Why is your dog hard mouthed?

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Why is your dog hard mouthed?

Postby Bruce Schwartz » Sun Oct 28, 2018 12:13 am

Dogs have what are called “predatory motor patterns”. These are innate behaviors that are present at different levels in different dogs. They’re inherited but can be influenced by breeding and nurturing. It’s how sled dogs, retrievers, livestock-guardian dogs, etc. all were selected for having higher or lower levels of these motor patterns.

A motor pattern would look like : orient>eye-stalk>chase>grab-bite>kill-bite>dissect>consume.

So, for example, a border collie should have an exaggerated “eye-stalk” motor pattern and pointers a high level “stalk” but depressed grab-bite- kill pattern. If there’s an exaggerated “grab-bite” and “kill-bite” in same retriever breed then they may well be hard mouthed.

Often, the sequence is wired together and if the sequence isn’t followed then things get interrupted. Newborn calves survive with cheetahs alongside because the calves can’t run and, absence a run, there is no kill. Livestock-guarding dogs will guard and not eat a dead calf for weeks it but will quickly consume it if it is cut open (the dissect pattern didn’t get expressed).

In some retriever breeds the predatory motor patterns seem to be directed towards non-edible objects like canvas dummies, suggesting that for those breeds at least they’re more socially motivated activities rather than kill/consume hard-wired ones. Maybe that’s why some dogs love to chase a shot bird but aren’t interested in retrieving it. Maybe why my PP won't do 50 reps for dummies like my labrador will.

Also, to make it more complicated these patterns seem to need an environmental influence at certain ages in order to be expressed to their fullest and some patterns need practicing either as training or play. I'm thinking we present a bird to our dogs at a young age for reasons other than to make ourselves feel good. My wife doesn't want her farm dog (WPG) to end up craving birds like my other ones do - so, if the dog doesn't get introduced to retrieving and chasing then he'll probably end up with depressed levels of chase>grab-bite, etc. We'll see.

I paraphrased this from a great book, “Dogs” by Raymond and Lorna Coppinger. Highly recommended. It helped me understand the origin of our dogs from wolves, how we’ve developed very specialized and extremely athletic dogs as well as some of the differences in my own dogs as to why they do this or won’t do that.
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Re: Why is your dog hard mouthed?

Postby Doc E » Sun Oct 28, 2018 10:09 am

Excellent !

.
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Re: Why is your dog hard mouthed?

Postby flitecontrol » Sun Oct 28, 2018 12:08 pm

Then wouldn't it be logical to assume that if one member of a particular breed is hard mouthed, they would all be, which we all know isn't true.
I've had several really good dogs, but none were perfect. Neither am I, so keep that in mind!
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Re: Why is your dog hard mouthed?

Postby JONOV » Sun Oct 28, 2018 3:00 pm

flitecontrol wrote:Then wouldn't it be logical to assume that if one member of a particular breed is hard mouthed, they would all be, which we all know isn't true.

Not necessarily...as I read it, it’s more of a predisposition to a behavior pattern that may emerge. So a German breed traditionally expected to take out predators might have be predisposed to it. Or not.

My thing about hardmouth is that I think be people throw the term out Willynilly. In also wonder how many cases are actually man Made.
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Re: Why is your dog hard mouthed?

Postby GONEHUNTIN' » Sun Oct 28, 2018 3:10 pm

Excellent point Jonov. In my experience there are two important things: 1) Very very few dog's are hard mouthed. Most people don't even know what a hard mouth dog is. 2) Nearly all hard mouth is man made, in one way or another. Mostly by permissiveness.

A true hard mout dog can not be cured, only partially controlled.

One of the oddest of the mouth issues is "clamming" or we used to call it "freezing". The dog clamps down on a bird and you can't even pry his jaws open. When I was still a pro my vets in Idaho and I were working on a theory on this. I told them that when it happened the dog's would look glassy eyed and look like they wanted to give up the bird but were unable to. We started working with glucose prior to a trial, thinking that the dog may have been experiencing low glucose levels. Unfortunately, this was when I was retiring as a pro and we never finished the experiment. This was with one dog that had made a run for national derby champion (he had 36 points) when I pulled him for freezing. I think it still may be a valid assumption depending on the animal.

The most detestable of them all is the ahole that puts his paws on the bird and tears it apart, glaring at you all the while. Grrrrr.
I just hate seeing birds die of natural causes unless I'm that natural cause.
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Re: Why is your dog hard mouthed?

Postby booger » Wed Nov 28, 2018 2:04 pm

GONEHUNTIN' wrote:Excellent point Jonov. In my experience there are two important things: 1) Very very few dog's are hard mouthed. Most people don't even know what a hard mouth dog is. 2) Nearly all hard mouth is man made, in one way or another. Mostly by permissiveness.

A true hard mout dog can not be cured, only partially controlled.

One of the oddest of the mouth issues is "clamming" or we used to call it "freezing". The dog clamps down on a bird and you can't even pry his jaws open. When I was still a pro my vets in Idaho and I were working on a theory on this. I told them that when it happened the dog's would look glassy eyed and look like they wanted to give up the bird but were unable to. We started working with glucose prior to a trial, thinking that the dog may have been experiencing low glucose levels. Unfortunately, this was when I was retiring as a pro and we never finished the experiment. This was with one dog that had made a run for national derby champion (he had 36 points) when I pulled him for freezing. I think it still may be a valid assumption depending on the animal.

The most detestable of them all is the ahole that puts his paws on the bird and tears it apart, glaring at you all the while. Grrrrr.


How does one train a dog to be hard mouthed?
And since most people don't know what hard mouthed is, what does that mean to you?
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Re: Why is your dog hard mouthed?

