Jump to content
FRIENDLY REMINDER ABOUT HUNTING REPORTS/TOPICS... Read more... ×
jackiep

Can we talk about what constitutes a good mouth on a dog?

Recommended Posts

jackiep

 

I have been thinking quite a bit lately about what is considered a good mouth on a gun dog.  

I think we all understand that a hard mouth is undesirable and something that should be avoided but it seems to me that I see many more dogs (at least in my breed) that have what I consider too soft a bite and so I thought a conversation on here may help fill in the gaps in my mind on what causes this.  Is this like hard mouth from breeding dogs with this tendency? My young dog (15 months old) has shown a tendency to drop items, hold items (including birds) towards the front of his mouth....i.e. not take a full bite, and just overall have a bit of a sloppy mouth and this tendency has been present since 12 weeks old.   I have seen many other dogs with this same tendency at trials and hunt tests as well as in training and it seems that it really gets to be a issue when these dogs are put on pheasants.  I am just curious what others thoughts and experiences are with this issue.  It seems to me this type of dog is the one that does a lot of readjusting with the bird on the retrieve because the bird tends to fall out of there mouth (especially traps).  I know that it can be fixed by training but I am particularly interested in why these dogs are showing up in lines and what traits others would consider proper mouth manners for a gun dog.

Also wondering if the UK bred dogs have more of a tendency for soft mouth due to some of the differences in there expectations of there dogs? and what is the relation of a soft mouth to a soft flush and bird drive?

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
WMassGriff

My wife feels that one that won't shred her arm as a puppy is considered a good mouth!

Seriously I have no idea about the breeding issue but know that my force fetch using metal pipe to weighted socks improved a real sloppy hold to a firm one!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Grifish

Great question! When trialing or hunting, neither birds clamped upon nor held by feathers and a bit of spiddle are a great attribute but of the two I will take loose.  I think loosely held birds show that the dog is not taking ownership of the bird and wants you to have it. That said dropping a bird or repositioning a trap is never good.

 

Tightly held birds are the Dog stating that it’s their bird and they are not giving it to you! I am pretty familiar with this, our old girl Gracie will crank down on a bird. Unless she’s given a victory lap or two she will not give “her “bird.  

 

Ollie , could be a bit better with his delivery as well, unfortunately he’ll also bob his head a bit. Maybe it is Sam and I, not the dogs. Also, the problem that you don’t have is always the better and easier problem!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Irishwhistler
18 hours ago, jackiep said:

 

I have been thinking quite a bit lately about what is considered a good mouth on a gun dog.  

I think we all understand that a hard mouth is undesirable and something that should be avoided but it seems to me that I see many more dogs (at least in my breed) that have what I consider too soft a bite and so I thought a conversation on here may help fill in the gaps in my mind on what causes this.  Is this like hard mouth from breeding dogs with this tendency? My young dog (15 months old) has shown a tendency to drop items, hold items (including birds) towards the front of his mouth....i.e. not take a full bite, and just overall have a bit of a sloppy mouth and this tendency has been present since 12 weeks old.   I have seen many other dogs with this same tendency at trials and hunt tests as well as in training and it seems that it really gets to be a issue when these dogs are put on pheasants.  I am just curious what others thoughts and experiences are with this issue.  It seems to me this type of dog is the one that does a lot of readjusting with the bird on the retrieve because the bird tends to fall out of there mouth (especially traps).  I know that it can be fixed by training but I am particularly interested in why these dogs are showing up in lines and what traits others would consider proper mouth manners for a gun dog.

Also wondering if the UK bred dogs have more of a tendency for soft mouth due to some of the differences in there expectations of there dogs? and what is the relation of a soft mouth to a soft flush and bird drive?

