American Staffordshire Terrier dog
American Staffordshire Terrier dog
American Staffordshire Terrier dog
American Staffordshire Terrier dog
American Staffordshire Terrier dog
Though he may look intimidating, the Am Staff, as this breed is nicknamed, tends to be a lover, not a fighter. He is an active, intelligent dog who generally likes people. His short coat comes in a variety of colors and patterns and is easy to groom.The American Staffordshire Terrier is closely related to the American Pit Bull Terrier (APBT), but over the years the two breeds have gone their separate ways. The Am Staff is registered by the American Kennel Club (AKC) — the APBT is currently not — and tends to be slightly larger than the APBT, but the two breeds share a similar personality and activity level. 

The Am Staff has a formidable reputation and appearance, but he is meant to be a dog who loves and accepts people. In the hands of loving owners and given the right amount of socialization, training, attention and love, he can be a docile, affectionate family dog.

This is a strong, muscular dog. He can be a challenge to walk on leash if not well trained. Pulling can become an issue. If so, it might be a good idea to channel that desire into a dog sport such as weight pulling or nose work.

Grooming an Am Staff is generally easy. His coat needs brushing a couple of times a week, and his ears need to be kept clean and his nails trimmed.

Am Staffs are among the breeds that may be targeted by breed-specific legislation. Some cities, such as Denver and Miami, currently ban “Pit Bulls,” a category into which Am Staffs are often lumped, and sometimes it is difficult to purchase homeowner’s insurance if you have one. Some municipalities also have ordinances specifying how a fence has to be constructed for “Pit Bull-type” breeds. Research your city’s ordinances and your insurance policies before acquiring one.

Quick Facts

  • The term “Pit Bull” is often applied indiscriminately to APBTs, American Staffordshire Terriers and sometimes Staffordshire Bull Terriers, a British breed. The term may also be used to label any dog who resembles those breeds, even if he is a Lab mix with little or no “Pit Bull” in his background.
  • An Am Staff’s short, glossy coat comes in 18 colors and patterns. All-white coats, or coats that are more than 80 percent white, are not encouraged because of the association with deafness. An Am Staff may have markings, such as a black, blue or white face mask, or tan or brindle points.
  • The Am Staff is currently the 84th most popular breed registered by the AKC.

The History of the American Staffordshire Terrier

The Am Staff and the American Pit Bull Terrier have an interesting relationship. During the 19th and early 20th centuries, dog fighting was legal and popular among the wealthy and influential, who could be found betting on dogs who at the time were known under a variety of names: Pit Bull, Yankee Terrier and half-and-half dog — a reference to their origin as a cross between Bulldogs and Terriers.

The dogs were also popular with farmers and families, who appreciated their versatility. The dogs tended to be good ratters, were useful in hunting dangerous wild pigs and bears, and tended to be good with people.

In the 1920s, some owners wanted to start exhibiting their dogs in conformation shows. In 1936, the American Kennel Club accepted the breed for registration, giving it the name American Staffordshire Terrier to differentiate it not only from the American Pit Bull Terrier registered by the United Kennel Club (UKC) but also from the smaller Staffordshire Bull Terrier.

At one time, Am Staffs could be dual-registered with the UKC, but that is no longer permitted. Although the breed standards for the Am Staff and the APBT are almost identical, the bloodlines no longer formally mix, and they are considered two separate breeds by registering organizations.

American Staffordshire Terrier Temperament and Personality

The Am Staff has been described as exuberantly friendly, alert, obedient and courageous. He typically loves to spend time with his people and will often follow them from room to room. Count on him to wedge himself into your lap when given half a chance. Whether he’s visiting with guests or participating in a conformation show or agility trial, he usually enjoys being the center of attention.

Am Staffs are usually highly tolerant of children, but that doesn’t mean they should have to put up with poking and prodding or be considered as canine baby sitters. No dog should ever be left alone with young children, for the safety of all involved. This breed is best suited to families with children 6 years of age or older. And children of any age should be taught to treat these dogs (or any other animal) with respect.

