Breed Myths

The Bait Dog Myth – this is a bit of a complex issue. Please see this page for more information on this myth.

Common Breed Myths

“Pit Bulls have locking jaws.” The jaws of the Pit Bull are functionally the same as the jaws of any other breed, and this has been proven via expert examination.

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 [other] breed of dog. There is absolutely not 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,
says Dr. I. Lerh Brisbin of the University of Georgia (from the ADBA booklet, “Discover the American Pit Bull Terrier.)

The “locking” myth probably originates with the fact that the breed tends to bite and hold while other breeds are more prone to bite/release-bite/release (repeated bites).

“Pit Bulls can hold on with their front teeth while chewing with their back teeth.” As stated above, the Pit Bull’s jaws are, functionally speaking, the same as all other breeds.

“Pit Bulls don’t feel pain.” Pit Bulls have the same nervous system as any other breed, and they can and do feel pain. Historically, those dogs that would tolerate or ignore discomfort and pain and finish the task they were required to perform were the dogs that were bred and the sort of dogs breeders strove to produce. This is the trait of “gameness” that so many breed fanciers speak of, which may be defined as, “The desire to continue on and/or complete a task despite pain and discomfort.”

“Pit Bulls have more bite pressure per square inch (PSI) than any other breed.” This is absolutely false.

Tests that have been done comparing the bite pressure of several
breeds showed pressure PSI (per square inch) to be considerably lower than some wild estimates that have been made. Testing has shown that the domestic dog averages about 320 lbs of pressure per square inch.   Dr. Brady Barr of National Geographic conducted a comparative test between a Pit Bull, a Rottweiler, and a German Shepherd. The Pit Bull had the LOWEST PSI OF THE THREE.

The highest pressure recorded from the Pit Bull was 235 lbs PSI.  The highest from the GSD was 238, and the highest from the Rott was 328.   Dr. Barr states that as far as he knows, the PSI tested in the Rott is the highest on record for any domestic canine.

Also note, it is very difficult if not impossible to get an accurate estimate of PSI for an ENTIRE BREED.  Dogs vary in size and head/jaw shape, also dogs will bite with varying pressure depending upon motivation, stress levels, situations, etc.

“Pit Bulls attack more people than any other breed.” Bite statistics are difficult to obtain accurately. Dogs that are referred to as “pit bulls” in statistical reports actually are a variety of breeds and mixes all lumped together under the “pit bull” heading. Also, many people have a difficult time properly identifying a true Pit Bull, so added to the statistics are those dogs that have been misidentified. Considering these factors, the actual number of attacks attributable to American Pit Bull Terriers is considerably lower than represented. Also important to understand is the extreme popularity of the Pit Bull and pit bull-type breeds. By some estimates, numbers-wise they are the most popular of all dog breeds. It is only logical to assume that the breed with the higher number of individual dogs would be represented with a higher number of bites. Viewing older statistical reports for the Center of Disease Control, one
will see that trends in breed popularity reflect in the number of bites
attributed to a specific breed during a specific period of time.

The CDC actually stopped recording bites by breed because they determined such statistics were not possible to obtain accurately. 

“The brains of Pit Bulls swell and cause them to go crazy”. Prior to the boom in Pit Bull popularity, the Doberman Pinscher was rumored to suffer from an affliction in which the skull became too small to accommodate a dog’s brain. This would, according to the rumor, cause the Doberman to go crazy, or “just snap” out of no where and attack their owner. This rumor could never be quantified, and indeed had no merit whatsoever. Now that the Doberman fad has run its course the Pit Bull has inherited the swelling brain myth. It is no truer now than it was during the Doberman’s fad days.

“Pit Bulls ‘turn’ on their owners.” Dogs, as a species, do not perform behaviors “just because”. There are always reasons for behavior barring some pathology in the brain (i.e tumor, seizure, etc), and when aggression becomes a problem the reasons can be such things as improper handling, lack of socialization or training, a misreading of dog behavior by the owner, or, rarely, disease. Aggression, when it presents in companion dogs, follows specific patterns. First occur warning signs, then
more warning signs, and finally, when those signs are continually
ignored or misinterpreted, the dog resorts to using its teeth. When an
owner is startled by a sudden, aggressive outburst, it is because they most likely have been unaware of problems that were brewing. This is true of all dogs, not just Pit Bulls. Pit Bulls, indeed no dogs, simply suddenly “turn” on their owners.

