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Great Pyrenees are truly gentle giants. Well, at least that seems to be the agreement among owners. But, have you ever wondered how strong your Great Pyrenees is? If they bit you, could they hurt you?
What even is a Great Pyrenees’ bite force?
Surprisingly, the Great Pyrenees has a very strong bite force. These dogs have an average bite force of around 500 pounds per square inch (PSI)! That’s actually a stronger bite than Rottweilers and Pitbulls! This varies between individuals, but still makes these dogs some of the strongest biters around.
Let’s see how bite force is determined, what can affect a Great Pyrenees bite force, and how to avoid being bitten by one!
How Is Bite Force Measured In Dogs?
Even though it might seem like an easy thing to measure, there are a few different ways to measure bite pressure. None of them is 100% accurate for all areas of the mouth! A combination of many methods gives the best answer to our question.
What’s The Difference Between PSI and Newtons?
While we don’t want to bore you with too many facts and vocabulary, it is important to know the difference between PSI and Newtons.
This is because, you might see bite force measured in either one, but they are very different units! These units might even be used to purposefully misrepresent a dog’s bite force, like a Pitbull, to make them seem scarier. If you’re curious to find out more about a PItbull’s bite force and bust some of these myths, read our article about their bite pressure!
PSI is the way to measure pressure in the non-metric system. American readers will be most familiar with this unit. PSI is pretty straightforward and tells you how much pressure in pounds is being applied to one square inch of a surface.
Not to be too graphic, but to break a human femur, you would need to apply about 1700 PSI. I hope that can give you a good understanding of how 500PSI might feel!
Newtons on the other hand are a slightly more complicated way to measure pressure. Much of the world uses Newtons to measure pressure as they are part of the modern-day metric system.
Without getting too complex, 1 Newton equals the amount of pressure needed to move 1 kilogram of mass in a specific amount of time to a specific distance. So, Newtons take time and velocity into account.
PSI and Newtons should never be confused because they are incredibly different numbers in the end! Our 500 PSI is about 3,500,000 Newtons! So, remember to always check your units when you are looking at bite pressure!
Using Geometry And Skull Size
One of the ways that bite force is measured is through a series of calculations.
These calculations take into consideration the dog’s skull size, bone density, jaw angle, and tooth size. These calculations can give an estimation of the maximum possible pressure a dog can apply with their jaws.
However, you won’t see a Great Pyrenees, or any other dog biting with maximum pressure. As you can imagine this would lead to serious jaw injuries! So, this technique is really only theoretical at best! Still, you’ll notice that only on any list of canine bite force, the larger dogs with larger skulls are always at the top.
Using Electric Stimulation
Another mostly theoretical method of measuring a dog’s bite pressure is through electric stimulation of the muscles.
Essentially this study took a group of dogs and put them under anesthesia. While these dogs were deep under anesthesia, electrodes were attached to their jaw muscles. These electrodes stimulated the jaw muscle to contract, causing the dog to unconsciously bite down. This bite force was then measured.
If you’re horrified by the idea of this experiment, don’t worry! All of these dogs participating in the study were already going to be humanely euthanized for pre-existing health problems. With the anesthesia, they would not have felt a thing and the dogs were euthanized immediately following the experiment.
While this seems like a foolproof way to test bite pressure, it also isn’t perfect. This pressure would again turn out to be an unrealistically large number. Dogs that were awake would never use their muscle so fully for fear of injuring themselves.
Using A Dummy and A Pressure Meter
Now, the most realistic measures of bite force probably come from a study found in National Geographic.
In this study, dogs were trained to bite a jacket sleeve that had a force meter inside of it! No human arms were harmed in this experiment!
While this experiment isn’t perfect, it actually provided data on what real-life, awake dogs would do and what their bite pressure could be. This is where many of our estimates for bite pressure come from today!
The only problem with this study was that bite pressure is very different in different areas of the mouth. For example, the bite pressure of the front teeth would generally be much lower than a bite with the molars!
So we know our methods for measuring bite pressure are imperfect, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t figure it out!
Why Could Great Pyrenees Have Such A Strong Bite Force?
There’s no denying that in general, Great Pyrenees are big strong dogs!
This is partially due to their history. The same reason why they have thick white coats and double dewclaws might be the same reason that they can bite so hard.
Great Pyrenees are true mountain dogs that were born and raised to protect flocks of sheep from predators. This meant that occasionally, they might have to chase down and fight off a larger predator. Their strong bite is something they often had to use as a solitary guard dog for their sheep!
How Can Bite Force Vary Among Great Pyrenees?
We mentioned a few times earlier that bite pressure can vary greatly even within one breed. For example, Rottweilers that have been bred in Europe tend to be slightly larger and stronger than American Rotties. So, their bite pressure could be different from each other.
Here are some of the factors that could affect the strength of a Great Pyrenees’ bite!
