American Staffordshire Terrier vs Pitbull Terrier — Which One's Better? (Don't Judge A Dog By Its ‘Muscles’!)
/ / American Staffordshire Terrier vs Pitbull Terrier — Which One’s Better? (Don’t Judge A Dog By Its ‘Muscles’!)

American Staffordshire Terrier vs Pitbull Terrier — Which One’s Better? (Don’t Judge A Dog By Its ‘Muscles’!)

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It is not uncommon for Pitbull owners to report that their dogs sometimes just stare at them.

Not in an eerie way but more like a “You are my human” kind of way.

American Staffordshire Terrier owners, on the other hand, claim that their dogs tend to make a half growl-half purr sound when they are happy. It happens often when you give them something and they are excited.

They also love to smack their lips just before they settle down to sleep.

These are the little quirks that make these dogs exceptional pets and unique in different ways.

They both have bulldog heritage but is that where their similarities end? What more do they have in common?

And what are their differences?

We will talk about the difference in appearance, temperament, and even names.

Stick around and read further, and let’s break it down for you.

For this article, we will refer to the Staffordshire Bull terrier by its nickname, Am Staff, and the American Pitbull Terrier as the Pitbull.

American Staffordshire TerrierAmerican Pitbull Terrier
 American Staffordshire TerrierAmerican Pitbull Terrier
Size and WeightA medium size breed. It weighs up to 75 pounds and stands at a maximum height of 19 inches.A medium size breed with a height of up to 21 inches and weighing up to 75 pounds.
Life expectancy13-16 years12-15 years
AppearanceThey are short with a muscular body. They come in a range of colors. Those that are accepted by breeders include red, black, white, fawn, and a slate grey that almost appears blue. They have a broad head with pronounced cheeks and uncropped ears. These dogs have a single coat which is dense and short.  They also have a stoic build with a muscular body. They are a bit taller compared to the Am Staff and have a deep chest. The breed standard allows their ears to be cropped or uncropped. It is a very powerful and agile breed. These dogs have a single coat which has medium length hairs that lie flat and close to the body.
TemperamentVery loving dogs that are playful and full of life. They love affection and are super friendly even with strangers. It is a fairly smart dog but can have a stubborn streak when not properly socialized. Have high energy levels and are very loyal.Friendly and eager to please disposition. They love to play and can be very protective of their family. They are good-natured and even tempered and their protective instincts make them excellent guard dogs. While they love attention they are also attentive to detail making them intelligent and exceptional companions.
Health IssuesThis medium dog suffers from joint malformations, a problem with the thyroid hormones and skin issues.Pitbulls have problems with weight control and an overactive thyroid gland. They also easily suffer from skin problems and are prone to joint issues. Their eyes can also develop problems over time.
GroomingThe breed sheds heavily once a year. But for the rest of the time, they are minimal shedders. Their coats can be maintained with brushing once a week to keep them shiny and remove loose and dead hair. Even though they are a short-haired breed, molting comes with being a dog. Brushing teeth three times a week and trimming nails once or twice a month is recommended.Grooming this breed is simple enough because they barely shed and have a smooth coat. Because their hairs are medium length, they need brushing once or twice a week to get rid of tangles. They need to have their teeth brushed at least thrice a week of not daily and nails trimmed once a month.
TrainabilityThis is a fairly smart breed which is okay at following commands. But they have a stubborn streak that rears its head every so often. Patience is required because they are also very sensitive dogs. Responds well to praise and treats during training and adapts behaviors that please you with time.Very trainable breed which is why they feature so much in guard roles. They blossom with physical and mental stimulation. This breed is naturally athletic and eager to be active so commands involving physical activity come naturally to it.
American Staffordshire Terrier vs Pitbull Comparison Table

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What to Expect with American Staffordshire Terrier vs Pitbull

American Staffordshire Terrier vs Pitbull

Ask any layperson what they can expect with the American Staffordshire Terrier or the American Pitbull Terrier and they will jump to “aggression.”

But do the words, “The nanny dog” or “The children’s nursemaid” sound aggressive to you?

Well, those are some of the nicknames for the Am Staff.

The Pitbull, on the other hand, is excellently depicted in the 1920s to 1930s comedy “The little rascals” as Petey.

