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Information on Bully Breeds

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Breed Information and Myth and Facts

PitBull Rescue Center


Some Famous Bully Breed Owners Past and Present:
  • Helen Keller
  • Fred Astaire
  • Humphrey Bogart
  • Thomas Edison
  • General George Patton
  • President Woodrow Wilson
  • Mel Brooks
  • John Steinbeck
  • Mary Tyler Moore
  • Barbara Eden
  • Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith
  • Jon Stewart (from the Daily Show)
  • Bernadette Peters
  • Jessica Alba
  • Michael J. Fox
  • Brad Pitt
  • Rachel Ray
  • Cesar Milan, the Dog Whisperer (owns several) Video

and the list goes on and on...



Bully Breeds were so loved around WWI that they represented the US in WWI posters.


Media hysteria and bad owners have greatly damaged the reputation of this breed.

Every negative incident involving a bully breed dog makes it difficult for those owners who do handle their dogs responsibly. Additionally, dogs waiting to be adopted must wait longer due to the negative perception of the breed.

Reasons to Own a Bully Breed Dog
  • They make great family dogs.
  • They are tolerant enough to handle even the most boisterous children.
  • Bully breeds are snugglers, they want to be close to you and close to the action in the home.
  • Bully breeds are not big barkers, your neighbors will thank you. If they do bark, pay attention, they are trying to tell you something.
  • Your bully breed will love you wholeheartedly.
  • If you're looking for a loyal exercise partner, a muscle-powered bully is up for the challenge.
  • Over a century of careful breeding for companionship has produced rock-solid temperaments in the majority of bully breeds who work regularly as therapy, police, and search and rescue dogs.
  • Bully breeds have a natural and genuine affinity for people. These dogs have a depth of loyalty that isn't often seen in many other breeds.

The only way to repair the pit bull's bad reputation is to keep them in the hands of responsible owners. Ask yourself the following question to see if you fit that profile:

Would You Make a Good "Bully Breed" Owner?
  • Are you an experienced dog owner or a natural leader?
  • Can you commit to being a more responsible dog owner than anyone you know?
  • Will the dog live as a member of the family, never to be chained in the yard?
  • Are you firmly committed to properly socializing and training your new dog?
  • Are you able to train with consistency, kindness and patience?
  • Are you physically able to handle a strong and active dog?
  • Are you willing to have a dog that can never be safely taken to a dog park?
  • Are you informed about the biases and misconceptions about these breeds?
  • Are you willing to work to help change the public perception of these breeds by doing all of the above?

The media is quick to headline any story of a pit bull type dog getting into trouble, whether the culprit was an irresponsible owner, a dog with a substandard temperament, or both. You'll inevitably have to spend some time educating uninformed neighbors, friends or relatives that your dog is a well-behaved, loving and responsibly owned family member. Owning a bully breed dog is not for shrinking violets.