This breed has a reputation as a guard dog. But people who live with the dogs might say they tend to have a “love the one you’re with” spirit and won’t hesitate to go off with strangers. The breed’s main deterrent value comes from his muscle-bound body and reputation for being fierce.

They might not speak English, but Am Staffs love to “talk” to their people and take pleasure in attention from them. The sounds the dogs make when requesting treats can be especially entertaining. They don’t tend to be nuisance barkers, however, unless they are frequently left alone with little stimulation.

Like any dog, the American Staffordshire Terrier needs early socialization and training to become a loving, trustworthy family dog. And he certainly has some normal behaviors that can be highly destructive when not properly channeled.

Am Staffs are known for their propensity to dig, pull and chew. Protect your belongings by putting them out of reach. In the yard, provide your Am Staff with his own special place he’s allowed to dig. And make sure you have a never-ending supply of tough, vet-approved chew toys and balls for him to play with.

Most American Staffordshire Terriers have what dog people call “drive,” meaning they like to have a job to do. Overall health permitting, this can be an athletic dog who could make an excellent partner for a jogger, runner or cyclist. Many Am Staffs also enjoy swimming and retrieving. Thanks to their intelligence and desire to please, healthy Am Staffs also tend to perform well in dog sports, such as agility, drafting (pulling carts or wagons), freestyle, nose work, obedience, rally and tracking.

When it comes to other animals, Am Staffs are typical Terriers. They are more likely to be fighters than lovers with other dogs, especially those of the same gender. It’s best not to keep intact dogs of the same sex together and to avoid taking these dogs to parks where they are allowed to run loose. Whether an Am Staff will get along with other dogs in public varies by individual dog. Some are friendly; others, not so much. And they are likely to view cats and other small furry animals as prey, unless brought up with them from an early age.

Whether your Am Staff is from a breeder or a rescue group, a puppy or an adult, you’ll need to show him a lot of love. He’s often a pushy kind of dog, and if you let him, he’ll walk all over you. Any dog, no matter how nice, can develop obnoxious levels of barking, digging, food stealing and other undesirable behaviors if he is bored, untrained or unsupervised.

Start training your American Staffordshire Terrier puppy the day you bring him home. He is capable of soaking up everything you can teach him. Don’t wait until he is 6 months old to begin training, or you will have a more headstrong dog to deal with.

If possible, get him into puppy kindergarten class by the time he is 10 to 12 weeks old and socialize, socialize, socialize. However, be aware that many puppy training classes require certain vaccines (like the one for kennel cough) to be up to date, and many veterinarians recommend limiting exposure to other dogs and public places until puppy vaccines (including those for rabies, distemper and parvovirus) have been completed. In lieu of formal training, you can begin training your puppy at home and socializing him among family and friends until his puppy vaccinations are completed.

Talk to the breeder, describe exactly what you’re looking for in a dog and ask for assistance in selecting a puppy. Breeders see their puppies daily and can make uncannily accurate recommendations once they know something about your lifestyle and personality.

The perfect Am Staff doesn’t spring fully formed from the whelping box. He’s a product of his background and breeding. Look for a puppy whose parents have nice personalities and one who has been well socialized from an early age. If given a choice, pick the puppy who is happy, friendly and outgoing.

Living with an American Staffordshire Terrier is a huge responsibility — one that cannot be easily given away if you decide this isn’t the dog for you. Be as sure as you can that you are making the right decision before you get an Am Staff.

What You Need to Know About American Staffordshire Terrier Health

All dogs have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit a particular disease. Run, don’t walk, from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on her puppies, who tells you that the breed is 100 percent healthy and has no known problems, or who tells you that her puppies are isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons. A reputable breeder will be honest and open about health problems in the breed and the incidence with which they occur in her lines.

