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An American Staffordshire terrier standing on a road.

Breed overview

  • Breed group — Terrier group (American Kennel Club)
  • Height — 16-19 inches
  • Weight — 40-60 pounds
  • Coat length & texture — Short, stiff, glossy
  • Coat color — Blue, fawn, white, black, and red, occasionally with a mix of white, though it is considered a fault by the AKC if more than 80% of the coat is white
  • Exercise needs — High
  • Intelligence — High
  • Barking — Often when bored or excited
  • Life span — 12-16 years
  • Temperament — Confident, courageous, happy, and outgoing
  • Hypoallergenic — No
  • Origin — England

American Staffordshire terrier fun facts 

👉 Coming up with a pet name can be fun but tricky. Search no further! According to PetScreening’s 2024 database, the majority of our users name their male American Staffordshire Terriers Zeus; Rocky is the 2nd most popular male name. Meanwhile, most of our users with female American Staffordshire Terriers love Bella and Luna equally.

  • They make surprisingly poor guard dogs. American Staffordshire terriers might look intimidating, but they’re so outgoing they’re more likely to greet strangers than protect you from them.
  • It’s considered a pit bull breed. Like the American pit bull terrier and Staffordshire bull terrier, the American Staffordshire terrier is sometimes a target of breed-specific legislation.
  • American Staffordshire terriers tend to get a bad rap. Some believe they are aggressive since they have a history of being bred for illegal dog fighting, but properly socialized Amstaffs are friendly, affectionate, and trustworthy.
Two American Staffordshire terriers laying in the grass.

American Staffordshire terrier temperament and characteristics 

Affectionately known as Amstaffs, American Staffordshire terriers are brave, good-natured, and loyal dogs. They might look intimidating with their stocky, muscular builds, but Amstaffs are affectionate dogs that love spending quality time with their owners. They’re commonly described as keenly aware of their surroundings and game for anything, from long walks and intense play sessions to cuddling up on the couch.

If an American Staffordshire terrier doesn’t get the mental and physical stimulation it needs to thrive, it can become prone to pulling, chewing, digging, and barking. They require early socialization with humans and other animals. They’re naturally friendly around all people, including strangers, but they can be confrontational with unfamiliar dogs. They may also see other pets, including cats, as prey. While socialization helps reduce this behavior, this breed is usually best suited to one-pet households.

If you have kids and plan on getting an American Staffordshire terrier, teach them how to respectfully interact with animals to ward off any potentially-aggravating poking and prodding. Amstaffs are big dogs that sometimes play rough, so make sure there’s an adult around whenever they  play with small children.

👉 Playtime between children and dogs, no matter the breed, should always be supervised. 


The American Staffordshire Terrier is a strong and muscular breed with a short, stiff coat that comes in various colors such as black, brown, red, blue, fawn, and occasionally with a mix of white. Any color, solid, partial, or patched, is permissible, but all white, more than 80 percent white, black and tan, and liver are not to be encouraged according to the American Kennel Club Breed Standard. We teamed up with FidoTabby Alert, and according to their database, a common color for the American Staffordshire Terrier is (39%) brown.

Common American Staffordshire terrier health problems 

The American Staffordshire terrier is a generally healthy breed, with many breeders doing their best to screen their dogs for genetic conditions. However, like many dogs, Amstaffs are still predisposed to a few health problems, including:

  • Skin allergies. Amstaffs are prone to environmental and food allergies that cause intense itchiness all over the body. Affected dogs may lick or scratch themselves so much that their skin becomes irritated from self-trauma, resulting in open wounds called hot spots.
  • Hip dysplasia. This genetic condition causes the hip’s ball and socket joint to develop improperly.  The result is pain, discomfort, and, in extreme cases, lameness.
  • Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA). Another genetic condition, PRA is a degenerative condition that slowly causes blindness in dogs. This is most common in adult Amstaffs and often starts with increased difficulty seeing at night.
  • Hypothyroidism. This condition occurs when the thyroid gland stops producing enough of the hormone thyroxine. Hypothyroidism is most common in dogs between 4 and 10 years old, and symptoms include weight gain, lethargy, and a thinning coat.
  • Heart disease. Heart disease is a common condition that affects an estimated 7 to 8 million dogs. It commonly appears in dogs in the form of valve disease, which causes heart murmurs, and dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), in which the heart muscles begin to wear over time. Symptoms include coughing, shortness of breath, weakness and/or collapse, and bloating of the abdomen.
  • Cerebellar ataxia. This hereditary neurological disorder causes a progressive decline in muscle coordination. Cerebellar ataxia has been documented in Amstaffs as early as 3 to 5 years of age, with symptoms including stiffness, loss of balance, head tremors, and rapid eye movements.