Know Thy Bully Breed
  • Find the "American Pit Bull Terrier ": It's easy to mistake one bully for another.
  • An adult dog is not fully mature until approximately age 3. If this is your first bully breed dog, an adult dog might be the best choice because its temperament and personality are fully developed by this time.
  • Keep your bully breed under control at all times, whether on a leash or in an escape proof enclosure. They are smart and can figure out how to buck the system.
  • Never trust a bully breed not to fight. They may not start the fight but they may not back down either.
  • Bully breeds desperately want to please you. Obedience training will give them boundaries and you will know how they respond to you. This will help make your relationship harmonious and establish you as the "top dog".
  • Bully breeds can cohabitate with other dogs (if they are dog friendly). The best situation is to have a neutered male and a spayed female. Having two same-sex dogs, or two un-neutered dogs, increases chances of dominance and territoriality problems.
  • Regarding small animals, many bully breed dogs have a high prey drive and may chase small animals or livestock. How well a bully does in a home with a cat or small animal depends on the temperament of the individual dog and the supervision of its owner.
Why You Should Never Take a Bully Breed Dog to a Dog Park
  • Dog parks can be chaotic and not everyone is knowledgeable about proper dog etiquette.
  • Dogs are pack animals. Strange dogs interacting with one another are not a pack and as a result scuffles can occur. You can socialize your bully by having regular play dates with his/her own pack. Develop a small group of playmates for supervised fun in a safe and contained, private area.
  • At some point in every dog owner's life, their dog will either initiate or be subject to an attack by another dog. If your dog is a bully breed, one of two things will happen - he/she will walk away or it will defend itself. If your bully breed dog is involved in a fight at a dog park, whether or not it started the fight, the situation can feed the stereotype of bully breeds and further tarnish their image. While dog parks can be fun with its many different breeds and temperaments, the odds of your dog getting into an unfavorable situation is increased. Taking your dog to a dog park is not worth the risk.
If You Have a Multi-dog Household, Make These Tips Part of Your Routine
  • Feed the dogs separately, even if they seem to share a food bowl without problems.
  • Pay attention to signs of aggression.
  • Dogs should never compete for toys or treats.
  • Supervise play wrestling to be sure it doesn't escalate. Dogs that are seemingly playing well together are capable of crossing the line.
  • Avoid allowing your dog to stare down or intimidate another dog. If your bully breed is allowed to scuffle with another dog, the situation can become exponentially more difficult to control.
  • Make sure your dog never experiences being in a fight as this can make a huge impression on your dog and influence his tolerance of other dogs in the future.
  • Never assume your dog won't fight.
  • If you have a multi-dog household, experts recommend spaying and neutering all canine family members (regardless of breed) as this decreases aggression. The success of bully breeds living in multi-dog households depends largely on individual temperaments of all dogs involved and the owners role in maintaining the peace.

Responsible Bully Breed Owners

Being responsible applies to all dog owners. However, it is more imperative when your dog of choice and it's behavior are under public scrutiny. Here are some steps advised by "Bully Breeds" magazine.

Socialize your Dog
Before your pup is 16 weeks old, it should have encountered hundreds of people, places and things. It should have the attitude "been there, done that".

Obedience Training is Paramount
Training enforces the human-animal bond. Dogs love having a job to perform. A well-behaved bully is a source of pride for their owners. People do take notice and it's a great feeling. Also, exercise your bully as a tired dog is a good dog – and has happy owners.

Leash 'em
Walk your dog on a leash and keep it under control in public. Don't allow your dog, no matter its breed, to infringe upon other people's space. Bully breed owners should never use an extendable leash. These dogs are strong and can snap this type of leash in seconds. Never allow your bully breed to run loose in an unfenced area.

Spay or Neuter
An altered dog is less likely to roam and is typically more even-tempered than an intact male or females.

Bully breeds are natural diggers and climbers. Never, under any circumstances, for any amount of time, leave your dog unattended in a yard or tied up outside a store or in a car. Dog theft is rampant and a bully breed dog is particularly desirable to thieves due to the popularity of dog fighting. Bully breeds (and all dogs) should live inside of the home with the family. This is so important for the dog's mental well-being as they desire human companionship above all else.

More advice:

  • Never leave your dog unsupervised with young children.
  • Microchip your dog.
  • Make sure it is up to date on vaccinations.
  • Always have ID tag, rabies tag and dog license on your dog’s collar.
  • Your dog should always wear a strong, snugly fitted collar. Good choices are leather or heavy-duty nylon collars.
  • Never play tug of war or rough house with your bully as it encourages aggression and makes the dog think it is OK to compete with you.
  • Join a dog club to stay informed and to develop a support system of people dedicated to the same breed.
  • Know your breed's strengths and weaknesses. Media hysteria and bad owners have greatly damaged this breed and every incident involving a "pit bull" makes it worse for all bully breeds and their owners, often prompting breed specific legislation or breed bans.

Potential bully breed owners must realize their dog's need for human companionship and the importance of obedience training to prevent dominant behavior. If a dog exhibits dog aggression, the owner must be vigilant in preventing fights with other dogs and maintain control of the dog at all times.

Being a responsible bully breed owner is extremely important for the sake of the breed.

