American Staffordshire Terrier

The American Staffordshire Terrier is a typically enthusiastic and loyal breed popular for their outgoing personality. Ancestors of the American Staffordshire Terrier were bred in England as fighting dogs—though some were valued as working farm dogs and hunters’ companions. As dogfighting waned in popularity, these dogs’ dependable and loyal qualities remained sought after, and they were increasingly bred for companionship. By the late 1800s, predecessors of the American Staffordshire Terrier were already thriving in the United States—and in the 20th century, they were formally recognized as a distinct breed. Today, properly socialized and well-exercised American Staffordshire Terriers are among the most loving and loyal companions a family could hope to have.

Check out our guide Choosing the Perfect Dog to find out if they’re a good fit for your home.

Characteristics

The American Staffordshire Terrier is known for being strong and athletic, but they should not be considered inherently aggressive towards people. In truth, this breed is generally loving and family-oriented. They are not typically excessive barkers, but when they use their voice, it's loud and clear. This big bark—combined with their physically impressive presence—can make for an intimidating alarm system, even though the American Staffordshire Terrier temperament is usually friendly and social. These dogs can get along well with children and love to romp with kids who share their home. However, extra caution should be taken during playtime with young children, as an enthusiastic American Staffordshire Terrier may not be aware of their own strength—and no dog should ever be left unsupervised with children.

Height

Measured from the floor to the top of their shoulders when standing or sitting

17-19 inches

WEIGHT

Their average adult weight

40-70 lbs

LIFE EXPECTANCY

The average number of years they live

12-16 years

COLOR

Common fur colors

Brindle, liver, red, blue, black, sable, brown or fawn (all with or without white markings)

GROUP

Their AKC classification based on heritage, traits, form and function

Terrier

Size

Tiny Jumbo

LIVING SPACE

Apartment Ranch

EXERCISE

Sedentary Active

PERSONALITY

Antisocial Outgoing

BARKING

Mute Loud

PROTECTION

None Bodyguard

BEHAVIOR WITH KIDS

Needs monitoring Babysitter

TRAINING

Headstrong Obedient

SHEDDING

Minimal Abundant

CLIMATE

Warm Cold

Diet and nutrition

American Staffordshire Terriers have specific nutritional needs because of their size and activity level. Though they're considered medium- to large-sized dogs, they should also be well muscled and athletic.. Like many other large breed dogs, they're prone to several bone diseases affecting growing dogs, including hip and elbow dysplasia. Risk factors for developing some of these diseases include genetics, diet, calories consumed and rate of bone growth during the rapid growth phase.

To reduce these risks, American Staffordshire Terrier puppies should eat special large-breed puppy foods and have their weight gain carefully monitored during the first year of their life. In addition, since the American Staffordshire Terrier is an energetic dog breed, they should get exercise and be fed accordingly. Obesity is associated with increased joint strain and should be carefully avoided in this breed, which has known risks of joint disease. The optimal number of calories to feed your dog will depend on their age, size and activity level.

Your dog's food should be life-stage appropriate and change with their age—from puppy to adult to senior. Some of the best food for an American Staffordshire Terrier includes high-quality veterinary-approved dog food that is commercially available. This helps ensure that your dog only receives complete and balanced nutrition.

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Supplies

It's hard to miss an American Staffordshire Terrier's well-built muscles—this dog's physique means they're built for activity. Adult American Staffordshire Terriers need an hour or more of athletic exercise per day. Because of this, many essentialAmerican Staffordshire Terrier supplies are geared toward helping you have safer and more comfortable adventures with your dog.

A properly fitting collar or harness and leash are mandatory for the spunky American Staffordshire Terrier. Whether your dog is running by your side while you ride your bike, joining you on a hike or just keeping you company on a brisk walk around the neighborhood, it's important to make sure they never get too far away.

If you and your dog crave adventure that takes you a little farther away from home, travel accessories like a car barrier or a seat belt adapter can help keep the peace while you're on the road. A car hammock or ramp can also make traveling more comfortable for your American Staffordshire Terrier. And what pet parent could say no to a seat cover that can help keep muddy paws, flying fur or a dripping tongue from soiling the car?

