You’ve stayed away from Pit Bulls until now, as you’ve viewed him as a fearsome predator, especially among dog breeds. Hearing that the Pit can lock his jaw cemented that viewpoint for you. Is it really true that Pit Bulls are capable of locking their jaws when they bite or is it just a tall tale? I think it’s time we put an end to this myth.
Can Pit Bulls lock their jaws? No, Pit Bulls cannot lock their jaws, nor can any dog. Although the Pit Bull can be a stubborn dog who may try to hold on and shake when he latches onto something, his jaw isn’t stuck in that position.
In today’s post, I’ll further dispel why Pit Bulls cannot lock their jaws, backing this up with data from reputed canine resources. While I’m at it, I’ll go through a few more common Pit myths and debunk these as well. If you’re thinking of adopting a Pit Bull, you deserve to have all the facts. That’s exactly what I’m going to give you.
Where Did the Myth about Pit Bull Jaws Being Able to Lock Come From?
Pit Bulls are quite feared dogs, as I mentioned, which isn’t exactly unfounded. Remember, Pits were bred for dog fighting in both the United Kingdom and the United States when the Terrier breeds migrated over to the U.K..
However, as I’ve proven in a few posts on this blog already, just because the Pit had a rough past doesn’t mean he has to be a fearsome predator today. A hundred years ago, Pit Bulls were trusted to watch the children, acting as nanny dogs.
But unfortunately, their prevalence in dog fighting has led to their more terrifying reputation today.
When a Pit Bull does bite, be that a person or another animal, it’s not exactly a pretty sight. The Pit is a rather stubborn dog, and once he gets a grip, he doesn’t want to let go. Besides just holding on tight, the Pit can also shake, which can deepen the bite to the bone, tearing tissue along the way.
If the Pit Bull can hold on tight and shake violently like this, then surely he’s capable of locking his jaw, right? That uninformed assumption is exactly where this myth originated from.
Yet the Pit Bull is far from the only dog to shake when he has prey in his mouth. If you own any other type of dog or ever have, remember how your dog plays.
When you give the dog a fluffy chew toy, sometimes your dog will get a little aggressive and begin shaking the toy, right? This is not a trait that’s unique to the Pit Bull at all. If any other dog breed bit, they too might shake whatever’s in their mouths.
It’s just that we pay special attention when a Pit Bull does this because he already has such a ferocious reputation. Whatever can further add to that bad reputation, people try to do it.
Why Pit Bull Jaws Don’t Lock
Now that you understand a bit about how a Pit Bull bites, let’s explain exactly why his jaw cannot lock.
The reason is simple enough. As I said in the intro, no dog can lock their jaw. Yes, that includes the Pit Bull.
Don’t believe me? University of Georgia’s Dr. I. Lehr Brisbin spoke to the Animal Farm Foundation Inc. and had this to say about Pit Bulls locking their jaws.
“We found that the American pit bull terriers did not have any unique mechanism that would allow these dogs to lock their jaws. There were no mechanical or morphological differences…”
The American Pit Bull Foundation or APBF also spoke to Dr. Brisbin, who shared a similar statement on the Pit Bull’s likelihood of being able to lock their jaws. “The few studies which have been conducted of the structure of the skulls, mandibles and teeth of pit bulls show that, in proportion to their size, their jaw structure and thus its inferred functional morphology, is no different than that of any breed of dog.”
Even Tufts University’s Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine has an article that confirms as much.
Let’s say that again for the people in the back: the Pit Bull cannot lock its jaw.
How to Get a Pit Bull to Let Go During a Bite
How do you get a Pit Bull to let go if he latches on? You have several options.
Pull the Tail
By going around to the Pit’s rear and giving his tail a firm tug, he should be inclined to let go. Keep holding on to the tail until the dog releases its prey fully, as letting go of his tail too early could cause him to try to bite you instead.
A squirt gun or, even better, a hose or bowl of water will distract your Pit to the point where he should let go of what he’s biting, especially if the water is cold.
