The American Staffordshire Terrier is commonly referred to as the Amstaff. This loveable dog is the 80th most popular dog in the United States. They may look intimidating, but these dogs are actually very affectionate and enjoy being around people.
Although a Pit Bull is not their own breed, American Staffordshire Terriers are most commonly referred to by those who are not in the know as just a Pit Bull. Other breeds that have been lumped into the Pit Bull umbrella are American Pit Bull Terrier, the Bull Terrier, and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier. They each have their own characteristics, but what they have in common is their ancestry.
Through massive misinformation and the highlights from some bad dog owners who have mistreated and neglected their dogs, these dogs have been given a bad rap. Because of their bad rap, there are many municipalities that have banned the American Staffordshire Terrier around the world.
American Staffordshire Terriers are known for being strong, upbeat, ready, and eager to please. They are also loyal, tenacious, brave, protective, and intelligent. These dogs love people. They just want to be around people all the time, but if they feel that their family is in danger they will do whatever they need to do to protect the people they love – even if it is against another human and even at the cost of their own lives if need be.
When training or playing, you will find that these dogs are full of energy. They can be a bit stubborn and want things their way, but with a gentle yet firm hand, you can teach them the ropes quickly. Once your American Staffordshire Terrier knows the line, they will be great playmates for you and your kids. They can be very gentle, even when they’re rough-housing.
American Staffordshire Terrier Breed Profile
Main Characteristics of American Staffordshire Terriers
The Amstaff, with their medium size and muscular body can look very intimidating. In reality, they just want to be a member of the family. They enjoy being included in every activity that you do and even curling up on your lap on the couch to watch a movie.
Many people can and do confuse the American Staffordshire Terrier and the American Pit Bull. The main difference is their size. The American Staffordshire Terrier was bred specifically to conform with the American Kennel Club, this said, the American Staffordshire Terrier is recognized where the American Pit Bull is not.
Size of American Staffordshire Terrier
American Staffordshire Terriers are medium-sized dogs. On average, they will range from 15-19 inches high at the shoulder. This compact dog packs a lot of muscles in their little form.
They are able to withstand the play of toddlers and enjoy good hard and rough play with their owners. Amstaffs can weigh between 30 to 85 pounds. Like most breeds, females are usually smaller than their male counterparts.
Lifespan of American Staffordshire Terriers
Many things can affect how long your companion will stay with you. How well he's exercised, how much he eats, and even genetics can affect the length of his life. Most American Staffordshire Terriers will live to the age of 12-16 years old.
Keeping your dog in optimal shape can add a couple of years to his life while letting him become obese can take years off of it. The less strain that your dog has on his body, the happier and healthier he will be.
Physical Characteristics of American Staffordshire Terriers
The American Staffordshire Terrier has a lot of similar characteristics to their other cousins in the Pit Bull family. Since they were all bred from the original Terriers that were used for bull baiting, it’s no wonder that they have a lot of similarities.
Amstaffs come in many different colors. They include red, blue, brown, gray, black and white, and brindle. What you will not find is an all-white American Staffordshire Terrier. Their coats should be short, stiff, and shiny.
American Staffordshire Terriers have very large, broad heads. With their medium-length muzzle and powerful jaws with very pronounced cheek muscles, they will be able to chew through almost anything that you give them.
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Their ears are set high on their heads, and they should be half-pricked and not fully drooped. Their eyes are dark, round, and set low into their skulls. An American Staffordshire Terrier's eyes should be set far apart. They should not have pink eyelids.
This breed has a muzzle that is medium length and ends in a black nose. On the upper side of their muzzle, it should be rounded and fall away under their eyes. Their teeth should be a tight fit with their upper jaw just slightly resting ahead of their lower jaw giving the American Staffordshire Terrier a slight overbite. There should be no loose skin around their lips and jaws.
They have strongly muscled necks. This is a must-have to keep their large, broad heads up. Their necks are slightly arched and go from the back of their head down to their shoulders and into their broad and deep chest.
