Estimates of biting forces are widely used in paleontological and comparative studies of feeding mechanics and performance, and are usually derived from lever models based on measurements made on the skull that are relevant to the mechanics of the masticatory system. Owing to assumptions and unmeasurable errors in their estimation, such values are used comparatively rather than as absolute estimates. The purpose of this paper was to provide calibration of post-mortem calculated bite force estimates by comparing them to in vivo forces derived from a sample of 20 domestic dogs (Canis familiaris) during muscle stimulation under general anaesthesia. Two lever models previously described in the literature were used to estimate post-mortem values, and regression analysis was also performed to derive best-fit equations against a number of morphometric measurements on the skull. The ranges of observed forces in vivo were 147–946 N at the canine, and 524–3417 N at the second molar. The lever models substantially underestimated these forces, giving mean values between 39% and 61% of the observed means. Predictability was considerably improved by removing the linear bias and deviation of the regression slope from unity with an adjustment equation. Best-fit statistical models developed on these animals performed considerably better (calculated means within 0.54% of observed means) and included easily measureable variables such as bodyweight, dimensions of the temporalis fossa and out-lever from the jaw joint to the biting tooth. These data should lead to more accurate absolute, rather than relative, estimates of biting forces for other extant and fossil canids, and other carnivorans by extrapolation.