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Thursday, October 9, 2014

Common Pit Bull Myths

In Honor of National 
Pit Bull Awareness Month

After much research on my part, I compiled a list 
of the most often recurring myths surrounding Pit Bulls.

But first of all what is a Pit Bull? If you aren't already informed: 
the term "Pit Bull" is an umbrella definition for many different actual dog breeds 
as well as your common "mutt". 
Please Click HERE For More Information.

For the purpose of this post I am going to use the term "pit bull". Generally speaking I prefer to call dog's by their actual breed name if possible. For mixed breeds that would generally fall under the category of "pit bull" I prefer to call them as "bullies" as it is a more accurate description based upon breed history. 

Common Pit Bull Myths

Photo Attribution: Flicker
Myth #1: Pit Bulls Have Locking Jaws - 
This myth has been around for a long time, no breed of dog has "locking jaws" it is physically impossible. The jaws of a pit bull are no different than that of any other breed of dog, except in skull shape. According to Dr. I. Lerh Brisbin of the University of Georgia, "...studies which have been conducted of the structure of the skulls, mandibles, and teech of (American Pit Bull Terriers) show that, in proportion to their size, their jaw structure and thus its inferred functional morphology, is no different than that of any (other) breed of dog."
Souce: American Dog Breeders Association

Myth #2: 
All Pit Bulls Are Not Trustworthy Around Other Animals/Genetically Inclined to Kill - 

The American Pit Bull Terrier has a terrier history, this vast breed of dogs were used for hunting and bred for their prey drive and desire to work. Like any hunting breed, pit bulls generally speaking - have a high prey drive compared to some other dog breeds. This does not mean that they can't be around other animals. With proper management, and supervision, they can happily learn to co-exist and love their non-doggy family members. Most dogs will chase cats, pit bulls are no exception. However just as their are pit bulls with high prey drives, their are also pit bulls with low prey drives. It's about knowing your dog, and picking the right dog for your family in the beginning.
For Ziva's story of how we worked with her prey drive issues click HERE.

Myth #4: Pit Bulls Are Naturally Dog Aggressive -
In all dog breeds, tolerance levels vary from dog to dog. Most well socialized pit bulls fall in the middle of the spectrum.
"Dog aggression shows up in numerous breeds, and it's generally "no big deal" unless you deny it, misunderstand it or exploit it...Our job as responsible stewards is to keep our pets out of those situations by reading their body signals and understanding their individual limits." ( Generally speaking pit bulls tend to be social butterflies in the dog world, they love going places with you and meeting other dogs. Being a very confident breed however they can be pushed to fight with another dog to maintain order or if they feel threatened. It is also very important that you socialize them and watch play carefully, most pit bulls and other bully breeds tend to play rough which when matched with the wrong playmate play can escalate and result in conflict.  

Myth #5: Put Two Or More Pit Bulls Together & Their Is Sure to Be A Fight - 
As with all doggy interactions a proper introduction and knowing your individual dogs are the key's to success. It's important that when adding a second pit bull to your established family pack that you consider the different personalities and look for a good match. For doggy play dates, pit bulls can get along with each other just fine so long as they are properly socialized to begin with, and are politely introduced to one another. It's then up to you to supervise and call breaks if playtime gets too rough. 

Myth #6: Cropped Ears = Dog "Fight" or "Bait" History - 
A lot of dogs including pit bulls have scars (it's just easier to see on a pit bull due to their short coats) for lots of different reasons. Many people crop ears to get a certain look, or for tradition. Another reason to crop dog ears is to help out with ear infection issues. I knew of a dog who had chronic ear infections, this means the dog was constantly in pain and having to deal with medicinal ear drops. Chronic infections can also result in hearing loss over a prolonged period of time. In this particular case, the veterinarian recommended cropping the dogs ears to see if it would help prevent infections. End of story? It worked! No more chronic infections.
When looking to adopt, don't just assume about a dog's history because of their ears. Even cropped eared dogs need loving homes! And in turn, don't judge an owner if their dog happens to have cropped ears, it's possible that the dog already had cropped ears when he was adopted.

Myth #7: Pit Bulls Are Unpredictable & Can Randomly Turn On Their Owners -
Absolutely UNTRUE. Dogs do not just "randomly" act out. There are always reasons for behaviors and aggression. A well balanced, socialized, and trained dog will never turn on their owner. However mis-handling, lack of socialization, or misreading dog behavior can lead to bites. Pit bulls like any other breed exhibit warning signs, raised lips, showing teeth, tenseness, hackles, and noise.

It's important to know dog body language, and have a healthy relationship with your pet. If your dog for example has food aggression issues it is important that you deal with it, and not allow it to escalate as this is how a bite can occur. Also knowing your dogs individual limits, some dogs get emotionally tired or overstimulated when around huge groups of people and need a break/safe place to go relax and be left alone, hence knowing your individual dog and proper socialization/training make all the difference. 

Myth #8: Pit Bulls Don't Feel Pain -
Pit Bulls have the same nervous system as any other dog breed and they can and do feel pain. However they are a stubborn breed and have been known to tolerate/ignore discomfort to finish a task.