Their backs are fairly short. There should be a slight sloping from their lower backs to their rump and stops at the base of their tails. Amstaffs have tails that are short and tapered ending off at a point. Oftentimes these tails will act like a whip, especially when the dog is excited. Their tails should never be docked or curled over their backs.
Their forelegs should be wide-set and straight to accommodate their wide, broad chests. Their body should taper down once passed their rib cages. Their hind legs are straight and should not turn in or out, but remain straight.
Living Arrangements for American Staffordshire Terriers
American Staffordshire Terriers are medium-energy dogs. They require consistent daily energy and as long as they can get this, they can live almost anywhere. They require an experienced and confident owner. If you are not able to be the dominant member of the house, then this dog is not for you.
They make great companions when in the city, as long as when you go out for your walks they are on a leash. It is not suggested, and strongly discouraged, to take your Amstaff anywhere off-leash or to a dog park. This will keep your pet and others safe.
When living in the suburbs, make sure to have your dog in a fenced-in yard. An electronic fence is not enough for an American Staffordshire Terrier. With their high threshold for pain and their high prey instinct, this breed may pass over the boundary without stopping at the electronic fence.
The other downside to these fences is that they do not prevent other animals from coming into your yard. If it’s another dog, cat, or small animal, your Amstaff may go after it.
American Staffordshire Terriers are a great choice for anyone who lives a moderately active life and will have lots of time to have their canine companions by their side. These dogs are also great for young families with small children.
Most American Staffordshire Terriers are content when they live on their own. If you wish to have other animals in your house, make sure to socialize your puppy right away when they come home. This will help your dog to adopt these other animals into its pack.
Best-Known American Staffordshire Terrier Facts
These medium-sized, confident, dependable, and intelligent little dogs will love fiercely and absolutely. They are extremely devoted to their families, to the point where they will defend the people they love with their lives.
The American Staffordshire Terrier is a family dog and wants to be a lap dog. They are completely loyal to their family but want to visit everyone. These dogs are very affectionate and just want to show how lovable they are.
If an Amstaff gets the chance to play, that’s what they want to do. They’ll spend a long time in the backyard just playing fetch with you. Give your American Staffordshire Terrier lots of affection and praise. They are always eager to please you and want you just to be happy with them.
Amstaffs just want to be near humans. They are very affectionate! A good pat, rub behind the ears, or just tossing them the ball will make this dog very happy. They even enjoy playing with children. Their sturdy frame allows them to be able to withstand toddler play.
Even though they are big, they can be very gentle with kids.
Surprisingly, though they are affectionate to humans, Amstaffs are almost the complete opposite of other animals. Keeping your Amstaff on a leash is paramount to their and others’ safety. If socialized from a very young age, they can live a happy life with other animals, but this is not the norm.
American Staffordshire Terriers were bred to be swift and strong. They are born to play fetch and love going for runs with their owners. Amstaffs like to work, too. They want to be put to work and have a job to do.
These dogs have a lot of strength and want to use it for a purpose. They are great to pull heavy objects or use a sled to carry things for you. This a great workout and lets your dog feel like he has a purpose. When making him work, make sure to keep the praise high and heavy. It’ll keep him happy and eager to continue to please you.
American Staffordshire Terriers are a member of the Pit Bull family. They were bred from Bulldogs and Terriers a couple of centuries ago. As such, they have a very powerful bite and lower jaw. They also have a tenacious obsession with chasing smaller animals.
This has made most Pit Bull breeds banned in many countries, cities, and municipalities.
Before adopting or purchasing your American Staffordshire Terrier make sure to check with your local government on the rules in regard to Amstaffs and similar breeds. This will help to protect your dog from being needlessly seized and destroyed.
With all the bad information that has been out there, you’d think that the American Staffordshire Terrier would be one of the best guard dogs around, but you’d be wrong. These loving dogs adore humans; all humans. As long as their family is safe, they’ll treat all humans like they’re the best people around, especially if they are going to give the dog a pat.
