FACT: This is absolutely false. Tests that have been done comparing the bite pressure of several breeds showed pressure PSI (per square inch) to be considerably lower than some wild estimates that have been made. Testing has shown that the domestic dog averages about 320 lbs of pressure per square inch. Recently Dr. Brady Barr of National Geographic conducted a comparative test between a pit bull type dog, a Rottweiler, and a German Shepherd. The Pit Bull had the LOWEST PSI OF THE THREE. The highest pressure recorded from the pit bull type dog was 235 lbs PSI. The highest from the German Shepherd was 238, and the highest from the Rottweiler was 328. Dr. Barr states that as far as he knows, the PSI tested in the Rottweiler is the highest on record for any domestic canine.
FACT: Pit bull type dogs do not have any special physical mechanism or enzyme that allows them to “lock” their jaws. If you compare a pit bull type skull to a skull of any other dog, you can see with the naked eye that both skulls share the same characteristics and general bone structure. However, one personality trait of the Pit Bull breed is determination. Whatever pit bull type dog do, they do it with a great deal of enthusiasm, and it’s this trait that can make it seem like they have a locking jaw when they bite down on something and are determined not to release it. No dog of any breed has ever been found to possess a mechanism in their jaw which would allow them to “lock” their top and bottom jaw together.
Stories of bullies’ super-strong jaws might make great horror film fodder, but science doesn’t support them. Research conducted by Dr. I. Lehr Brisbin at the University of Georgia shows that bully breeds don’t show any mechanical or morphological differences in jaw structure when compared to other dogs — nor do their jaws come equipped with locking capabilities.
To explore the question of jaw strength, a 2005 National Geographic study measured force of bite for several creatures as pounds of bite pressure. On average, dogs exhibited about 320 pounds of pressure, while humans came in at 120 pounds and great white sharks at 600. The study also included a simulated bite sleeve test with a German shepherd, a Rottweiler and an American pit bull terrier. The pit bull actually registered the least amount pressure among the group, despite rumors that bully breeds can clamp down with an alarming 1600 pounds of force.
FACT: Biting, holding, and shaking are not unique behaviors for pit bull type dogs. All dogs will perform these behaviors. A dog may “bite and hold” when it is playing or when it has been taught to do this. You have probably seen police K-9 dogs, which are commonly German Shepherd and Belgian Malinois, doing bite work. These dogs are specially trained to bite hard and to not let go even when someone is hitting them. You have also seen many kinds of dogs playing with toys. Tug toys and rope toys are popular because many dogs enjoy grabbing, pulling, and shaking them. This is a natural behavior that all dogs engage in.
FACT: This is a stereotype that is biased toward generalizing and condemning an entire type of dog based on the actions of a few bad people. The truth is that each dog should be evaluated by his own merits and not by his broad classification. A corollary truth is that there truly are no bad dogs, only bad people.
Dogs are not machines; they are living organisms. Like all living organisms, a dog’s behavior is influenced by both genetics and environment. How a dog owner manages his or her dog will determine whether the dog becomes a danger to humans. No dog is driven entirely by genetics to attack people, and no dog breed has been created or bred into such a state that all dogs of that breed are compelled to attack people. Dogs that are raised as beloved family pets do not harm people.
FACT: Pit bull type dogs are no more or less aggressive than any other type of dog. Many of the behaviors we expect from and encourage in dogs, including hunting, tracking, guarding, and even playing, are actually modified forms of aggression.
Although pit bull type dogs have a reputation for aggression toward other dogs, in fact, many other breeds and types of dogs are also known for such aggression. Dog-to-dog aggression is actually a very common behavior and is not limited to pit bull type dogs. Pit bull type dogs may be aggressive toward small animals, but again, this is common with all breeds and types of dogs. Dogs are essentially domesticated predators. Many dogs will exhibit predatory behavior toward small animals that they consider prey. A few pit bulls may be aggressive toward people, but again, this is not unique to pit bulls. All breeds and types of dogs may be aggressive toward people.
Aggression is an individual trait that varies from dog to dog, and has a lot to do with a dog’s environment and owners. Aggressive behaviors are common and normal in dogs of all breeds and types. Pit bulls do not exhibit any aggressive behaviors that are unique or extreme when compared to other breeds or types of dogs.
