10 Myths About Pit Bulls

10 Myths About Pit Bulls

The American Pit Bull Terrier and related Pit Bull types are among the most controversial dogs, often appearing in heated media debates. Under these circumstances, it is normal that several myths have developed surrounding this breed. How can you separate the myths from the facts?

There are a number of Pit Bull stereotypes, and we at AnimalWised are going to explain why many of them are false. In this article, we discuss 10 common myths about Pit Bulls, and the facts to disprove them. What do you think about pit bull dogs? Would you have one as a companion? Keep reading to discover the true nature of Pit Bulls, and reasons behind the many misconceptions that surround them.

1. All Pit Bulls are vicious and dangerous

Despite the bad press the breed receives, most Pit Bulls are not aggressive or dangerous. On the contrary, they are usually balanced, intelligent and loyal pets that don't cause trouble or put anyone at risk. This is not to say that all Pit Bulls are equally sociable or friendly. That will depend on the individual dog and the type of education they have received.

Aggressiveness varies for each dog in particular, and is not determined by breed[1]. So, there are Pit Bulls that can be aggressive and Pit Bulls that are more friendly. This depends on the genetics of the individual dog, their socialization, training, the care they receive from their owners and the way they are handled.

To read more about why this stereotype is false, take a look at our article Are Pit Bulls Dangerous?.

2. Pit Bulls have a locking jaw

This myth is as prevalent as it is absurd. There is no anatomical or physiological mechanism in the Pit Bull that causes its jaws to lock when it bites. A Pit Bull's bite is exactly the same as that of any other dog and, like other dogs, they may sometimes be reluctant to let go. However, a Pit Bull can be easily be made to break its bite in different ways, as we explain in this article on how to make a Pit Bull release its bite.

The jaw locking myth is not only related to the Pit Bull, but unfortunately associated with other breeds as well such as Boxers or American Staffordshire Terriers as well. In all cases it remains a false myth.

3. A Pit Bull's brain grows more than its skull allows

Another common myth about Pit Bulls claims that their brain is constantly growing to the point that the skull can no longer contain it, which makes the dogs ‘go crazy’ and become aggressive. The myth originated with the Doberman, which at that time suffered bad press as an aggressive breed.

This is completely false as a Pit Bull brain grows at the same rate as all other dog brains. If a dog's brain were to grow more than its skull allowed, the animal would die.

4. Pit Bulls have a bite force of 1600 PSI

One of the most widespread myths is that the Pit Bull exerts a jaw pressure of over 1600 PSI (pounds per square inch). Measuring the bite strength of any animal other than humans is extremely difficult. Since collaboration of the subjects can't be requested, precise data cannot be obtained. However, some measurements have been made that give an idea of the bite power of dogs and other animals[2].

A team from the National Geographic measured bites of different species, including dogs. While these are not scientifically rigorous studies, they do provide data to dispute the myth of elevated Pit Bull bite pressure. In their research they found that the average dog bite reaches 320 PSI, and that Pit Bulls were not the breed with the greatest bite force[3].

Bites from lions, hyenas and tigers are estimated to be around 1000 PSI. So, if Pit Bulls had a bite of 1600 PSI they would exceed the bite of a lion. It would also be impossible do schutzhund or protection training with them as such force would simply destroy protective sleeves, along with the arms of the trainers!

Other, more scientific, research has linked bite force to the size of the dog and shape of its head, rather than factors such as breed[4]. This means that dogs considered more gentle, such as the Mastiff, actually have a much more forceful bite than Pit Bulls.

5. Pit Bulls are unstable and unpredictable

Another familiar misconception associated with Pit Bull demeanor is that they are unpredictable and can attack both acquaintances and strangers without warning. Of course, this is untrue. Healthy Pit Bulls are balanced dogs and react to stress the same way other dogs do.

In fact, they have been shown to have a surprisingly stable temperament, and it is not common for them to attack without reason. Tests carried out by the American Temperament Test Society suggest that Pit Bull may even be more stable than most other canine breeds, such as Golden Retrievers, for example[5].

