American Staffordshire Terrier vs. Pit Bull: What Are The Differences?

The American Staffordshire Terrier and the Pit Bull Terrier are two dogs that most people don’t realize are actually different breeds. Although they share many physical characteristics, they are distinct and have been for many years. Regarding their origin, they are sort of cousins to each other, but otherwise, they only share distinct genetic similarities.

If you want to distinguish between the two of them, you have come to the right place. There are physical tells, as well as more significant differences in their personalities and caretaking.

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Visual Differences

american staffordshire terrier vs pit bull
Image Credit | Left: Sbolotova, Shutterstock; Right: Lakatos Sandor, Shutterstock

A Quick Overview

American Staffordshire Terrier
  • Average Height (adult): 17-19 inches
  • Average Weight (adult): 62-88 pounds
  • Lifespan: 12-16 years
  • Exercise: 60 minutes/day
  • Grooming needs: Low
  • Family-friendly: Somewhat
  • Dog-friendly: Somewhat
  • Trainability: High
Pit Bull
  • Average Height (adult): 18-21 inches
  • Average Weight (adult): 30-65 pounds
  • Lifespan: 8-15 years
  • Exercise: 60 minutes/day
  • Grooming needs: Low
  • Family-friendly: Somewhat
  • Dog-friendly: Somewhat
  • Trainability: High

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American Staffordshire Terrier Overview

American Staffordshire Terrier
Image Credit: susanne906, Pixabay

The American Staffordshire Terrier is a breed that the American Kennel Club recognizes and places in the Terrier group of dogs. They rank 85th out of 196 recognized breeds for popularity in North America. They have a much longer life expectancy than Pit Bull Terriers.

The American Staffordshire Terrier is a confident dog with an affinity for guarding because they develop strong bonds with their family members. They are overall good-natured and do not generally take much training to be docile pups. They are also highly intelligent.

This combination of easy-going and smart makes them more convenient to train than some people might think. They also have a strong work ethic and readily commit to jobs in an array of environments.

Personality

The American Staffordshire Terrier is a good-natured dog with a loyal affection that is quickly developed for their family. They can be somewhat territorial, but this is easy enough to train out of them if done correctly.

These Terriers are loyal and can be used as companion dogs for a versatile array of owners. Since they are easy to train, they can even be a dog for a first-time owner. If they are responsibly bred, they are more likely to have a docile temperament instead of showing aggression. Socializing them from an early age is another way to guarantee their better behavior as adults.

Training

Training an American Staffordshire Terrier is relatively easy compared to some other intelligent dogs. Typically, intelligence manifests in a way that makes dogs more independent and prone to “selective deafness.” However, that is not often the case in this breed.

When training, be careful to give these Terriers plenty of positive reinforcement, letting them know that they have accomplished something that pleases you. If they have formed an emotional bond with you, it will make it more likely for them to repeat the positive action.

They do not respond well to harshness during training sessions, and getting physical with them in an unhealthy way can encourage unnecessary shows of aggression.

American Staffordshire Terrier
Image Credit: Myriams-Fotos, Pixabay

Health and Care

Overall, the American Staffordshire terrier is a robust breed. Just as they appear on their exterior, they are quite healthy and adept overall. However, they are still predisposed to health issues, mainly because their short fur doesn’t help protect them very well. They are prone to skin allergies and can quickly suffer from heatstroke if not protected in inclement weather.

These dogs can also develop urinary tract infections and autoimmune diseases more than some other breeds. They may develop bone and joint issues due to their different body types. Take them to annual vet checkups to ensure their continued health.

Their care is relatively low maintenance. These dogs are mostly muscle and do not take well to long periods of intense cardio exercise. They need about 60 minutes of activity each day, but this can be lighter or more focused on jobs instead of running or walking long stretches.

Their coats are effortless to care for because they only need to be brushed weekly to reduce the amount of shedding around the home.

Suitability

These dogs are suitable for homes with older children or singles in need of low-maintenance companionship. They are best for owners with experience in training large breed dogs with strong personalities.

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Pit Bull Terrier Overview

Pit Bull Terrier
Image Credit: Stacy, Flickr

The Pit Bull Terrier, much like the American Staffordshire, has somewhat of a poor reputation that harkens from a history of aggressive behavior. That is because Pit Bulls were originally bred and trained to be fighting dogs. This breeding favoring aggressive behavior forced the dog to have aggressive tendencies. These have mostly been bred out of them over the years, however.

Since their years as fighting dogs, they have become companion pups and family dogs. They also have a good work ethic and are often used on farms and as guard dogs. With their high level of intelligence, they are easy to train and enjoy learning new things.

Personality

Pit Bull Terriers typically have a higher tolerance for people than they do other dogs. They love their family fiercely and love to cuddle even more. Pit Bulls tend to think of themselves as lapdogs and don’t understand that their size and weight might make them too big to cuddle!

These dogs make excellent watchdogs because of their vigilance, and their overall bulk makes them appear intimidating, even if they wouldn’t hurt a fly. They are typically keen to alert you to strangers, although they are not otherwise very vocal dogs. If they are well-socialized, they do not make perfect guard dogs because they love people too much to pose any danger.

Training

Training your Pit Bull Terrier is typically a walk in the park. They are happy and intelligent dogs that want to please you by doing the right thing. The best way for them to do this is by following actions and commands. They generally learn quickly and can be trained to do a variety of jobs or follow different commands.

pit bull terrier
Image Credit: Ivanova N, Shutterstock

Health and Care

Pit Bull Terriers are a robust breed, particularly when they are younger. Unfortunately, many of the same illnesses and diseases that plague American Staffordshire Terriers also haunt the Pit Bull Terrier. These dogs are both shaped similarly and struggle to maintain themselves in the long run. They also have short coats that make them prone to overexposure to the sun and heat exhaustion.

Other than the weather, watch out for joint and bone deterioration. Hip and elbow dysplasia are two common maladies for these dogs. Allergies are also quite common for a Pit Bull Terrier. Skin allergies manifest the most often because these dogs do not have much to shield them against insects, dust, or pollen. They can also suffer from food allergies.

Beyond their medical care, you should brush them at least once a week, since they still shed. They have short fur, so it won’t seem as though you are doing too much, but using a rubber brush can help clear old hair away from their skin. It also serves as a good time to bond.

Suitability

Pit Bull Terriers are best for families with older children or singles who need a companion. They work well as watchdogs but not always as guard dogs, since they love people too much.

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Which Breed Is Right for You?

There are many similarities between the American Staffordshire Terrier and the Pit Bull Terrier. They have similar reputations of aggression that they have not earned in many cases. Getting to know one of these lovable breeds is proof enough to set most people’s minds at ease.

For prospective owners, these dogs’ overall breed personalities are similar. Ultimately, it comes down to a slight difference in their appearance. They are both good for families with older children or in a variety of working scenarios. Either way, be prepared to give them all kinds of love and cuddles.