Veterinarians will confirm that vicious dogs of all types and breeds exist. Reasons for this include under socialization, abuse, neglect, or congenital disorders. Another factor in dog aggression is the human’s lack of ability to manage or recognize the issues described above.
American Temperament Testing Society (ATTS) performs temperament testing on over 5,000 canines which represent over 240 breeds, including a mixed breed category. “The test takes about 12 minutes to complete. The dog is on a loose six-foot (6′) lead and three ATTS trained evaluators score the dog. Majority rules. Failure on any part of the test is recognized when a dog shows panic, strong avoidance without recovery or unprovoked aggression.”
The breeds that are commonly referred to and legislated as pit bull type dogs all scored It the 80-90 percent (in 2013, Am Pit Bull Terrier, 86.8%, Am Staff Terrier, 84.5%, and Staff Bull Terrier, 90.7%). In addition, if one takes into account that many dogs that are considered pit bull type dogs are actually multi-generational mixed breed dogs, the mixed breed dogs tested in 2013 scored 86.7% on the ATTS test.
FACT: Dogs are, generally speaking, trainable and controllable because they are intelligent domesticated animals. Pit bull type dogs, likewise, are intelligent and domesticated, and like all dogs, they are obedient, friendly, and handle-able. Pit bull type dogs have excelled in areas such as agility, tracking, Shutzhund, search-and-rescue, therapy, and many other canine activities. LawDogs USA, for example, opted to use pit bull type dogs exclusively as drug detection dogs because the organization found pit bulls to be so trainable and eager to please. Of course, individual dogs land on the spectrum of train-ability and obedience at different points. While not every dog may be particularly trainable, it is extremely rare for a dog to be unmanageable. The overwhelming majority of dogs are quite trainable and manageable, and any behavior problems that a dog displays is more likely attributable to owner error than to something inherent or genetic.
MYTH: Pit bull type dogs are unpredictable; they can turn on anyone, even their owner, at any time.
FACT: Pit bull type dogs are no more or less unpredictable than any other type of dog. Often, a person who claims that a dog is “unpredictable” simply doesn’t understand dog behavior. In the overwhelming majority of dog bite cases, the humans involved don’t understand or have missed canine warning signs preceding the bite. For more information on dog behavior and aggression, check out “The Culture Clash” by Jean Donaldson.
The way our legal system handles dog bites only strengthens the myth that dogs are unpredictable. In the case of a dog bite, a dog owner that admits prior knowledge of their dog’s dangerous behavior will be more severely punished than a dog owner who claims to be ignorant of the danger. For this reason, after a dog bite happens, you will hear the dog owner say “My dog was nice before this! I didn’t expect this to happen.” It sounds like the dog unexpectedly snapped, but in reality, the dog owner is trying to reduce their punishment by claiming ignorance.
FACT: Dog-aggression and people-aggression are two distinctive traits and should not be confused. Unless a dog has been poorly bred or purposefully trained to attack humans, they generally love people. They are, in fact, one of the most loving, loyal, friendly and dedicated companions you can have.
FACT: Pit bull type dogs have excelled in many working-dog sports such as agility, search-and-rescue, tracking, weight pulling, carting, Shutzhund, hunting, obedience, therapy, and more. Millions of pit bull type dogs serve society today as faithful family members and beloved companions.
FACT: This is an urban legend started by dog fighters to justify the cruel activity of dog fighting. After all, if fighting doesn’t hurt the dogs, how can it be cruel? The myth is further perpetuated by fearful individuals who buy into the Hollywood monster myth of the unstoppable pit bull type beast. There is no scientific evidence to support this idea. Pit bull type dogs do indeed feel pain, just as any other dog does.
FACT: Dogs bite because they are scared, in pain, or defensive. They bite so that the offending person/animal/object will go away—and it usually works. As a result, a dog learns that biting is a very successful tactic for getting what the dog desires. Subsequent bites have nothing to do with the “taste of blood.” In reality, the dog is repeating a behavior that has gotten a desired result in the past.
