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American Staffordshire Terrier: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly

By: Lizz Caputo

Discover the ins and outs of owning an American Staffordshire Terrier in our comprehensive guide. From their lovable personalities to potential health concerns, we cover everything you need to know about this loyal and affectionate breed.

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The roots of the American Staffordshire Terrier, often referred to as the AmStaff, can be traced back to England, in the early 19th century. Initially, they were bred from a combination of Bulldogs and Terriers for the sport of bull-baiting, a gruesome and cruel spectator activity.

After this violent sport was outlawed, many of these dogs found their way to the United States. Once there, breeders sought to increase their size, strength, and tenacity.

Over time, they evolved from their pit-fighting ancestry and took on the role of a dependable, multifaceted farm dog, helping with various tasks and providing protection.

Eventually, their reputation changed again, and they became recognized as loyal and affectionate family pets.

American Staffordshire Terrier Breed Guide


American Staffordshire Terriers embody strength and grace with a muscular frame that's as functional as it is striking. Their broad heads, pronounced cheek muscles, and strong jawlines are a testament to their powerful heritage, while their kind, alert eyes reveal a depth of character and intelligence.

Coat-wise, AmStaffs sport a short, stiff, and glossy covering that comes in a variety of colors, including but not limited to, black, blue, fawn, red, white, and brindle. This low-maintenance coat makes them as suited to city living as they are to country life, provided they get enough exercise and stimulation.

These dogs present a sturdy and athletic silhouette, with a build that is a perfect balance of power and agility, capable of impressive feats of strength yet gentle enough to be a loving member of the family.

Despite their tough exterior, AmStaffs are known for their loyalty and affection towards their families. They thrive on human companionship and are eager to please, making them excellent companions. They're versatile, adapting well to active lifestyles or more laid-back living situations, as long as they're close to their beloved humans. Their resilience and courageous heart, combined with a fun-loving spirit, make them cherished pets in homes around the world.

Similar breeds

If you're attracted to the loyal and protective nature of the AmStaff, there are a few other breeds that might catch your eye.

The Staffordshire Bull Terrier and the American Pit Bull Terrier, both cousins of the AmStaff, share many of the same physical characteristics and temperament traits.

These breeds have a similar historical background, and like the AmStaff, they have evolved to become loyal and loving family pets.

Are American Staffordshire Terriers hypoallergenic?

People who suffer from allergies often wonder if an AmStaff would be a suitable pet. The answer, unfortunately, is that American Staffordshire Terriers are not hypoallergenic.

These dogs possess a short, stiff coat that tends to shed moderately throughout the year. While this shedding isn't excessive, it could cause some discomfort for allergy sufferers.

Nonetheless, regular brushing can help to minimize this issue, keeping the shedding under control and reducing the amount of pet dander in the environment.

Looking for an allergy-friendly dog? We've got you covered with our guide to hypoallergenic breeds.


AmStaffs are often misunderstood because of their muscular appearance and history as fighting dogs.

However, these dogs are typically known for their friendly and affectionate nature. Keen to please their owners, AmStaffs are generally obedient and can be relatively easy to train, as long as positive reinforcement techniques are used.

They're also known for their remarkable patience and gentleness with children, often enjoying the role of a playmate and protector, which has earned them the endearing nickname of "nanny dog." There is some controversy surrounding this term, however, as all dogs no matter their breed or creed should have constant supervision around children. Any breed can cause harm to a child in the right circumstances, so it's always better to be safe than sorry.

Illness/Health concerns

Like any breed, American Staffordshire Terriers have a propensity for certain health issues. While they are generally robust and healthy dogs, some may be genetically predisposed to hip and elbow dysplasia, a condition that can affect their mobility and cause discomfort or pain.

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They're also prone to skin allergies, often resulting in itching, redness, and skin infections if not properly managed. Heart disease, especially in the form of heart murmurs or cardiomyopathy, is another common concern.

Regular veterinary check-ups, a balanced diet, and maintaining an ideal weight can help manage these health risks and contribute to their overall well-being.

How big do American Staffordshire Terriers get?

Your average AmStaff can weigh between 40 and 70 pounds, standing around 18 inches tall.

The adult size of a dog can be impacted by variables like age, gender, and activity, and it may be harder to estimate for dogs that are a mix of different breeds.

Life expectancy

For a medium to large-sized breed, AmStaffs boast a fairly long life expectancy, typically living between 12 and 16 years.

This lifespan, of course, is contingent upon receiving the right care, a well-balanced diet, plenty of exercise, and regular vet visits to ensure they stay in peak health.

Expected lifetime cost

The cost of owning an AmStaff over their lifetime can range widely, as it depends on a multitude of factors, such as the quality of food you choose, grooming requirements, professional training, healthcare, and more.

As a ballpark figure, you could expect the overall cost of owning an AmStaff to be between $21,000 and $30,000. This includes everything from initial acquisition costs, food, regular vet care, grooming, training, and any other miscellaneous expenses that may come up.

Given their misunderstood reputation and frequent misidentification, American Staffordshire Terriers can often be found in rescue shelters in relatively high numbers. This presents a wonderful opportunity for those considering adding an AmStaff to their family.

Adopting from a rescue shelter not only gives a deserving dog a second chance at a loving home, but it also helps alleviate the overpopulation problem in shelters.

Plus, choosing adoption over purchasing from a breeder is often a more affordable option, making it a win-win for both the pet and the pet parent.

It's always a great idea to explore local rescue organizations and shelters when considering an American Staffordshire Terrier as your future pet.

Estimated cost to insure

Insurance costs for AmStaffs can be slightly higher compared to some other breeds, mainly due to their predisposition to certain health conditions.

The cost of pet insurance can vary based on the coverage level, but on average, you could expect to pay between $30 to $60 per month for a comprehensive insurance plan.

This ensures that whether it's a minor illness or a major surgery, you're covered and your beloved AmStaff receives the care they need.

The good, the bad, the ugly

While American Staffordshire Terriers make incredible pets and family members, they come with their share of challenges too. Like all breeds, they aren't a perfect fit for everyone. Here are a few traits to keep in mind before you decide to make an AmStaff your new fur buddy:

  1. Exercise Needs: AmStaffs are highly energetic and need a good deal of exercise daily. If not properly exercised, they can become destructive.

  2. Stubbornness: They can be stubborn at times, which might make training a bit challenging for first-time dog owners.

  3. Tendency to Overheat: AmStaffs can overheat quickly due to their short noses, so extra care must be taken in warmer climates.

  4. Socialization Needs: AmStaffs need to be socialized early and often to prevent aggressive behaviors towards other animals. Their high prey drive means they might not be suitable for homes with smaller pets.

  5. Easy-to-Groom: Luckily, their stunning coats require very little maintenance. Bathing and brushing can be done a few times per year, but otherwise, they roll out of bed looking sleek and shiny without much human intervention.

  6. Breed Discrimination: Unfortunately, due to breed stereotypes and misinformation, AmStaffs face breed-specific legislation and discrimination in certain areas.

So you want an AmStaff...

American Staffordshire Terriers are a bundle of joy and love for the right pet parents. Their affectionate nature and zest for life make them stand out as wonderful companions.

While they come with their share of challenges such as high exercise needs and stubbornness, the love they give back is more than worth the effort.

Remember, every dog is a product of their environment and upbringing, so providing positive training, socialization, and a nurturing home is key. Whether you choose to adopt or purchase, AmStaffs have the potential to bring immeasurable joy and companionship into your life.

Figo writer Lizz Caputo


Lizz Caputo

Manager of Content Strategy at Figo

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