“The only thing Pit Bulls are good for is dog fighting.” Unfortunately, a
large amount of attention has been brought to the fact that the Pit Bull was originally created for fighting other dogs in the pit. Since the breed was selectively bred for and excelled at this task, there is a common assumption that fighting must be all for which the breed is good. The truth of the matter is that the Pit Bull is one of the most versatile of canines, capable of excelling at just about any task his owner asks him to complete. This breed is routinely used for: obedience trialing, conformation showing, weight pull, Schutzhund (a German sport which requires dogs to perform in obedience, tracking and protection phases of a competition), agility, and have even been known to participate in herding trials, search and rescue work, and a variety of other tasks including police and armed services work. But fanciers will argue that the
task this breed performs best of all is that of beloved companion.

“Dogs that are aggressive towards other dogs are aggressive
towards people.”
Human aggression in dogs is entirely different than aggression directed at other animals. Inter-dog aggression is a common behavioral trait of the breed (as it is in many terrier breeds, among others). Historically, humans were always in the pit, handling fighting dogs closely, while the animals were in full fight drive. A dog that was a danger to people and prone to biting was not feasible, and therefore carefully selected against.  This breed was not created for nor historically used for tasks that required human-directed aggression.

“Red or blue nose dogs are: a special type of Pit Bull / rare / worth more than black nose dogs”: The answer to all of the above is: FALSE!!!

Let’s talk color in Pit Bulls.

Pit Bulls are traditionally a performance breed. That means that they
were originally bred based on how well they performed a certain task, not what they looked like. Color was probably the least important thing that old-time breeders of Pit Bulls considered. Today, Pit Bulls remain largely a working/performance dog, and so the old way of doing things as far as looks are concerned largely still holds fast. True, many Pit Bulls today are also bred with the show ring in mind, however color is of almost zero importance even in that venue. No one who really knows Pit
Bulls is all that impressed by color. A flashy color does not a good dog make, and although many people have favorite colors, breed savvy people know that it’s what’s under the coat that counts.

Pit Bulls come in almost every color that is genetically possible in dogs. Some colors are more common (brindle or fawn for instance); some colors you don’t see as often (such as spotted or black and tan). One thing is for certain, however: blue and red nosed dogs do NOT fall into the “rare” category – there are many of both colors out there, especially (at least in my area) the red nosed dogs.

There is, unfortunately, a faction of breeders (all unscrupulous), that are attempting to cash in on the current fad of blue and red nosed dogs. These people produce poor quality animals with no thought to health and temperament, their biggest selling point being coat color. Breeders of this type many times charge jacked up prices for their puppies, justifying the high price tag by claiming their dogs are of a “rare” or “special” color. The unsuspecting buyer is duped into believing their animal is extraordinary simply because he happens to have an “odd” colored nose. Breeders of this ilk are especially dubious because not only are they producing bad stock, but they lure their customers in by making false claims. Do not be fooled by this type!

There are, of course, very ethical breeders that produce blue and red
nosed dogs. There are many fine, healthy, stable examples of these
color varieties out there. These are dogs bred by people who care about the breed, are knowledgeable about what they are doing, and breed for MUCH more than just a snazzy color. There is nothing wrong with liking one color above another, but one should be an educated consumer. Realize that you aren’t just buying a pretty face, but a living, breathing creature that is going to make real demands and require money to care for, time, and patience.

Some people have the mistaken belief that blue or red nosed dogs are a special “type” of Pit Bull. When speaking of such dogs, these sorts are apt to make statements such as, “I have a blue Pit”, or “My dog is the red nosed kind”. Let’s replace “brindle” with “red-nosed”: “My dog is the brindle kind.” Sort of silly, no? Brindle is just a color a Pit Bull may be, not a “kind” of Pit Bull. Well, ditto red and blue. There is a specific line of Pit Bull known for its red noses; this is the Old Family Red Nose strain. But this was a tight-knit family of dogs bred closely because of their superior
ability in the pit. The genetic closeness of the dogs made it easy to pass on certain traits–it just so happens that the traits of the Old Family dogs included not only gameness, but the genes for red noses as well.

