A Dog’s Jaw Strength

Dogs are amazing creatures. Their relationship with man is like no other in the animal kingdom. They play with us, work for us, keep us company, rescue us in times of danger, and improve our health and well-being.

Have you ever considered that behind that sweet face and charming personality there is a dangerous weapon capable of tearing your flesh and breaking your bones? Probably not what you would like to think about when you look at your dog, but it is very true.

Knowing what these animals are capable of makes the relationship between humans and dogs even more special. They choose to be our companions, despite the damage they could easily inflict upon us. Some breeds have a bite strength that rivals some of the most dangerous members of the animal kingdom.


How is bite strength measured?

Bite strength is specified in pounds per square inch or PSI. PSI is a common engineering term used to describe the strength of an object, and basically indicates how much pressure is applied to an area of one square inch. If an animal has a bite strength of 2000 PSI, this means that he can bite down with a force equal to the weight of a small car over a one-inch area. The higher the PSI, the more potential damage a bite from that animal can create.

Measuring bite strength can be challenging. In order to measure the strength of an animal’s jaws, scientists use one of several methods. Human bite strength is measured with a device called a gnathodynamometer. It measures maximum bite force, as well as chewing force. The average strength of a human bite is 120 PSI.

Measuring an animal’s bite force is quite different. You cannot ask a shark to use one of these devices, so often animals are baited into biting objects, such as a sheet of hard plastic, and then the damage to the object is measured and calculated. In the case of extinct animals, or animals that cannot be studied directly, the bite force is calculated based on the body size, and measurements taken of the skull.


What determines bite strength?

The strength of a dog’s bite (or any animal’s bite), depends on many factors. The pressure exerted by an animal’s bite is largely determined by the size and shape of its skull. Animals with wide mouths and large heads have the strongest bite force. Strength of the jaw muscles also comes into play. The health of the teeth, gums and jawbone will also affect the power of the bite.

The bite strengths illustrated in this article are only an average. It can vary from bite to bite, and between individual animals, and can change on the circumstances. The bite strength of wolf chewing on his dinner will be very different from the bite strength produced when he is fighting for his life, or defending his territory.

Interestingly, some animals have powerful forces that snap their jaws shut, but have very weak muscles for opening the jaws. An example of this would be an alligator or crocodile. They exhibit thousands of pounds of pressure during an attack, but their mouths can easily be held shut by human hands, or sealed shut with a strip of duct tape.


Do dog breeds with strong jaws bite people more often?

Some breeds have a bad reputation that is based on a number of factors. The amount of damage that can be caused from a bite is often used to validate the negative stereotype of these breeds. Since a pit bull has such powerful jaws, when it does bite a human, it can cause significant injuries or even kill a person. The fact that a pit bull has strong jaws does not necessarily mean that he will bite someone; it just means that if he does, the damage will be severe.

Environmental factors, rather than the strength of the jaws, come into play in most of these cases. If a dog is not socialized properly as a pup, he can become anxious and scared in a variety of situations. When placed into a stressful situation, the dog will be forced to pick between “fight” and “flight.” If a dog can’t get away, guess which one he will choose.


Preventing dog bites

According to the CDC, there are 4.5 million dog bites reported each year; half of them affect children. Most of these bites were easily preventable, especially in the case of children. Lack of understanding that any dog can bite at any time, often lulls parents into a false sense of security. Many parents do not teach their children how to behave around a dog, or how to show affection to a dog properly. They incorrectly believe that their pet is relaxed around children or other situations. They think that just because their dog has never bitten before that he will never bite in the future. This places many children around dogs without adult supervision, setting up the potential for disaster.

Most dogs do not just bite without giving some kind of warning signal, but it is often interpreted this way by those who do not understand dog behavior. When these animals are thrown into situations where children are making them uncomfortable, the parents fail to recognize the subtle cues indicating that the dog is stressed. Often the first “sign” of stress is the bite, because no one was paying attention to the early cues from the dog. The dog is then incorrectly assigned blame for the bite, when it is actually a result of the lack of supervision and awareness of the adult.


These are the top ten canine bite strengths in PSI:

  1. Kangal: 743
  2. Doberman: 600
  3. Mastiff: 552
  4. Wolf: 406
  5. Rottweiler: 328
  6. American bull dog: 305
  7. German shepherd: 238
  8. Pit bull: 235
  9. Dutch shepherd: 224
  10. Malinois: (Belgian shepherd) 195

Let’s compare these to the most powerful jaws in the animal kingdom:

  1. Saltwater crocodile: 7700
  2. Nile crocodile: 5000
  3. Hippopotamus: 1821
  4. Gorilla: 1300
  5. Grizzly bear: 1250
  6. Hyena: 1100
  7. Bengal tiger: 1050
  8. Alligator snapping turtle: 1004
  9. Siberian tiger: 950
  10. Kodiak bear: 930

Animals with similar bite strength to dogs:

  1. Jaguar: 700
  2. Lion: 691
  3. Great white shark: 669
  4. Cougar: 350

Of course, there are plenty of animals which may have very high bite forces (and could make their way onto this list), but not all of them have been scientifically measured.


Hopefully, this article has demonstrated the pure power of the mouth that is connected to the end of your dog’s leash. The next time you try to take a toy out of your dog’s teeth during a game of fetch, think about the fact that his jaws are just as powerful as a cougar or great white shark. Know that he enjoys your relationship just as much as you, and contemplate what an amazing thing that is!

This blog post is part of My Nature’s Ninjas Series. You can find more about what I call Nature’s Ninjas on my TaeVerge (Martial Arts) Website. Here’e the linK: http://www.taeverge.com/index.cfm/page/Mind_and_Body/Natures_Ninjas.htm

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