As dog lovers, we often refer to our dogs as members of the family. While I agree that dogs are an integral part of my family’s life, we sometimes forget just how different our “fur babies” are from us. One aspect that separates us from dogs is their strength.
How strong is your dog?
A dog’s strength depends on its breed, weight, temperament, and motivation behind the action. Their bite force and muscle strength are stronger than humans pound for pound, but not every dog can overpower a human.
Let’s dive into the true strength of dogs and discuss what makes them so powerful!
Alk Bark and Strong Bites
When most people consider how strong dogs are, their minds go straight to their bite. A dog’s bite is mighty and has been used as intimidation and protection by humans for thousands of years.
Thanks to technology and dedicated canine scientists, we can quantify and define exactly what it is about our furry friend’s bite that makes it such a powerful weapon.
What Is Bite Force?
A dog’s bite force is defined as the amount of pressure a dog exerts when it closes its jaws around something. To measure bite force, scientists have a dog bite down on a gauge. This measures the amount of pressure exerted by the teeth on the gauge and can be measured by Newtons (N) or in pounds per square inch (PSI).
What Affects Bite Force?
Bite force in dogs is affected by many different factors. Each bite has a different force, even if from the same dog. In a study measuring bite force, they had a range of 220-1100 N or about 50-250 PSI. For comparison, the average human bite ranges anywhere from 120-150 PSI.
The study also showed that the bite force varies based on what teeth are measured as well. The front and canine teeth often have less force than the molars toward the back of the jaw. This makes sense with their wolf ancestor’s hunting habits. The canines in the front are sharp for piercing and ripping apart their prey, therefore need less bite force than the molars, which need to be powerful to chew and break down raw meat for digestion.
So what makes this such a broad range? Let’s look at each factor that affects a dog’s bite force.
A dog’s breed determines quite a bit about its personality, body shape, and other instincts passed down to them from its ancestors. When it comes to bite force, the breed heavily affects how strong a dog’s bite is, even in mixed breeds.
Some breeds are known for their bite, even if the reputation is rooted in myths like the Pit Bull.
The video below shows the top 10 breeds with the strongest average bite force, but keep in mind the other factors that determine a dog’s bite force. And if you want to take a closer look at bite force across different breeds we’ve put together a chart that reviews the bite force of 68 different breeds.
Size and Weight
A dog’s size is probably the biggest indicator of its bite force. Great Danes are known to be very large while Chihuahuas are small. Obviously, a Great Dane and a Chihuahua won’t have the same bite force, and likely aren’t even close!
Weight is another important factor when predicting bite force. Weight from obesity should not be considered, and can actually lower bite force if it restricts the dog’s movements.
The Shape of their Skull
The breed of a dog affects how its head and body are shaped, including its jaw and the muscle around it. Scientists have studied the bite force of dogs with differently shaped skulls, categorizing them as brachycephalic, mesocephalic, and dolichocephalic (short, medium, and long-headed, respectively.)
They found no real difference in the bite force of small dogs based on skull shape, but for medium and large breeds it made quite a difference. Interestingly, bite force increases as the jaw shorten, meaning brachycephalic large and medium breeds, like Boxers, Bulldogs, and even Pit Bulls, have stronger bites than comparably sized dogs with longer snouts.
There’s quite a bit of variation in the temperament, strength, and even the teeth of puppies, adults, and senior dogs. This can affect how hard a dog can and chooses to bite. Puppies are likely not going to have a lot of developed muscle yet, and are more likely to play bite. Senior dogs may have pain or muscle atrophy that reduces their bite force.
Intent and Motivation
Interestingly, dogs don’t always bite down with the same amount of force. They use their mouth for a variety of things like eating, playing, and even picking up puppies, so dogs are great at controlling the force of their bite. The most common reasons for biting are playing and being provoked.
Play bites to the arms and hands are usually soft and harmless. During socialization as a puppy, they learn bite inhibition to properly convey their playful intent. Provoked bites are often more intense because the dog is feeling threatened and is using all of its power to defend itself. The more immediate and scary the threat, the more intense the bite force.
Bite Force is a Theory
Most of the studies done on bite force were not tested with actual dogs, as it’s incredibly difficult to get a dog to truly demonstrate its full force on command. Not to mention, that that would involve provoking the dog, causing stress for the dog and the experimenters!
Instead, scientists can calculate the approximate bite force by using skull measurements, or they use electronic stimulation. They gathered a group of dogs that were being humanely euthanized due to health conditions, put them under anesthesia, and used electronic signals to the jaw muscles to imitate their bites. Afterward, they were peacefully sent over the rainbow bridge.
This experiment might seem cruel from the outside, but no dogs were harmed or caused pain. This study did give canine scientists an excellent look into their bite force!
However, bite force is not the only way that a dog can show his strength.
Dogs are incredibly muscular and strong, and certain breeds have been bred to be even more muscular! The strength of a dog’s muscles can be shown in its ability to run, jump, and even pull massive amounts of weight.
Dogs have been pulling weight as a form of strength for centuries. The use of dogs to pull both people and goods can be traced back to sled dogs in the 1800s. Most of these sled dogs were Huskies or Malamutes that could withstand the cold, but even breeds like Rottweilers were used to help butchers pull their meat carts to the market. Even if they weren’t specifically bred for it, most dogs have a pulling power that can outclass the average human.
Modern Weight Pulling Competitions
During the gold rush era, dogs were used to move cargo all over the grounds. The first weight-pulling competition was just for fun to see how far a dog could pull a full sled of frozen cargo. The sport grew over time, and in 1978, dog weight pulling came with conduct standards and was officially recognized as a sport. Today, the world record for most weight pulled is held by Delbert, the 150-pound Alaskan Malamute that pulled 5,400 pounds!
The development of dog weight pulling as a sport paralleled the development of sled dog racing, given the similar nature. Sled dogs were used not only with single dogs going short distances but also with teams of dogs that traveled long distances carrying freight to rural parts of Alaska. They are still used today for races and freight hauling when airplanes and vehicles fail.
Dogs are fast. Like, really fast. While the top speed for a dog depends on their breed, training, weight, and a variety of other factors, dogs can run about 15-20 miles per hour on average. For comparison, a human can usually run anywhere from 6-8 miles per hour, with the record being about 22mph.
The fastest breeds in the world have been bred for running for centuries, and include Greyhounds, Whippets, and Salukis. You can see why these breeds are so fast when you look at their lean structure and powerful back leg muscles. They are also often deep-chested, making it easier for them to take in oxygen while running.
When we think of animals that are amazing at jumping, we often think of rabbits, kangaroos, and even our own family cats. but did you know that dogs have incredible jumping power too?
Most dogs weren’t bred for jumping, but their overall athleticism and muscle strength make it an easy feat for them. High jumping can be a dangerous sport when not done correctly, as an improper set-up and training can cause falls, broken limbs, and possibly even worse. This is especially true when you considered that the record for the highest jump by a dog is over 6 feet off the ground!
Are Dogs Stronger Than Humans?
Dogs are often considered to be much stronger than humans when looking at the strength pound for pound. However, not every dog is going to be able to overpower a human, and it heavily depends on the size of the dog.
Small dogs may not bring you down, but can still cause damage with their bite. Larger dogs have been used for protection by humans for centuries because of their strength and size, although your dog likely won’t protect you without proper training. When trained and under control, larger dogs can easily overpower a human.
It’s clear that dogs are strong in many ways, and should not be underestimated! Thankfully, dogs have been domesticated by humans for thousands of years and most have a gentle and trainable temperament. As humans, we enjoy sharing our lives with these wonderfully strong and affectionate creatures.