Do American Bullies Have Lock Jaws? What The Media Is Lying About

American Bullies are a very loving and energetic dog breed; however, their reputation doesn’t quite fit this description. Unfortunately, the word American Bully is always followed by many misconceptions including their ability to lock their jaws.

Do American Bullies have lock jaws? American Bullies, like all dog breeds, don’t have the ability to lock their jaws. They don’t have any special mechanism in their jaws that will help them close and latch when they bite. However, there is a syndrome called lockjaw, and it is typically referred to as tetanus.

If you were looking forward to getting an American Bully but were worried about the “lockjaw” myth, keep reading to learn the full truth.

Do American Bullies Have Lock Jaws?

a photo of an American bully to show if American bullies do have lock jaws

You surely must have heard about dogs locking their jaws when they bite and not letting go until they reach their goal, be it taking a toy or causing harm. They latch into the subject without moving. This “special ability” is commonly associated with American Bullies.

Many people believe that American Bullies can lock their jaws on demand, and they actually fear them because of it. However, it’s only a myth as American Bullies, like all dog breeds, don’t have any unique bone structure or a physical mechanism that allows them to lock their jaws.

If you actually look at an American Bully’s bone structure and that of any other dog, you can see that all dog breeds’ skulls have the same characteristics and general structure.

So, what makes people think American Bullies have an extra dangerous ability? Well, what people fail to realize is that American Bullies have determination. It’s just a personality trait; they are very enthusiastic and give their all to whatever they do.

This trait can make them look like they have lockjaws, as when they bite something, they’re determined not to let it go. And most of the time, they actually succeed thanks because, in addition to their muscly body and broad heads, they have strong jaws that aid them in that.

However, other than having larger bones, there is nothing special or distinctive about American Bullies that would imply they have the ability to lock their jaws at will. Additionally, the American Bully’s bite is not particularly powerful compared to their peers.

This myth actually applies to many different dog breeds, not just Bullies. Pit Bulls, Boxers, American Staffordshire Terriers, and other dogs who are seen as aggressive or violent are also mentioned. But it is all wrong.

Where Did the Myth of Locking Jaws Come From?

Unfortunately, just like many other American Bully-related myths, this myth probably stems from their connection to Pit Bulls who have aggressive history

Even though there is no concrete evidence to imply this, many historians still believe that this notion may have truly come from the old role of Pit Bulls, which was bull-baiting.

The History of Bull Baiting

Pit Bulls were initially bred for a bloodsport; namely bull-baiting. And yes, it really is as awful as it sounds.

Before this sport was outlawed, it used to be played in a huge pit or arena, and the dogs would try to provoke the bulls and fight them to the death. Dogs other than Pit Bulls also took part in this horrific “sport” such as terriers or bulldog breeds also participated. Additionally, bears were frequently the targets as well!

The snouts of the bulls, which are among their most vulnerable body parts, were the Pit Bulls’ preferred method of pinning them down.

The way Pit Bulls teased the bulls might be what truly contributed to the lockjaw myth’s widespread acceptance.

Bull-baiting was frequently a struggle of tenacity. These dogs would latch onto the bull and restrain it.

In other words, Pit Bulls had to hold on while the beast shook and ran ferociously. Therefore, in the past, bull-baiting Pit Bulls literally had to “lock” their jaws to stop being thrown across the pit. It was vital to have this skill.

Fortunately, practically everyone in the world has long since banned this bloodsport. Bull-baiting was outlawed in England, the country where the sport originated, as a result of the Cruelty to Animals Act of 1835. However, any dog that has a Pit Bull-type physique continued to carry the stigma.

What Is Lockjaw Syndrome?

Indeed dogs don’t have a superpower that enables them to lock their jaws whenever they want; however, there is a real condition that could infect any dog called “lockjaw syndrome”.

It’s rare that dogs get this condition, called Lockjaw or, more scientifically right, Tetanus. It causes dogs to be unable to open or close their mouths. One of the most well-known signs of Tetanus is jaw stiffness or Lockjaw. 

However, there are a number of reasons why the jaw can become locked open or shut, including:

  • Fractures or disorders of the temporomandibular joint (TMJ)
  • Diseases of the muscles around the TMJ   
  • Nerve disorders 
  • Non-tetanus infections 
  • Birth defects 
  • Cancers 
  • Inflammations like Masticatory Myositis


Tetanus Bacillus symptoms can vary considerably. As a result, the severity will depend on how much bacteria go inside your American Bully. The symptoms may become more severe the more toxins the bacteria produce in the dog.

The following are the main symptoms to know if your dog has lockjaw syndrome:

  • High fever
  • Inability to pee and poop
  • Pain or discomfort if they pee
  • Too much drooling that it looks unnatural
  • More wrinkles on American Bully’s forehead
  • A strange grinning appearance
  • Unusual hard or stiff tail
  • ears that are always upright and rigid
  • The body of the American Bully appears stiff.
  • lack of appetite or trouble eating
  • breathing issues brought on by chest tightness
  • Having trouble moving the mouth (jaw stiffness)
  • Paralysis or muscle spasms

Having said that, if you think your American Bully has been in contact with dead animals and they are exhibiting these symptoms, call your vet at once. These symptoms may occasionally result in death from the inability to breathe.


Depending on the diagnosis, many lockjaw treatments are available for dogs. While mild inflammatory issues may respond to anti-inflammatory drugs, other TMJ diseases can be treated surgically.


There are many myths about American Bullies that are mostly debunked by science, and locking their jaws (not related to Tetanus) is one of them. Even though American Bullies are special in many areas, their jaws are not.

This article has been reviewed and edited by a vet, but it doesn’t replace your own vet. Please see your vet for specific and trusted advice. This site DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE and all the information provided here is meant for informational purposes only.

Related Questions 

Are Some Breeds More Prone to Lockjaw Syndrome Than Others?

There is no one breed that is more prone to lockjaw syndrome, but dogs that often carry objects in their mouths are more likely to hurt their jaws. Lockjaw syndrome can result from masticatory myositis, which is common in breeds like German Shepherds, Retrievers, and King Charles Cavalier Spaniels.

Helpful Resources

Tetanus in Dogs

My Top Picks for American Bullies!

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