You will probably be alerted to someone in your yard simply because your Amstaff will bark as his tail is wagging and approaches his new friend. Anyone with mal-intent who approaches your house may be scared off just from the look of your American Staffordshire Terrier. They look fierce, so this may keep your valuables safe.
If your Amstaff thinks that you or any member of his family is in danger, he will defend you with everything he has including his own life.
There are many celebrities over the years that have had American Staffordshire Terriers as their pet. Some of those celebrities include:
- Jessica Alba
- Jessica Biel
- Alicia Silverstone
- Rachael Ray (from the food network)
- Jon Stewart (a political member)
This breed has had its 15 minutes of fame several times over the years. During World War I they were portrayed on recruiting posters. Tige was an Amstaff in the Buster Brown comic strip. The RCA used Nipper as their trademark dog. In the 1930s comedy show “Our Gang” they had a dog named Petey who was an Amstaff.
American Staffordshire Terrier History
The thing we need to understand before learning about the history of this is breed is that the American Staffordshire Terrier was originally bred to have aggression against other animals but to be gentle with their handlers. Their handlers had to be able to stick their hands into the pits to break up fights without being hurt themselves.
This is how their traits have come to be, aggression towards other animals, yet being gentle and loyal to humans. If you're thinking about adopting one of these wonderful dogs, this is something that you need to understand. This trait has been bred into the dog, and although they aren't all this way anymore, it may be a trait that you won't be able to change with proper socialization and training.
In the mid-1800s, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier was brought over to the Americas. Americans wanted a larger breed, so they worked at breeding in the traits that would then make them larger and stronger.
The Amstaff's fighting abilities made them a fan favorite amongst the gentlemen and workers alike. They absolutely dominated in fighting pits. It was in the pits that they became known as the Pit Bull Terrier, American Bull Terrier, and less commonly Yankee Terrier.
With their new traits, they became great dogs to help on the farm. They were put to work hunting wild game like wild pigs and bears, protecting the property from strange animals, finding and killing any rats that were nearby, and (during the quiet hours) being a companion to their master.
FURTHER READING: How To Deal With Dog Aggression Without Training Collars
In 1898, The United Kennel Club included these dogs into their fold. They were called the American Pit Bull Terrier for the UKC. In 1936, The American Kennel Club recognized the American Staffordshire Terrier, although they called them “Staffordshire Terriers.”
In 1972, The AKC officially changed the name Staffordshire Terriers to American Staffordshire Terrier to distinguish between the 2 breeds – the smaller fighting version and the larger more sought-after line. Since then the American Staffordshire Terrier breed has been bred to conform to the AKC standards resulting in slight differences between the two cousins. Some of these differences include their build and personality.
American Staffordshire Terrier’s General Health and Common Ailments
Like most of those in the Pit Bull family umbrella, the American Staffordshire Terrier is generally healthy. Although, even with the best breeds there are some things that can go wrong. Understanding this breed's common health conditions will give you hints about what to look for when your pooch isn't feeling his best.
Due to the shape of their body, it’s very possible for your dog to have Hip or Elbow Dysplasia. Most of these issues can be found in the puppy but will be more noticeable once your dog is about two years old. Dogs that are bred responsibly should not have this issue, as a lot of the time, it can be passed on genetically.
Skin allergies are also very common in Amstaffs. Most of the time the allergies are due to things that are in your dog’s environment such as; fleas, grass, pollen, and dust. Less common are allergies to food. These allergies can cause intense itching and make your dog very uncomfortable.
In order to alleviate the itching, your dog will scratch and dig at himself, sometimes so much so that he will cause himself to bleed. This needs to be curbed because open wounds may cause secondary infections in the damaged tissue.
Depending on the allergy, there are a couple of things that can be done. If you can remove the allergen from your dog’s environment that is the first step. If you’re not able to do this, talk to your vet about what medications can be provided.