 

 

An interesting question and topic posed.  I think the answer you seek is two pronged in that most owners think of mouth related problems as a generality across K9's or a specific breed on the whole.  On the other hand, I think most competent trainers will address mouth issues as being individualized behaviors of a specific dog.  The cause(s) of mouth related problems can be highly variable and multiple in their root.   I would submit that some issues are genetically passed on as traits whilst others are behaviors that are both causative in their origin and can in fact be prevented.  I strongly advocate not allowing a young dog to play with fluffy little toys and to not play tug type games as I strongly believe that doing so sets the wheels in motion for dysfunctional mouthing and possession issues down the road.  I tend to do bird introductions relatively early on to unleash the prey drive I hope to see in a young pup.  Having done so initially, I save most bird contact going forward until after I have put the recruit gun dog trainee through both HOLD and FORCE FETCH conditioning, but employing the introduction of frozen, thawed, and fresh killed birds into that process.  My general philosophy is that no two dogs are alike and my approach is individualized to the needs identified for a specific dog that I am training.  If during training I observe any perceived problems specific to excessive mouthing, hard mouthing, shaking, etc., I address those issues immediately and fully before moving onward.  Much easier to eradicate undesired behaviors with the proper approach early on than to try and remediate negative behaviors that have become entrenched later on.  In much the same regard, the encouragement and reinforcement of desired behaviors started early on will most often pay dividends with regard to those behaviors sought being well established as training continues, those being carried over in to the field.

 

As to your question with regard to UK bred dogs ( I am assuming you are likely referring to Labrador retrievers)?  I have had extensive experience with UK bred dogs and do not find them to be excessively soft or hard mouthed on the whole.  Again, this can vary from dog to dog.  My experience with UK bred Labs is that given the proper training in HOLD and FORCE FETCH conditioning, they are wonderful dogs to work with and exhibit little in the way of inherent problems.

 

As a strong advocate of FORCE FETCH conditioning, I recommend that process even for dogs that exhibit a nice natural retrieve early on in their development.  Properly done, the HOLD and FORCE FETCH conditioning process will negate most all tendencies toward dysfunctional mouthing, and carriage of birds being either too soft or excessively hard.  Dogs so trained will retrieve as a matter of compulsion and will be far more dependable than those that are not put through a complete program.

 

Faugh A Ballagh,

THE DOG WHISTLER 🍀🇮🇪🇺🇸

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
welsh
19 hours ago, jackiep said:

... I know that it can be fixed by training but I am particularly interested in why these dogs are showing up in lines ....

 

... and what is the relation of a soft mouth to a soft flush and bird drive?

 

 

Re the first question, I don't believe that buttermouth is a heritable trait so much as a learned behaviour. 

 

Re the second, in my experience there is no relationship between soft mouth and a soft flush or lack of bird drive. Some dogs will jump up and grab a bird from mid air and deliver it alive and kicking. Others will kill an easy trap.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
jackiep

Lots of interesting perspectives on this!

I am not convinced a dog that is possessive with a bird will have a tendency to have a hard bite.  I can think of a few dogs off hand that are very compliant team players but will chomp birds and are considered hard mouthed and some dogs that tend to be possessive over birds with good mouth manners (Bridget comes to mind).

I agree that force fetching will fix many of the problems in regards to a sloppy bite (I do not want to call it a soft bite) but have to say that I can think of a few dogs that had a sloppy bite that were force fetched by pros and it did not fix the problem although admittedly I am sure it helped quite a bit.

Faugh I was speaking mostly to spaniels in regards to the UK bred dogs.  In the UK "traps" are looked down upon in spaniel trials whereas in the US traps are not a problem.  I tend to think that a dog driving into a flush would be more inclined to be aggressive on birds but I have no experience to back that statement up.  

My first dog came with what I call an ideal mouth (neither too hard nor too soft, i.e. sloppy) my second dog although raised identically tends to have a very soft, sloppy mouth.  The fact that both were raised in the same manner I tend to think this was something they were born with.  I also realize that many of the sloppy mouth tendencies can be fixed up on the table.  I have not had any experience with a hard mouthed dog but I imagine if I handle enough dogs that will be in my future as well.  

