much Exercise Does An American Staffordshire Terrier Need?

These are active, powerful dogs. They love to play and romp. Although they also enjoy a long cuddle at the end of the day, the AmStaff is a dog that has to be exercised vigorously.

Activities That I Recommend With This Breed:

  • Walking
  • Hiking (both walking and hiking can be done with your dog also wearing a weighted pack; the weight in the pack will help to tire your dog out faster; don’t do this if your dog has any orthopedic issues)
  • Swimming
  • Agility Training
  • Dog Parks

One activity I don’t recommend with this breed is tug-of-war. I’m not a fan of it for most dogs due to the potential for long-term damage of a dog’s neck. However, in this case, it’s to protect you the human. You will likely lose this contest with an AmStaff and you might hurt yourself in the process.

What Kind of Dog Food Is Good For An American Staffordshire Terriers?

For AmStaff puppies, you will need to make sure you don’t feed them too much too fast. It’s easy because they are usually chow hounds, but you want to control their growth. Growing too fast can cause some early bone and joint problems that are easily avoided.

Best Puppy Food For American Staffordshire Terriers:

Best Adult Food For American Staffordshire Terriers:

Please don’t listen to the folks at the pet store trying to convince you to buy a grain-free diet for your dog. There’s zero science behind that and vets are actually seeing diseases now related to feeding grain-free foods.

It’s very important they remain at their optimal weight throughout their life. Have your vet go over with you exactly where to feel to know when your dog is too big.

How Long Does A American Staffordshire Terrier Live?

12-16 years

What Health Problems Can American Staffordshire Terriers Have?

Based on statistics provided by the CHIC (Canine Health Information Center) and my own personal experience in dealing with this breed for over 20 years, the following health issues are the most common:

  • Hip Dysplasia
  • Arthritis (Hips, Knees, Elbows)
  • Obesity
  • Hypothyroidism

This breed frequently comes into my veterinary practice overweight especially as they get older. The shoulders and chest should be wider than the abdomen.

Where Can I Find Out More About American Staffordshire Terriers?

Staffordshire Terrier Club of America (STCA)

AKC Breed Page

Where Can I Find a American Staffordshire Terrier?

**Before acquiring an AmStaff, make sure that they are legal where you live. Unfortunately, this dog’s inglorious past has caused a lot of fear and uncertainty when it comes to the breed. Not all cities and counties are going to allow an AmStaff in their communities. This has been changing in recent years to favor the inclusion of this breed, but it will be quite a while before every community accepts an AmStaff.

Breeder List on the SCTA Site

AKC Puppy Site

Looking for a Rescue? Sadly this is a breed that can easily be found in almost any rescue whether purebred or mixed. Some of that is due to people not understanding how much time and exercise that they need and some of that is bringing this breed into a community that never allowed them in the first place.

If at all possible, I’d recommend looking for a Rescue before a puppy due to the overabundance of needy rescues looking for a home.

Interesting Facts About American Staffordshire Terriers

Bull-type terriers have a wounded reputation — bad behavior by a few dogs of questionable breeding has spoiled their good name. Here are a few thought-provoking facts to set the record straight and endear you to this charming breed.

• The Term “Pit Bull” Is a Misnomer

“Pit bull” is an umbrella term for fighting dogs dating back to ancient Greece. A century ago, blood sports like dog fighting were popular, and unscrupulous breeders profited from producing vicious animals.

But today’s dogs are far removed from these practices. Instead, selective breeding techniques created the affable family dog we know today. While most bull terriers still retain a warrior’s spirit, responsible breeders avoid aggressive animals, and training channels their instincts in positive ways.

• Yes, They’re Terriers

The AKC classifies dogs by group based on their history and characteristics. So while it’s odd that a powerful breed like the AmStaff is in the same category as dogs a quarter of their size, AmStaffs are indeed terriers and have similar qualities.

No, They Can’t Lock Their Jaws

Rumor has it that “pit bulls” have locking jaws. A fib told to enhance their reputation as guard dogs, it’s myth dispelled by veterinary professionals. AmStaff’s have powerful jaws, but they don’t lock, and their bites are no stronger than other breed’s.

• They’re Celebrity Favorites

The American Staffordshire Terrier is among Hollywood’s favorite breeds. Celebrity owners include actor Jamie Foxx, actress Jennifer Aniston, Host of “The Daily Show,” Jon Stewart, and the greatest NFL quarterback of all time, Tom Brady. Kaley Cuoco, star of the American sitcom, The Big Bang Theory, is a fierce advocate for the breed and partners with rescue organizations to promote adoptions.

• They’re Genuine Heroes

Sergeant Stubby was the most decorated dog in the first World War. A brindle AmStaff found by members of the 102nd Infantry while training on the Yale University campus, he was unofficially recruited as a mascot.

Serving a year and a half on the Western Front, he earned his stripes fighting in 17 battles, once saving his regiment from a deadly mustard gas attack. Legend has it he once caught a German soldier by the pants and held him captive until American troops arrived. His exploits were well-documented in the media.

The only dog to ever be promoted to Sergeant in combat, his remains are on display in the Smithsonian Institution.