American Staffordshire Terrier: Breed Profile, Characteristics, and Care Guide

| Updated: August 10, 2023
American staffordshire terrier chewing on a stick

The American Staffordshire Terrier, or AmStaff, is a dog breed that originated in England and was developed in the United States. It is a medium-to-large, muscular dog with a square head and a short, stiff coat that comes in many colors and patterns. The AmStaff is known for its courage, strength, intelligence, and loyalty. It is also a friendly, affectionate, and playful dog that can make a great pet for families with children and other dogs.

History of the American Staffordshire Terrier

The American Staffordshire Terrier originates from various terriers and bulldogs used for bull-baiting, bear-baiting, and dogfighting in England in the 18th and 19th centuries. These dogs were bred for strength, agility, tenacity, and gameness (the willingness to fight despite pain or injury). Some of these dogs were brought to the United States by immigrants, where they were further developed by American breeders who wanted a larger and more powerful dog. 

In 1936, the American Kennel Club (AKC) recognized the breed as the Staffordshire Terrier, named after the county in England where it originated. The name was changed to American Staffordshire Terrier in 1972 to distinguish it from the smaller and more refined Staffordshire Bull Terrier, which was recognized by the AKC in 1974.

american staffordshire terrier in a field looking at something off camera

The American Staffordshire Terrier was used for fighting, hunting rodents and other vermin, pursuing game, and farm work, taking advantage of the breed’s strength and courage. Over time, the breed also became a popular companion and show dog and a working dog for police work, search, and rescue, therapy, and sports. The breed reached a peak of popularity in the first half of the 20th century; “Pete the Pup” appeared in the Our Gang comedies, and the breed personified the all-American pet. However, the breed also faced some challenges due to its reputation as a fighting dog and its association with irresponsible owners who used it for illegal or violent purposes. The breed is often confused with or lumped together with other bull-type breeds under the umbrella term “pit bull,” which can lead to discrimination or prejudice.

The AKC recognizes the American Staffordshire Terrier as a separate breed from the American Pit Bull Terrier, which is registered by the United Kennel Club (UKC). However, some authorities consider them to be the same breed or very closely related. The main difference between them is that the American Staffordshire Terrier has been bred to serve as a pet and show dog. In contrast, the American Pit Bull Terrier has been bred to preserve its working abilities. The American Staffordshire Terrier is also slightly larger and heavier than the American Pit Bull Terrier.

AmStaffs have also been used for police work, search and rescue, therapy work, agility, obedience training, and showbiz. Some famous AmStaffs include Pete the Pup from the Our Gang comedies, Sergeant Stubby from World War I, and Nipper from RCA Victor’s logo.

Physical Characteristics of the American Staffordshire Terrier

The American Staffordshire Terrier is a stocky, muscular dog that stands 17 to 19 inches at the shoulder and weighs roughly 40 to 70 pounds.

The head is broad, the jaws well defined, the cheekbones pronounced, and the dark, round eyes are set wide apart.

The ears are set high on the head and can be cropped or left natural. The natural ears are rose-shaped (in which the top folds over and back) or half-pricked (in which only part of the ear stands erect).

The tail is short and tapers to a point.

The coat is short, stiff, glossy, and easy to groom. It comes in many colors and patterns, including:

american staffordshire terrier in some brush on point
  • solid colors (black, blue fawn, blue brindle)
  • brindle (stripes of black or brown on a lighter background)
  • sable (black-tipped hairs on a lighter background)
  • tan points (tan markings on a darker base color)
  • black mask (black coloration on the muzzle)
  • blue mask (blue coloration on the muzzle)
  • white markings (white patches on any part of the body)
  • patched (large patches of contrasting color)
  • spotted (small spots of contrasting color)

The American Staffordshire Terrier has a confident, smart, good-natured personality, making it a loyal and trustworthy friend to its family members. The breed is keenly aware of its surroundings and can be alert and protective of its home and loved ones. However, it is not aggressive or hostile without provocation. The breed is generally friendly with people it knows well but can be reserved or wary with strangers. Early socialization with people and other pets is helpful when raising a good-natured pup.

Caring For an American Staffordshire Terrier

The American Staffordshire Terrier is a robust and healthy breed that can live up to 16 years with proper care. Here are some tips on how to take care of your AmStaff:


While widely considered a healthy breed, the AmStaff can be prone to some health conditions that you should be aware of. Some of these include:

  • Hip dysplasia: A hereditary condition where the hip joint does not develop properly, causing pain and lameness. X-rays can diagnose it and treat it with medication, surgery, or physical therapy.
  • Cardiac disease: This is a broad term that covers various heart problems that can affect the AmStaff, such as heart murmurs, valve defects, or cardiomyopathy. It can be diagnosed by physical examination, blood tests, or echocardiography and treated with medication, surgery, or dietary changes.
  • Skin and coat allergies: This is a common condition that causes itching, redness, hair loss, or infections on the skin or coat of the AmStaff. Various factors, such as fleas, food, pollen, or dust mites, can cause it. It can be diagnosed by skin tests or elimination diets and treated with medication, supplements, or hypoallergenic diets.
  • Cerebellar ataxia: This rare genetic condition affects the coordination and balance of the AmStaff. It can cause tremors, stumbling, or falling. Neurological tests can diagnose it, but it has no cure.

