Rarely will you hear stories praising Pit Bulls for their bravery or other good deeds. Instead, the likely headlines have to do with how the breed attacked a child. Take the case of Victoria Wilcher. According to CNN, three Pit Bulls attacked her, leaving the three-year-old girl with a half-paralyzed face and lost the use of one of her eyes. Her face was so disfigured that when her grandmother took her to KFC for a meal, an employee asked them to leave because Wilcher’s face upset other customers. Such incidences have people believing that Pit Bulls are one of the most dangerous dog breeds; thus, they do not make good family pets. Still, you must be wondering how hard the dogs mauled the little girl’s face to leave her needing several surgical procedures. Well, it all comes down to a Pit Bull’s bite force, and here, we shall enlighten you on all you need to know.
How is The Bite Force Measured?
Breeding Business defines bite force as the strength with which a dog bites. The bite force is measured in pounds per square inch (PSI). The bite force is generated by the teeth, temporomandibular joints (TMJs), and jaw adductor muscles. The jaw adductor muscles determine jaw movement. The muscles also help to close the mouth and control the bite force. Hence, they play the primary role of generating the bite force in both dogs and cats. Although in humans the shape of the skull does not vary greatly, it is still challenging to measure the bite force because the masticator system has many muscles in different sizes and shapes. In dogs, the challenges of measuring bite force are mainly from the differences in the shape of the skulls resulting from individual structure and breed variations. While these pose difficulty, another challenge in measuring the bite force in dogs is that it is hard to assess the strength while the animals are awake.
According to ResearchGate, one of the methods used in measuring a dog’s bite force is direct in vivo. Results vary depending on the situation, animal volition, and specific measurement technique used. As the article further informs us, in vivo method involves electrically stimulating jaw adductor muscles when the animal is under anesthesia. As a result, it does not reflect the bite force during an animal’s natural state. For this reason, only estimations can be calculated using mechanical equations that represent mandible and skull structure and the jaw adductor muscles. Alternatively, in silico measurement is used to estimate bite force; it involves FEA (finite element analysis) of the anatomical structure computed models. Since it is a computed model, the estimations are likely to be lower than in live animals.
How Strong is a Pit Bull’s Bite Force?
While a human bite applies around 120 pounds, a pit bull can exert 300 pounds on the surface it bites. However, generally, a Pit Bull’s bite force is 235 pounds per square inch. The force is strong enough to shatter the femur of a cow. Since a Pit Bull’s bite can break bones and tear tissue, you should be careful when playing even with puppies since they do not understand how much damage their bite can cause. According to UPI, one pit bull named Spike bit off a third of Tammy Walker’s ear. The 18-year-old woman was playing with Spike in the hallway of her apartment building when the dog bit her.
While this might scare you to avoid a Pit Bull at all costs, the 235 PSI is consistent with the bite force of other dog breeds of the same weight and size. However, it is much lower than other larger dogs. Still, Pit Bulls do not usually bite their owners or playmates out of aggression; instead, it is playtime for them. According to Tooth & Honey, Pit Bulls love using their front teeth to chew on toys, pillows, blankets, and you, as their owner. When this behavior happens, the dogs are not exerting their entire bite force; they are more careful and deliberate. This nibbling behavior stems from their childhood when they would nibble on their siblings during playtime. When the puppies grow teeth, the mother usually enforces the right amount of pressure to use during playtime, and they continue to nibble even on themselves when grooming. Therefore, nibbling on humans is a sign of being comfortable around you, but they may get carried away. Thus Walker would have noticed when the nibbling became more of a bite and yelped for Spike to stop.
What Affects Its Bite Force?
Not a Bully lists different factors that affect a Pit Bull’s bite force and among them is the dog’s weight. Weight strongly correlates with the bite force and is the number one indicator of bite force in canines. Pit Bulls vary in size and weight, with the adult American Pit Bulls weighing between 30 pounds and 90 pounds. Consequently, the smaller the Pit Bull, the less bite force, and vice versa. You should note that American Pit Bulls have the strongest bite force in the medium-sized dog category. However, that is not to say that obese dogs have much more bite force than healthy medium-sized dogs. The shape and size of the skull also affect the bite force. In general, this applies only to large and medium-sized dogs such that if two large dogs weigh the same, the one with a bigger head and jaw is likely to bite harder. For this reason, do not be surprised to learn that a Golden Retriever, though larger than a Pit Bull, has a bite force of 190 PSI compared to a Pit Bull’s 235 PSI. The difference is because Golden Retrievers have smaller heads and muzzles.