There are several different forms of heart disease that are common in the American Staffordshire Terrier as well. The most common form is aortic stenosis. This is something that the dog is born with, and it can affect each dog a bit differently.
Aortic stenosis restricts the blood flow through the ventricles and aortas of the heart, and it can cause the dog to be tired or suffer from a lack of energy. It can even cause sudden death without any warning. During your vet visits, the veterinarian should be able to hear an issue with the heart. They can then go ahead and do x-rays or an electrocardiogram to confirm that it is aortic stenosis.
When your American Staffordshire Terrier hits middle age, he may be diagnosed with hypothyroidism. This is when the thyroid gland no longer works properly and will cause your dog to start gaining weight no matter what you do. If this happens you will have to get some medication from your vet. Your dog will be required to take this medication for the rest of his life.
Cerebellar ataxia is a neurological disease that causes the progressive decline of the muscle. This is an inherited disease. The first signs usually start to appear when the dog is between 3 to 5 years old.
You’ll notice these signs when your dog seems to lose his balance often or has issues making corners. He may also fall down when he shakes his head. Recently, a screening test has been developed to recognize this disease in carrier dogs. When buying your puppy make sure that the breeder is using this genetic testing on their dogs to make sure that they’re not passing on the gene.
Obesity is a very easy problem to keep in check, and it’s also very easy for your dog to become. Making sure that he has an adequate amount of exercise and not an excessive amount of food will ensure that your dog stays at a healthy weight.
If your Amstaff is too heavy for his frame, it can cause joint issues. This will make it harder for him to walk and get around.
How To Groom An American Staffordshire Terrier
American Staffordshire Terriers have a short slick coat, but they still shed. In order to keep their shedding down, make sure to brush your Amstaff once or twice a week. Using a soft curry brush or de-shedding tool should be sufficient for his coat.
Remember that during the change of the seasons your dog will shed more often. To keep the hair off your floor, furniture and clothes brush your pet 2-3 times a week during these months. Giving your dog baths regularly or wiping him down with a wet towel will also help to keep his coat shiny and healthy looking.
American Staffordshire Terriers should never be trimmed or de-whiskered.
Their ears are very easy to care for. Periodically check them to see if there’s any wax build-up and if so, wipe it away with a warm cloth. If you find that there is a lot of excess buildups, you can use a cotton swab. Never go into the ear canal. This can cause severe issues to your dog’s hearing.
The American Staffordshire Terriers' ears are half drooped, which means that normally the air is able to get inside the ear to help dry them. This will help with the amount of wax that builds up, as it will dry up and fall out. Also, the amount of water that will stay in their ear will be minimal. It will be able to drain out or dry up.
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Your American Staffordshire Terrier may not be able to wear his own nails down with just exercise. Make sure to clip or grind the nails on a regular basis. You should not be able to hear the nails go click, click, click as your dog walks through the house.
If nails become too long this can cause them to crack or break. Even worse is having them get caught on something and rip off, which will mean a trip to the vet to get stitches at the very least. With some easy preventative care, you can keep your Amstaff healthy and happy.
Oral care is very important to helping your dog keep all of his teeth. You can brush his teeth on a regular basis and also use teething products like antlers and cow bones. Working away the extra plaque and grime that gets stuck on your dog's teeth will help to keep him healthy.
American Staffordshire Terriers have jaws that are strong enough that they’ll be able to tear through anything that you give them. They like to chew, so make sure to have lots of durable toys around that your pup can gnaw on.
How To Train and Exercise An American Staffordshire Terrier
American Staffordshire Terriers need to start their training from a very early age. As soon as you bring them home you should start their training. Do not wait until after they have turned 6 months to start their training. They will most likely be set in their ways and be harder to train by then.
Amstaffs can become very stubborn, bossy, and stuck in their ways. You need to make sure that your dog knows who the Alpha of the family is, and fast. This will make the rest of his training easier.