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Hal Standish

 How a pup uses it's mouth is one of the earliest indicators of what a pups talent potential may actually be. I have viewed the pups mouth as a window to the soul of puppies.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Brad Eden

Good question. I've had differing degrees of mouthing on all my dogs. From a firm hold but "pillow mouth" in a Golden Retriever who hardly disrupted a feather, to a chomper in my first female Springer. I'm convinced that chomping, which I think is somewhat different than serious hardmouth, is a reaction to early negative contacts with winged birds. In her case a wingd grouse someone had lost. She was a more 6 months old and that bird had gangrene in a wing and was pecking and beating her about the head on a long retrieve through the woods. After that a live bird never arrive to hand. If she got to one that just hit the ground and made any movement, then chomp you are dead. If the bird was dead and she took awhile to find it it, then they arrived unscathed. The rest have been generally OK, no significant damage but I'm not a stickler and accept a tooth mark or two. I've nevre had a tentative dog that carried a bird in its front teeth, but in hot weather have had a dog drop a Woodcock prematurely and then try and get the loose feathers from its mouth. Again, I don't care since I don't trial or expect perfection.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Shawn F

I once had a pointer that never delivered a live bird, though I seen many of her birds with their head still up just feet from me during the retrieve.  She applied just enough pressure to kill the bird moments before presenting it to you.  Never dropping it on the ground nor resisting to release.

She was redwater rex bred.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Hal Standish
On 10/8/2018 at 2:12 PM, jackiep said:

 

I have been thinking quite a bit lately about what is considered a good mouth on a gun dog.  

I think we all understand that a hard mouth is undesirable and something that should be avoided but it seems to me that I see many more dogs (at least in my breed) that have what I consider too soft a bite and so I thought a conversation on here may help fill in the gaps in my mind on what causes this.  Is this like hard mouth from breeding dogs with this tendency? My young dog (15 months old) has shown a tendency to drop items, hold items (including birds) towards the front of his mouth....i.e. not take a full bite, and just overall have a bit of a sloppy mouth and this tendency has been present since 12 weeks old.   I have seen many other dogs with this same tendency at trials and hunt tests as well as in training and it seems that it really gets to be a issue when these dogs are put on pheasants.  I am just curious what others thoughts and experiences are with this issue.  It seems to me this type of dog is the one that does a lot of readjusting with the bird on the retrieve because the bird tends to fall out of there mouth (especially traps).  I know that it can be fixed by training but I am particularly interested in why these dogs are showing up in lines and what traits others would consider proper mouth manners for a gun dog.

Also wondering if the UK bred dogs have more of a tendency for soft mouth due to some of the differences in there expectations of there dogs? and what is the relation of a soft mouth to a soft flush and bird drive?

 

 

I trust that Bridget and pups are thriving!

Mouth is a great topic and for a lot of folks can be quite scary. Though I do consider knowledge the key to success it is a subject that should be discussed.

Concerning Bridget. At what point in her development did you pay special attention to her delivery and bird carrying behaviors? Or possible she never presented you with any challenges.

Also have you done any retriever training/ work with working breeds, Shepards, Mals , Airedales?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
jackiep

 

Pups are doing just great!

Very interesting about your statement that you view a pups mouth as a window to there soul.  I have been thinking lately that a pups mouth does have more to do with there bird drive and desire but was not sure if I was way off base on those thoughts.  Would you are to expand on that thought? 

I am not sure that I paid much attention to Bridget's mouth manners until she was about 2 1/2 and Gary B. walked me through the trained retrive with her, it was at this point that I was first made aware that she had a good mouth but I did not put that much thought into it at that time to be honest.   I am not sure how the delivery ties in with the mouth manners but I would say she was somewhat possessive on the delivery as a young pup.  Overall she really did not present me with many challenges as far as her mouth anyway :).

It really was my new dog Puck that really got me thinking about the connection of mouth and bird work.  I would say Puck had a much lower retrieving drive than Bridget at the same age and he was not as inclined to carry everything around the way Bridget did.  He also tended as a young pup to drop the dummy at my feet so showed little possessiveness.  He tends to have a sloppy bite and it seems that I am always working on his handling of birds or dummies to keep him doing the right thing which is something I never had to do with Bridget even before the trained retrieve.

