What to Know About American Staffordshire Terriers

Medically Reviewed by Amy Flowers, DVM on April 30, 2022
7 min read

American Staffordshire Terriers, or AmStaff, are confident, intelligent, and friendly dogs. They are popular for their bravery and loyalty. A well-socialized AmStaff can be a trustworthy and lifelong friend.

They belong to the family of the American Pit Bull Terrier. An American Staffordshire Terrier is a cross between older terrier breeds, such as the English Smooth Terrier, and an old breed of bulldog.

This dog breed is muscular, with average standing height and weight. They have a glossy coat that comes in different colors and patterns. A well-trained AmStaff has a high sense of alertness. They are also highly trainable, making this dog breed the perfect pet.

The American Staffordshire Terrier is a muscular breed with strength and grace. These dogs have a springy gait and low center of gravity that helps them maintain their balance when jumping, exercising, or walking. It also helps them escape easily from an opponent's sharp teeth and strong jaws.

The average American Staffordshire Terrier height is 18 to 19 inches for males and 17 to 18 inches for females. The male dog weighs around 50 to 70 pounds, while the female weighs 40 to 55 pounds. The average American Staffordshire Terrier's lifespan is 12 to 16 years.


AmStaffs are muscular terriers with a broad head, well-defined jaws, round dark eyes, and refined cheekbones. These dogs move gracefully and confidently with their springy gait. 

They have a stiff, short, and glossy coat that can be various colors, like black, white, and tan. It is usually pressed close to their body. Their coat can be patched or solid. AmStaffs don't require much grooming, as they shed minimally.

American Staffordshire Terriers also have strong teeth and a powerful jaw grip.


AmStaffs have a playful nature. They can be great friends with children (but never leave a child alone with any dog). AmStaffs are super-protective of their owners and moderately friendly toward strangers. This dog breed needs proper socialization early, as they are not friendly toward other dogs.

AmStaffs love mental and physical activities. They are highly trainable and learn quickly. Sometimes, these dogs may show resistance to forceful methods and be stubborn. So, it's recommended to be gentle with them.

They react positively to reward-based training. So, you need to show exemplary leadership skills to train these dogs well from puppyhood.

AmStaffs have a short, shiny, and smooth coat, so maintaining and grooming it is easy. The coat doesn't shed often and just needs a quick grooming routine with a soft bristle brush every week. This is enough to clean their coat of food particles, dirt, and anything else. 

A proper once-over with the brush also evenly distributes the skin and coat oils. This way, your dog avoids possible skin conditions. American Staffordshire Terriers also need regular nail trimming. Otherwise, they may struggle in walking and running with longer nails. This dog breed generally has good teeth, but you should brush them at least twice a week to keep them healthy. Make sure to use a dog-specific toothpaste and toothbrush.

AmStaffs don't require a strict bathing schedule — you can wait until they start smelling bad. But if they get into a mess, you shouldn't wait longer. 


The American Staffordshire Terrier is an athletic dog. It requires an extensive exercise routine. You can leave the dog in your backyard to run and jump. But these are people-friendly dogs, so they may require you to join them.

AmStaffs love playing with their owners. Long play sessions develop their physical and mental strength. They also like participating in canine-specific sports, like agility, obedience, and dock diving. They also perform well in search and rescue.


Early training and socialization classes are necessary for AmStaffs, whose muscular build and physical strength need to be under control. They are intelligent creatures, so playing with and training them is generally fun and easy. 

Sometimes, you may find it hard to change certain behaviors, like chewing and digging. The American Staffordshire Terrier's temperament can be concerning. Even well-socialized AmStaffs can get quite aggressive. They are not friendly with other dogs, so never leave them alone together.


AmStaffs are not picky when it comes to food. They eat quality dog food, including homemade meals and commercially prepared foods. Be sure to give the right portion based on your dog's age, and consult your vet to make sure the diet plan is nutritionally complete and balanced.

Some AmStaffs tend to gain weight, so keep an eye on their calorie intake and weight. These dogs love treats and reward-based training, but too much may make them obese. This could lead to several health issues.

Contact your vet with any questions about your dog's nutritional needs.