This is not the type of dog for inexperienced or first-time dog owners.
Make sure to stay patient and relaxed when working with your American Staffordshire Terrier. The energy that you put into the training will pass over into your Amstaff. If you’re stressed out, he will become stressed out and not be able to respond properly. Being calm with an authoritative command will get through to him much faster.
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If you plan on having your American Staffordshire Terrier around other animals, make sure to start socializing him as soon as you come home. If you adopt an adult Amstaff, make sure he was being socialized as a puppy. These dogs are known to chase smaller prey, but American Staffordshire Terriers that have grown up with other animals can be very loving towards these creatures.
Mental stimulation can be a great way to train your dog. Doing activities like agility, obedience, or even tracking training with your dog can really improve his eagerness to listen and learn new tricks. Keep working with him and be patient with lots of praise.
Show off your amazing dog, and let the public see just how well-mannered and behaved he is. Allow people to approach and admire your pet. They’ll be pleased with themselves, and you’ll be able to help educate others on how great of a breed the American Staffordshire Terrier really is.
Daily exercise is extremely important. You need to keep your American Staffordshire Terrier well-exercised if you want to have a happy home. It’s very important to not exercise in extreme heat or cold since this breed is susceptible to hypothermia and heat exhaustion. Try to do your play times outside in cool to warm temperatures, and play indoors with central cooling or heating during extreme temperatures.
There are many exercises that you and your American Staffordshire Terrier can enjoy together. These dogs enjoy a lot of rough-housing, playing tug-of-war, and mentally stimulating games such as agility and obedience.
When playing rough with your dog, make sure that he knows his boundaries and when too far is too far.
Leash walks are great for both you and your pooch. Three half-hour walks a day is ideal. Make sure to keep your dog on a leash at all times to help keep him and others safe. Since you never know how he is going to be around strange dogs, it’s very important to control those situations.
Make sure that you have your dog trained well to walk on a leash. Since Amstaffs are so strong, it’s very important that you are always in control and that your dog is not going to overpower you.
Dog parks are not recommended. Other dog interactions are not able to be controlled, so to keep your dog and everyone else around safe, avoid these situations.
A good game of fetch in your backyard is great! Being in a fenced-in yard is ideal to keep the fun enclosed and give your American Staffordshire Terrier a safe place to enjoy himself. Keep some fun durable toys out in the backyard to play with.
Although they do prefer to be inside with you, it’s also good to allow them some outdoor playtime where they can just enjoy themselves and be a dog. Go outside with your Fido and throw some toys around for him. Durable ropes, balls, and rubber toys will help to withstand their strong jaws.
What To Feed American Staffordshire Terriers
Healthy nutrition is very important for keeping your American Staffordshire Terrier lean, trim, and healthy. When Amstaffs overeat they can become obese. This causes a lot of strain on their joints and organs. Obesity will also increase your dog's chances of having hip or elbow dysplasia.
Keep your Amstaff to just dog food (the higher the grade the better), and keep the table scraps away. Most dog food manufacturers have specific types of products for different breeds, or at least for small dogs versus big dogs. Purchase dog food that is specifically made for medium to large dogs.
You’ll also want to watch out for the number of fillers that are in the food. Go for meats over grains when picking your dog's diet. Your American Staffordshire Terrier should get 1 ½ – 2 ½ cups of food a day, split into 2 meals.
For more information on how to choose the best dog food for your pet, you can read some of our articles on the subject, including:
- Dog Food Ratings: What You Need To Know About Dog Food Reviews Websites
- Expensive Dog Food Brands: Are They Worth the High Cost?
- How Healthy Natural Dog Food Really Is? An Extensive Look
- Top 5 Best Organic Dog Food Brands
Best Dog Food for American Staffordshire Terriers
Choosing the best food for American Staffordshire Terriers is crucial, as it will meet your pet’s unique individual nutritional needs. A quick conversation with your vet or a canine nutritionist will teach you about the proper nutritional requirements of this breed and which canine diet may be best for your Fido.