FACT: Remember: each dog is an individual and should be judged by his current personality and behavior. Certainly he may be influenced by his genetics and history, but many (if not most) pit bull type dogs of unknown parentages have been horribly abused, neglected, and/or forced to fight still love people more than anything, and still will be loving family pets. Responsible rescues and shelters evaluate dog behavior prior to adoption, and then adopt out only those pit bull type dogs that display the proper temperament toward humans.
FACT: It’s a fact that puppies are adorable! But the thing about puppies is, well, they grow up. And as they mature, their personality develops and that’s when you really find out whether your pit bull is dominant or submissive with people, or whether they are aggressive toward some, none or all dogs. Dog-intolerance and dog-aggression are traits that do not develop in some dogs until they are fully mature. It is possible that the cute little puppy you adopt who is friendly with all other dogs may not like other dogs at all later in life, even dogs they have grown up with and lived with for her entire life. Both nurture (environment) and nature (genetics) play a role in determining a dog’s mature personality. This doesn’t mean that pit bull type puppies should not be adopted, but if you want to know how big your dog will ultimately be and how she will act around humans and other animals, you may want to consider adopting an adult.
FACT: No. Just no. They are all pit bull type dogs. The only intrinsic difference between blue nosed pit bull types, red nosed pit bull types, and other colored pit bull type dogs is that they are different colors. One can line breed purely for color, but all of these dogs are still pit bull types. In addition, line breeding as a practice is of dubious value and may actually be harmful to the health of the line in question.
According to the American Veterinary Medicine Association, “controlled studies have not identified this breed group as disproportionately dangerous.” The American Temperance Testing Society (ATTS) puts thousands of dogs – purebreds and spayed and neutered mixed-breeds – through their paces each year. The dogs are tested for skittishness, aggression and their ability to differentiate between threatening and non-threatening humans. Among all of the breeds ATTS tested – over 30,000 dogs through May 2011 — 83 percent passed the test. How did pit-bulls do? They showed an above average temperament, with 86 percent making the grade. Pit-bulls are the second most tolerant breed tested by ATTS, after only golden retrievers. Pit-bulls don’t have special “locking jaws” – that’s pure mythology. They don’t demonstrate some sort of special shaking action when they bite – all dogs display similar biting behavior. Pit-bulls don’t exert an unusual amount of bite-force for their size. Multiple studies have found that bite force correlates to body-weight, and tests of three breeds conducted by National Geographic found that the American pit-bull terrier exerted less bite-force than German shepherds or Rottweilers. While they have been a favorite of dog-fighters for a century, pit-bulls weren’t originally bred for fighting. According to the United Kennel Club, sometime in the 19th century European breeders began crossing various terriers with bulldogs in search of a breed that had the former’s enthusiasm and the latter’s stamina and strength. The pit-bull breeds that resulted were then imported and embraced “as catch dogs for semi-wild cattle and hogs, to hunt, to drive livestock, and as family companions.” (UKC also notes that pit-bulls“ have always been noted for their love of children,” but aren’t “the best choice for a guard dog since they are extremely friendly, even with strangers.”) Pit-bulls are among dozens of strong, muscular breeds of canine. All are capable of doing damage to humans if they’re not properly socialized and supervised. Most dogs do not, even when they’ve been neglected or abused. None are inherently monstrous – they are all just dogs. And we know what makes dogs of any breed more likely to be aggressive. Karen Delise, research director for the National Canine Research Council and author of The Pit-bull Placebo, has investigated hundreds of serious dog bite incidents in depth. As she explains: My study of dog bite-related fatalities occurring over the past five decades has identified the poor ownership/management practices involved in the overwhelming majority of these incidents: owners obtaining dogs, and maintaining them as resident dogs outside of regular, positive human interaction, often for negative functions (i.e. guarding/protection, fighting, intimidation/status); owners failing to humanely contain, control and maintain their dogs (chained dogs, loose roaming dogs, cases of abuse/neglect); owners failing to knowledgeably supervise interaction between children and dogs; and owners failing to spay or neuter dogs not used for competition, show, or in a responsible breeding program.
Information sited on this page is from credible sources and years of experience from dedicated volunteers. We strive to provide accurate information and without bias to the community we serve. We suggest everyone spend some time with a bully breed and make your own decision.
-American Veterinary Medicine Association, The American Temperance Testing Society, United kennel club.