The American Staffordshire Terrier, at one time called the Bull-and-Terrier Dog, Half-and-Half, Pit Dog or Pit Bullterrier and now commonly known as the ”Am Staff,” is a well-balanced dog whose tremendous strength is unusual for its moderate size. This is the modern version of the so-called “Pit Bull.” Am Staffs are stocky, powerful yet agile, well-muscled and highly intelligent members of the American Kennel Club’s Terrier Group.
Although descended from dogs breed for bull baiting and pit fighting, and unfortunately still used by unscrupulous owners in illegal dog fighting circles, American Staffordshire Terriers have many remarkable qualities, including their gameness, trainability, loyalty and affection. The Staffordshire Terrier was accepted for registration in the American Kennel Club Stud Book in 1936. The name of the breed was revised in 1972 to the American Staffordshire Terrier, to distinguish it from the Staffordshire Bull Terrier of England, which is much lighter in weight. The American Pit Bull Terrier and the American Staffordshire Terrier are virtually the same animal, with just different club registrations.
Most Am Staffs are between 17 and 19 inches at the withers and weigh on average between 60 and 80 pounds. Their short, stiff, glossy coat can be of any color or color combination, although white, black-and-tan and liver are not preferred in the show ring. Am Staffs require minimal grooming; brushing with a firm-bristled brush and an occasional bath should suffice.
American Staffordshire Terrier Dog Breed Quick Facts
American Staffordshire Terrier - History and Health
The American Staffordshire Terrier was developed in England from a cross between old-style English Bulldogs and assorted terriers. The exact terrier breeds used to create this cross are the subject of debate, but current opinion suggests the White English Terrier, the Black-and-Tan Terrier and/or the Fox Terrier. The combination became known as the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, which originally were used by butchers to manage bulls and by hunters to help hold wild boar and other game.
Eventually, the breed was used for the blood-sports of bull- and bear-baiting. After these “sports” were outlawed in England in or around 1835, dog fighting took their place. Dogs were forced to fight one another to the death in hidden arenas called “pits.” The Staffordshire Bull Terrier was highly successful in the fighting ring because of its tenacity, courage, stamina, strength and intelligence. Equally important was its loyal, non-aggressive and responsive nature with people; fighting dogs were expected to be obedient, trustworthy and easily handled by their owners at all times.
Am Staffs came to the United States in the mid-1800’s, and became known as the Pit Bull Terrier, the American Bull Terrier, the American Pit Bull Terrier and later the Yankee Terrier. The breed was accepted for registration into the American Kennel Club in 1936 as the Staffordshire Terrier. The name of the breed was revised effective January 1, 1972, to the American Staffordshire Terrier. By this time, American breeders had developed a much larger and heavier animal than the Staffordshire Bull Terrier of England, and many wanted to distinguish their dog as a separate breed from the AKC’s newly-recognized Staffordshire Bull Terrier. Other breeders preferred to keep the original name of American Pit Bull Terrier; their dogs were recognized by the United Kennel Club and have been bred independently from the Am Staff for more than 50 years.
Today’s Am Staffs are docile and intelligent and make excellent guardians as well as wonderful family pets. They have a keen knack for quickly discriminating between people who mean well and those who do not. The current reputation of the “Pit Bull” in the United States reflects upon the Am Staff as well, since they share a common history and in this country are only known by separate names because they are accepted by separate purebred dog registries. Flamed by poorly-researched, inflammatory media reports, the Pit Bull’s (and thus the Am Staff’s) reputation as a vicious, unmanageable and dangerous breed is undeserved.
Well-bred and well-raised Am Staffs are bright, kind, highly trainable and exceptionally gentle with children, family and other animals. The occasional dog that harms people probably was poorly bred, poorly socialized and poorly trained; it also probably was chained, illegally fought or otherwise abused by an unscrupulous owner.
The average life span of the American Staffordshire Terrier ranges from 10 to 13 years. Health concerns associated with this breed include allergies, cancer, cataracts, congenital heart disease, cranial crutiate ligament rupture, hip dysplasia, hives, hypothyroidism, progressive retinal atrophy and spinocerebellar ataxia.
