Welcome to the BarkPost guide to dog breeds where we belly flop straight into the depths of dog breed origin, evolution, and purpose. Follow along each week as we publish new guides that highlight the strangest, most interesting, and most surprising stuff about these creatures who have been our best buds the last 30,000 years.
Intro / Overview
(All dogs are individuals, which means any single dog from any breed can be any number of ways, both good and not so good. Keep that in mind as we discuss breed generalities!)
The American Staffordshire Terrier is a strong, courageous dog that thrives on having a job to do. They have a stocky, athletic build slightly larger than their close cousin, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier.
Like all blocky-headed breeds, the Am Staff often falls victim to biased reporting and fear-based discrimination. While they are very protective of their humans, the breed is highly trainable and gentle with people of all ages.
More and more, Am Staffs are considered confident, smart, and friendly. Strong, consistent owners who enjoy being active will find loving, devoted companions in American Staffordshire Terriers.
Also Known As...
Pit Bull. Am Staff. Blockhead. "So is that an American Pit Bull Terrier or an American Staffordshire Terrier?" "I dunno, man, they look identical!"
American Staffordshire Terriers, like the American Pit Bull Terrier and Staffordshire Terrier before them, have their origins in 18th - 19th century Great Britain. After bear/bull-baiting became illegal along with all blood sports, so-called "sportsmen" turned to dogfighting. They bred the Bulldogs of bull-baiting days with a now-extinct Terrier breed (or breeds) - some suggest the White English Terrier, others the Black-and-Tan Terrier - and came up with the Bull and Terrier Dog, which they forced to fight.
From there, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier and the American Pit Bull Terrier were eventually bred. And from the American Pit Bull Terrier, the American Staffordshire was bred, although it's exceptionally difficult to tell the difference between the two breeds, and many DNA tests can't even distinguish between them.
Here's a question: are American Staffordshire Terriers themselves "Pit Bulls"? While they don't have Pit Bull in the name, they are in fact considered to be Pit Bulls in many parts of the world. That's because, while the American Pit Bull Terrier is a breed, Pit Bull is an umbrella term that includes APBTs, Staffies, Am Staffs, and other dogs (American Bullies and mixed breeds included).
Males typically stand 18-19 inches tall at the shoulders. Females are slightly smaller, standing 17-18 inches at the shoulder.
Males: 55-70 pounds | Females: 40-55 pounds
The AKC describes the American Staffordshire Terrier as confident, smart, good-natured, and keenly aware of its surroundings. They are extremely loyal to their humans and will do whatever it takes to protect them. For this reason, some Am Staffs develop dog aggression, even with proper socialization.
On the other hand, Am Staffs can be quite silly with those they trust. They are playful, extremely affectionate, and love to wedge their muscular bodies into your lap if possible!
Considered a high-energy breed, they cannot simply be placed in the yard for exercise. They excel at activities and canine sports they can share with people.
Intelligence / Trainability
The breed is considered intelligent and highly trainable thanks to their desire to please their humans. However, the American Staffordshire Terrier is known for digging, chewing, and leash pulling - habits that can be difficult to break.
Best Training Techniques For American Staffordshire Terriers
As with any breed, early socialization is key to a well-adjusted dog. Whether you bring home a puppy or an adult, start training and socializing immediately. Just be careful not overwhelm your dog.
Puppy training classes are a great place to begin teaching your Am Staff basic manners such as walking politely on a leash. If you have an older dog or one showing signs of reactivity, contact a professional dog trainer or behaviorist.
As for the stubborn digging and chewing issues, it may be best to indulge your Am Staff's innate desires. Designate an area of your yard where they can dig, and provide plenty of safe, durable chew toys.
The American Staffordshire Terrier's ideal environment is one in which he receives lots of attention, vigorous exercise, and clear direction from his humans.
When they are at home, Am Staffs are content to cuddle up on the sofa. They do not need a huge home or fenced yard as long as you are willing to put in the time and effort to meet their mental and physical needs.
Good For Families And Kids?
According to the American Staffordshire Terrier Club of Queensland, the breed is friendly, outgoing and well-behaved. They are also highly tolerant of pain, making them especially patient with grabby children.
However, like any dog, Am Staffs have their limits and should never be left alone with little ones. For families with kids, teaching them how to behave around dogs is just as important as training the dog.
12 - 16 years.
Despite the breed's robust and healthy appearance, the American Staffordshire Terrier is at risk for a host of genetic problems if bred irresponsibly. These include:
- Hip & Elbow Dysplasia
- Luxating Patella
- Cardiac Disease
- Thyroid Disease
- Cerebellar Ataxia
- Skin Allergies
- Disorders of the eye including early cataracts and blindness
Like other breeds with white coats, Am Staffs that are more than 80 percent white are also prone to deafness.