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American Staffordshire Terrier training tips

The keys to training success are persistence and consistency. Remember that your American Staffordshire Terrier is playful and loves to have fun—work with those endearing qualities,not against them. Your pup is intelligent and eager to please you. Keep training sessions positive and fun, and you’ll both have a good time bonding over positive reinforcement training.

Are you wondering where to begin when it comes to mastering cues? Take a look at our guide 4 Basic Dog Training Behaviors and Cues Every Dog Should Know.

    Kindness counts

    American Staffordshire Terriers are strong dogs with big personalities. They require training and socialization to understand desired behaviors, which will help maintain a happy relationship between you and your pup.. At heart, American Staffordshire Terriers are sweet, affectionate dogs who deserve kindness, and positive reinforcement training can help bring out the best in these wonderful canines. If you rely on consistent positive reinforcement training, you can help your dog grow into a friendly family member who plays well with all members of their household.

    Start small

    Your exuberant American Staffordshire Terrier can get a head start on positive reinforcement training by starting when they’re young. American Staffordshire Terrier puppies can begin learning basic cues as early as eight weeks old. Just remember to be patient, as it can take weeks—or even months—for your pup to follow cues consistently. The focus for a puppy eight to ten weeks old is becoming familiar with cue words and associating them with desired behaviors. If you adopt an older American Staffordshire Terrier, fear not—with a positive training process, these smart dogs are certainly capable of learning new behaviors as adults.

    Social cues

    Since American Staffordshire Terriers are loyal and protective, they can sometimes be suspicious of people outside their family or unfriendly with other pets. At the same time, they don’t always understand their own strength and can overwhelm friends and friends-to-be alike with their energetic physical affection. For these reasons, it’s advantageous for these dogs to learn to play well with others. Early socialization through positive exposure to neutral people, pets and environments are crucial for proper canine socialization.

    Patience is paramount

    You’ll need plenty of patience while positive training an American Staffordshire Terrier. The playfulness, energy and sheer muscle power of these dogs can present a challenge to pet parents trying to help their dogs focus and follow cues. Remember that repetition and consistency will help your dog understand what you want from them, while positive reinforcement will motivate them to behave favorably.

    If you find that your dog seems consistently distracted or rambunctious during positive training, you might want to give them some exercise before their sessions. Letting your dog burn through some pent-up energy may help them maintain better focus during positive training, which will allow them to retain cues better.

    Positive training success isn’t the only benefit of regular exercise for your American Staffordshire Terrier. Look at our guide Dog Exercise Tips to keep your pup in good mental and physical shape.

    Unleash their potential

    An issue experienced by many American Staffordshire Terrier pet parents is leash pulling during walks. The reason for this behavior is fairly simple—these pups are curious, fun-loving and strong. When they’re eager to see what kind of adventure their daily walks will bring, they can easily become excited and strain forward. Pet parents can help to reduce this behavior through patient and positive loose-leash training. When you’re on a walk with your American Staffordshire Terrier, stop and stand still whenever your dog pulls at the leash. Once they allow the leash to slacken and walk beside you—even if only briefly—reward them with praise, petting or even a treat. In time, your American Staffordshire Terrier will learn that the best way to get where they want to go is by walking at your side, not pulling ahead.

    Suggested American Staffordshire Terrier training services

    These dogs are big bundles of love—but with their strength, energy and playfulness, there’s plenty to keep a pet parent’s hands full. Whether you could use tips on the best ways to communicate with your dog or want your American Staffordshire Terrier to learn better social skills, Petco has a dog training class that suits your needs. Choose from individual or group classes that can be joined in person or online to customize a course that caters to your pup’s personality.