In Great Pyrenees, it is common for the male dogs to grow significantly larger than the females of their breed.
Male and female siblings can see a 20lb difference between themselves.
This difference in size does affect bite pressure and strength. You’ll notice that we don’t talk about Chihuahuas having a strong bite! Among other reasons, their small size has a lot to do with this. A bigger size means a stronger jaw muscle to bite, and more leverage to distribute the pressure overall.
This might be an obvious reason that bite pressure could change!
A small puppy definitely won’t have the same bite pressure as a full-grown dog. They are smaller, with more delicate teeth and bones, and less developed muscles.
A Great Pyrenees reaches adulthood somewhere around 18 – 24 months. After this, their bite pressure will be at its maximum. As they start to age though, their bite pressure will start to decline. This is because the muscles are growing weaker, the bones are becoming brittle and the teeth might not be in good condition.
But, don’t be fooled, an older Great Pyrenees can still bite you very hard if they want to!
Skull Shape and Size
Skull shape and size have a lot to do with the amount of pressure a bite can exert.
This goes back to the idea of measuring bite force with geometry. Like the idea of a lever, there will be ideal dimensions to optimize bit pressure. A squarer jaw, for example, can take more pressure than a narrow jaw. A bigger head means more strong muscles to clamp down wth.
Essentially, if your furry friend has a specially large square head, they are probably on the high end of bite force for a Great Pyrenees.
We talked about teeth just above!
Tooth condition is so important to a strong bite! If you want your Great Pyrenees to be able to enjoy their favorite bones and kibble, they need to have strong healthy teeth.
Dogs can sustain small, unnoticeable fractures on their teeth from chewing on hard objects. If you don’t take your dog in for a routine dental examination, you might not even realize your dog is suffering from a fracture! A fractured tooth would obviously decrease the exerted pressure in a dog’s bite.
Missing, or infected teeth would have the same effect of lowering bite pressure.
Although you might not want your Great Pyrenees biting as hard as they possibly can, it’s always recommended to keep your dog’s teeth healthy with the help of a veterinarian.
All this talk about bites might make a superstitious person nervous! But, don’t worry, even though Great Pyrenees have a strong bite, they don’t tend to be aggressive.
Are Great Pyrenees Dangerous?
Great Pyrenees are guardian dogs. This can be a good thing and a bad thing.
If you are considered a part of a Great Pyrenees family or flock, they will literally guard you with their life. However, if you’re a threatening outsider Great Pyrenees can be scary.
At a veterinary clinic, it’s not always a sure thing that a Great Pyrenees will be friendly. Even though they might be set and calm at home, their attitudes can change quickly around strangers.
It’s important to understand that the bite of a Great Pyrenees can be dangerous, and shouldn’t be underestimated!
However, with proper training, a Great Pyrenees will act like a teddy bear towards everyone around them!
Can You Train A Great Pyrenees Not To Bite?
There is hope! If you feel like your dog is starting to seem a little bit more intimidating, and you’re worried about the 500 PSI bite on a stranger’s arms, stick around!
If your dog is a puppy still, you’re in luck. Puppies’ brains are always growing and developing, which makes them fairly easy to train. If you have a puppy that’s biting a lot at a young age, you can train them to stop. It also helps that Great Pyrenees are naturally loving dogs even if they are a little independent. Check out this video of this puppy, and how his owners are training him not to bite!
You can see that even in just five minutes that puppy is already learning not to bite, with the right encouragement!
Teaching An Older Dog Not To Bite
If you have an adult Pyrenees and you want to make sure that you can control them if they ever bite something, this is a trick to work on!
Practice teaching them how to “take” and how to “drop.” You can do this in a few easy steps!
- Give your dog a toy, once they put it in their mouth, tell them, “take!”
- Offer your dog one of their favorite treats.
- As soon as your dog drops their toy to take their treat, say “drop,” and give them the treat.
- Repeat this until your dog knows to expect a treat when they take and drop something.
- Start to say “drop” before you have offered the treat.
- This progression can end with a dog that takes and drops on command.
Having a dog that listens when you say “drop” is so important, especially in such a strong dog like a Great Pyrenees.
Always Be A Responsible Dog Owner
If you feel like training take and drop is out of your league, we recommend hiring a professional! What might seem impossible to you could just be another normal workday for a dog trainer.
As the owner of a giant breed of dog, it is your responsibility to make sure they are under your control, especially when out in public. Teaching your dog not to bite isn’t something to take lightly! You should be 100% sure that your dog knows a human is something they should never bite.
Owning a Great Pyrenees may seem like a big responsibility, and, it really is! From big paws (sometimes with extra toes) to big jaws, this breed has massive bite pressure that could seriously injure someone.
But, if you make sure your Great Pyrenees is socialized and well-trained, they will be able to show their sweet personality to everyone they meet!