Bully Breeds - The Dark Side

Dogs of the bully breeds are tenacious, strong, agile, very loyal, and have a desire to please their owners. Unfortunately, these traits have attracted the worst of humanity. Unethical people have taken the positive characteristics of these breeds and have turned them on people which accounts for some dog attacks. In the end, the dog pays the ultimate price - death; the wreckless owner gets a slap on the wrist. However, laws are being created to bring harsher penalties against abusers. Animal fighting is now a felony in the state of Illinois. Also, in 2007, President George Bush signed the Animal Fighting Prohibition Enforcement Act into law. This law provides felony penalties for interstate commerce, import and export related to animal fighting activities, including commerce in cockfighting weapons. It will make it much harder for criminals who engage in dog fighting and cockfighting to continue their operations. Each violation of the federal law may bring up to three years in jail and up to a $250,000 fine for perpetrators.

Even hideous mistreatment of these dogs can rarely squelch their inherent goofy and happy nature or their desire to be with people and to please them. This is proven time and time again in cases of dogs rescued from extremely abusive situations such as dog fighting. Given a good home, they can and do bounce back. For prime examples, read about the dogs rescued from Michael Vick's dog fighting compound. See their amazing journey from confinement and abuse to freedom and happiness:
Other Online Resources on Bully Breeds




  • PBRC is against the cruel “sport” of dog fighting, past and present. There is NO justifiable reason to throw two dogs in a pit and watch them tear each other apart.

    PBRC does not support any form of breed specific legislation (BSL), which targets specific breed(s) for restrictions or bans. See PBRC’s position statement on BSL for more information.

The following pages describe basic breed information for anyone interested in acquiring a pit bull*, for those who already have one or more and would like to learn more about the breed, or for anyone who would simply like to understand these affectionate, extraordinary dogs a little better.

 It’s our job to help them fulfill that potential. Adopting a pit bull, loving it, and training it as a breed ambassador are the most important things any of us can do to combat people who still want to use these dogs for their own cruel purposes.

PBRC hopes this article will help people understand why so many of us are deeply dedicated to these wonderful dogs. Pit bull dogs need more help, compassion, and understanding than many other breeds, but they will pay you back with more love, loyalty and fun than you ever thought possible.


Basic Breed Overview


Pit bulls are wonderful, loving animals that deserve the chance to have a good life.

Pit bulls have physical and mental characteristics that make them excellent partners for responsible, active and caring owners. These same outstanding qualities can, however, be challenging for people who don't have a lot of experience with dog ownership or have limited understanding of the breed. Luckily, pit bulls are intelligent, very responsive to training, and, above all, eager to please. Therefore, pit bulls should be enrolled in obedience classes as soon as they are up-to-date on their shots. (Pit bulls are susceptible to parvovirus, so it is important that they receive all their vaccinations before coming into contact with other dogs or entering areas of high canine traffic.) A well-behaved pit bull is the best way to fight breed prejudice and misconceptions.

Pit bulls can do well in an urban environment, provided they have enough exercise and other positive outlets for their energy. Many pit bulls are easygoing couch potatoes, but like all terriers, they can also be somewhat rambunctious until they mature. Maturity can come relatively late with this breed (two to three years old in some cases). Pit bulls remain playful throughout their lives and have a great sense of humor. True clowns at heart, these dogs will make you laugh like no other.

 “An insecure person who wants only an aggressive dog to bolster some personal human inadequacy should never become an owner of one of these dogs. An uncaring or negligent person should not buy an AmStaff or an APBT (or any other dog for that matter)."


Pit bull” is NOT a breed. It's a generic term often used to describe all dogs with similar traits and characteristics known to the public as "pit bulls." When we use the term “pit bull” here, it should be understood to encompass American Pit Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, and Staffordshire Bull Terriers, and mixes of those breeds.

Remember: In most cases, we usually know little about the background of rescue dogs. Since there is no way to know for sure, we recommend following the advice offered by PBRC for any pit bull-type dog. Most of our guidelines are simply basic rules of dog ownership.

See PBRC'sFAQ for more information.

Basic Breed Overview


Pit bulls are wonderful, loving animals that deserve the chance to have a good life.

Pit bulls have physical and mental characteristics that make them excellent partners for responsible, active and caring owners. These same outstanding qualities can, however, be challenging for people who don't have a lot of experience with dog ownership or have limited understanding of the breed. Luckily, pit bulls are intelligent, very responsive to training, and, above all, eager to please. Therefore, pit bulls should be enrolled in obedience classes as soon as they are up-to-date on their shots. (Pit bulls are susceptible to parvovirus, so it is important that they receive all their vaccinations before coming into contact with other dogs or entering areas of high canine traffic.) A well-behaved pit bull is the best way to fight breed prejudice and misconceptions.