The American Staffordshire Terrier is athletic and full of energy. He loves to play and excels at canine sports that involve treats and toys as rewards. You can find him competing in obedience, agility, dock diving, and even nose work.
Am Staffs may also receive training as working dogs in search-and-rescue, disability assistance, and more. In recent years, Pit Bull-type dogs are even serving as police dogs.
Friendly With (Dogs? Strangers? Cats/Other Pets?)
It's not uncommon for American Staffordshires to be reactive toward other dogs, although plenty of Amstaffs love other dogs and are wonderful around them. Early socialization and obedience training may help curb this behavior. However, owners should remain vigilant and supervise interactions with other pups.
Some people choose American Staffordshire Terriers for their imposing size and intimidating bark. However, those familiar with the breed know that they can easily be won over.
In fact, some have a "love the one you're with" attitude, even with strangers. But rest assured, if your Am Staff truly senses a threat, his protective nature is sure to kick in!
The American Staffordshire Terrier is affectionate enough to embrace cats, bunnies, and any number of small pets. However, the breed does have a strong prey drive and may chase after wildlife or fleeing pets. Obedience training can help control this behavior.
Coat & Grooming
Am Staffs have short, thick hair that feels stiff to the touch. When healthy, their coat is smooth and glossy. The breed can come in any color, but all white or more than 80 per cent white puts the dog at risk for deafness.
When it comes to grooming they are relatively low maintenance:
- Bathing should be infrequent (no more than once a month) unless otherwise advised by your vet.
- Brush weekly to distribute skin oils through the hair coat.
- Clean ears with a gentle, mild cleanser after swimming or bathing.
- Trim nails regularly to prevent breakage during vigorous activity.
American Staffordshire Terriers are known to be quite "talkative," especially when they want something!
The famous World War I hero dog, Sergeant Stubby was a Pit Bull-type dog!
As was Petey from The Little Rascals!
Toys American Staffordshire Terriers Would Like Best
Am Staffs are master chewers and often make short work of their toys. But never fear! BarkShop has just what you need to keep your dog’s jaws happy and busy. We have durable Fetch Toys, delicious flavored Benebones, hardy Super Chewer Toys for endlessly chewing, and even Tug Toys.
For a comprehensive list of tough, durable toys, check out the following post: What Are The Best Toys For Pit Bulls?
Recommended Diet Or Supplements
American Staffordshire Terriers love to eat, but with their high risk of orthopedic problems, it is important to watch their weight. Whether you choose commercial, homemade, or raw dog food, be sure to measure carefully.
A protein content of at least 30% is important, as is choosing a food rich in essential fatty acids like DHA and EPA. American Staffies that do not get enough Omega Fatty Acids from their diet may benefit from a fish oil supplement to help reduce inflammatory conditions like skin allergies.
If your AM Staff has itchy, allergic skin these vet-formulated chews provide relief and help support a healthier coat. Made with all-natural ingredients including Omega 3, 6, 9, and Vitamin E, they also provide immune support. ($19.99)
With so many potential hip and joint problems, American Staffies could use some therapeutic support. Made with all-natural glucosamine, MSM, chondroitin, and hyaluronic acid, this vet-formulated supplement
helps ease joint pain and support healthy cartilage. It tastes pretty good, too! ($32.99.)
Am Staffs have big muscles, big bones and big booties! With all that jelly, they need a supportive orthopedic bed to relieve their pressure points as well as any aches and pains. This ergonomic memory foam bed is made specifically for dogs prone to hip dysplasia and other orthopedic issues. ($27.99-64.99.)
Notable Rescues To Find The American Staffordshire Terrier Of Your Dreams
- Rescue Me! American Staffordshire Terrier Rescue
- Don't Bully My Breed
- Mid-America Bully Breed Rescue
- Good Lif3 Bully Rescue
- Bully Paws
- Incredi-Bull Rescue
- Just About Any Local Shelter
- Adoptable American Staffordshires on Petfinder
Notable Instagram Am Staffs
Rescued Amstaffs Steele & Sadie @Steele.And.Sadie.Amstaff
Laaura Paws @LaauraPaws
Mo the Screaming Staffy @MoTheScreamingStaffy
Pikelet Butterwiggle Stoll & Company @LifeOfPikelet
Staffy Brothers Brix & Beam @the_two_best_buddies
Brix is an Staffordshire Bull Terrier and Beam is an American Staffy!
***Looking for a gift to blow your Pit Bull's mind? Spoil them with a Super Chewer BarkBox! Every month Super Chewer delivers 2 super-durable toys, designed in-house, 2 full bags of all-natural treats, and 2 (!!!) meaty chews. Sign up here and receive a free extra toy every month.
Featured image via Steele.And.Sadie.Amstaff/Instagram