Debunking the Myths

From the archive: Debunking the Myths

A “pit bull” is a breed of dog.
Actually, the term “pit bull” does not refer to a specific breed.  It is a generic term most commonly used to refer to the following dogs that originate from combining bulldogs with terriers:

The American Pit Bull Terrier – recognized by the United Kennel Club (UKC)
The American Staffordshire Terrier – recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC)
The Staffordshire Bull Terrier – recognized by both the UKC and the AKC
However, in recent years this term has come to identify any short, muscular, big headed, short haired dog.  Other breeds and mixes of such commonly but incorrectly identified as “Pit Bulls” include Bull Terriers, American Bulldogs, Boxers, Mastiff breeds, and other mixed breed dogs. To learn more about the origins of the modern day “pit bull” visit our breed history page.


All pit bulls are BAD dogs.
Pit bulls are intelligent, loyal, highly trainable and make excellent family pets!   They are wiggly, cuddly, affectionate dogs, so if you don’t like dog kisses then consider another breed! Millions of pit bull type dogs live with everyday families, raised by responsible owners.  Pit bulls are super athletic and excel in activities such as agility, flyball, and weight pull competitions.  Their strength, courage, and tenacity also make them excellent working, police, and search and rescue dogs.

However, the same wonderful loyalty and eagerness to please that make them great family and therapy dogs, unfortunately makes them a prime target for dog fighting, abuse, and criminals that exploit these traits for nefarious purposes. The irresponsible actions of these individuals have given these dogs a “bad rap” and has lead some areas to adopt Breed Specific Legislation (BSL).

“My kids are around pit bulls every day. In the ’70s they blamed Dobermans, in the ’80s they blamed German shepherds, in the ’90s they blamed the Rottweiler. Now they blame the pit bull.”- Cesar Millan

All pit bulls are GOOD dogs.
No dog breed is entirely good or entirely bad.   While it’s true that the overwhelming majority of pit bulls are smart, loyal, highly trainable and make excellent family pets, each dog’s temperament should be evaluated on an an individual basis.  Just as responsible breeders carefully select dogs for stable temperament and other features, it is our responsibility as a rescue to identify those that meet the same stringent requirements. Occasionally, whether it be due to bad breeding, over breeding, neglect, abuse, etc., we identify dogs that would not make good family pets and do not meet the requirements for entrance into our program. However, there are also dogs that overcome incredible odds.  The reality is that there are “bad dogs” of ALL breeds and is important to evaluate each dog as an individual, not based on physical characteristics or generalizations.

Pit bulls have locking jaws.
As many pit bull websites, including APBA, cite the same expert, Jolanta Benal of The Dog Trainer emailed Dr. I. Lehr Brisbin directly to ask him about his research. Professor Brisbin wrote back: ‘Sorry, but this issue is so ludicrous that it defies logical refutation. If the Pit Bull jaw ‘locked’ on closing, how would they ever reopen it later to eat or drink?’ Hey, good question! Not content with mere logic, though, Professor Brisbin told [her] that he had participated in research on Pit Bull jaws from the collection of the Smithsonian Institution and “found no evidence of any locking mechanism.” (3)

“The few studies which have been conducted of the structure of the skulls, mandibles and teeth of pit bulls show that, in proportion to their size, their jaw structure and thus its inferred functional morphology, is no different than that of any breed of dog. There is absolutely no evidence for the existence of any kind of “locking mechanism” unique to the structure of the jaw and/or teeth of the American Pit Bull Terrier.”(2)

Pit bulls have a bite pressure of (insert huge number here) psi.  
Dr. Brisbin and numerous other experts, testified under oath that this a myth.  “Based on actual dog dissections and measurement of their skulls, the evidence demonstrated that Pit Bull jaw muscles and bone structure are the same as other similarly sized dogs.  No evidence was presented to demonstrate that a Pit Bull’s bite is any stronger than other dogs of its size and build.  He stated that… assertions that a pit bull can bite with a ‘force of 2,000 pounds per square inch’ have absolutely no basis in fact or scientific proof.  The testing of dog bite strength has never been done, and would be difficult if not impossible to perform.”(4)

“To the best of our knowledge, there are no published scientific studies that would allow any meaningful comparison to be made of the biting power of various breeds of dogs. There are, moreover, compelling technical reasons why such data describing biting power in terms of “pounds per square inch” can never be collected in a meaningful way. All figures describing biting power in such terms can be traced to either unfounded rumor or, in some cases, to newspaper articles with no foundation in factual data.”(3)

Pit bulls make excellent guard dogs.
The pit bull temperament differs significantly from that of breeds in the guardian category,  such as, Neapolitan Mastiffs, Dogue de Bourdeaux, Fila Brasileiro, Presa Canario, Cane Corso, Rottweilers, German Shepherds and others.  Like other dogs they are naturally protective of their family and their property, but because pit bulls are so people-orientated they do not make good guard dogs.

1 –
2 – Bridgers, J. M., and I. L. Brisbin, Jr. 1989. Mechanical advantage in the pit bull jaw. Bulletin of the South Carolina Academy of Science LI, p.  51.
3. Benal, Jolanta. 2011. Personal communication, May 16, 2010.  Myths About Dogs. Retrieved from


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