Keep in mind that all American Staffordshire Terriers will have different nutritional needs depending on their age, weight, and underlying health conditions. Here are a few quick picks for the best dog food for an American Staffordshire Terrier:
You can find more information on the general best dog food brands in this review.
How are American Staffordshire Terriers with Children?
Like their cousins the Staffordshire Bull Terriers, these dogs are also known as “nanny” dogs. Their acceptance and love of children are very great. That's why this breed would make an excellent addition to any family.
They are large enough to be durable during playtime, yet they are very gentle with your small children. They are highly patient and will enjoy endless hours (or what can seem like hours) of fetch when your toddler can only throw the ball a foot away. You may even find the two of them napping away together with your Amstaff keeping your child safe and warm.
Although they are so good with kids, you should never leave your small children alone with dogs. They should not be used as a substitute babysitter. Make sure that play between small children and dogs is always supervised to keep everyone safe. Teaching your children how to approach and play with all dogs is very important.
Where To Adopt American Staffordshire Terriers and American Staffordshire Terrier Puppies?
Before even looking into adopting or purchasing an American Staffordshire Terrier, make sure to check on the local bans with your government. This will help to prevent the needless seizure and destruction of your family pet.
The American Staffordshire Terrier is always included in Pit Bull bans.
There are three different ways to acquire your new American Staffordshire Terrier. You can go through a breeder, an adoption shelter, or through clubs.
Looking for a reputable breeder should be of your highest concern when thinking about purchasing your new puppy. Look for someone who is interested in you and your family and how you live. You’ll want a breeder who is interested in the welfare of their pups and where they are going to be placed.
Reputable breeders will also make sure that the adults are well-taken care of, and that the pups are well-socialized. They will ensure that the litters are in a clean and safe area.
Your breeder should be open and honest about the different diseases that are genetic in Staffordshire Bull Terriers, and they should have several different tests done on the puppies before you get them. These should be registered with the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA).
The tests to look for include hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia. The dogs should also have their eyes tested through the Canine Eye Registry Foundation. You can check that these tests have been done and what their results are on the OFA website (offa.org).
Keep in mind that all results are available on the OFA website, not just the passing tests. Make sure to check what the score is before adopting your new puppy. You can find many reputable Breeders that are registered with the American Kennel Club or the American Pit Bull Terrier Club of New England.
Unfortunately, for many different reasons, Staffordshire Bull Terriers cannot always stay in their home. This does not mean that they are bad dogs or even that it’s a problem with the dog itself. Some could have come into the shelter due to a breakdown in the home or the passing of a loved one.
There are many great sites that you can go to when you're looking for your new companion, and of course, you should try to find out as much information as you can about these dogs. You’ll also be able to see if there are any issues in adult dogs. Hip dysplasia and other genetic defaults will be more prominent in an older dog.
Some sites to check out are:
The American Staffordshire Terriers Club of America is a great place to gather information on where to find and acquire your new pooch. They will also help you with any questions that you may have about your new dog or any breeders. They are an excellent resource to find reputable breeders or dogs who are in need of help.
What to look out for?
When acquiring your new puppy, you want to first and foremost stay clear of puppy mills. Places that are just in it for the money and don’t actually care for the well-being of the dogs or where they are going to be placed are probably puppy mills. Other signs of puppy mills are how the dogs are housed and how many litters are on the go at any given time.
Other sure signs of wrongdoing are when there are no papers available for your new dog (unless getting a shelter dog under certain situations). All new puppies should have their shots and be tested by vets and professionals before they can be given out.
Puppies should never be taken away from their mothers before they reach the age of 8 weeks. They need this time to learn proper socialization skills and also have time for all of their checkups. Make sure to visit your vet within days of getting your new dog. They will be able to go over your new dog and check his health.