Pit bulls can do well in an urban environment, provided they have enough exercise and other positive outlets for their energy. Many pit bulls are easygoing couch potatoes, but like all terriers, they can also be somewhat rambunctious until they mature. Maturity can come relatively late with this breed (two to three years old in some cases). Pit bulls remain playful throughout their lives and have a great sense of humor. True clowns at heart, these dogs will make you laugh like no other

 “An insecure person who wants only an aggressive dog to bolster some personal human inadequacy should never become an owner of one of these dogs. An uncaring or negligent person should not buy an AmStaff or an APBT (or any other dog for that matter)."

Basic Breed Overview | An All-American Dog: Breed History
Pit Bulls and People | Pit Bulls and Other Dogs



Never trust a dog not to fight. Dogs of any breed can exhibit intolerance toward other dogs.

Dogs may fight over hierarchic status, food, toys, or rawhides. External stimulus or excitement can also trigger a fight. Remember that any canine can fight, regardless of breed. If you frequent a dog park, you’ve surely seen a fight occur among a pack of dogs for reasons not discernible to humans. Owners should separate their dogs if they cannot closely supervise them.

Dog aggression (that is, aggression shown by dogs towards other dogs) is a complicated matter. Like most things in life, it is not a black-and-white issue. We should not think of dog aggression as a binary (dog aggressive/not dog aggressive) but as a spectrum: dogs can exhibit zero dog aggression, dog aggression only in some situations, a high level of dog aggression, or dog aggression that falls somewhere in between these points

The graphic below provides a helpful visualization of this concept:

Given their historical circumstances, pit bulls can be less tolerant of dogs than other breeds. Pit bull owners must understand that their dogs may not get along with all other dogs. There are several levels of dog tolerance. Many dogs are great with other dogs and enjoy the company of fellow canines. Some dogs do well only with dogs of the opposite sex. Some are fine with dogs they were raised with but intolerant of new dogs. Some dogs are tolerant of other dogs except for in limited circumstances, such as when greeting a new person. Others cannot accept any other dogs. All of this should suggest that dogs are individuals and should be treated as such.


Owners need to understand their particular dog’s acceptance level of other dogs and manage their dog appropriately when around other animals.

A dog's tolerance level can change during its lifetime, and owners need to be aware of these changes so they can properly manage their dogs while in the company of other dogs.

Some dogs become less tolerant as they mature from puppyhood to adult, while others become more accepting as they mature into the senior years. Some can become more tolerant with socialization and training.


Regardless of breed, there are many dogs that do not like other dogs, and all dog owners need to be responsible. This means following the basic rules of dog ownership: keeping your dog on leash at all times, not letting your charge unfamiliar dogs, and supervising your valued companion at all times (i.e. not leaving your dog in the backyard without supervision).

For pit bull owners, the stakes are always higher. While pit bulls may not instigate a fight, they often won’t back down from a challenge. Inevitably, no matter who “started it,” no matter what the circumstances, the pit bull will always be blamed. Each incident in which a pit bull gets blamed jeopardizes our right to own these great dogs. Keep your dog out of trouble!

That said, many pit bulls get along great with other pets and may live happily with other dogs without incident. We simply cannot assume that this is true for all of them. We also cannot take for granted that pit bulls who get along with other pets today will do so tomorrow. None of this should suggest that, in the language of popular myth, pit bulls are more likely to “snap” or “turn.” It only means that their attitude toward other dogs may change as they mature.

 Please remember that, as we note throughout the site, animal aggression and human aggression are two entirely distinct behaviors and should never be confused. Pit bulls are, by nature, very good with people. They are, in fact, one of the most loving, loyal, friendly, and dedicated companions one can have.


Basic Breed Overview | An All-American Dog: Breed History
Pit Bulls and People | Pit Bulls and Other Dogs

 PLEASE REMEMBER: ANY dog can be aggressive not just the bully breeds.

Myth: Pit bulls are not good with children.

Fact: Pit bulls and kids can be perfect together!