American Staffordshire Terrier - Temperament & Personality
Loyal, fun-loving, fearless and affectionate, American Staffordshire Terriers (sometimes called Amstaffs) bring great joy to their families. Often confused with Pit Bull Terriers, the two breeds share an ancestral bloodline and were originally bred to fight, but the American Staffordshire line has become much more gentle in the last 100 years. Despite their reputation as an aggressive breed, the Amstaff is a true family dog. Loving and playful, this breed will play with children in the yard, then happily snuggle with mom and dad on the couch.
American Staffordshire Terriers require daily exercise to maintain their muscle tone. They enjoy long walks and playing in the yard. Because of their need for activity, they are best suited for a home with a fenced-in yard with plenty of room to run and play fetch. If raised alongside other animals, a well-bred American Staffordshire Terrier will do fine, but if adopting an older dog, it's best the family not have other pets. Even the most gentle Staffordshire can attack if challenged by another animal, or if he fears his owner is in danger.
Because of the stigma against the breed, some homeowners insurance policies will not cover American Staffordshire Terriers, so potential owners should consult their insurance companies before committing to this dog.
Amstaffs are strong-willed dogs, so training requires a lot of confidence and patience. They should be trained and socialized as early as possible – every well behaved American Staffordshire Terrier is a goodwill ambassador for the breed. Positive reinforcement should be employed as the training method for an Amstaff, as harsh discipline can lead to mistrust.
Socialization should also be done early. Amstaffs should be taught to be friendly to people, and that children are fun playmates, and non-threatening.
A bored American Staffordshire Terrier is a destructive American Staffodshire Terrier. Plenty of exercise and stimulation is key to maintaining the integrity of a home's furnishings. This breed loves to chew, so leaving plenty of bones or rawhide around the house can also protect shoes, sofas, and table legs from a bored Amstaff.
Aggression towards other animals is the biggest issue with the Amstaff. As long as the dog comes from a reputable breeder with a gentle bloodline, the Amstaff will not be aggressive toward people. Because they were bred to fight, and because they are loyal to their families, if the Amstaff feels threatened by another dog, he may become aggressive.
This breed should be treated as a family member, and never left tied up alone, outside. Serious behavioral problems and aggression can develop if an Amstaff is neglected and left without the company of loving humans.
American Staffordshire Terrier - Appearance & Grooming
American Staffordshire Terriers are strong, stocky dogs with large heads, strong jaws and medium length, straight tails. The AKC describes them as, “well put-together, muscular, but agile and graceful.” They have black noses, large, round, low-set eyes and wide, round muzzles. Their chests are well-sprung, giving them an air of confidence as they move about. Amstaff's legs are short, and long, lean legs are not acceptable. They come in a rainbow of colors and patterns ranging from white to black, solid to patterned. Though muscular and very strong, they stand only between 17 to 19 inches from the ground.
Size and Weight
Amstaffs are stocky, proportionate dogs. A height of about 18 to 19 inches at shoulders for the male and 17 to 18 inches for the female is preferred by AKC standards, but some may be larger or smaller. Male dogs weigh from 28 to 38 pounds; females, 24 to 34 pounds at maturity.
Coat and Color
Staffordshire Bull Terriers have a short, smooth coats that lie flat and close to the skin. They come in a variety of colors including red, fawn, white, black, or blue, or any of these colors with white, as well as brindle or brindle with white. The AKC standard prefers that the dog not be more than 80% white and a liver color is not accepted.
Staffordshire Terriers are very easy to groom – if the dog is taught to be handled from an early age. They can be quite stubborn and sensitive to having their feet touched, so it is important to get them used to being handled as puppies. Their short coats shed minimally throughout the year, and heavily twice a year as the seasons change. Weekly brushing can keep the coat manageable and shiny. Amstaffs don't carry much of a “dog odor” and bathing is only required a few times per year, unless the dog likes to play in the muck.
Amstaffs are prone to bad breath, so regular teeth cleaning should be part of the grooming regimen. Many owners brush teeth weekly or even more frequently too keep harmful and bad-smelling bacteria at bay.