Fact or Fiction: The Surprising Answer to the Question, Do Pitbulls’ Jaws Lock?

🦴 Updated on July 20th, 2023

pitbull with jaws not locked

If you have a Pitbull or considering this breed for a new pet, you may wonder, do Pitbulls’ jaws lock? Unfortunately, many myths and truths become scrambled between animal lovers and different species, causing inaccuracies that can be scary. 

If you want to explore this phenomenon and see if it’s a genuine concern, this complete guide goes over all the details, so you can know precisely what is true and what isn’t when you ask, is lockjaw real and what dogs have lockjaw? 

The Pitbull Lockjaw Myth 

While many continue to profess that Pitbull dog breeds can lock their jaws and cause significant damage, it isn’t true. 

Although there is a medical reason why lockjaw syndrome can occur in dogs and cats, it is due to an infection and not because they are vicious animals. In contrast, the lockjaw issue in Pitbulls that many potential dog owners are often scared of is invalid. 

However, the Pitbull can appear scary to some individuals unfamiliar with the breed or who don’t understand the lockjaw condition and its circumstances. 

Thankfully, we have all the details here to see how this myth started, when lockjaw is a genuine concern, and what you can do if it happens to your pet. 

Where Did the Pitbull’s Lockjaw Myth Come From?

The original root of the question, do Pitbulls have lockjaw, comes from centuries ago when these breeds were prominently used for guarding and fighting off bears, bulls, or other wild prey. 

Because this dog can maintain a solid bite strong enough to immobilize another animal, observers assumed that the Pitbull could lock its jaw. However, as time progressed, and Pitbulls were no longer used for bull-baiting, many owners resorted to dog fighting with this breed. 

Unfortunately, as Pitbulls were bred to fight and owners encouraged aggressive behavior, the lockjaw myth continued to surround this breed. This stubborn biting and refusal to let go helped reinforce the negative myth of this breed. 

Can a Pitbull Lock Its Jaw While Biting? 

Contrary to popular belief, a Pitbull doesn’t have the skeletal or muscular structure to lock its jaw while biting. In fact, when you wonder what dogs have lockjaw, the answer is none of them. So, you never have to worry about a Pitbull or other dog breed locking its jaw while biting. 

However, that doesn’t mean that a bit from a Pitbull or other dog breed isn’t scary. This dog’s bite is strong, and the Pitbull jaw pressure can measure between 240 and 330 pounds per square inch (PSI). 

Alternatively, the human’s strongest bite is at 120 to 160 psi. Receiving a bit from a Pitbull will hurt and can most likely break the skin and cause damage. 

Do Pitbulls’ Jaws Lock While Fighting? 

Although watching a dog fighting with another can be scary, a locking jaw is not one of the concerns. However, seeing these muscular animals latch onto another dog or toy can be concerning. 

Pitbulls are typically lower to the ground since they aren’t a tall dog breed. They have exceptional muscle mass beneficial when hunting, guarding, and exercising. This combination of muscle and low center of gravity helps Pitbulls maintain a firm grip on the item they are biting, which can seem like their jaws lock in place. 

This dog breed is full of determination and has a habit of biting a toy, then shaking its head as a primal instinct from its ancestors. Unfortunately, this shaking can significantly damage its prey or your pet’s favorite toy. 

However, never during that time will their jaws lock. Some Pitbull owners recognize that while playing with their dog, it will not let go of the toy. 

Instead, it continues its grip while playing tug to give the impression that the jaw is locked in place. It’s just a sign of how determined your pet is to maintain control while playing. 

When Does Lockjaw Happen in Dogs? 

Lockjaw is a real medical condition that can happen in some situations. It’s also known as Tetanus, resulting from the Clostridium tetani bacteria

So, what is lockjaw in dogs? Consequently, it isn’t a result of biting or fighting with other animals. Instead, a bacterial infection causes the muscles to remain tense, so the animal cannot open or close its mouth. 

This serious ailment can interfere with the animal’s eating, drinking, and general movement, affecting the muscles throughout the body. 

Can dogs get lockjaw? Although Tetanus is not highly common with dogs, it can happen. Responsible pet owners should watch for these signs if they suspect their pet has contracted this harmful bacteria. 

  • Difficulty moving the mouth or jaw
  • Problems eating or loss of appetite 
  • Unnatural grinning in the face muscles
  • More visible wrinkles on the forehead
  • Excessive drooling 
  • Body muscle spasms or complete paralysis 
  • Uncharacteristic stiffness in muscles 
  • Ears that constantly stand erect and stiff 
  • Unnaturally stiff or hard tail 
  • Difficulty breathing due to a tight chest 
  • Constipation or lack of bowel movements 
  • Pain during urination 

Do Pitbulls Suffer From Lockjaw? 

Yes, Pitbulls can suffer from tetanus, also known as lockjaw, if they contract the bacteria associated with this ailment. These bacteria typically reside in areas with low oxygen levels, such as soil and the tissues or intestines of dead animals. 

So, can a dog get lockjaw from picking up dead squirrels or raccoons in the park? Unfortunately, this is one of the most likely ways your pet can contract this bacteria, leading to tetanus. 


You can read more in these frequently asked questions about a Pitbull’s bite and the possibilities of lockjaw. 

Is there a proper way to get a Pitbull to release its bite? 

If the dog is biting a person or dog, you can simply grab its tail and pull backward. This motion may startle the animal, and it will let go. 

Alternatively, you can grab the back legs, raise them up to throw off his balance, and he will immediately let go of anything he is biting.

Is a Pitbull’s bite the strongest of all dogs?

No, the Pitbull does not have nearly the strongest bite of all the dog breeds. Although Pitbulls have a strong bite measuring between 240 and 330 psi, the Kangal dog has a much more damaging bite. Its impressive bite pressure of 743 pounds per square inch. That does not mean that a bite from a Pitbull will not hurt, however. 

Are Pitbull bites dangerous? 

Unfortunately, anytime a dog bites, it can be dangerous. These animals have teeth designed for puncturing and tearing the flesh of prey which they inherited from their ancestors. Playing with your Pitbull can result in accidental bites even if your dog is not aggressive.

Although your Pitbull may not be aggressive, any accidental bite can do significant damage if you are not carefully monitoring its activities. 

The Truthful Answer to Can Pitbulls Lock Their Jaws

The next time someone asks you do Pitbulls’ jaws lock, you can confidently say that they don’t. However, their bite is strong, and their determination does make it challenging to get toys away from them or break up a dog fight. 

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Picture of Jennifer Grucci | Dog Breeds Expert
Jennifer Grucci | Dog Breeds Expert
Our talented copy editor Jennifer ensures all doggie info published on our site is accurate, clear, and perfectly suited for pet parents of all experience levels. When not reading and writing about dogs, Jennifer enjoys playing with her own pets at home.