Take your AmStaff to the vet for regular check-ups and vaccinations, and spay or neuter your dog to prevent unwanted litters and health problems. You should also monitor your dog for any signs of illness or injury and seek veterinary attention if needed.

amstaff laying down looking very happy


Taking care of the AmStaff’s short, stiff coat is remarkably easy. It does not shed much and only needs brushing once every few weeks to remove dead hair and dirt. You can also use a damp cloth to wipe down the coat and keep it shiny. You should bathe your AmStaff every 4 to 6 weeks with a mild dog shampoo and dry it thoroughly afterward.

Other grooming tasks include trimming the nails every few weeks to prevent cracking or splitting, cleaning the ears weekly with a cotton ball and a gentle ear cleaner to prevent infections, and brushing the teeth daily with dog toothpaste to prevent dental problems.


An athletic, energetic dog such as the American Staffordshire Terrier requires a lot of exercise. You should provide your AmStaff with at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day, including walks, runs, hikes, bike rides, fetch games, tug-of-war games, agility courses, or any other vigorous exercise your dog enjoys. Exercise helps keep your AmStaff fit and healthy and prevents boredom and behavioral problems.

Provide your AmStaff with mental stimulation to keep its mind sharp and happy. You can do this by offering your dog various toys, puzzles, chew items, or training sessions that challenge its intelligence and problem-solving skills.


The American Staffordshire Terrier is a smart and eager-to-please dog that responds well to positive reinforcement training methods. You should start training your AmStaff as early as possible to teach it basic obedience commands and good manners. Socialize your AmStaff with different people, animals, and situations from a young age to help it become a well-adjusted and friendly adult.

Training should be fun and consistent for both you and your dog. You should use praise, treats, toys, or play as rewards for good behavior and avoid harsh corrections or punishments for bad behavior. Add occasional variety to your training sessions to keep your AmStaff interested and motivated.

Depending on your goals and interests, they can be taught more advanced skills, such as tricks, agility, or nose work.


American Staffordshire Terriers need a high-quality diet that meets their nutritional needs and supports their active lifestyle. You can choose between dry, wet, or raw food depending on your preference and budget. You should also consult your vet about the best type and amount of food for your AmStaff based on age, weight, activity level, and health condition.

Feed your AmStaff twice a day, preferably at the same time every day. You should avoid free-feeding (leaving food out all day) as this can lead to overeating and obesity. You should always provide fresh water and avoid giving human food or table scraps as these can cause digestive problems or allergies.

Some of the foods that you should avoid giving to your AmStaff include:

  • Chocolate
  • Grapes
  • Raisins
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Xylitol (a sugar substitute)
  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine
amstaff puppy running toward camera in a mowed field

Where to Adopt or Buy an American Staffordshire Terrier

If you are interested in getting an American Staffordshire Terrier, you can adopt an AmStaff from a local shelter or rescue group. This is not a rare, hard-to-find breed, so finding one at a rescue is not difficult; sadly, there are tons that need a loving home.

You can also buy an AmStaff from a responsible breeder, who will provide you with health and pedigree information and socialize the puppies properly.


The American Staffordshire Terrier is a smart, confident, good-natured companion that can make a great pet for the right owner. This breed is loyal, protective, and affectionate with its family members, but it also needs proper care, exercise, training, and socialization to thrive. If you are looking for a versatile and impressive breed that can be your best friend, this breed is a prime candidate.


Is American Staffordshire Terrier a pitbull?

The term “pitbull” is not a specific breed but a general name for several bull-type breeds, including the American Staffordshire Terrier. However, the American Staffordshire Terrier is a distinct breed recognized by the AKC, while the American Pit Bull Terrier is a separate breed recognized by the UKC.

What is an American Staffordshire Terrier?

The American Staffordshire Terrier is a medium-to-large, muscular dog breed with a square head and short, stiff coat. It was developed in the United States from various terriers and bulldogs that were used for fighting and working. It is known for its courage, power, intelligence, and loyalty.

Do American Staffordshire Terriers shed?

American Staffordshire Terriers have a short, glossy coat that does not shed much. They only need occasional brushing and bathing to keep their coat clean and healthy.

Are American Staffordshire Terriers hypoallergenic?

No, American Staffordshire Terriers are not hypoallergenic. They can still trigger allergies in some people who are sensitive to dog hair, dander, or saliva.

How much are American Staffordshire Terrier puppies?

The price of an American Staffordshire Terrier puppy can vary depending on the breeder, location, pedigree, and demand. The average cost of an AmStaff puppy from a reputable breeder is around $800 to $1,500. However, you can also adopt an AmStaff from a shelter or rescue group for a lower fee or donation.

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