Try a Stick
You can also push whatever’s in the dog’s mouth out by putting something in it, such as a thick stick or a branch. The problem with this approach is you have to get close to the dog’s mouth when he’s in an aggressive state, which can be dangerous and lead to more biting.
Training and Prevention
The very best way to stop Pit Bull bites is to prevent them from happening in the first place. If you remember from one of my earlier articles on this blog, I mentioned that “a lot of violence that comes from Pit Bulls is often taught to them“.
If you train your Pit not to be aggressive, either at home or through obedience and behavioral doggy training classes, then he’s much less likely to be so. Socializing your Pit to other animals and people is also key, as it shows them that yes, other beings are perfectly safe to spend time around.
Other Pit Bull Myths Worth Dispelling
There unfortunately abound quite many more damaging Pit myths that I want to discuss, so let’s get into a few of these as well.
Anything and Everything Triggers Their Attacks, Which Happen with No Warning
Pit Bulls are not put into attack mode by a gentle breeze or by people walking by on the street. If your dog seems especially aggressive, then it’s worth training him, likely with the help of a professional.
As for whether the Pit attacks without warning, I’ve written about this on the blog as well. Like many dogs, the Pit will let you know when he’s agitated. His ears will flatten, his eyes will become primarily white, and he’ll pull his jaw back, revealing his teeth. He may growl as well.
Ignoring these signs can lead to a bite, which can make it seem like Pits attack without any prior indication. That’s far from the case though. You just have to know what to look out for.
They’re More Aggressive Than Other Dogs
Here’s where semantics can be really important. Pit Bulls were bred to fight dogs and other animals. Are they more likely to fight compared to other dog breeds? Yes, simply due to their breed ancestry. Does this mean a Pit Bull is more likely to be aggressive or attack compared to other dogs?
I’ll again share a link to a 2014 audio recording from the American Veterinary Medical Association or AVMA. In that recording, they come to this conclusion: “Controlled studies have not identified this breed group [pit bull-type dogs] as disproportionately dangerous.”
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals or ASPCA, a very significant animal resource, put out a Pit Bull position statement that echoes that of the AVMA.
“Research on pet dogs confirms that aggressive dogs are no more likely to direct aggression toward people than dogs that aren’t aggressive to other dogs,” the ASPCA says in their position statement.
They also add this, which I thought was interesting: “While a dog’s genetics may predispose it to behave in certain ways, genetics do not exist in a vacuum. Rather, behavior develops through a complex interaction between environment and genetics. This is an especially important consideration when we look at an individual dog versus a breed.”
This is what I’ve said all along, that conditions like training (or lack thereof) as well as the environment the Pit Bull grows up in can govern his/her behavior.
Their Bite Power Is Astronomical
Here’s another big myth surrounding Pit Bulls, that they can bite much harder than any other dog breed.
Every dog has biting power represented as pounds per square inch of pressure or PSI. A Golden Retriever has a bite power of 190 PSI and a much smaller Shih Tzu around 75 PSI. Most people say the Pit Bull’s biting power is thousands of PSI.
PetGuide.com released a list of dogs with the most bite power. You know who topped the list of dogs with the most biting power or PSI? The Kangal with 743 PSI of bite power. The American Pit Bull was in the middle of the list with a bite power of 235 PSI. Other experts estimate the Pit has around 300 PSI of biting power, but that’s it, no higher.
Is this a lot of pressure for a mid-sized dog breed? Sure, but it’s not nearly as high as some people conflate it to be. You know what animal does have 1,000 PSI of bite power? A tiger, or a lion, or a hyena, but not a Pit Bull. Not even close.
Pit Bulls are hearty biters who don’t like to let go. They may also begin shaking when they have prey in their mouth, which any other dog breed can also do. However, Pits cannot lock their jaw. They don’t even have as much bite pressure as people claim they do. If a Pit could bite at 1,000 PSI, its bite would be as strong as a lion’s!
Now that you know a little more about Pit Bulls and the myths they’re up against, I hope you’re more likely to give this misunderstood dog a chance!