I have never done any retriever work with working breeds but I am curious how they differ?  

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Hal Standish
23 hours ago, jackiep said:

 

Pups are doing just great!

Very interesting about your statement that you view a pups mouth as a window to there soul.  I have been thinking lately that a pups mouth does have more to do with there bird drive and desire but was not sure if I was way off base on those thoughts.  Would you are to expand on that thought? 

I am not sure that I paid much attention to Bridget's mouth manners until she was about 2 1/2 and Gary B. walked me through the trained retrive with her, it was at this point that I was first made aware that she had a good mouth but I did not put that much thought into it at that time to be honest.   I am not sure how the delivery ties in with the mouth manners but I would say she was somewhat possessive on the delivery as a young pup.  Overall she really did not present me with many challenges as far as her mouth anyway :).

It really was my new dog Puck that really got me thinking about the connection of mouth and bird work.  I would say Puck had a much lower retrieving drive than Bridget at the same age and he was not as inclined to carry everything around the way Bridget did.  He also tended as a young pup to drop the dummy at my feet so showed little possessiveness.  He tends to have a sloppy bite and it seems that I am always working on his handling of birds or dummies to keep him doing the right thing which is something I never had to do with Bridget even before the trained retrieve.

I have never done any retriever work with working breeds but I am curious how they differ?  

 

How a pup uses it's mouth is one of the earliest indicators of what a pups talent potential may actually be. The driving influence of the spaniel is that passionate desire to dominate game...prey drive. It is essential for our dogs to possess this quality,  Without it time expended in training would be wasted.  Retrieving behaviors, chase, pick-up carry and return with the object is one of the early situations we place our pups in. Quartering, bird work gun fire and retrieve come after retrieving skills have been started, truly outstanding spaniels will demonstrate their talent and prey drive early in this process. There are always exceptions to this rule.

The soul of the spaniel for me is this  1. Drive, strength of quest,quartering style 2. Nose, bird finding ability 3. courage in the face of heavy cover 4. Strength of flush,boldness 5. Retrieve, marking ability and mouth 6. The dogs acceptance of training. 

5 & 6 are attributes that will show very early in the pups developing relationship with the handler. These attributes show up at the end of the list they are the first things that conveyed to the pup in its initial training process. Retrieving skills are taught backwards on purpose. The delivery must be taught first before marks are lengthen/ or complicated by terrain or cover. Delivery is the foundation of all the other work the spaniel will be ask to do. Hard mouth or butter mouth will be exposed and dealt with at this stage.

For the trial dog always remember the last thing a judge sees of your dog in the series is a proper delivery to hand...you always want to finish the series or trial leaving a good impression of a well mannered spaniel.

 

Concerning Puck spend extra time on the place boards developing a winning behavior that that when he finishes properly it makes you very very happy. Try not push on to more complicated training until he develops that attitude that the retrieve and delivery are the pig pay off for him and you!! Best of training

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
DocE

To me, a "good mouth" is from a dog who will deliver a 4 oz quail or dove or a 14 lb

goose (and everything in between)  so that it's fit for the table.

.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
jackiep

Hal - Thank you for the in depth look on a spaniels mouth and the proper progression of training.   It was very enlightening!

 

DocE - I think that is a very good way to sum up a good mouth.  The dog needs to have a firm enough grip to hold that big bird and soft enough to gently handle a small bird.  If we are lucky they have it naturally, if not well I guess that is what training is for.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Cass

Mouth isn't something I pay much attention to ... probably because I've been lucky.  When Jake was younger he sometimes was a bit sloppy but age and experience sorted that out.  If they have a bird get free that tends to be a learning experience for them.  May not change how they pick dummies but really.... who cares about dummies?   Dummies are for understanding concepts and allowing repetition but not much more.  I've never flushed a wild one yet in all my years hunting.  Clip wing birds can help greatly as they can still get away to a certain degree.  I think sloppy mouth is a much better problem than a hard mouth.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×