Cost of caring for an American Staffordshire terrier

The cost of caring for your American Staffordshire terrier will vary depending on their condition. Minor skin allergies can be treated at home using shampoos, ointments, and a change in diet in case of food allergies. These products typically won’t cost you more than $20 to $30 each. Hypothyroidism treatment is also relatively inexpensive, with initial tests running between $50 and $150 and monthly medication expenses between $20 and $50.

More serious conditions like heart disease require more sophisticated tests like radiographs, bloodwork, and echocardiograms, which together can cost between $1,000 and $1,500. You can also expect to pay between $50 and $150 a month for your dog’s heart medication, as well as another $500 to $1,000 per year for long-term tests and monitoring. Hip dysplasia often requires surgical correction that can cost pet owners $3,000 to $4,000 per hip, including the cost of anesthesia and post-surgical medications. Other genetic conditions like progressive retinal atrophy and cerebellar ataxia have no effective treatment. In the case of cerebellar ataxia, many affected dogs are euthanized as the condition worsens and they become unable to walk.

Pet insurance

While some health insurance companies won’t cover American Staffordshire terriers because of breed-specific legislation, it’s still worth looking into policies to help reduce your out-of-pocket expenses whenever your dog requires medical attention. Owners who sign their pets up early tend to get the most benefits from pet insurance plans. Alternatively, consider opening a pet savings account with your bank to start saving for unforeseen medical expenses.

An American Staffordshire terrier puppy walking.

History of the American Staffordshire terrier

With ancestral roots in England, today’s American Staffordshire terriers descend from a mix of bulldogs and terrier breeds. They went by many names in their early history, including bull-and-terrier dogs, pit bull terriers, and eventually Staffordshire bull terriers. Prized for their strength, they managed bulls, hunted wild boars, and assisted with farm work. Amstaffs were also kept as family dogs early on since they naturally displayed a lot of affection towards humans.

Unfortunately, the American Staffordshire terrier’s muscular build led people to use them for cruel blood sports like bear-baiting, bull-baiting, and  illegal dog fighting. These sports were eventually outlawed, but they created a lasting stigma against the breed (and pit bull breeds in general) that caused many people to see them as overly-aggressive. The AKC officially recognized the Staffordshire terrier as a breed in 1936, and in 1976, it added American to the name since the AKC felt Americans bred a larger dog than the original Staffordshire bull terrier.

Caring for your American Staffordshire terrier

Caring for a new puppy is always a little scary, no matter what breed you choose. On top of meeting its day-to-day needs, you’ll need to schedule their vaccinations and make that all-important first trip to the vet. If you value your clothes and furniture at all, puppy-proof your home before your dog starts teething. And while no one likes to think about losing their new dog, it’s a good idea to sign up for a service like FidoAlert so you’re prepared just in case.

Here are some other basics specific to American Staffordshire terriers:


The American Staffordshire terrier is an athletic, energetic breed that needs lots of exercise to thrive. Amstaffs are family-oriented dogs that prefer mentally-stimulating play sessions with their owners over running around in the backyard. They also enjoy canine sports like obedience, agility, and dock diving. Staffies love using their muscular shoulders in strength-oriented games like tug-of-war — just be ready to put up a good fight! They tend to be very active indoors, but they do well in most living situations (including apartment living) as long as they get at least an hour of exercise each day.

An American Staffordshire terrier exercising.


