November 08, 2022

I was working in my office this morning when Melissa called me to come and take care of Zena.  Melissa has the habit of letting Zena out on the back patio in the mornings to play.  The dogs next door often come out during this time and usually bark at Zena (especially the small one).  While Zena will respond at times, she generally just sits at the fence quietly watching them.  Her dog buddies were not out this morning and Zena was forced to find her own fun.  Like small children, puppies are inquisitive and tend to get into mischief when left to their own devices.  A good rule of thumb for both is, “If it suddenly gets quiet, you had better go check on them.”  I have mentioned how Zena likes to haul and throw the split wood kept on the patio for our fire pit.  Apparently, today that was not enough.  Melissa watched as Zena put a bite on the wooden planter I was repairing (it could happen) and literally ripped a wood slat off the frame and threw it across the yard.

When I looked online, I found the bite force of the Great Pyrenees (Zena) is from 500 to 650 PSI, putting it on par with members of the Mastiff family and a few livestock guardian dogs.  Bite force or pressure is expressed in pounds of force per square inch (PSI).  Since experts measure pressure in Newtons, it is interesting that canine experts convert these numbers into PSI for their lists of strong bite forces.  While it is more accurate to measure an animal’s bite force through pound-force in Newtons, PSI conversions put the numbers in a format that people better understand.  A Newton is only a fifth of a pound, and problems arise when laypeople make uninformed calculations or assume Newtons and PSI are the same, leading to gross exaggerations of the bite force for breeds of dogs already struggling with bad publicity.  A dog’s bite force is determined by body mass, jaw muscles, and head structure.  However, at 100-plus pounds (45-plus kg) the Great Pyrenees is strong beyond its jaws.  Its wedge-shaped head and relatively long jawline give it the leverage it needs to bite with incredible pressure.  Or apparently, to also rip slats of wood off my planter.

Several statistics put the Great Pyrenees’ bite force into perspective.  Humans have an average bite force of 120 to 150 PSI.  Toy dogs have bite forces from 90 PSI to 170 PSI.  It takes over 1400 Newtons (about 285 PSI) to fracture your finger.  The largest bone in your leg, the femur, requires about 800 PSI to fracture.  When strong dogs attack, the most punishing damage is a crushing injury to soft tissues.  Dogs that attack often grip and shake whatever they bite, causing tearing as well as bruising.  Fatalities do not occur from broken bones but from the dog’s attacking the face, head, and neck.  These areas are much more vulnerable to the bite ranges of large dogs, which are between 200 and 300 PSI.  A dog intent on causing bodily harm (rare) bites people on the lower limbs to bring them to the ground.  They also attack other dogs in this manner if they cannot readily access the throat.  Luckily, Great Pyrenees are usually gentle with young kids, even if the same cannot be said for planters.

THOUGHTS:  Years ago, I was bitten by a cat.  I thought it was nothing and ignored the bite until several days later when the bite became infected.  Sitting in the emergency room, I noticed signs on the walls declaring a dog bite must be reported to the police.  The irony was not lost.  When I thought about this, I realized dogs tend to bite other people.  Cats tend to bite their owners (as mine did) and will not allow perceived threats near them.  An old maxim tells us, “Their bark is worse than their bite,” and often refers to a cantankerous older person.  It seems lately people are allowing their social media “bark” (words) to serve as a precursor to an eventual “bite” (action).  We need to reign in both to find any unity.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

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