The term “bite force” refers to how powerful an animal’s bite is. It is related to the strength of the animal’s jaws and provides an indication of how much damage it can do when it attacks.
The bite force of many different animals has been measured, including crocodiles, hyenas, hippos, and dogs.
When an animal bites, it usually is doing it for one of two reasons. It is either protecting itself or its family or it is hunting.
German shepherds typically live with people, so they don’t need to hunt for their food. They bite as a protective measure, which may be triggered by fear or aggression.
According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), German shepherds are used for many things, including companionship and family protection, but they are also often trained as police dogs.
Many criminals will give up rather than risk being bitten, as a German shepherd’s bite is 238 PSI (pounds per square inch), according to the All Shepherd website. That’s strong enough to break bones.
What Makes the Bite So Powerful?
Early in the development of the German shepherd breed, these dogs were crossed with wolves, but the resulting dogs were unmanageable and unreliable.
However, the wolf blood remained in the breed to a lesser extent as the breed developed, resulting in some favorable traits.
According to the Nat Geo Dogs 101 video on German shepherds, among domesticated dogs only the Rottweiler has a more powerful bite than the German shepherds.
The shepherd gets a lot of his bite power from the shape of his muzzle, a characteristic related to his wolf ancestors.
What Else Does Police Work Involve?
Police dogs do more than just bite people on command. They also aid in finding suspects hiding where the police can’t find them, and they can sniff out drugs, weapons, and other contraband hidden in vehicles or tossed away by fleeing criminals.
According to the Utah Department of Public Safety, other important skills taught to police dogs including tracking, search and rescue, and cadaver search. Dogs are also taught to either bark or bite when they find a suspect, depending on the command given by the handler.
German Shepherds are the perfect K-9 cops, as they are highly intelligent and able to be trained for many tasks, doing work that humans are unable to do.
Despite being trained to attack and bite when needed, the National Police Dog Foundation reports that it is common for police dogs to live with their handlers as family pets when not on duty.
How Does a German Shepherd’s Bite Compare to other Animals?
Many animals have powerful bites. While the German shepherd has one of the most powerful bites of all dog breeds, many other animals have much stronger bites. No dog even made the top 10 in the British science magazine Science Focus.
As reported in this magazine, the animals with the strongest bite force are the hyena, at number 10, with a bite force of 1100 PSI, equal to nearly five times that of a German Shepherd. At number 9 is the grizzly bear, at 1160 PSI, and in the eighth spot is the polar bear, with a 1200 PSI bite.
In the seventh, sixth, fifth, and fourth spots are the gorilla, the bull shark, the jaguar, and the hippopotamus.
These animals have bite forces ranging up to as high as 1800 PSI, meaning that this group has come pretty powerful jaws in it.
The top three spots go to the champion biters. In third place is the American alligator, with a bite force of 2125 PSI. The second spot goes to the saltwater crocodile, with a bone-crunching bite force of 3700 PSI.
The strongest bite force in the world belongs to the Nile crocodile, with 5000 PSI, about 21 times that of the German shepherd.
Knowing an animal’s bite force provides an idea of how powerful its jaws are, and how much damage it can do when it bites. Animals that consume bones, such as hyenas and crocodiles, can be expected to have very strong jaws, but those that bite aggressively or defensively, such as the hippopotamus or the gorilla, can be very powerful biters as well.
How does the German Shepherd Compare to a Wolf?
German shepherds and wolves are somewhat similar in size, though the actual size of the wolf can vary by species and subspecies.
It can be a bit difficult to accurately measure the bite force of wild animals, but in tests filmed for National Geographic using captive gray wolves, bite force was measured at 406 PSI.
What are Some of the Considerations when Measuring Bite Force?
When measuring the bite force of any animal, it should be noted that it is not going to bite with the same force every time, so the measurement will vary from one bite to the next.
If an animal is frightened and feels it is defending itself, it is likely to bite much harder than if it is just attempting to warn off a threat.
What’s the Point of Measuring the Bite Force of an Animal?
Part of the reason behind learning an animal’s bite force is to understand how animal functions and how hard it is likely to bite in comparison to other animals.
According to Frontiers in Veterinary Science, knowing the normal bite force for a given type of animal can aid in the diagnosis and treatment of various tooth, skull, and jaw problems.
Understanding the bite force of a German shepherd and other dog breeds can also help to determine its effectiveness as a protection dog and its suitability as a police dog. While bite force is only one of many considerations, it’s helpful to have a way to compare different breeds that may otherwise be very similar.
Even without having the technical details of a bite, such as the PSI involved, simply knowing that a dog can bite hard enough to break bones is useful.
Criminals are likely to surrender rather than risk being bitten, and handlers have a clear understanding of just how much damage their dogs can do if allowed to.