The Am Staff can develop certain health problems that may have a genetic component, including the following:

Not all of these conditions are detectable in a growing puppy, and it can be hard to predict whether an animal will be free of these maladies, which is why you must find a reputable breeder and insist on seeing independent certification that the parents of the dog (and grandparents, etc.) have been screened for these defects and deemed healthy for breeding. That’s where health registries come in.

Choose a puppy from a breeder who can show you that a pup’s parents have the following up-to-date health certifications:

  • Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) or PennHIP evaluations for hip dysplasia
  • OFA evaluation by a board-certified veterinary cardiologist
  • OFA thyroid evaluation from an approved laboratory
  • An OptiGen DNA test for cerebellar ataxia
Optional tests include an eye exam by a board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist and an OFA evaluation for elbow dysplasia.

Careful breeders screen their dogs for genetic disease and breed only the healthiest and best-looking specimens, but sometimes Mother Nature has other ideas and a puppy develops one of these diseases despite good breeding practices. Advances in veterinary medicine mean that in many cases, the dogs can still live good lives. If you’re getting a puppy, ask the breeder about the ages of the dogs in her lines and what caused their deaths.

If a breeder tells you her dogs don’t need health certifications because she’s never had problems in her lines, that her dogs have been vet-checked or gives any other excuses for skimping on the genetic testing of dogs, walk away immediately.

Will your American Staffordshire Terrier get any or all of these diseases? Not necessarily, but it’s smart to know the possibilities.

Remember that after you’ve taken a new puppy into your home, you have the power to protect him from one of the more common canine health problems: obesity. Keeping an Am Staff at an appropriate weight is one of the easier ways to help ensure a healthier dog for life.

The Basics of American Staffordshire Terrier Grooming

The Am Staff is usually easy to groom. Brush his coat a couple of times a week to help manage shedding.

The rest is basic care. Trim the nails as needed, usually twice a month. Brush the teeth frequently — with a vet-approved pet toothpaste — for good overall health and fresh breath. Check the ears weekly for dirt, redness or a bad odor that can indicate an infection. If the ears look dirty, wipe them out with a cotton ball dampened with a gentle ear cleaner recommended by your veterinarian.

Finding an American Staffordshire Terrier Breeder

Whether you want to go with a reputable breeder or get your dog from a shelter or rescue, here are some things to keep in mind. 

Choosing an American Staffordshire Terrier Breeder

Reputable Am Staff breeders place puppies carefully to help ensure that they go to appropriate homes. They look for people who are experienced with large dogs, who have securely fenced yards and who understand the responsibilities of caring for a dog with this reputation.

Research breeders carefully, and meet one or both of the puppy’s parents. The breeder should be someone you trust to have given a puppy the best start in life, not only through good nutrition and socialization, but also by breeding temperament-tested parents with health clearances. Look for breeders through the American Staffordshire Terrier Club of America (STCA). The STCA’s code of ethics calls for breeders to refrain from selling puppies to pet stores or wholesalers. Or ask if your veterinarian can refer you to a reputable breeder or breed rescue organization. 

Finding a good breeder is a great way to find the right puppy. A good breeder will match you with the right puppy and will, without question, have done all the health certifications necessary to screen out health problems as much as possible. She is more interested in placing pups in the right homes than making big bucks.

Good breeders will welcome your questions about temperament, health clearances and what the dogs are like to live with, and come right back at you with questions of their own about what you’re looking for in a dog and what kind of life you can provide for him. A good breeder can tell you about the history of the breed, explain why one puppy is considered pet quality while another is not and discuss which health problems affect the breed and the steps she takes take to avoid those problems. 

Look for a breeder who is active in her national breed club and a local club, too, if possible. She should regularly participate with her dogs in some form of organized canine activities, such as conformation showing, obedience or other dog sports. She should sell her puppies with written contracts guaranteeing she’ll take the dogs back if at any time during their lives the owners cannot keep them.

