Myths & Facts About Pitbull-Type Dogs
Pitbull-type dogs have the strongest bite and a "locking jaw"
Pitbull-type dogs are "more dangerous" than other dogs according to statistics and media reports
Pitbull-type dogs consistently achieve excellent temperament scores
Unfortunately, there are a number of myths and stereotypes about "pitbull-type" dogs that are either anecdotal and misleading or entirely false. These myths and stereotypes are not based on scientific evidence or expert information but are instead based on anecdotal accounts, unreliable statistics, or on misinformation sourced from unscientific organizations. The reality is that pitbull-type dogs consistently achieve excellent temperament scores, are successful as service dogs, therapy dogs, K9 police dogs, and as family pets. Below, learn the facts about some of the common myths that have been debunked by scientific studies and canine experts that even today, with all of the available science and expert information, unfortunately continue to circulate in the media and on the internet.
Myth: Pitbull-type dogs are "more dangerous" than other dogs according to the statistics.
- Risk: A recent peer-reviewed study that analyzed 10 years of incidents related to dog bite-related fatalities (DBRFs) identified multiple factors associated with DBRFs and specifically concluded that breed was not one of these factors. This study also concluded that media reports on bite-related incidents are prone to significant breed identification error rates of over 40% and that valid breed determination was possible in only 17% of all incidents. Furthermore, after analyzing a number of scientific sources and numerous peer-reviewed studies, the American Veterinary Medical Association concluded: "Controlled studies have not identified this breed group (pitbull-type dogs) as disproportionately dangerous."
- Statistics: Data sourced from a peer-reviewed study conducted by the CDC that analyzed 20 years of dog bite-related incidents substantiates that the DBRF risk rate for pitbull-type dogs is fully in-line with the risk rates for other strong breeds. This CDC study also identified over 25 breeds associated with DBRFs. Furthermore, more recent incident data shows that at least 37 different breeds have been involved in fatal dog attacks in the U.S. since only 2016, confirming that serious dog bite-related incidents are not a breed-specific issue while also validating the importance of comprehensive breed-neutral regulations for public safety.
- Identification: A recent peer-reviewed study that analyzed the accuracy of visual breed identification concluded that "pitbull-type" dogs were misidentified 60% of the time. Another major peer-reviewed study on canine DNA concluded that the majority of "pitbull-type" dogs are in fact mixed breed dogs with less than 50% DNA from any pitbull-type ancestry. Therefore, the breed data (in media reports and elsewhere) assigned to the majority of incidents describing "pitbull-type" dogs cannot be used as a reliable or scientific source for breed information. Consequently, unreliable breed identification methods are a common cause of inaccurate statistics and incorrect breed information in media reports.
Myth: Pitbull-type dogs have the strongest bite and a "locking jaw".
- There is no such thing as a "locking jaw" - no dogs (of any breed or type) have physical characteristics in their jaw that would cause or allow them to "lock" their jaws. Furthermore, pitbull-type dogs do not have the strongest bite.
- A recent peer-reviewed study that analyzed 140 serious dog bite-related incidents concluded that there is no difference (in the medical treatment required following a bite or in the type of bite inflicted) between dog bites by breeds perceived as "dangerous" (legislated breeds such as "pitbull-type" breeds) and breeds that are not perceived as "dangerous" (non-legislated breeds).
- Several peer-reviewed studies (Frontiers in Veterinary Science and Journal of Anatomy) have concluded that the strength of a dog's bite is related to a dog's overall size and strength - and not to its breed.
Myth: Pitbull-type dogs are more aggressive than other dogs.
- A recent peer-reviewed study that analyzed canine aggression in different breeds concluded that there was no significant difference in aggression between legislated breeds (such as pitbull-type dogs) and the non-legislated control group (Golden Retrievers).
- There are zero scientific, peer-reviewed studies that conclude that any one breed or dog type is "inherently more dangerous" than any other breed. However, multiple peer-reviewed studies have concluded that breed does not determine risk and that pitbull-type dogs are not "more dangerous" than other breeds of similar sizes and strengths.
- All breeds are known to "snap" (or bite without warning) causing bite-related incidents. The fact is that in a peer-reviewed study conducted by the CDC that analyzed 20 years of dog bite-related incidents, the majority (72%) of dog bite-related fatalities (DBRFs) were attributed to non-pitbull type breeds. All breeds can unfortunately have individual unstable dogs that are typically associated with dog bite-related incidents - no breeds are immune from this.
Myth: Pitbull-type dogs have a negative temperament.
- According to the latest ATTS breed temperament test data, the breeds that are commonly classified as the modern pitbull-type breeds continue to achieve excellent temperament scores - scoring in the top 23% of all breeds and higher than 100 of the 130 breeds tested.
- Not only do pitbull-type dogs consistently achieve excellent temperament scores, they are successful as service dogs, therapy dogs, K9 police dogs, and as family pets.
- Pitbull-type dogs are growing in popularity and are by far the most popular "strong" breed dog in the U.S. - in fact, an estimated 20% of dogs in the U.S. can be classified as pitbull-type dogs. Pitbull-type dogs wouldn't be this popular if they didn't have an excellent temperament making them outstanding canine citizens and loved family pets in millions of households.
Myth: Pitbull-type dogs are "more dangerous" than other dogs according to the media reports.
- A recent peer-reviewed study concluded that media reports on bite-related incidents are prone to significant breed identification error rates of over 40% and that valid breed determination was possible in only 17% of all incidents. Another peer-reviewed study that analyzed the accuracy of visual breed identification concluded that "pitbull-type" dogs were misidentified 60% of the time. Consequently, inaccurate visual breed identification methods are a common cause of inaccurate breed information in media reports.
- A peer-reviewed study concluded that the majority of pitbull-type dogs are in fact mixed breed dogs with less than 50% DNA from any pitbull-type ancestry. Therefore, the majority of dogs identified as "pit bulls" in media reports are not pitbull-type dogs by DNA or even pitbull-type mixed breeds because normally, a dog would need to have more than 50% DNA from pitbull-type ancestry to be considered a pitbull-type mix. Instead, the majority of dogs identified as "pit bulls" (in media reports and elsewhere) are simply mixed breed dogs resembling a medium-sized dog with physical characteristics from any of the numerous "bully-type" (or bulldog-type) breeds.
- The fact is that because the term "pit bull" is not a breed but instead, a term used to describe a "type" of dog loosely based only on its physical appearance, the term "pit bull" is commonly used by the media as a blanket term to report dog bite-related incidents when the breed is not fully known, when the breed is mixed, or when the dog is misidentified due to inaccurate visual identification methods. Furthermore, the vast majority of media reports on bite-related incidents describe situations that confirm what a recent peer-reviewed study concluded - that factors associated with irresponsible ownership (and not the dog's breed) were the primary cause of the incident. Irresponsible ownership is a precursor to increased risk with strong dogs (of any breed) as evidenced by a 20 year peer-reviewed study that found the majority (72%) of dog bite-related fatalities (DBRFs) attributed to non-pitbull type breeds.
Breed-based policies are based on myths and misinformation, rather than science or credible data. Their impact on dogs, families and animal shelters, however, is heartbreakingly real.
- Humane Society of the United States (HSUS)