Some of the myths below are just hilarious, but the scary fact remains that a lot of the people who have not had any meaningful contact with the breed will believe at least one of them.
Here are some of the common myths that you will come across, if you haven't already;
Pit Bulls are inherently vicious
The media loves to portray them as such as it sells ad space to have sensational stories to send out. We actually heard a story once about an attack that was initiated by another breed and the ambitious reporter hounded the folks involved about whether they were "sure" it wasn't a pit bull for so long that the people finally relented in order to get the reporter off their backs.
Most of the stories, of pit bulls and other breeds, that make the news can be traced back more to irresponsible owners than the core personality of the dogs themselves.
Unfortunately, because of this current reputation, pretty unsavory people are attracted to owning a pit bull. These people beat these dogs. These people keep the dogs tied up on chains or locked in the garage away from human contact. These people deliberately force the dogs to fight with other dogs for their lives. These people breed and breed and breed so that the hormone levels of the dogs are never allowed to level out. Consider how we describe a human who is "hormonal". Think about never being able to get off that roller coaster and have all the other alienating factors added in. These are the dogs that escape insecure yards and attack. These are the dogs that turn on the person who has been mistreating them - but not until they've endured years and years of daily abuse. How many times have you read that the owner in a news story defends himself by saying that somehow the dog got off their chain, out of their kennel, through a locked door? How often do you read that a pit bull got off a couch where he was lounging with the family to go out and attack some defenseless person?
The sad thing is that the general public is willing to believe and accept the worst based on the actions of a few. A Pit Bull that bites is an exception to the rule rather than the norm. The 2006 statistics from the American Temperament Test Association show that 84.1% of American Pit Bull Terriers passed the temperament test. This is higher than the Golden Retriever (83.8%), Border Collie (79.6%) and the Beagle (78.2%). The temperament test consists of putting the dog through a series of confrontational situations - if the dog reacts aggressively or fearfully, it fails.
A dog that attacks an animal will go on to attack a human
Completely not true. Animal aggression and human aggression are two completely different things, and dogs have the ability to differentiate between the two. While it is true that Pit Bulls can have a genetic predisposition towards animal aggression, it is also a fact that they were bred NOT to be human aggressive. Human aggression was stringently bred out of them, and a Pit Bull that bites a human is an anomaly within an exceptionally human-loving breed.
As sad as it may be, one of the reasons why human aggression was so guardedly bred out was so that the horrible people who fight the dogs against one another would never feel fear that the dog might turn on them. In high money dog fights, the handlers actually lie along the inside of the ring where the dogs are fighting and push them back into the middle if the dog tries to stop the fight. Dogs that attacked these humans were immediately killed (and not through very humane means unfortunately).
Many times, when you read about a pit bull biting a human, it is because the human gets in the way of keeping the dog from biting or attacking another dog. While this isn't acceptable either, it is important to understand that, in this case the bites are redirected aggression towards the other dog and not directed aggression against the human. It is important for people that own pit bulls who have matured into animal aggression to keep their dogs out of situations with other dogs.
Pit Bulls have 1600 psi jaw pressure, and they can lock their jaws
Quite simply, if pit bulls had the ability to lock their jaws, they would have to be classified as another species. Pit Bulls are terriers and, as such, are known to be extremely tenacious, and will not easily relinquish something that they see as rightfully theirs. However, their jaws have nothing unique about them to distinguish them from any other breed of dog. Their bite strength is actually equally matched to any other similiarly sized dog.
The few studies which have been conducted of the structure of the skulls, mandibles and teeth of Pit Bulls show that, in proportion to their size, their jaw structure and thus its inferred functional morphology, is no different than that of any [other] breed of dog. There is absolutely not evidence for the existence of any kind of ’locking mechanism’ unique to the structure of the jaw and/or teeth of the American Pit Bull Terrier, says Dr. I. Lerh Brisbin of the University of Georgia (from the ADBA booklet, “Discover the American Pit Bull Terrier.)
Tests that have been done comparing the bite pressure of several
breeds showed pressure PSI (per square inch) to be considerably lower
than some wild estimates that have been made. Testing has shown that
the domestic dog averages about 320 lbs of pressure per square inch.
Recently Dr. Brady Barr of National Geographic conducted a comparative
test between a Pit Bull, a Rottweiler, and a German Shepherd. The Pit
Bull had the LOWEST PSI OF THE THREE.
The highest pressure recorded from the Pit Bull was 235 lbs PSI. The highest from the GSD was 238, and the highest from the Rott was 328. Dr. Barr states that as far as he knows, the PSI tested in the Rott is the highest on record for any domestic canine. What happened to the supposed 10,000 pounds PSI pressure that the breed supposedly has??? It's a MYTH, pure and simple. (information taken from The Real Pit Bull)
Pit Bulls make great guard dogs
Pit Bulls actually make completely useless guard dogs - because of their love of humans, they will consider strangers as friends as much as they consider family as friends.
Pit Bulls bite more than any other breed
Bite statistics are notoriously unreliable, firstly because most dog bites go unreported. Secondly, because there are over 32 other breeds of dog that the general public confuse with Pit Bulls. There have been stories on the news about Pit Bull attacks where the picture on the screen is definitely not a Pit Bull. Additionally, even with the most aggressive bite statistics out there, and assuming that all the dogs that have bitten were actually pit bulls, the statistics still would point to the fact that that fewer than 1 in 500,000 pit bulls living in homes today have a reported bite on a human.
For more myth-busting information about Pit Bulls, we refer you to The Real Pit Bull.