Myth #9: Pit Bulls Have The Strongest Jaws/More Bite Pressure Than Any Other Breed -
Very recently Dr. Brady Barr of National Geographic conducted a comparative test or the bite forces of many different creatures (Source HERE):

Humans: 120 pound of bite pressure
Domestic Dogs: 320 lbs of pressure on average. 
"A German Sheperd Dog, American Pit Bull Terrier (APBT), 
and Rottweiler were tested using a bite sleeve equipped with a 
specialized computer instrument. 
The APBT had the least amount of pressure of the 3 dogs tested.
2 pound MacCaw Parrot: 375 lbs
Wolf: 400 lbs
Hyenas: 1000 lbs
Snapping Turtles: 1000 lbs
Crocodiles: 2500 lbs

Myth #10: Blue Nose/Red Nose Pit Bulls Are Special Breeds - 
FALSE. This is just a fad and dog description. Pit bulls were traditionally bred for performance, color was not high on the list of priorities. Pit bulls come in almost every color genetically possible for dogs.

Myth #11: Pit Bulls Are Responsible For The Most Dog Bites Every Year -
In tests done by the American Temperament Test Society, pit bulls had a passing rate of 86.8%, Golden Retriever 85.2%, Chow Chow 70.9%, Chihuahua 69.8%. Bite statistics are hard to accurately attain, first reason "pit bull" is a vague umbrella term referring to many different dog breeds it's a LARGE category, second many people do not report the bites of small dogs.

Myth #13: It's Not Safe To Adopt A Shelter Pit Bull Because You Don't Know Their Background - It's important that when you adopt a dog you take some time to be thoughtful and know what you are looking for in a new dog, as well as what personality will best match with your family. All dogs including Pit Bulls should be judged by their demeanor and personality, most programs also offer evaluations specific to each individual dog that will let you know if the dog has "dog problems", or has a high prey drive. To have a successful match in picking out a new dog you need to consider your activity level, how much exercise will the dog need, will the dog get along with other pets in your house, age, gender, etc. It's wise to wait for the dog that meets your needs as opposed to adopting a dog that you can't handle or is beyond your training capabilities.
One thing to know - many previously fought dogs, and bait dogs are successfully rehabilitated with positive training, knowledge, and a loving family and make for great pets. Don't just take my word for it - Here is a link to Michael Vicks former fighting dogs and where they are now.  Click HERE
And here is more information that will help you on your journey to adopting a new dog.  What Dog Breed Is Best For Me? Click HERE   How Did We Pick Ziva? Click HERE


  1. Wonderful post! I love it! ((applause))

  2. Yay! Beautiful.

    Even people that love pit bulls still say things like, "locking jaw", and "strongest bit force", etc. People are just uninformed. Even some of my family will spout off this BS like it's a known fact. So frustrating!

    1. That's very true and very sad...I've even had family members say stuff like, "you got a loaded pistol on your hands", "don't they have the strongest bite of all dogs?", "now these dogs are mean in the wrong hands right?", "aren't pitbulls typically dog agressive? Your's must be an exception." And the list of comments goes on and on...
      Drives me crazy!
      I try to be positive and gentle in correcting and informing people, but it's hard with all the negative stereotypes and media attention that gets around.

  3. I have heard all of these myths and then some! Yet every single pittie I have ever met has been an absolute sweetheart. Hopefully all of this anti-pit mania dies down soon :( Sharing!

  4. What a great post this is in setting the record straight. I've heard of most of those myths and wondered if they were all true or not. Thanks for the great education.

  5. Thanks for the post. Keep dispelling the myths, hopefully people will listen. Unfortunately those who need this info the most are probably least likely to read it. "Locking Jaw" proponents are the same people that tell me that they use motor oil to treat mange. Some days it's all I can do NOT to hit people with my animal control truck. *sigh*

    1. Motor Oil?! They're insane!
      People like that just should never have animals...*sigh. Well we do what we can with our sphere of influence. Thank you for your work as an Animal Control Officer! Too bad you can't toss the idiots into your truck and in some crates for a little perspective. ;-)

  6. Thanks so much for joining the Barks and Bytes hop. I was on vacation last week and am just now catching up.

    Very interesting information. I think the main problem that I have with pitbulls is that a lot of rescues treat pitbulls like any other breed but they aren't. They may not be worse than other breeds or mixes, but the people adopting these dogs need to know that they have a different temperament than say a golden or a lab. You point out a lot of things that I don't think are always explained to potential adoptive families and when they aren't then there is trouble. Because they are strong dogs, the trouble can be big trouble.

    For example, I know of a case within the last year. Group of three guys sharing a house. One guy agrees to foster 4 pitbulls because there was no where else for them. One day pitbulls get in a fight. The guys try to break it up and two of the guys end up in the hospital. I think a dog or two was euthanized. Now what kind of pitbull rescue would place those fosters? You might get away with that with goldens, not with chessies and apparently not with pitbulls.

    1. That's terrible! But unfortunately this type of thing happens all the time.
      Human error was at fault in that situation and the Rescue is to blame. A good rescue would have carefully screened before fostering out dogs, and 4 dogs is way too many unless you are a professional and have lots of experience. Placing 4 pitbulls of differing personalities, with inexperienced dog handlers is a recipe for disaster.
      Bully breeds need lots of exercise, structure, and strong leadership.
      Good rescue groups are careful in selecting potential families for their dogs, they are honest and open about personalities and potential problems.
      People think they are "helping" the dogs but in reality, ignorance, and lack of understanding kills more dogs than it actually helps. And it goes to adding to their bad rap. It's a vicious and sad cycle.

  7. PepiSmartDog: great post! Pit Bulls get such an unfair rap.
    Maybe another good post would be the crappy way bad humans mistreat Pit Bulls and the cruelty they are forced to endure.
    Glad your dogs have you as their voice - Pit Bulls need more positive voices on their behalf.
    Thank you for joining our Thankful Thursday Weekly Blog Hop.
    We look forward to reading your posts each week and seeing your piccies. *waves paw* :=o)


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