There’s a lot of misinformation out there about Pitbulls and their supposedly impossibly strong jaws. Here’s what you need to know to help separate the fact from the fiction!
A Pitbull measures out to have a bite of 235 PSI. It means that they’re capable of putting up to 300 lbs (136 kg) of pressure on something when they bite.
Two factors are heightening their bite strength: the “hold and shake” and the “don’t let go.” These both add extra power to a Pitbull’s bite force.
How strong Is a Pitbull’s bite?
One of the best ways to understand just what the 235 PSI measurement means is to add a bit of relativity to it. So, let’s start with humans.
A human comes with a 120 PSI rating, so Pitbull is about double that. It’s pretty scary when you think about it.
However, a Great White Shark comes in at 600 PSI.
One of the myths about Pitbulls is that they have the strongest bite out of all dogs, which is actually untrue.
They’re the strongest bite strength within their category of medium-sized dogs.
Still, their bite is far below what larger dogs are capable of doing.
How to measure a dog’s bite force
All pressure is measured using the same PSI calculation. It is the measurement that comes from applying pressure over one square inch of one pound.
When it comes to calculating a dog’s bite force, there are four main ways to go about that. These are:
- A geometrical analysis of the dog’s skull
- Electrical stimulation of the jaw muscles
- Electrodes played on a dog’s jaw when they chew
- Using a transducer while chewing a treat
They all sound pretty complicated, which they are. These are all theoretical ones that give results all over the map, though they are used in some scientific areas.
Most experts go beyond the data using the measurements of the dog’s skull and muscle density to get a tidy number when measuring your dog’s bite force in a practical sense.
What impacts a Pitbull’s bite force?
Let’s take a look at the bite force another way. Just because a Pitbull is capable of biting at 235 PSI doesn’t mean that he’s going to want to do that all the time. The impacts of a bite force include:
- The condition of the dog’s jaw
- Bite training
The condition of the dog’s jaw
A dog with sore teeth or a tender jaw from arthritis or TMJ isn’t going to want to bite as hard as one who doesn’t.
He may bite down with all of that force in a situation where he feels threatened, but he may go softer as well. It depends on the level of the treat.
A dog that’s appropriately trained to bite properly will rarely use its full bite force. It happens because, well, he’s prepared to only use that in situations where he needs to.
Of course, this is a good thing and is a crucial detail in proper training for your Pitbull!
As we mentioned above, a dog will casually chomp down on a treat, but he’ll snap down much harder on someone trying to hurt him or someone he is protecting. It is often not tested since most experts agree that it’s inhumane!
There are also two physical components of a Pitbull’s bite to factor in. Those are, as introduced above:
- The “hold and shake” factor
- The “don’t let go” factor
The “hold and shake” factor
This factor happens when a dog will bite on something and then frantically shake it back and forth incessantly. Most pet parents have seen this happen with toys, of course.
The same theory would also apply if a Pitbull were holding onto someone’s arm or leg. They would bite down and then shake back and forth.
This event is part of their “lizard brain” (i.e., instincts) and is used to cause damage to the nerves and muscles. It would slow the “threat” down and make it harder for them to return for a second hit.
The “don’t let go” factor
This factor is what most people think of when they see a Pitbull bite. They don’t let go of an object even if they are beaten or injured.
They have a unique ability to simply hang on (like an intense “tug of war” game) that many dogs don’t have unless trained to do so.
This, too, is part of their lizard brain and developed for similar reasons. If a Pitbull stays fastened to what he’s biting, it will have more impact on the injury, and they cannot attack again.
How strong is a Pitbull’s jaw?
When it comes to a Pitbull’s jaw, this is where the stories are true! A Pitbull’s jaw is very, very strong.
The muscle of the jaw itself is powerful, and so is the jaw bone itself. It is a feature unique to a Pitbull.
Experts agree that this superior jaw strength is where most will assume that a Pitbull has the most substantial bite of all dog breeds. It doesn’t, but it does have one of the strongest jaws.
Do Pitbulls lock their jaws when they bite?
Many people will describe a Pitbull as “locking” their jaw when they “don’t let go” of their object. However, Pitbulls aren’t physically capable of locking their jaws. No dog is.
While most people will swear that the Pitbull is locked on, this is a biological and learned behavior that has come down throughout the breeding process.
In some cases, a Pitbull will continue to hold onto the item. Even if the dog is unconscious or dead, in situations where a Pitbull attacks someone and onlookers cannot release the bite.
This sheer physical power from a powerful jaw leads many to believe (incorrectly) that a Pitbull can lock its jaw.
How to get a Pitbull to release his bite
If you’re feeling a little nervous now, that’s normal. It’s a pretty terrifying concept in a situation where you may be anticipating a bite from a powerful Pitbull!
You’ll be happy to know: it is possible to get a Pitbull to release his bite without hurting anyone or killing the dog (which we’ve learned doesn’t work anyway).
The solution is called a break stick. It is a stick inserted into the dog’s mouth behind the molars and rotated to open the dog’s jaw manually.
The stick will reflexively force the dog to let go of whatever he has in his mouth. The break stick usually has stiles on it, so that turning it will cause the dog to open his mouth.
A tent peg or a broom handle will work as well. But an actual, purposefully designed break stick is a good idea for the responsible Pitbull parent to have whenever and wherever they go with their Pitbull. Just make sure that you test it at home so that you know how to use it.
Can a Pitbull bite break bones?
A Pitbull is physically capable of breaking bones, but it would most often be children or senior citizens. Their bones are smaller and weaker, so breaking them would be much easier, too.
Due to their two physical bite factors, Pitbulls are most likely to damage the skin, tendons and ligaments, and muscles. These are more effective in self-defense, which is probably why they learned to do it that way.
Can a Pitbull’s bite kill a person?
Unfortunately, yes. A Pitbull’s bite can kill a person. Interestingly, however, the bite itself is not what kills the person. It’s the unique combination of the “hold and shake” and the “don’t let go” that we mentioned.
The person would most likely die from intense bleeding. The injury and head trauma, from being shaken and held without any relief from the bite and its pressure, would also contribute to it.
A reminder about Pitbull bite force and its potential threats
It all sounds pretty scary, and we agree. The thing to remember is that Pitbulls are naturally sweet, loving, and protective dogs. They will not simply bite down with their full force for no reason. It is reserved for situations where they are actively provoked or threatened.
With that, proper bite training (like we talked about above) is critical to teach Pitbulls from a young age. They need to learn when it’s appropriate to bite and how hard. Regardless of how well trained the dog is, you’ll still need to have a break stick just in case.
The other detail to remember is that training humans is as important as training dogs!
Everyone in the household and those who interact with the dog regularly should know not to provoke the dog and understand that it may have consequences — just like any other dog breed.
Essentially: be respectful of your Pitbull, train him properly, and this horrific situation isn’t one that you need to worry about happening without specific provocation.
All in all
A Pitbull is capable of biting down at 235 PSI. Their bite has two factors, including a “shake and hold” element to do as much damage as possible. And a “don’t let go” factor, which prevents the threat from getting away to attack again.
Pitbulls have strong bites and even stronger jaws that make their potential bite, and its consequences, essential to understand.
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