Avoid breeders who seem interested only in how quickly they can unload a puppy on you and whether your credit card will go through. You should also bear in mind that buying a puppy from a website that offers to ship your dog to you immediately can be a risky venture, as it leaves you no recourse if what you get isn’t exactly what you expected. Put at least as much effort into researching your puppy as you would into choosing a new car or expensive appliance. It could save you money and frustration in the long run.

Lots of reputable breeders have websites, so how can you tell who’s good and who’s not? Red flags include puppies always being available, multiple litters on the premises, having your choice of any puppy and the ability to pay online with a credit card. Quickie online purchases are convenient, but they are almost never associated with reputable breeders.

Whether you’re planning to get your new best friend from a breeder, a pet store or another source, remember the adage, “Let the buyer beware.” Disreputable breeders and facilities that deal with puppy mills can be hard to distinguish from reliable operations. There’s no 100 percent guaranteed way to make sure you’ll never purchase a sick puppy, but researching the breed (so you know what to expect), checking out the facility (to identify unhealthy conditions or sick animals) and asking the right questions can reduce the chances of heading into a disastrous situation. And don’t forget to ask your veterinarian, who can often refer you to a reputable breeder, breed rescue organization or other reliable source for healthy puppies.

And before you decide to buy a puppy, consider whether an adult Am Staff might better suit your needs and lifestyle. Puppies are loads of fun, but they require a lot of time and effort before they grow up to become the dog of your dreams. An adult Am Staff may already have some training and will probably be less active, destructive and demanding than a puppy. With an adult, you know more about what you’re getting in terms of personality and health, and you can find adults dogs to adopt through breeders or shelters. If you are interested in acquiring an older dog through breeders, ask them about purchasing a retired show dog or if they know of an adult dog who needs a new home.

If you want to adopt a dog, read the advice below on how to do that.

Adopting a Dog From an American Staffordshire Terrier Rescue or Shelter

Take your search for a knowledgeable, responsible breed rescue organization seriously. The dogs should have been evaluated and made available for adoption only to suitable homes. If the staff tell you a particular dog isn’t right for you, believe them, and keep looking.

Am Staffs can be found in shelters and through rescue groups, and (assuming this is the right dog for you) you should be able to find the right one for your family. Here is how to get started.

1. Use the Web

Sites like Petfinder and can have you searching for an Am Staff in your area in no time. The sites allow you to be very specific in your requests (housetraining status, for example) or very general (all the Am Staffs available on Petfinder across the country). can help you find animal rescue groups in your area.

Social media is another great way to find a dog. Post on your Facebook page that you are looking for a specific breed so that your entire community can be your eyes and ears. 

2. Reach Out to Local Experts

Start talking with all the pet pros in your area about your desire for an Am Staff. That includes vets, dog walkers and groomers. When someone has to make the tough decision to give up a dog, that person will often ask her own trusted network for recommendations.

3. Talk to Breed Rescues

Most people who love Am Staffs love all Am Staffs. That’s why breed clubs have rescue organizations devoted to taking care of homeless dogs. You can search online for Am Staff rescues in your area.

The great thing about breed rescue groups is that they tend to be very up front about any health conditions the dogs may have. A rescue group is a valuable resource for advice.

4. Ask Key Questions

You now know the things to discuss with a breeder, but there are also questions you should discuss with shelter or rescue group staff or volunteers before you bring home a pup. These include:

  • What is his energy level?
  • How is he around other animals?
  • How does he respond to shelter workers, visitors and children?
  • What is his personality like?
  • What is his age?
  • Is he house-trained?
  • Has he ever bitten or hurt anyone?
  • Are there any known health issues?
Wherever you acquire your Am Staff, make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. Petfinder offers a Bill of Rights for Adopters that helps you understand what you can consider normal and appropriate when you get a dog from a shelter. In states with puppy lemon laws, be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.

Puppy or adult, breeder purchase or rescue, your Am Staff should visit your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot problems and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that can help you avoid many health issues.