The original Petey was an American Pitbull Terrier and the second Petey that replaced the original when it died, was an American Staffordshire Terrier.

Both dogs have a poor reputation because of a history of aggression. But aggression in these dogs is typically a TAUGHT trait.

And no, it is not self-taught but human taught. The way you handle your Pitbull or Am Staff will determine whether they become aggressive or loving.

These dogs are both people-friendly dogs. They love human contact and play gently with children and other pets.

You may notice that the Am Staff plays with more abandon compared to the Pitbull.

Pitties naturally have a heightened awareness of their environment so they may appear to hold back just a bit. They also tend to hold back when there are other strange dogs around.

The American Staffordshire Terrier was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1936 while the American Pitbull Terrier was recognized by the United Kennel Club in 1898.

Types of Staffordshire Terriers

There is the American Staffordshire Terrier and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier. The latter is an English breed that is a native of the U.K.

American Staffordshire Bull TerrierAmerican Staffordshire Bull Terrier

This breed is much larger. It can sometimes even be twice the size of the English version of the breed. Their skull is also deeper and they have more pronounced chewing muscles making their faces appear more chiseled. As I mentioned above, they tend to go by the name Am Staff.
Staffordshire Bull TerrierStaffordshire Bull Terrier

This is an English version of the Staffordshire Terrier. They are commonly referred to as staffies. They are smaller in size and have more rounded almost blunt features compared to their American cousins.

Types of Pitbulls

A little clarity needed here! The term Pitbull refers to the American Pitbull terrier which is not recognized as a breed in America. However, it is also used loosely to refer to three other bulldog-terrier breeds:

  • Staffordshire Bull Terrier
  • American Staffordshire Terrier
  • Bull Terrier

Having said that, the American Pitbull Terrier is the dog that pops up mostly whenever you mention Pitbull.

The American Staffordshire Terrier is ranked 85th in popularity across the United States.

Pitties, unfortunately, aren’t recognized by the American Kennel Club, so they are not even ranked on the popularity scale. However, they are recognized (or shall we say: recognised?) by the United Kennel Club in the U.K. and the American dog Breeders Association.

1. Appearance

The Am Staff has a smaller frame but it is still muscular. On the other hand, the Pitbull is all muscles and girth. Some American Pitbull Terriers can be much larger that they even double the weight of the Am Staff.

American Staffordshire Terrier vs Pitbull — Weight and Height
American Staffordshire Terrier vs Pitbull — Weight and Height

When these dogs stand next to each other, it becomes a bit easier to distinguish them from each other. You will notice a difference in the features and even the height and girth. But when you see them separately, they appear so similar, you will be forgiven for confusing one for the other.

But how do they differ in appearance?

Ears

The Am Staff tends to have rosebud ears that have a floppy pinna. The pinna of their ears appears to fall to the back or towards the side of the head.

Am Staff with floppy ears

In contrast, the pinna of the Pitbull stands upright, and even though they also tend to have rosebud ears. The ears are perky and erect. When they are cropped, they look small, rigid, and stand straight.

Am Staffs do not undergo ear cropping in general but Pitbulls are more likely to have the procedure done as a breed standard. But some people will crop the ears of their Am Staffs as well.

Coat

Both breeds have single coats. But while the Am Staff has short dog hair, the Pitbull has medium-length dog fur.

Breeders emphasize to new owners that the Pittie has dog fur and not dog hair. It is dense and grows in short cycles. This allows the dog to shed it during warm months and grow it during colder months.

The Pitbull comes in various color options like red, brindle, chocolate, merle, black, and white. In comparison, the Am Staff comes in more exotic colors like blue (which is really a slate grey), sable, fawn, brindle, black and brown.

Nose

American Pitbull Terriers tend to have blue or pink noses depending on the coloring of the dog. The darker the coat color, the more likely the nose will be bluish. But lighter Pitties will tend to have red noses.

On the flip side, the American Staffordshire Terrier has a typical black nose regardless of the coloring of the dog.

Eyes

American Staffordshire Bull Terrier (2)

The Am Staff has small eyes with a general round to oval look that is set wide apart on the head. A similar set of eyes can be found on the Pitbull but the pitties are a bit more oval than round.

Both breeds have a few wrinkles on the upper part of the face which give it the puzzled yet intense look.

The eyes’ color ranges from dark to brown in both breeds.