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Common American Staffordshire Terrier health problems

The average life span of an American Staffordshire Terrier is 12 or more years, meaning pet parents can look forward to more than a decade of sharing joy with their beloved dog. However, American Staffordshire Terriers experience some health problems at higher rates compared to other breeds. If you get your American Staffordshire Terrier from a breeder instead of adopting, only work with breeders who perform all recommended health screenings and willingly share the results. Appropriate health testing of your puppy’s parents can help reduce the risk of certain diseases your puppy may be affected by and completely eliminate the risk of others. Knowing which issues your dog is more likely to face can help you provide good preventive care whenever possible and keep an eye out for signs of more serious problems.

Dental disease is common among dogs, particularly as they age. Also called periodontal disease, it’s the infection—and eventual deterioration—of the tissues that support a dog’s eth.

How to spot it

Inflamed or bleeding gums, discolored teeth, loose or missing teeth and bad breath can all indicate dental disease.

Recommended Solutions

Brushing your American Staffordshire Terrier’s teeth regularly—preferably daily—can help prevent dental disease. You should also bring your dog in for routine veterinary dental cleanings, and your veterinarian can tell you whether any additional dental treatment is necessary.

An American Staffordshire Terrier should remain slim, as excess weight can exacerbate some health conditions—such as cruciate ligament disease—to which they are predisposed.

How to spot it

If it becomes difficult to feel your dog’s ribs or if they tire out or breathe more heavily than usual during exercise and playtime, your American Staffordshire Terrier may be overweight.

Recommended Solutions

Talk to your veterinarian if you’re having difficulty keeping your dog at an appropriate weight. They may recommend a special diet or lifestyle changes.

This disorder involves an underactive thyroid gland that results in a reduced metabolic rate in a dog’s body. Your vet can diagnose hyperthyroidism with a blood test.

How to spot it

Signs of a thyroid disorder can include weight gain, lethargy, cold intolerance, poor coat quality, skin issues and other physical symptoms.

Recommended Solutions

While this disease can’t be cured, it can be effectively treated and managed through oral synthetic thyroid hormone medication.

This disease affects the two bands of fibrous tissue within each canine knee joint. Rupturing of the cranial cruciate ligament can occur from physical trauma or degeneration.

How to spot it

Symptoms include lameness, toe-touching and sudden yelping in pain. Your veterinarian can make a diagnosis based on a physical assessment or a radiograph.

Recommended Solutions

Treatment for an American Staffordshire Terrier typically involves surgery and then ongoing monitoring of the joint. Your veterinarian may also suggest supplements to help strengthen your dog’s joints.

Elbow dysplasia is the abnormal development of a dog’s elbow joints and is commonly an inherited condition—although it can be environmentally influenced as well.

How to spot it

Lameness or limping in the front legs may indicate elbow dysplasia.

Recommended Solutions

In most cases, surgery is the recommended treatment.

This disorder is a hereditary disease that causes the improper formation of an American Staffordshire Terrier’s hip joints. With hip dysplasia, the ball and socket bones don’t grow at equal rates. Environmental influences such as excessive strenuous exercise at a young age, obesity and injury can also increase the severity of hip dysplasia.

How to spot it

Lameness or limping in the rear legs are common symptoms. Some cases can be mild until arthritis sets in with age, making hip dysplasia symptoms more pronounced. An affected dog may also have difficulty walking, lying down or getting up.

Recommended Solutions

Some dogs with hip dysplasia require surgery, but others may be treated with medication alone.

One of several heart conditions that can affect an American Staffordshire Terrier, mitral valve dysplasia is a congenital cardiac disease in which the mitral valve is abnormally formed before birth, causing a significant leak across the valve.

How to spot it

Signs of mitral valve dysplasia can include heart murmur, exercise intolerance, labored breathing and coughing. Your veterinarian can diagnose mitral valve dysplasia through an echocardiogram.

Recommended Solutions

A dog experiencing heart failure due to mitral valve dysplasia might be treated with medication. Surgical repair may be possible, but results tend to be varied.

Another hereditary heart issue that can seriously affect the average American Staffordshire Terrier’s life span is pulmonic stenosis—a congenital heart defect that obstructs blood flow from the heart to the lungs.

How to spot it

Symptoms can range from very mild to severe. Mild cases may present no symptoms, while more severe symptoms can include heart murmur, exercise intolerance, collapse, arrhythmia or heart failure.