6. Because of their history as fighting dogs, Pit Bulls are aggressive with people

Dog fights that originated in the nineteenth century were carried out in pits where dogs were subjected to a whole range of abuse and cruelty. At the end of the fights owners had to be able to hold their dogs (the victors) to remove them from the pit. Therefore, the selective breeding emphasized aggression towards other dogs, but sociability with people[6].

So, throughout history, Pit Bulls have been selected to be friendly to people, even though in many cases they were selected to be aggressive towards other animals. This is not exclusive to Pit Bulls, however, also being the case with most breeds of terrier dogs and with many herding and hunting dogs.

Of course, there are individual Pit Bulls that may be aggressive towards people, but, as we have explained, this is not a characteristic of their breed, rather of individual personality. In fact, Pit Bulls make great family dogs, sometimes being used as so-called nanny dogs, thanks to their calm temperament.

7. A Pit Bull trained to attack dogs is also aggressive with people

False. Dogs are capable of distinguishing between different animals (including humans) and being aggressive towards one species does not mean that they will be aggressive towards another.

Hunting dogs are an excellent example of this. They can chase and brutally attack the prey they hunt, but they do not harm their human guardians. Similarly, herding dogs attack and sometimes kill predators animals that threaten their flocks, but do not attack the sheep or their humans.

The same goes for the Pit Bull. While some Pit Bulls are more aggressive towards other dogs or animals, that doesn't mean they're necessarily going to be aggressive towards people.

8. Pit Bulls don't feel pain when they fight

This is another common Pit Bull myth, often brought out to justify using them in illegal dog fights. It couldn't be farther from the truth. Pit Bulls feel pain just as much as other dogs, although during emotionally intense moments that signs of pain may be overshadowed because other physiological responses are more important to the survival of the body.

This also occurs with other dog breeds that can withstand very painful situations due to the rush of adrenaline in the moment. The same is true of humans and other animal species.

9. All Pit Bulls fight with other dogs

It's not true that all Pit Bulls fight other dogs. There are individual Pit Bulls that react negatively to other dogs (due to dominance, fear, etc.) and don't socialize well with the same species, but there are also Pit Bulls that are very friendly and get along fine with others of their species.

Most of them fall somewhere in the are in the middle of this spectrum, being neither very aggressive or excessively sociable with other dogs. We cannot stress enough that each Pit Bull should be evaluated as an individual and not as the stereotype of a breed. For more, take a look at our article on cohabitation between Pit Bulls and other dogs.

10. An aggressive Pit Bull can't be rehabilitated

Some Pit Bulls - such as those that have been used in dog fights, have suffered abuse or improper socialization - develop seriously aggressive behaviors. Following this, rehabilitation is a long road. While it is true that not all can be completely rehabilitated, most can, given the right conditions.

Rehabilitation should be carried out on the basis of a systematic program of canine socialization and training oriented to their needs, always led by a professional experienced in this type of behavior. Again, each case has to be evaluated individually. All Pit Bulls should not be judged as if they were a single individual representing a breed stereotype.

If you want to read similar articles to 10 Myths About Pit Bulls, we recommend you visit our Facts about the animal kingdom category.

    1. AVMA. (2014). Dog bite risk and prevention: the role of breed - literature review. Retrieved from
    2. Kim, S. E., et al. (2018). Bite forces and their measurement in dogs and cats. Frontiers in Veterinary Science, 5: 76.
    3. National Geographic. Dangerous encounters: which dog has the biggest bite? Retrieved from
    4. Ellis, J. L., et al. (2009). Cranial dimensions and forces of biting in the domestic dog. Journal of Anatomy, 214(3), 362-373.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2673787/
    5. American Temperament Test Society. (2017). Breed Statistics. Retrieved from
    6. ASPCA. (n.d.) Position statement on Pitt Bulls. Retrieved from
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    • Worrall, S. (2016). The most feared dogs may also be the most misunderstood. Retrieved on December 18, 2019
    • https://www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2016/07/pit-bull-ban-aggressive-dog-breed-bronwen-dickey/