Musculature

The Pitbull has a distinctly leaner build which is compact and all muscle. Its muscles tend to ripple as it moves, which is the charm of the breed.

The Am Staffie, on the other hand, is stockier, and although it also has impressive muscles it looks heavier and a bit more cumbersome.

But looks can be deceiving. This breed can achieve speeds of 25 mph while the Pitbull can reach 30 mph. This means the Pitbull is the 23rd fastest dog on earth.

But while the Pitbull can sustain the elevated speed for a distance, the Am Staff can only run for 25 mph for a short distance.

The muscles on the Pittie give it agility and speed and its body is built to take on long distances.

It makes sense that they were couriers during World War I and II.

2. Grooming American Staffordshire Terrier vs Pitbull

grooming an an staff at home

It’s time to brush: What to expect

The Pittie will shed more than the Am Staff because they have longer dog fur that grows in cycles. They do not need deshedding tools like Golden Retrievers or Siberian Huskies which have double coats.

They are, however, more likely to leave strands of fur on your clothes and furniture.

Use a slicker brush on the entire coat of the Am Staff for thorough yet not abrasive brushing sessions. Their single coat doesn’t offer the skin much protection from the brush. If you brush too hard, you will irritate their delicate skin.

Take ten to fifteen minutes with the brushing because the hair is short.

For the Pitbull, consider using a slicker brush first to untangle any hairs and a bristle brush to make the coat shiny and distribute the dog’s natural oils all over the coat. 

There is no need for undercoat rakes, furminators, and deshedding tools when brushing this breed.

A little water, please

The coats of these dogs do not tend to trap a lot of dirt or debris as compared to double coats. So, they may require a bath once every three months. Bathe them more often if they are outside a lot more and have a very active lifestyle.

They are true wash-and-go breeds because you do not have to worry about drying an undercoat after their bath. You also realize that you do not need too much water to get them clean.

Dog shampoo and conditioner will not only take care of the coat but also keep the skin healthy and nourished.

Cleaning the rosebud

The rosebud ears of both breeds need to be checked often and gently wiped using a piece of gauze dipped in an ear cleaning solution. Do not use a Q-tip to get into the crevices of the ears. The gauze will suffice.

The good news is that the pinna is completely upright on the Pitbull and halfway upright on the Am Staffie. The flop of the Am Staff’s ears is slight and only at the top.

Hold the pinna and wipe around it, the back and the front. Clean the rosebud section carefully but gently. Pour some cleaning solution into the ears until it fills the ear canal to the top. Leave it in place by holding the dog’s head in place for thirty seconds, allowing it to swirl in the ear.

When you release the dog’s head, the pooch will automatically shake its head and remove the solution from the ear. Clean the remnants of the solution of the dog’s pinna.

Get to the pearly whites

Both dogs will benefit from brushing their teeth thrice a week. The Am Staff may resist at first but if your use chicken or beef flavored dog toothpaste, they will come around. 

On the flip side, Pitbulls are more obedient and you will have an easier time brushing their teeth.

smiling pitbull

If you have a dog with a particularly stubborn streak, consider using toothpaste like Petsmile Professional dog toothpaste that doesn’t require brushing.

The Calprox formula in the toothpaste cleans the teeth without requiring brushing.

Short nails win

Your Pittie or Am Staff will not be able to run any distance or even walk comfortably for that matter with long nails. They need to have their nails trimmed once a month to keep them manageable and to not interfere with the dog’s gait.

Am Staffs are more likely to have longer nails because they can get pretty comfortable on the couch. Pitties on the other hand are more active and their nails become naturally worn by the surfaces they walk on. If your Pitbull is not as active, also schedule a nail trimming session once a month.

3. How to Train American Staffordshire Terrier vs American Pitbull Terrier

This is NOT to scare you away from the breed, but instead to let you know the importance of training for these dogs.

Even though Pitties make up only 6% of the dog population, they account for 68% of dog attacks in the United States and 52% of dog-related deaths.

But here is the catch.

Did you know that both the American Staffordshire Terrier and the American Pitbull Terrier have been recognized as having a special bond with kids?

They make perfect companions for kids and love their cuddles and playing with them.

So how do you reconcile a very affectionate and good-natured side with an aggressive side?

Training, training, training!