Recommended Solutions

Your veterinarian can diagnose pulmonic stenosis through an X-ray or cardiograph. Some severe cases benefit from treatments to expand the affected valve’s opening.

This genetic condition is the narrowing of a passage in a dog’s heart, which causes some obstruction of blood flow through the organ. Depending on how severely the passage is narrowed, the condition may be mild, moderate or severe.

How to spot it

Symptoms can include weakness, difficulty breathing, heart murmur, fainting and even sudden death. However, mild cases may produce very few symptoms.

Recommended Solutions

Your American Staffordshire Terrier may benefit from reduced activity, medication or surgical intervention in moderate and severe cases. Routine veterinary exams are crucial to monitor symptoms and heart function and to adjust medications and treatment as needed.

This is an inherited degenerative disease of photoreceptors in a dog’s eye. It is not painful, but it eventually leads to blindness.

How to spot it

Signs that your American Staffordshire Terrier has progressive retinal atrophy include night blindness, reluctance to go for walks in the dark, pupil dilation and clumsiness.

Recommended Solutions

There is currently no effective treatment for progressive retinal atrophy, and affected dogs eventually lose their sight. However, blind dogs can still live full and contented lives. Your veterinarian can advise you on how best to care for a dog with vision problems.

This is a condition in which a dog experiences degenerative changes within the cerebellum—the part of the brain where fine motor movement is coordinated.

How to spot it

An American Staffordshire Terrier with cerebellar ataxia may appear normal at rest but walk with exaggerated limb movements or experience head tremors.

Recommended Solutions

Treatment may include supportive care, medication or surgical intervention.

Recommended health testing

Recommended testing for this breed includes the following:

  • Screening for hip dysplasia
  • Screening for subaortic stenosis
  • Screening for cerebellar ataxia
  • Screening for autoimmune thyroiditi
  • Eye exams

Other tests may be recommended on a case-by-case basis.

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American Staffordshire Terrier grooming

While some aspects of parenting an American Staffordshire Terrier require extra effort—such as providing a thorough daily workout—grooming is a decidedly low-maintenance endeavor with this breed. These dogs are single-coated with smooth, short hair that doesn’t need a lot of maintenance and doesn’t shed a significant amount. Because an American Staffordshire Terrier’s soft coat is so short all over their body, it’s not typically necessary to cut or shave these dogs. Brush and bathe your pup regularly to help keep their coat in gleaming condition.

  • Brushing

    Use a bristle brush, rubber curry brush or grooming glove on your American Staffordshire Terrier several times a week to get rid of dirt, debris and loose fur. Whichever tool you use, brush your dog’s coat in a circular motion. You can also use a conditioning spray to help bring out the shine in your pup’s fur. During brushing, check your dog’s eyes, ears and teeth and pay attention to any lumps, bumps or tenderness in their skin. After all, grooming isn’t just about appearances—it’s a chance for you to check on your pet’s wellbeing and look for any changes that could signal a health problem.

  • Bathing

    American Staffordshire Terriers aren’t usually smelly dogs, and their smooth coat is easy to maintain with routine brushing and surface cleaning. Therefore, it’s unnecessary to bathe these dogs more often than once every six to eight weeks unless they have a habit of getting exceptionally dirty—or unless specifically instructed to do so by your veterinarian. Frequent bathing can dry out your dog’s skin and strip their fur of the natural conditioning oils that keep it in good shape. Make sure to bathe your American Staffordshire Terrier with lukewarm—not hot—water, use a shampoo formulated for dogs and rinse their coat thoroughly after. If your dog’s ears have gotten damp on the inside, swab them out with a clean, dry cloth or a cotton pad to help prevent infection.

  • Nail trimming

    Nails that make a clicking sound when walking across the floor are due for a trim. Unclipped nails can snag or split and hurt your pup. A good time for nail trimming is after a bath when your dog’s nails are softer and more pliable. Hold a paw in your hand and focus on one nail at a time. Whether you use a nail grinder or a traditional clipper, start slowly, trimming each nail back in small increments. You want to avoid nicking the sensitive quick, which can be especially hard to see if your American Staffordshire Terrier has dark nails.