” ‘Rednose’ is a backyard/unethical breeder term”: While many unethical breeders will choose to sell dogs based on color and emphasize a color as special or unique or better-than (these are often called ‘color breeders’ which is a label with negative connotations), it is also a legitimate term used to describe Pit Bulls that have red or liver noses.   Just because someone uses the term rednose to describe a color, doesn’t automatically make them ignorant or unethical.  It is a name of a color in the breed like brindle, blue, black, etc.   Red means different things in different breeds and even means something different in AmStaffs vs. American Pit Bull Terriers.  So specifying redNOSE vs just red is common.  Since the Pit Bull comes in so many colors, it isn’t uncommon to reference the color your dog/dogs happen to be. It shouldn’t be used as a special selling point but it also isn’t necessarily a bad thing either.

An example of a rednose Pit Bull. This is PR Ren’s Krash, who also happens to be an Old Family Red Nose dog.


“Merle is a color that appears naturally in the Pit Bull”: Merle has never been an acceptable color in the breed. It has never historically appeared.  It showed up in dogs after another breed was added unethically and registration papers were falsified. It is not an acceptable color in ANY registry.  ADBA and UKC do not allow for the registration of merle dogs at all.

“Pit Bulls used to be known as the ‘Nanny Dog'”:  This is a ‘new’ myth that is spread not be people who are against Pit Bulls but by people who are fans of the breed but are misinformed about the breed’s history.  The Pit Bull has had a bit of a shift in image in the past 2 decades and are more popular than ever with responsible people who just want a nice family dog. However, along with the image shift have come a new set of myths that – although not negative – are still harmful because they spread misinformation and may even set up humans to fail in their care of the breed.

The ‘Nanny Dog’ myth has gained a lot of popularity over the past 10 years or so, but it seemingly has it’s origins with a newspaper article that appear in NY Times in 1971.  In it, a breeder of Staffordshire Bull Terriers (a related but different breed) states, “He [the Staffordshire Bull Terrier] loves children and is often referred to as a ‘nursemaid dog’”.   These words eventually got twisted and spread and applied to Pit Bulls.  The myth that the breed was known as the “Nanny Dog” sounds nice and when you are constantly trying to convince people that your breed of choice isn’t a vicious man-eater, it is easy to latch onto.  It is complete fiction, however.

It is difficult to prove a negative so when people ask “where is the proof they were NOT known as nanny dogs”, the only real reply can be “no historical texts ever mention the term ‘nanny dog'”.  Asking people who spread the myth to find a historical text that proves what THEY say is a good response to this.  There are no historical references – only a plethora of websites and Facebook posts that have parroted the misinformation over the years.

Many people like to point to historical pictures of Pit Bulls with children as proof of the nanny dog claim.  The breed has always been known to be good with people in general and kids as well.  This is nothing new.  However it is completely false to state the dogs were “nannies” or ever known as Nanny Dogs.  It also sets the dogs up to fail and potentially puts children in harms way when people assume a Pit Bull automatically will be good with children because they are the “Nanny Dog” breed.  Every dog needs to be evaluated individually and children and dogs in general should always be supervised carefully when together.

Here are some historical pictures of Pit Bulls with children. Images like these are often used as “proof” of the Nanny Dog claim. However as you can see, these pictures are of dogs that were actually pit dogs, used for fighting which is the breed’s original purpose.

“Pit Bulls cannot get along with other animals”: Pit Bulls can get along well with other animals.  Proper management, training and supervision is essential to creating a harmonious, multi-animal household. The ability to get along with and be around other dogs and animals will vary from dog to dog and no matter what, supervision is always required.  It is not recommended that dogs be left unsupervised with other dogs/animals, especially not in this breed.