Pit bulls were once renowned as “nanny dogs” for their gentleness toward children, and their kid-friendly nature holds true today. Tank (right) was adopted from PAWS in 2009 and now spends his time hanging out with his best friend.

Pit bulls and pit bull mixes all over Philadelphia (and beyond!) have been successfully adopted to families with children. Their naturally people-friendly, playful, patient nature makes them a perfect match for lively kids. (If this weren’t the case, then Olive and Lizzie would certainly have some explaining to do!)

Some dogs enjoy a hectic household with lots of running around, and others prefer just to watch cartoons together on the couch. Children should always be supervised around dogs, regardless of size or breed. Children also need to be taught how to safely approach and interact with dogs. Some higher-energy dogs do best with older children, since smaller kids might be knocked down by an enthusiastic jump or a wagging tail!

Myth: Pit bulls do not get along with other dogs.

Fact: Many pit bulls, like Emma and Dylan, live happily with their canine siblings. Others are more selective with their canine friends and prefer not to live with other dogs.


Every dog, regardless of breed, will have its own level of tolerance toward other dogs, so it’s important to set up careful introductions to avoid a clash of personalities. If a dog doesn’t get along with other dogs, it’s not a big problem; even a highly reactive dog can easily be trained to ignore other dogs when they pass by on a walk.

Smart dog owners can keep their dogs happy by arranging one-on-one play sessions with a few select playmates. Most dogs are so devoted to their people that they are perfectly content without the company of other dogs to play with.


Myth: Pit bulls do not get along with cats.

Fact: Countless dogs of all types live in harmony with family cats. In fact, many are so mild-mannered that the family cat ends up in charge! Former PAWS dog Darla is so friendly with her feline housemates that they use her as a pillow at night. Reggie, meanwhile, is so frightened by tiny kittens that he will run and hide if they look him in the eye!


Myth: Pit bulls have locking jaws.

Fact: This is just another urban myth promoted by those who don't understand that pit bulls are just like any other dogs. No dog has a locking jaw – not even Molly when she’s playing with her favorite toy!


Myth: A pit bull is more likely to bite me than another dog.

Fact: Pit bulls are even less likely to bite than many other types of dog! Breed groups commonly identified as pit bulls have consistently scored at or below average for aggression when compared to other dogs. Temperament evaluations by the American Temperament Test Society give American Pit Bull Terriers a very high passing rate of 82.6%, while the average passing rate for the other 121 dog breeds tested was only 77%. No spayed/neutered, indoor pit bull has ever killed a person.

According to studies by the CDC, a person is more likely to be killed…

- by a family member
- by a falling coconut
- in a bedroom slipper-related accident
- choking on a marble
- drowning in a 5-gallon bucket
- getting struck by lightning

…than by a pit bull.

Myths and facts

When it comes to pit bulls, there’s no shortage of myths and misinformation. You can hear those myths spouted by the media, legislators, the general public, and even so-called “experts” on the breed. Here are some of the more common ones.

Locking jaws | Unique bite style | Genetic killers | Fighters | Aggressive | Untrainable | Unpredictable | Cannot feel pain | Taste of blood | Super-strong jaws | Rare pit bulls | Only bad owners | Pit bull population | Brains swell


Myth: Pit bulls have locking jaws. Once they bite, they can’t let go, even if they want to.

FACT: No dog of any breed has ever been found to possess a mechanism in their jaw which would allow them to “lock” their top and bottom jaw together. There is no such thing as a locking jaw!


MythPit bulls have a unique bite style consisting of biting down, holding, and shaking.

FACT: Biting, holding, and shaking are not unique behaviors for pit bulls. All dogs will perform these behaviors. A dog may “bite and hold” when it is playing or when it has been taught to do this. You have probably seen police K-9 dogs, which are commonly German Shepherd and Belgian Malinois, doing bite work. These dogs are specially trained to bite hard and to not let go even when someone is hitting them. You have also seen many kinds of dogs playing with toys. Tug toys and rope toys are popular because many dogs enjoy grabbing, pulling, and shaking them. This is a natural behavior that all dogs engage in.


Myth: Pit bulls are genetically driven to kill people.

