American Staffordshire Terrier Dog Breed

rican Staffordshire Terrier Puppy in forest

Although their appearance hasn’t changed much since they were originally bred for fighting, years of love and care have ensured today’s American Staffordshire Terriers have a heart of gold. These smart, good-natured, fiercely loyal and loving dogs are muscular and strong. Yet inside, they’re giant softies who want to be a part of whatever their family is doing.

Daily adventures, playtime and games with you, plus end-of-day snuggle time, is all they need to stay happy. It’s essential that you invest in early training and socialisation to help your American Staffy learn to love other people and animals as much as they love you. In return for your efforts, you’ll have the most devoted (occasionally goofy) pup you could wish for.

American Staffordshire Terrier Facts

Your own personal bodyguard, American Staffordshire Terriers can be up to 48cm tall and weigh up to 31kg - they’re solidly built and strong to boot. With around 18 colours and various markings, they have short, glossy, stiff coats that are easy to maintain.

  • Breed Group: Terrier
  • Height: Female: 43-45cm, Male: 45-48cm
  • Weight: Female: 18-25kg, Male: 25-31kg
  • Life Span: 12-16 years
  • Coat: Short, smooth
  • Colour: Various including black, blue, and white

American Staffordshire Terrier

Breed Characteristics

Friendliness
High
Exercise needs
High
Health issues
Medium Medium
Barking tendencies
Medium
Grooming needs
Low
Shedding level
Low

What Does an America Staffordshire Terrier Look Like?

Medium-sized, American Staffordshire Terriers are stocky and muscular - it’s easy to see why originally they were bred to be fighters. Look beyond their distinctive shape and you’ll see a broad head with well-defined jaws and cheekbones. Wide apart dark round eyes let you know these are intelligent, alert dogs. Watch their high-set ears spring to attention - they’re letting you know when they’re ready to play (pretty much all the time).

American Staffordshire Terriers are surprisingly agile and graceful when they move, with a spring in their step that shows their in-built confidence. Their short, glossy coat (that feels stiff when you touch it) comes in a range of colours and patterns. Although they can look a little fearsome (they can be very protective), a well-trained American Staffordshire Terrier makes a loveable and loyal pup.

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American Staffordshire Terrier

Breed Facts

Breed group:
Terrier
Height:
Female: 43-45cm, Male: 45-48cm
Weight:
Female: 18-25kg, Male: 25-31kg
Life span:
12-16 years
Coat:
Short, smooth
Colour:
Black, Blue, White

American Staffordshire Terrier Temperament: Gentle Giant

American Staffordshire Terriers love their families. With protectiveness, confidence and bravery in spades, these intelligent, loyal dogs love nothing more than uninterrupted time with their families, both inside and out. They can live happily with older children but prefer to be the only pet so they can be the sole focus of your attention. They can learn to live with the comings and goings of a busy home. This combined with how good they are with older children (plus their goofy, playful side) makes them gentle giants.

As much as they love their daily exercise (around 1 hour each day please, with lots of playtime and quality time with their family), American Staffordshire Terriers aren’t super high energy. Once they’ve had their daily exercise fix, they’ll be perfectly happy to cuddle up with you for the rest of the day.

By nature, they’re very protective of their families which has contributed to their fearsome reputation. But a responsibly bred AmStaff that’s well-socialised and trained is the best example of these loyal, trustworthy dogs. Strong and smart American Staffordshire Terriers do best with experienced pet parents who truly understand their unique traits and can confidently provide safe early training and socialisation.

It’s worth understanding that in New Zealand, American Pit Bull Terriers are automatically classed as menacing and dangerous dogs, with American Staffordshire Terriers recognised as a Pit Bull type dog. This means it can be exempt from being classified as menacing if you can prove that it's an American Staffordshire Terrier. You can do this by providing certification from Dogs New Zealand (formerly New Zealand Kennel Club) proving three generations of pedigree and providing your dog’s microchip number. Check with your local council to understand the regulations in your area.