When it comes to these two breeds (or any dog breed for that matter) this cannot be overemphasized. Train your Am Staffie and Pitbull as pups and socialize them so that they get along with people and other pets. They are trainable breeds that take to human and animal affection in a heartbeat.

  • Find a QUIET place where you can train your dog without distraction. The Am Staff is especially prone to losing concentration and seeking the attention of other dogs and people passing by. So, make sure you choose a calm place or go to the park during low traffic hours. The Pitbull tends to be a bit more serious and may not stray or get distracted easily.
  • Give simple commands at the beginning. For the Am Staff, make it two commands every two weeks. This allows the dog ample time to get accustomed to the commands. Remember that the Am Staff, while smart, has a shorter concentration span. The Pitbull can take more rigorous training because they are excellent at obeying. You can give as many as four commands over the next two weeks and they will quickly grasp the concept.
  • Monitor their progress and use treats and praise to reward the dog’s efforts. Both breeds thrive when they receive affection and approval from you.
  • They both also enjoy mental stimulation so make sure you get them to puzzle toys to train their brains. These are especially beneficial to American Staffordshire Terrier who needs to concentrate better.
  • When the dogs can grasp the commands, you can take them to the park. But always keep a leash on your Am Staff or Pitbull until they become accustomed to the traffic of people and other dogs. This is a critical part of training as your dog may bulk at the leash. So let the dog wear the leash at home for a few minutes at a time until they get used to it before using it on them in public.
  • Staffordshires are mouthier compared to Pitbulls. This is more evident when they are pups so train them to keep it down.

4. Exercise and Health

The Am Staff is the chunkier breed so they will probably not run as fast as the leaner, more athletic Pitbull. But there are other exercises that you can involve the Am Staff to give them an adequate workout.

For example, they are prolific jumpers (so are Pitties!!). But since the Pitbulls can run around all day, why not limit the running for the Am Staff with a nice jumping ring in your backyard? It is fun and it helps them exercise as they need to.

The American Staffordshire Terrier can do a minimum of one hour while the American Pitbull Terrier needs at least a minimum of two hours. The latter breed is a bit more active and takes on very high-energy roles like guarding and protecting which require athletic prowess.

Am Staffs are partial to afternoon naps.

Health Conditions Affecting American Pitbull Terrier vs American Staffordshire Terrier

Both being bulldogs, they tend to have identical health conditions.

You can expect to deal with joint problems like hip and elbow dysplasia. This condition features a bone that is not able to fit correctly into its corresponding socket. Poor thing experiences excruciating pain that prevents it from being able to move around.

Pitties experience joint problems more than Am Staff because they become very active early in life which may cause malformation on their developing bone structure.

Both dogs are also prone to an overactive thyroid gland that releases very little secretions. That means the body of the dog slows down in development, obesity kicks in and the coat and skin become susceptible to irritation and infections.

The dogs also become lethargic and experience thinning of the coat to almost bald. That makes them susceptible to cold temperatures making them intolerant to low temperatures.

American Pitbull Terriers are more prone to heart conditions. The most common is the congenital heart defect that causes the narrowing of the connection between the aorta and the left ventricle. It reduces the flow of oxygen to the heart and results in a lethargic dog that is no longer active or it may suddenly die.

Both Am Staffs and Pitties are prone to allergies, especially skin-related ones. That is because they have single coats so allergens can easily reach their skins and cause irritation, inflammation, and swelling.

They may also have food allergies which can damage tissue in the body. But once you remove the allergens on time, the dog will be fine.

The American Staffordshire Terrier is more susceptible to obesity because they are more sedentary. They prefer to stay indoors for a cuddle rather than be outside playing.

amstaff taking a nap

Also, this breed loves to eat scraps from your table which can lead to weight increases.

The Am Staff is also a bit more susceptible to heat than the Pittie. So, try not to exercise them during the hotter hours of the day.

The life expectancy of both the Am Staff and the Pitbull is 12 to 16 years, give or take.

5. Price Comparison: Am Staff Puppy vs Pitbull Puppy

The Staffordshire can range in price between $1200 and $2000 as a pup. In comparison, the pup of a Pitbull will cost you $500 to $1000.

The price difference is because the Am Staff is more of an indoor dog making it suitable for apartment living. The Pittie is such an outdoorsy dog that it is happier on a farm or countryside.