FACT: Dogs are not machines; they are living organisms. Like all living organisms, a dog’s behavior is influenced by both genetics and environment. How a dog owner manages his or her dog will determine whether the dog becomes a danger to humans. No dog is driven entirely by genetics to attack people, and no dog breed has been created or bred into such a state that all dogs of that breed are compelled to attack people. Dogs that are raised as beloved family pets do not kill people.

While some irresponsible breeders and owners may try to create “killer” dogs, these people are not the norm, and their activities are unethical and, in many cases, illegal. Responsible dog breeders understand that dogs are meant for companionship and love, not for fighting and killing. Responsible breeders understand the wonderful qualities that pit bulls have. They are interested in breeding quality dogs with excellent temperaments.


Myth: Pit bulls are not good for anything except dogfighting.

FACT: Pit bulls have excelled in many working-dog sports such as agility, search-and-rescue, tracking, weight pulling, carting, Shutzhund, hunting, obedience, therapy, and more. Millions of pit bulls serve society today as faithful family members and beloved companions.


Myth: Pit bulls are very aggressive.

FACT: Pit bulls are no more or less aggressive than any other type of dog. Many of the behaviors we expect from and encourage in dogs, including hunting, tracking, guarding, and even playing, are actually modified forms of aggression.

Although pit bulls have a reputation for aggression toward other dogs, in fact, many other breeds and types of dogs are also known for such aggression. Interdog aggression is actually a very common behavior and is not limited to pit bull type dogs.

Pit bulls may be aggressive toward small animals, but again, this is common with all breeds and types of dogs. Dogs are essentially domesticated predators. Many dogs will exhibit predatory behavior toward small animals that they consider prey.

A few pit bulls may be aggressive toward people, but again, this is not unique to pit bulls. All breeds and types of dogs may be aggressive toward people.

Aggression is an individual trait that varies from dog to dog, and has a lot to do with a dog’s environment and owners. Aggressive behaviors are common and normal in dogs of all breeds and types. Pit bulls do not exhibit any aggressive behaviors that are unique or extreme when compared to other breeds or types of dogs.


Myth: Pit bulls can not be trained or controlled.

FACT: Dogs are, generally speaking, trainable and controllable because they are intelligent domesticated animals. Pit bulls, likewise, are intelligent and domesticated, and like all dogs, they are obedient, friendly, and handle-able. Pit bulls have excelled in areas such as agility, tracking, Shutzhund, search-and-rescue, therapy, and many other canine activities. LawDogs USA, for example, opted to use pit bulls exclusively as drug detection dogs because the organization found pit bulls to be so trainable and eager to please.

Of course, individual dogs land on the spectrum of trainability and obedience at different points. While not every dog may be particularly trainable, it is extremely rare for a dog to be unmanageable. The overwhelming majority of dogs are quite trainable and manageable, and any behavior problems that a dog displays is more likely attributable to owner error than to something inherent or genetic.


Myth: Pit bulls are unpredictable; they can turn on anyone, even their owner, at any time.

FACT: Pit bulls are no more or less unpredictable than any other type of dog. Often, a person who claims that a dog is “unpredictable” simply doesn’t understand dog behavior. In the overwhelming majority of dog bite cases, the humans involved don’t understand or have missed canine warning signs preceding the bite. For more information on dog behavior and aggression, check out “The Culture Clash” by Jean Donaldson.

The way our legal system handles dog bites only strengthens the myth that dogs are unpredictable. In the case of a dog bite, a dog owner that admits prior knowledge of their dog’s dangerous behavior will be more severely punished than a dog owner who claims to be ignorant of the danger. For this reason, after a dog bite happens, you will hear the dog owner say “My dog was nice before this! I didn’t expect this to happen.” It sounds like the dog unexpectedly snapped, but in reality, the dog owner is trying to reduce their punishment by claiming ignorance.


Myth: Pit bulls do not feel pain.

FACT: This is an urban legend started by dog fighters to justify the cruel activity of dog fighting. After all, if fighting doesn’t hurt the dogs, how can it be cruel? The myth is further perpetuated by fearful individuals who buy into the Hollywood monster myth of the unstoppable pit bull beast. There is no scientific evidence to support this idea. Pit bulls do indeed feel pain, just as any other dog does.


Myth: If a pit bull bites down and tastes blood, it will become aggressive and unstoppable.

