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Buying or Adopting an American Staffordshire Terrier

By Michele Welton, Dog Trainer, Behavioral Consultant, Author of 15 Dog Books

American Staffordshire Terrier

Interested in the AmStaff? Read each post on this page. Make sure the breed is right for you (and that YOU are right for the breed). Decide on sex and age. Then begin the exciting adventure of finding and evaluating breeders and rescue groups and selecting the right AmStaff. Don't be in a hurry!



Don't set your sights on the American Staffordshire Terrier until you read my advice in these posts.

Obedience instructor and author Michele Welton Should You Even Get a Dog? Are You Sure?
Important – I've been helping people choose and find dogs for nearly 40 years, and honestly, some people who decide to get a dog are making a big mistake... [read more]

Purebred dogs The Truth About Purebred Dogs
Pros and cons... (most people don't know about the cons)

Crossbred dogs The Truth About Crossbred Dogs
Pros and cons... (don't get taken by breeder hype)

Mixed breed dogs The Truth About Mixed Breed Dogs
Pros and cons... (are mixes inferior to purebreds and crosses?)

Is an American Staffordshire Terrier the right breed for you?

Obedience instructor and author Michele Welton American Staffordshire Terrier Review
I'll tell you what's good about 'em, and what's bad about 'em... most honest review you'll ever find

Are YOU the right owner for an American Staffordshire Terrier?

Can you provide what this breed needs?

  • Someone home most of the day
  • Fenced yard (6-8 feet high, not an electronic/underground fence)
  • No young children in the household
  • No other dogs in the household
  • No cats in the household
  • Extra safety precautions – ongoing supervision and surveillance of what's going on around your AmStaff, especially the presence of strange dogs who might start something your Staffordshire might finish in a tragic manner
  • Restricted exercise when young – until maturity (at least 18 months old), exercise restricted to multiple short (20 minute) walks, fetch games, and playing with other dogs – no forced running (beside a jogger or bicyclist), no long-distance treks, minimal jumping
  • Ample exercise after maturity – enough ongoing exercise that your American Staffordshire Terrier stays slim and is tired enough to sleep contentedly and not get into mischief
  • "Mental exercise" – interesting activities that keep the mind stimulated, such as a challenging dog sport (agility, rally obedience, schutzhund, flyball, musical freestyle, tracking, carting, weight pulling); challenging dog toys; a homemade obstacle course; tricks and games such as Musical Toys and Hide 'n Seek; instructions in my training book, Teach Your Dog 100 English Words
  • An indoor lifestyle, except for exercise and bathroom breaks
  • A meat-heavy diet, either homemade or commercial – meat is expensive, so people with less money should opt for a smaller dog
  • Enough money to treat the health problems Staffordshire Terriers are prone to (pet health insurance can really help here!)
  • An owner who is okay with moderate shedding
  • Commitment to provide thorough socialization – introducing your AmStaff to lots of people and other animals, diligently correcting any signs of misbehavior or aggression
  • Commitment to establish the proper Leader-Follower relationship with your American Staffordshire Terrier, teaching him to listen to you and do what you say

Which sex? What age?

Symbols for male and female Male Dogs vs. Female Dogs
Which one makes a better pet?

Girl hugging a dog Puppies vs. Adult Dogs
Should you get a young puppy, an older puppy, or an adult dog?

Where can you buy or adopt an American Staffordshire Terrier?

American Staffordshires are about middle-of-the-road in popularity in the United States. Out of 189 breeds in the American Kennel Club, where 1 is most popular and 189 is least popular, American Staffordshire Terriers rank 81st.

You might be thinking, "Hey, I see lots of them around!" Actually you're mostly seeing their cousin, the more common American Pit Bull Terrier. Or you're seeing crosses or mixes that might look purebred, but aren't.