  • Teeth brushing

    Regular teeth brushing is one of the best ways to help your American Staffordshire Terrier avoid dental disease. You can brush your dog’s teeth every day, but make sure to do it three to four times per week at a minimum. Use a toothbrush and toothpaste formulated for dogs and concentrate on brushing along the gumline. Make sure to get to the teeth at the back of your dog’s mouth, as infection can grow in these hard-to-reach areas. Additionally, your pet needs regular professional dental care—remember to schedule an annual veterinary dental checkup for your canine.

  • Professional grooming

    When you’re a busy pet parent, you may not always have the bandwidth to tend to each detail of your dog’s grooming routine. If you’re running behind on time to bathe your American Staffordshire Terrier or trim their nails, you can let the certified stylists at Petco take over for the day. Our dog grooming services include breed-specific treatments and customizable packages with optional teeth brushing, gland expression, nail trimming or ear cleaning. Whether your American Staffordshire Terrier could use a soothing dry skin treatment or a flea cleanse, you can find what they need at Petco.

Adopting an American Staffordshire Terrier

American Staffordshire Terriers are adaptable and good-natured and can fit in well with many families. Their love of romping, playing and sharing affection makes them ideal for families with kids—especially in households with a fenced-in backyard where they can let out extra energy. American Staffordshire Terriers tend to be happy, friendly dogs , and typically get along with other pets in the family.

If you bring home an American Staffordshire Terrier, it’s crucial to devote time to positive reinforcement training. Proper positive training can make all the difference in whether your pup grows into a social pet with good manners. Without plenty of socialization and patient, positive reinforcement training, this breed can physically intimidate people due to their sheer power and energy. Adults may also need an hour or more of intense exercise daily—make sure to budget ample time for recreation in the backyard or brisk walks and jogs around the neighborhood.

If you’re ready for an American Staffordshire Terrier’s sweet and sunny presence in your home, look to Petco Love’s adoption partners for your newest family member. If you’re not ready to bring home a new bundle of love just yet, you can donate to help other future pets find their forever homes.

Are you still debating whether an American Staffordshire Terrier is the right fit for your household? Use our guide Choosing the Right Dog for Your Lifestyle to help you decide.

FAQs about American Staffordshire Terriers

When people refer to Pit Bulls, they typically mean a group of dog breeds colloquially referred to as Bully breeds—and the American Staffordshire Terrier is one of these.

Dog breeds collectively called Bully breeds tend to share traits such as densely muscled bodies, a short glossy coat and a history of breeding for fighting or protection. However, these individual breeds also have distinct differences and are not interchangeable.

The American Staffordshire Terrier is often considered an aggressive dog breed, but this characterization overly simplistic. By nature, American Staffordshire Terriers are loving, sweet dogs whose strength has sometimes been exploited by people who have used them for violent sports or intimidation. In addition, unsocialized, untrained or improperly trained dogs of this breed may end up being drawn into tiffs with other animals, even if they may not be the ones to start them. Proper pet parenting and positive reinforcement training are incredibly important to ensure an American Staffordshire Terrier learns good manners.

These terms are often used interchangeably in the United States to refer to the same dog—the American Staffordshire Terrier. However, these terms may also be used to refer to two different breeds—the Staffordshire Bull Terrier and the American Staffordshire Terrier. The Staffordshire Bull Terrier—also called an English Staffordshire Terrier—is a breed closely related to the American Staffordshire Terrier, but there are differences between these breeds—the most noticeable being size. A Staffordshire Bull Terrier is several inches shorter than an American Staffordshire Terrier, typically standing only 14 to 16 inches tall at the shoulder and weighing only 24 to 38 lbs. In comparison, an American Staffordshire Terrier may be 17 to 19 inches tall and weigh 40 to 70 pounds. In terms of personality, both breeds are known today as being family-oriented and affectionate with their loved ones.These dog breeds are also similar in displaying intelligence, loyalty and athleticism.