American Staffordshire Terriers are a healthy and robust breed, but they can be prone to several health issues. You should take your dog to a vet for regular checkups and screening tests.

AmStaffs are at risk of developing issues related to the elbows, thyroid, heart, hips, muscles, knees, and eyes. They can also have skin allergies.

Some common American Staffordshire Terrier health problems are:

Cerebellar Ataxia

This is a progressive decline in the dog's muscle coordination. Cerebellar ataxia is caused by the development of lesions in the cerebellum region of the brain. This condition starts to develop between ages 3 and 5 and may worsen with time. 

The dog struggles with managing their gait's rate and range. As a result, you'll find them taking exaggerated steps even when walking on a flat surface.

The common symptoms of ataxia are:

  • Unsteadiness
  • Damaged toenails
  • Unusual eye movement
  • Standing with wide-apart legs

Hip dysplasia 

This is a common skeletal condition in larger- and smaller-breed dogs alike. It results in the displacement of the ball and the socket of the hip joint, resulting in the bones rubbing and grinding against each other.

Hip dysplasia can worsen over time and may damage the entire joint if not treated on time. The common symptoms of hip dysplasia are:

  • Stiffness
  • Low productivity
  • Difficulty in movements
  • Decreased thigh muscle mass
  • Enlarged shoulder muscles 
  • Extreme pain, especially in sitting

Elbow dysplasia 

This refers to a condition in which a dog develops an unusual elbow joint. It is the abnormal growth and development of bones and cartilage of the elbow, resulting in extreme stress in the joint. 

Elbow dysplasia is caused when any of the three bones in the dog's elbow joint (radius, ulna, and humerus) fails to remain in its proper position. This causes an irregular weight distribution on the elbow joint. 

The common symptoms of this American Staffordshire Terrier health issue are:

  • Severe pain in the elbow joint
  • Lameness
  • Arthritis 


This is an endocrine disorder caused by underactive thyroid function in dogs. It affects several critical bodily systems. The common symptoms of hypothyroidism are:

  • Lethargy
  • Unusual weight gain
  • Haircoat changes
  • Unusual skin appearance

Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA)

PRA refers to several degenerative diseases that target a dog's vision. These conditions affect the dog's photoreceptor cells, resulting in temporary or complete blindness without proper treatment.

Common symptoms of PRA are:

  • Night blindness
  • Clumsiness
  • Narrow pupils


Older AmStaffs are more likely to develop arthritis. This condition affects the dog's hips, legs, and back. When not diagnosed on time, the dog struggles to walk, run, and climb. Arthritis is usually hereditary but can be developed later in the dog's life. 

With proper treatment and exercise, your dog can recover from this condition. The common symptoms of arthritis in dogs are:

  • Difficulty in standing up 
  • Struggling to climb stairs
  • Painful movements 
  • Taking small leaps with the rear limbs
  • Fatigue

American Staffordshire Terrier traits are moderate. They have good levels of protectiveness, playfulness, adaptability, and openness to strangers. But they can be pretty aggressive. 

It's better to never leave your AmStaff, however well-socialized, alone with another dog. They are highly affectionate with people, so they can be your best companions. Sometimes, though, they may get overprotective of children.

An American Staffordshire Terrier rarely drools or barks. You should keep an eye out for behavioral changes that might signal underlying health issues. 

AmStaffs eat everything that an average dog eats and require minimal grooming. You don't have to give them regular baths but should trim their nails as needed and brush their teeth regularly, even daily.

AmStaffs are a cross between older terriers, particularly the English Smooth Terrier, and an old bulldog variety. This cross became popular in sports like dogfighting in the late 19th century. Americans used to fight with larger pits instead of smaller ones like Englishmen. 

Americans used to call these dogs "Yankee Terrier," "American Bull Terrier," and "Pit Bull Terrier".

The name "American Staffordshire Terrier" became official in 1972, when the American Kennel Club registered it in their studbook. 

This dog breed has come a long way: from ferocious fighting dogs to sweet, friendly family members. With socialization and training, powerful AmStaffs became well-behaved and trustworthy friends. 

In the 1980s, American Staffordshire Terriers were targeted with breed-specific legislation against them. Yet, AmStaffs are among the most loved and preferred dog breeds in the country.