The Truth About Pit Bulls: 6 Myths Dispelled

Pit bulls can make loving pets, but the breeds' reputation suffers from a lot of misconceptions. . Annette Shaff/Shutterstock

Pit bulls are often at the center of controversy and, thanks to unscrupulous breeding and sensationalized media reports, these dogs are frequently the target of breed-specific legislation.

However, many of the arguments against this breed are based on myths instead of facts. Below, we dispel some of the common myths about pit bulls.

1. Pit bulls have locking jaws and more biting power than other breeds.

The jaws of a pit bull function the exact same way as all other dogs' jaws, and no dog breed has ever been found to possess a locking mechanism. Pit bulls also don't have more bite pressure than any other dog breed.

Dr. Brady Barr of National Geographic found that the domestic canines have an average bite of 320 pounds of force, and as part of his study, he tested the bites of three popular dog breeds: a German shepherd, a Rottweiler and an American pit bull.

The Rottweiler had the toughest bite with 328 pounds of force, the German shepherd came in second with 238 pounds of force, and the pit bull bit with 235 pounds of force — the lowest of the group.

smiling pit bull puppy
Studies have found that overall, pit bulls don't exhibit more aggressive behavior toward people than other dogs. Voltgroup/Shutterstock

2. Pit bulls are more aggressive than other dogs.

Aggression is a trait that varies from dog to dog regardless of breed, and it often has more to with the animal's environment and its owners than the dog itself.

A 2008 study by the University of Pennsylvania looked at aggressiveness in 30 dog breeds and found that Chihuahuas and dachshunds were the most aggressive toward humans and other dogs.

Pit bulls were among the most aggressive toward other dogs, particularly those they didn’t know. However, pit bulls weren't more aggressive than other breeds toward strangers and their owners.

The American Temperament Test Society annually evaluates dog breeds' temperament and looks at an animal's stability, shyness, aggressiveness, friendliness and its instinct to protect its handler.

The average passage rate among dog breeds tested more than 200 times by the ATTS is 83.3 percent. Both the American pit bull terrier and American Staffordshire terrier, breeds commonly referred to as pit bulls, had 86.8 and 84.5 percent passage rates, respectively.

There's evidence that owners of pit bulls and other dogs labeled "high risk" are often high-risk individuals themselves, which could contribute to the breed's reputation.

A 2006 study published in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence found that owners of pit bulls and other "high-risk dogs," such as German shepherds and Rottweilers, were more likely to have criminal convictions for aggressive crimes.

While dog-to-dog aggression can be an issue with pit bulls, this is also true of other breeds. Overall, pit bulls don't exhibit more aggressive behavior than other dogs.

3. Pit bulls' bites are more fatal than those of other dog breeds.

About 4.5 million dog bites are reported in the U.S. each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but only 20 to 30 bites are fatal.

Some studies have found pit bulls to be involved in the majority of fatal bites, such as a 2009 study that determined pit bulls, Rottweilers and German shepherds were involved in most of the fatal attacks in Kentucky. However, the American Veterinarian Medical Association's comprehensive examination of fatal U.S. bites came to a different conclusion in December.

The organization determined that nationwide, a dog's breed could only be identified in 45 incidents. Of those, more than 20 different breeds were responsible for the attacks.

In August 2013, President Barack Obama voiced his support to ban breed-specific legislation and posted the following statement: "In 2000, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention looked at 20 years of data about dog bites and human fatalities in the United States. They found that fatal attacks represent a very small proportion of dog bite injuries to people and that it's virtually impossible to calculate bite rates for specific breeds."

4. Pit bulls can't be trained.

As intelligent domesticated animals, dogs require mental stimulation and most enjoy being trained. Pit bulls are no different, and they've excelled in a variety of areas, including agility, tracking and search-and-rescue.

However, like any other dog breed, not every pit bull will be obedient and easily trainable.

Pit bull Sharky with chicks
Pit bull Sharky, who passed away in late 2014, loved taking care of chicks. TexasGirly1979/YouTube

5. Pit bulls can't get along with other animals.

Again, every pit bull is different, just as every other dog is different.

Some pit bulls live happily alongside other animals, such as YouTube-famous Sharky, whose companions included a cat, rabbits and baby chicks. Even one of Michael Vick's former fighting dogs now shares a home with a cat.

6. Adopting a pit bull is just like adopting any other dog.

These dogs can be a great addition to your family, but adopting a pit bull does have its drawbacks.

Many people are fearful of the breed, so you may encounter questions and concerns from friends and neighbors. However, one of the best ways to fight negative pit bull stereotypes is by incorporating your well-behaved dog into your daily activities and showing what a loving pet he can be.

In some areas, local legislation bans pit bulls, and because the breed is considered high-risk, pit bull owners often face difficulties obtaining homeowner's insurance.

Before adopting a pit bull, do your research and make sure the dog is a good fit for your family and your lifestyle.

Need a little more convincing? Watch the video below in which Dogly reveals what being "like a pit" really means.

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