FACT: Dogs bite because they are scared, in pain, or defensive. They bite so that the offending person/animal/object will go away—and it usually works. As a result, a dog learns that biting is a very successful tactic for getting what the dog desires. Subsequent bites have nothing to do with the “taste of blood.” In reality, the dog is repeating a behavior that has gotten a desired result in the past.


Myth: Pit bulls have jaw muscles that can clamp down with (insert high number here) PSI of pressure.

FACT: Many numbers are floating around that claim to be the PSI (pounds per square inch) of pit bulls’ jaw strength. The numbers range wildly, from 800 PSI to 2000 PSI. These numbers are completely unfounded; there are no scientific studies to back any of these numbers up. In fact, bite force cannot even be accurately measured in PSI; the proper term is “pounds of force” or “Newtons” (metric system).

One study conducted by Dr. Brady Barr of National Geographic showed that the average domestic canine has an average bite of 320 pounds of force.  In one portion of the documented study, Dr. Barr tested three dog breeds: a German Shepherd, a Rottweiler, and an American Pit Bull Terrier (APBT).  The Rottweiler bit with 328 pounds of force—the highest ever recorded from a domestic dog.  The German Shepherd bit with 238 pounds of force, and the APBT bit with 235 pounds of force.

It is important to understand that bite strength differs depending on the size of the dog, the situation that led to the bite, the dog’s training, and the state of mind the dog is currently in. The damage that a dog does when it bites depends on the location of the bite, the victim’s behavior while being bitten, and the size ratio between dog and victim, among other factors. Breed has very little to do with bite strength or level of damage. You cannot guess the breed of dog that bit a person by looking at the dog bite.


Myth: Pit bulls with certain nose or coat colors are “rare.”

FACT: There are no “rare” nose or coat colors. Historically, pit bulls have been bred for performance and temperament, not appearance. This means pit bulls come in all different colors, shapes, and sizes. “Blue” coats (diluted black, or grey, coats) are a fad color right now, and greedy breeders are churning out “blue” dogs to make money off the fad, without concern for temperament or health. Similarly, “red nose” and “blue nose” pit bulls are very common. White pit bulls are also common—and may be deaf and prone to skin problems.

Potential pit bull owners who are looking to obtain a pit bull would be wise to steer clear of breeders who are breeding specifically for certain colors. Such breeders are in it for the money and could care less about the health or temperament of their dogs. Why not a pit bull rather than support backyard breeders and puppy mills? You can find pit bulls of all colors waiting desperately for a home in shelters and rescue groups across the country.


Myth: Pit bulls are only owned by drug dealers and gang members.

FACT: This is a stereotype. The vast majority of pit bull owners are normal, law-abiding citizens, no different from you and me.


Myth: Pit bulls make up only 1 percent of the U.S. dog population.

FACT: No scientific studies have determined the actual pit bull population in the United States.

Random percentages seem to come out of thin air and are frequently bounced around in media reports without any legitimate source to back up such an assertion. I have heard population estimates ranging from 1 percent to 8 percent or more.

Still more problematic is the disagreement as to what a “pit bull” really is—and whether “pit mixes” should be included.

Pit bulls are undeniably a very popular and prolific breed-type. Some places, such as Oakland, CA, report that more “pit bulls” are registered with the city than any other breed. A few studies estimate that U.S. shelter “pit bull” populations reach 33% on average, and up to 50% or more in larger cities.

Unfortunately, however, without a very thorough and careful demographic study of “pit bulls” and their owners—something which has yet to be accomplished on a nationwide scale and may very well prove impossible—any pit bull population estimate is little more than a vague guessing game.


Myth: Pit bulls’ brains swell and become too large for their skull, ultimately causing the dogs to “snap” and attack people.

FACT: This particular falsehood stems from myths surrounding the Doberman in the 1960′s. It has also been applied to German Shepherds, Rottweilers, and Chows, among others. Yet there is no truth to this myth.


There is in fact a rare genetic disease in which a dog’s brain is too large for its skull: syringomyelia. It is most common in Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. This disease damages neurological functions and causes severe pain, weakness, and even partial paralysis. The disease does not cause random biting, and the weakness and paralysis makes it nearly impossible for a dog to attack.

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