Am Staffies are also easier to manage in dog parks and at home.

Word of caution: NEVER buy a Pitbull or Staffordshire from a breeder, pet store, rescue shelter, or puppy mill that doesn’t provide health clearance and guarantees.

Only buy from breeders that provide the family history of the pup, genetic marker tests, and breed even temperaments.

6. History & Fun Facts About American Staffordshire Terriers and American Pitbull Terriers

American Staffordshire Terrier puppy and Pitbull puppy

The confusion surrounding these two breeds is a direct result of the politics of kennel clubs and several unnecessary name changes to sanitize the perception and reputation of the breeds to the public.

You see, the bulldog-terrier breeds come from a background of bull-baiting and aggressive blood sports.

A bull would be placed in an enclosure and two bulldog-terrier dogs would be let loose on it to harass the poor bull. The animal would eventually collapse out of exhaustion or injuries inflicted by the dogs. The dogs were trained to be aggressive and go for the bull’s face and head.

These fearless dogs were even thrown into an arena with bears and other large wildlife. 

Their large jaws gave them an advantage over other breeds as fighters.

Unfortunately, that cultivated aggression was indiscriminate. It was meted out on humans as well if they were cornered by the dog.

And even after bull baiting was criminalized by the British Parliament Act on Animal Cruelty of 1835, many people continued and continue to raise aggressive Pitbulls. And by Pitbulls, we mean all the four dog breeds that loosely accept the name, including the American Staffordshire Terrier. Not just the American Pitbull Terrier, although this breed reportedly has higher aggression levels.

Both Pitbulls and Am Staffs are the descendants of the English Bulldog.

The Pitbulls came to America with English immigrants from the British Isles just before the Civil War in the States began. During the war, they would be used to send messages across enemy lines, sniff out the wounded on the battlefield and sniff out the enemy ambushes for the troops.

The Am Staff is the name that the American Kennel Club settled on in 1936 to use to register the breed. But when they came to the US at the turn of the 19th century, they were called pit bull terriers. But to disassociate the breed with blood sports, aggression, and bull-baiting, the AKC gave them a new name “American Staffordshire Terrier.”

That explains why these two breeds look and act so similar. The name change was to help distinguish the Am Staff as a working dog for hunting, farm work, and companionship.

A complete difference from the fighting bulldog breed it once was.

The American Temperament Test Society conducts yearly temperament tests. Current test results show that both the Am Staff and Pitbull breeds scored in the top 23% of all the breeds tested.

Quick rules of engagement when dealing with either dog breed include:

  • Never leave a Pittie or Am Staff unattended in the park
  • Always put these dogs on a leash in public (they are lovable but when they fight, they fight to the end)
  • Socialize them from puppyhood. Otherwise, keep them in a single pet home.
  • Make sure the breeds are not banned in your city

Frequently Asked Questions

American Staffordshire Terrier with tongue out and ears up

Is aggression characteristic of the breeds?

Experts from American Breeder Association to the American Kennel Club unanimously agree that aggressive behavior towards humans is typically uncharacteristic of the breed. They are super friendly even towards strangers.

But if the breeder BAITS them to become aggressive, it becomes a natural reflex. This is the same thing you would expect with any other dog or animal breed.

The AKC and Breeder’s Association may not agree on recognition for the breed and other breed-specific details, but they agree on this!

What two dogs make up the Pitbull?

The Pittie is made up of the English bulldog and the Terrier. Their bulldog heritage gives them the name bull, while their terrier heritage gives them the Terrier.

The word pit in their name comes from the pits they were thrown into to bait bulls and bears during the bull-baiting sport years.

Why is a Staffordshire’s tail called a weapon?

Because it can be stiff and hard to the touch. When it hits you as the dog is wagging its tail, you will feel pain. That is why it is called a weapon, but only in jest.

Final Thoughts

The American Staffordshire Terrier makes excellent companion dogs and family dogs. On the other hand, the American Pitbull Terrier makes exceptional guide dogs, therapy dogs, K9 service dogs. They are equally great as family pets. 

If you are looking for a good family dog, you cannot make a wrong turn with these two dogs. But you have to be okay with giving them the training they need and instill positive discipline. 

And for the rest of your relationship together, you will have a loyal and jovial companion.

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