The American Staffordshire Terrier, though known as a courageous and powerful breed, is an affectionate, loyal dog. Loving toward their family members and excellent with children, they can be a calm, fun-loving household companion when responsibly bred and properly cared for.
The American Staffordshire Terrier dates back to 19th-century England—when various terriers were crossed with the Bulldog. The active and powerful breed that resulted came to the attention of the United States public in 1870.
American breeders then focused their attention on increasing the size and weight of the dog. These efforts resulted in a Staffordshire Terrier, which was recognized as a separate breed by the AKC in 1936. The breed earned its current name (often shortened to "AmStaff") in 1972.
American Staffordshire Terriers have been used as general-purpose farm dogs, protecting livestock and tracking down rodents. And they've even made their mark in popular culture. An American Staffordshire Terrier played "Petey" in the TV series Our Gang. Another AmStaff, Sergeant Stubby, is America's most decorated war dog.
Historically, American Staffordshire Terriers have been associated with aggressive behavior. However, today most AmStaffs live as peaceful, gentle members of the family. They have gained a great reputation and have excelled in many roles, including guarding, police work, and agility.
Today, the American Staffordshire Terrier is one of the most popular dog breeds in the U.S.
American Staffordshire Terriers are sturdy, agile, and highly aware of their surroundings. The breed exudes strength, with a muscular body, broad skull, and powerful jaw.
The AmStaff's coat is short, shiny, and stiff to the touch. This breed can be any color, with solid, parti-color, or patched black, brown, tan, brindle (black and brown striped), liver, red, or fawn. Black or blue mask, brindle, or tan points are commonly seen traits in American Staffordshire Terriers.
American Staffordshire Terriers are known for their well-defined jaws and strong biting power. Their eyes are round, typically dark, and set far apart on their faces. Uncropped ears are short and held half prick or rose (an ear shape that resembles the petals of a rose).
AmStaffs have a stocky build and are heavy for their size. They have relatively short, low-set tails that taper to a point.
American Staffordshire Terriers are very loyal to their families and are a dog breed that is usually good with children.
Known as intelligent, hard-working, and stoic dogs, American Staffordshire Terriers make excellent guard dogs. Although they're very good-natured, they can be protective of their families, if necessary.
Courageous and confident, these dogs are not aggressive unless provoked. American Staffordshire Terriers can be suspicious of people they don't know. And they may not get along well with unfamiliar dogs or other small pets. Early socialization and training can help them be friendly toward strangers and other animals.
American Staffordshire Terriers should be fed a high-quality food that's appropriate for their life stage. Feeding them a large-breed puppy formula prevents them from growing too fast. This can help prevent the development or reduce the severity of painful hip dysplasia later in life.
As with any dog, it's important to monitor the amount of food you give your AmStaff and cut back if they gain too much weight. Don't forget to consider treats when monitoring their overall calorie count. Ideally, treats should make up no more than 10% of their daily calorie intake.
The American Staffordshire Terrier's short coat and light shedding make it a very low-maintenance dog in terms of grooming. Weekly brushing with a soft-bristled brush—and an occasional bath if they get into something unsavory—is usually all they generally need.
All dogs require regular dental care, including at-home teeth brushing and professional dental cleanings, and American Staffordshire Terriers are no exception. Maintaining good dental hygiene is important for their overall long-term health.
American Staffordshire Terriers need daily exercise. This can be in the form of long walks on a leash, short runs, or chasing a ball in the backyard. If exercising your AmStaff outdoors in the winter, be sure to keep your sessions relatively brief. Their short coats are not suited for chilly weather (though fashionable sweaters can always be considered).
Strong and athletic, AmStaffs seem to enjoy dog sports such as agility, flyball, and rally. Another activity that helps them thrive is competitive obedience training. It not only reinforces desired behaviors but also provides them with mental exercise.
American Staffordshire Terriers are obedient and relatively easy dogs to train. This breed will benefit from firm and dedicated training to temper their tendency to guard.
AmStaffs can be stubborn and may not respond well to forceful training methods. Positive, reward-based training is the best way to help this intelligent breed learn quickly.
Canine Multifocal Retinopathy 1 (CMR1) is an eye disorder that can cause retinal decay which may impact vision, but very rarely results in blindness.
Osteochondromatosis is a condition causing benign bone tumors, called osteochondromas, to form during puppyhood.
Cone-Rod Dystrophy (CRD1) is an eye disorder resulting in degeneration of the retina at the back of the eye at a young age, causing progressive vision loss.
Cone-Rod Dystrophy (CRD2) is an eye disorder resulting in degeneration of the retina at the back of the eye at a young age, causing progressive vision loss.
Hyperuricosuria (HUU) is a condition that predisposes affected dogs to the formation of urinary stones, such as kidney or bladder stones.
Knowing if your American Staffordshire Terrier is a carrier or at-risk for these conditions can help you and your veterinarian plan for your pup’s lifelong care. With Wisdom Panel™ Premium, you can get results for over 200 genetic health tests.
Reviewed July 26, 2020 by Cindy Elston, DVM, MPH