The American Staffordshire terrier has a short, stiff coat that’s easy to care for. Most owners find that a quick weekly brushing with a soft bristle brush is enough to remove any dirt and debris. You should bathe your Amstaff if they get into the mud or anything else that’s extra messy. Other than that, you can hold off on bathing until your Amstaff develops a noticeable smell.

American Staffordshire terriers are notorious for their bad breath, so brush their teeth at least weekly, if not even more frequently. Nail trimming is only necessary as needed, but this can be tough with Amstaffs since many don’t like to have their paws touched. Do your best to get your dog comfortable with touching and grooming from an early age to make the nail-trimming experience easier on both of you.

Diet and nutrition

An American Staffordshire terrier needs a diet of high-quality dog food formulated for a mid-to-large-size dog with moderate energy levels. Staffies don’t have any specific nutrition requirements, but those affected by skin allergies can benefit from a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids to support healthy skin.

In general, Amstaff puppies require 3 small meals a day. As they age and their dietary needs change, adult American Staffordshire terriers should eat about 3 to 4 cups of dog food daily. Your dog’s specific dietary needs will vary based on their age, weight, and pre-existing medical conditions, so make sure to see a vet to get the best food portioning plan for them.

Training your American Staffordshire terrier

American Staffordshire terriers are highly trainable dogs that love mental and physical challenges. They want to please and gladly obey commands as long as training is fun and enjoyable. Praise them, play with them, and throw in the occasional treat, and your Amstaff will be well-trained before you know it.

Early socialization and puppy training are both highly recommended for American Staffordshire terriers. Their physical strength makes them tough to walk, as they tend to pull their walker wherever they go if given the chance. They do best under assertive trainers who set clear boundaries with them and are strong enough to handle them on a leash, but certain behaviors like chewing and digging can be hard to break and may continue even after proper training.

An American Staffordshire terrier training.

Breeds similar to the American Staffordshire terrier

Not quite sure that an American Staffordshire terrier is right for you? Even if you are, it’s worth taking the time to research and consider other similar breeds. Here are a few to get you started:

  • Staffordshire bull terrier. Also called a Staffy, this active, agile dog is slightly smaller than the American Staffordshire terrier — but it’s every bit as smart, courageous, and sweet-natured.
  • American pit bull terrier. The American pit bull terrier looks almost identical to the Amstaff, though the pit bull’s muscle tone is generally a bit more defined. Pit bull terriers are intelligent, energetic, and determined, and they do best with early socialization and puppy training.
  • American bulldog. A fiercely loyal dog that was initially bred as a protector, American bulldogs make great family dogs with the proper training, but they’re also prone to lots of health problems.

Frequently asked questions

Is the American Staffordshire terrier a pit bull?

Not exactly. The American Kennel Club officially distinguished the American pit bull terrier from the American Staffordshire terrier in the 1970s, but some non-AKC registries still consider Amstaffs to be part of the family and will register them as pit bulls. The AKC says that “while every American Staffordshire terrier can technically be called an American pit bull terrier, not every American pit bull terrier is an American Staffordshire terrier.” The breed was recognized by the United Kennel Club in 1975.

Is the American Staffordshire terrier considered an aggressive breed?

Dogs of any breed can be aggressive when raised under the wrong conditions, but the American Staffordshire terrier gets an especially bad rap for its history as a fighting dog. Despite their reputation, Amstaffs are consistently described as one of the most affectionate breeds around. As long as they get the right training and early socialization lessons, they make for sweet-natured companions and intensely loyal family dogs.

Is the American Staffordshire terrier a bully breed?

Yes. The phrase “bully breed” is used to identify a whole group of different breeds, including American pit bull terriers, American Staffordshire terriers, bull terriers, bull mastiffs, Boston terriers, boxers, and French bulldogs.

Do Amstaffs have lockjaw?

No. It’s a common misconception that pit bull breeds have a special mechanism that allows them to lock their jaws, but they’re just extremely determined dogs with strong jaws.

Do American Staffordshire terriers bark a lot?

In general, Amstaffs bark a moderate amount. They’ll bark when they’re alerted to a potential threat, or when they’re bored, anxious, or excited, but they rarely display excessive barking the way some other breeds do.