Adopting From Dog Rescue Organizations
American Staffordshire Terriers may be turned over to Rescue because they need more exercise and interesting activities to do than the owner expected. There might be dominance issues, or destructiveness, or aggression toward other animals. The dog might simply be too much for the owner to handle. You would need to provide these dogs with the exercise, training, and socialization that they are lacking. Other Staffordshires are given up simply because of changed family circumstances, and these dogs may have no behavior problems at all.

Adopting From Public Animal Shelters and Humane Societies
You're more likely to see Pit Bull Terriers (or Pit Bull crosses or mixes) than purebred American Staffordshires. Some communities won't adopt out any dogs who even look like Pit Bulls or Staffordshires.

Buying From a Dog Breeder
You can buy an American Staffordshire Terrier from a show breeder, who breeds Staffordshires to match a detailed standard of appearance for the dog show ring. You can also buy an American Staffordshire from people who "just breed pets" or "just had one litter." But should you? Be sure to read the article to learn more about these people.

Here's one difference between a responsible breeder and an irresponsible breeder – BOTH PARENTS of an American Staffordshire Terrier puppy should have:

  • a certificate from the Orthopedic Foundation of America (OFA) or PennHip certifying the dog to have normal hips
  • a certificate from the Orthopedic Foundation of America (OFA) certifying the dog to have a normal thyroid
  • a certificate from the Orthopedic Foundation of America (OFA) or a report from a veterinary cardiologist – dated within the past year – certifying that the dog has had an Advanced Cardiac Exam and has a normal heart

Also, at least ONE PARENT of an American Staffordshire Terrier puppy should have:

  • a DNA test proving they are Normal/Clear of a severe neuromuscular disease called NCL-A (Cerebellar Ataxia).

If a seller can't show you those certificates, the puppies are higher risk for health problems. You might choose to accept that risk. But then you need to be willing (and able) to pay a couple thousand bucks for future surgeries and lifelong meds if your American Staffordshire Terrier ends up with hip dysplasia.

Puppy in a pet shop window Pet Shop Puppies: Buying a Puppy From a Pet Store
I don't see American Staffordshire Terriers in pet shops in my area. Maybe the stores are afraid of the legal liabilities, I don't know. But I do have plenty to say about buying a puppy from a pet shop!

Which puppy?

Symbols for male and female Choosing the Right American Staffordshire Terrier Puppy
How to test the temperament and personality of American Staffordshire Terrier puppies and pick the best puppy in a litter.

Girl hugging a dog AKC Registered Puppies: Are AKC Papers Important?
Should you buy only an AKC registered American Staffordshire Terrier puppy? Do AKC papers and pedigrees really matter?

Dog Quest book Dog Quest: Find The Dog Of Your Dreams
My dog buying/adoption book will help you find a good-tempered, healthy family companion.

Michele Welton with BuffyAbout the author: Michele Welton has over 40 years of experience as a Dog Trainer, Dog Breed Consultant, and founder of three Dog Training Centers. An expert researcher and author of 15 books about dogs, she loves helping people choose, train, and care for their dogs.

To help you train and care for your dog

dog training videos Dog training videos. Sometimes it's easier to train your puppy (or adult dog) when you can see the correct training techniques in action.

The problem is that most dog training videos on the internet are worthless, because they use the wrong training method. I recommend these dog training videos that are based on respect and leadership.

book coverRespect Training For Puppies: 30 seconds to a calm, polite, well-behaved puppy. For puppies 2 to 18 months old. Your puppy will learn the 21 skills that all family dogs need to know.
If your dog is over 18 months, you'll want book coverRespect Training For Adult Dogs: 30 seconds to a calm, polite, well-behaved dog. Again your dog will learn the 21 skills that all family dogs need to know.
book coverTeach Your Dog 100 English Words is a unique Vocabulary and Respect Training Program that will teach your adult dog to listen to you and do what you say.
book cover11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy helps your dog live a longer, healthier life.
book coverDog Quest: Find The Dog Of Your Dreams will help you find a good-tempered, healthy family companion.