Keeping American Staffordshire Terriers Healthy: 4 Issues to Watch Out For

Stocky and sturdy, American Staffordshire Terriers aren’t at risk of many health issues but here’s what to keep an eye on. Regular vet check-ups will help keep your AmStaff healthy and happy.

Hip Dysplasia

Like a lot of dog breeds, American Staffordshire Terriers are at risk of hip dysplasia. It happens when the hip joint doesn’t fit properly and it can cause mobility problems and pain. There’s a range of treatments that can help, including medication and surgery. Try to keep your AmStaff at a healthy weight to lower their risk of developing it.

Heart Disease

Older American Staffies can suffer from heart failure which is normally caused by a weakened valve. It can be detected as a heart murmur at your regular vet check-up and medication can treat it, if it’s caught early enough. Protect your AmStaff against heart disease with a healthy diet and lots of exercise.

Allergies

If you’ve got a white or blue / grey American Staffy, they might develop allergies. These can cause hair loss and red, sore skin. Have a chat to your vet about changes to their diet or medications that can help.

Cerebellar Ataxia

Cerebellar ataxia is a serious neurological disease that causes the breakdown of American Staffordshire Terriers’ nervous system. Symptoms appear when AmStaff are between 3 and 5 years old and include a wobbly gait, tremors, incoordination and a loss of balance.

A hereditary disease, around 40% of AmStaff are carriers of the gene that’s responsible for it. There’s now a genetic test that can help breeders avoid breeding dogs that are carriers. It’s worth checking with your breeder that they’ve tested for this gene in your pup’s parents.


Caring for Your American Staffordshire Terrier Dog

With their short coats, caring for your AmStaff is less about grooming and more about extensive early training and socialisation. They need to learn to play nicely with other pets and animals but because they’re intelligent, training them is straightforward and fun.

Grooming

It’s easy to keep your American Staffordshire Terrier’s coat looking its best. A brush every week will get rid of any dirt and distribute coat-healthy oils throughout it. Give them a bath when they develop a ‘doggy’ smell (you know the one) or if they’ve rolled in something unmentionable. Once every 2 to 4 weeks should do the trick.

Keep an eye on their nails - too long nails can be painful when they’re walking or running. Aim to give them a trim every 4 to 6 weeks. Then they just need a daily brush of their teeth and they’re all done.

Nutrition

Your AmStaff will get everything they need from top quality dog food that’s suitable for their size and life stage (puppy, adult or senior). Treats count towards their daily calorie intake so try to avoid overfeeding them.

Interactive feeding toys or slow feeders can give AmStaffs the mental stimulation they thrive on.


    Exercise

    Although American Staffordshire Terriers love hooning around the garden, they need more than just fresh air and space - they need time with their people and being made to feel part of the family. So, whatever outdoor activities you’re planning, make sure they can come along too.

    Athletic and energetic, AmStaffs need around 1 hour of exercise every day and a sedate amble around the block won’t cut it. They love to come with you on jogs or runs and enjoy a mix of exercise, including walks, play sessions and games - they’re partial to catching balls and tugs of war! Other ideas include a sandbox in the garden that they can dig in and agility training, which is well-suited to their intelligence.


    Training Your American Staffordshire Terrier

    All dog breeds benefit from early socialisation and puppy training classes. But it’s essential for American Staffordshire Terriers thanks to their physical strength and stubbornness. Training can start as early as 8 weeks old. AmStaff’s intelligence and eagerness to please means training is fun and easy for you both. It’s good to understand that some AmStaff traits, like chewing and digging, can’t be trained out of them.

    Training an AmStaff needs consistency, a firm (but gentle) hand and positive reinforcement (lots of treats, toys and praise). Early socialisation with other animals and people is key. Working with a professional dog trainer can be helpful as this socialisation can be done in a safe, controlled way that’ll provide plenty of positive associations for your pup - find your local here. Even well-socialised and trained American Staffordshire Terriers can develop aggression so it’s important that they’re never left alone with other dogs.


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