The condition of the dog’s jaws and teeth greatly impacts its bite force. If the dog has a medical condition such as TMJ or tooth decay that causes pain when it bites, it is likely to bite with much less force than one with a healthy jaw. One myth regarding Pit Bull jaws is that they lock when they bite. While a dog could have misaligned teeth that cause it to bite with less force, Pit Bulls do not have locking jaws. No dog breed has this unique locking jaw mechanism. The only reason that Pit Bulls do not let go whenever they bite is due to their determination. Since you cannot open its jaws when it bites, people believe it has a locking mechanism.
Another factor could be the Pit Bull’s bite inhibition. Bite inhibition is the ability of a puppy to control how often and how hard it bites. You can enforce bite inhibition when a Pit Bull is young such that when playing and it bites too hard, you yelp so that it can release. If excitement causes the dog to bite harder, stop playing to reinforce the consequences of biting hard. Puppies usually learn about bite inhibition during playtime with their siblings, and by the time they turn 18 weeks, training is complete. You can take over when a puppy is yet to learn how to control its bite force.
Why a Pit Bull is Assumed Dangerous
Not only were Pit Bulls reported to have the highest percentage of dog bites, but researchers also concluded the breed has the highest risk of biting and average damage per bite. With such evidence, it is no wonder that people are scared of Pit Bulls. The weird thing is that their bite force is not the strongest among all dog breeds, but the damage comes from shaking their prey. As Ned Hardy published, Pit Bulls are a terrier dog breed. Therefore, they are prone to holding and shaking their prey instead of biting and releasing. As a result, the dog bite is not what causes the damage. Instead, the shaking does because if the dog’s teeth sink into the skin, the shaking movement results in torn tissues and broken bones.
The behavior is instinctive, and in wild canines such as wolves, it is designed to snap the prey’s neck. As the article further enlightens us, you can tell when a dog is playfully shaking or aggressively shaking an object. If the front of the dog’s body is bowed, it is playing, but if the canine is holding an aggressive stance while shaking the object, it is determined to cause harm. If you notice such aggressive behavior, it is important to consult an animal behaviorist to help stop it; otherwise, the dog will be shaking small children or pets. Since a Pit Bull does not let go when it bites, owners are advised to always carry a break stick in case the dog gets into a fight so they can use it to pry open the dog’s jaws. However, such break sticks should not be used on any other dog breed since they may cause serious injury to the person using them.
How to Build Your Dog’s Bite Force
Since Pit Bulls make good guard dogs, you might want to build the bite force. Demanet Bite Suits lists a few ways to do so, and top on the list is ensuring that you always use the right equipment. Your bite suit should be a good fit to allow free body movement. It should also ensure that the dog bites you so that it is not scared when attacking an intruder. Additionally, the sleeve should be soft when working with a young dog whose teeth are yet to be strong. Hard sleeves cause discomfort to a young dog’s teeth; therefore, when it grows, it will hesitate to bite, fearing that it will feel the pain it felt when it was much younger.
You should help increase the dog’s confidence in its ability to bite. You can do this by allowing the dog to chase and catch you. Of course, the dog should give you a good chase before you allow it to get to you because that is the reality when it is working; no prey gives its predator an easy time. The chase helps build a dog’s confidence such that when it catches the prey, it holds on to it with all its might. However, you must pay attention to the dog’s general body language. As the article informs us, you can tell when a dog lacks confidence from how it pulls on the bite and looks around for the handler. In such instances, letting the dog win also builds confidence.
No matter how desperately you need a guard dog, never rush the training sessions; a dog is ready when it is ready. Do not compare one canine’s pace with another because rushing the process stresses you and the dog, and the outcome will not be worth it. Therefore, even if you successfully trained other dogs in weeks, yet another takes months, adjust and adapt to move with the dog’s pace. Still, while building your dog’s bite is crucial to training a Pit Bull to be a good guard dog, teaching it how to stop biting is important. According to Cuteness, you can teach your puppy to stop biting by not punishing it whenever it bites. Punishment begets fear, out of which more bites will come your way as the Pit Bull feels threatened. Redirecting the behavior and using positive reinforcement such as offering toys to play with is a better training technique. You should know that a Pit Bull never bites without giving several warnings; it will growl, stare, and snap to warn you that it is becoming agitated. The best way to deal with an angry Pit Bull is to walk away to allow it to calm down because the slightest provocation could cause dog bites.