Postby orhunter » Wed Nov 28, 2018 4:44 pm

When a pup comes home, we instinctively begin training them to chew objects. Look at most any dog house and see all the toys strewn around. Some of them look like, feel like, squeak like birds and everyone is happy. Think about it.......

Good stuff Bruce. Thanks for posting.
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Re: Why is your dog hard mouthed?

Postby GONEHUNTIN' » Wed Nov 28, 2018 7:34 pm

booger wrote:
GONEHUNTIN' wrote:Excellent point Jonov. In my experience there are two important things: 1) Very very few dog's are hard mouthed. Most people don't even know what a hard mouth dog is. 2) Nearly all hard mouth is man made, in one way or another. Mostly by permissiveness.

A true hard mout dog can not be cured, only partially controlled.

One of the oddest of the mouth issues is "clamming" or we used to call it "freezing". The dog clamps down on a bird and you can't even pry his jaws open. When I was still a pro my vets in Idaho and I were working on a theory on this. I told them that when it happened the dog's would look glassy eyed and look like they wanted to give up the bird but were unable to. We started working with glucose prior to a trial, thinking that the dog may have been experiencing low glucose levels. Unfortunately, this was when I was retiring as a pro and we never finished the experiment. This was with one dog that had made a run for national derby champion (he had 36 points) when I pulled him for freezing. I think it still may be a valid assumption depending on the animal.

The most detestable of them all is the ahole that puts his paws on the bird and tears it apart, glaring at you all the while. Grrrrr.


How does one train a dog to be hard mouthed?
And since most people don't know what hard mouthed is, what does that mean to you?



Let me answer your second question first, just what is a hard mouthed dog. A dog that destroys or severely damages a bird is hard mouthed. He will crush the birds and break the ribs, put their paws on the bird and tear it apart, squash it until it's flat as a pancake. Those are HARD MOUTH DOGS. A dog is a BIRD EATER if it actually tears the bird apart and eats it, or in the case of small birds like quail or woodcock, just wolf's them down and eats them whole. A dog is a FREEZER OF CLAMMER is he gloms on to the bird and no amount of pressure can open his jaws. Those are the three common mouth problems and actually, all three are very uncommon.

A dog that simply chomps up and down on the bird while bringing it in is NOT usually hard mouth, he's actually loose mouthed. Many people confuse a loose mouth dog with a hard mouth dog.

What makes a dog hard mouthed? I don't think it's genetic; I have personally never seen it passed from generation to generation. I think there are many common reasons for hard mouth. 1). Using small birds. Many dog's including older dog's can't resist composing or even eating a small bird. Now, conversely, using LARGE birds on a young dog can cause the same issue because the dog has to use so much effort to pick up or hold on to the bird. If you give a 12 week pup a mallard to retrieve, because of the weight and bulk of the bird, he may from then on use an iron grip on all birds, crushing the small ones. 2). Toys. Lord, I hate toys. When a dog squeezes a squeaky toy and it makes a sound, it sounds like a small animal and the dog's natural instinct is to kill that animal. Then they start munching the toy because of the softness and the fun noise. I can't prove it, but I think squeaky toys may be the number on cause of hard mouth in dog's. If you give your dog squeaky toys, take the squeaker out, don't just punch holes in it and "de-squeak" it. 3). Pulling the bird from the dog. What happens when you tear a bird from a dog's mouth? His natural inclination is to bite down and pull back. Result? Hard mouth or clamming. Never, ever, PULL a bird from a dog's mouth. When commanded to DROP the dog should OPEN HIS MOUTH AN BACK HIS HEAD AWAY FROM THE BIRD. That is the correct way for a dog to release a bird. 4). Taking the bird to fast. What the Hell is the rush to get the bird from the dog? From the time he's a pup, praise and pet him when he brings a bird back. Let him strut around with it and tell him how great a dog he is. Then, gently take the bird from him. Many dog's don't like to release a bird because after all the hard work they've done the get it, it is then ripped from their jaws before they can really inhale and enjoy the scent and taste of it. Give him a break and let him hold it a while. 5). Not making the dog sit or stand for delivery. If the dog is sitting or whoa'd at your side he is much more apt to give you the bird than if he's prancing around and playing keep away with it. Make sure the dog is still and immobile and only then take the bird.

Those are the five basic things that create a hard mouth dog.
I just hate seeing birds die of natural causes unless I'm that natural cause.
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Re: Why is your dog hard mouthed?

Postby orhunter » Wed Nov 28, 2018 8:23 pm

Gonehuntin’..... Not a single flaw in your logic.
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Re: Why is your dog hard mouthed?

Postby JONOV » Thu Nov 29, 2018 11:32 am

The other thing that I see are people that will make a comment about a hard mouth on a crippled duck. If the duck's still trying to escape the dog should grip a bit harder, no?
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Re: Why is your dog hard mouthed?

Postby GONEHUNTIN' » Thu Nov 29, 2018 12:32 pm

JONOV wrote:The other thing that I see are people that will make a comment about a hard mouth on a crippled duck. If the duck's still trying to escape the dog should grip a bit harder, no?


That duck may be doing several things at once; trying to escape, biting the dog, beating it with its wings. Dog has to hold on tight or lose the bird. Many dog's will grip a bird so hard they suffocate it but never break a rib. I don't have a problem with that. Many a great hunting dog with hundreds of birds to their credit will never retrieve a live bird. Had a great old lab that when she got to the bird, would grab the head and crush it. Very rare for her to EVER retrieve a live bird but though they all had lop heads, they were fit for the table. I have no problem with a dog killing a bird. There is NO reason to want a dog that retrieves birds alive. Then you have to kill it.
I just hate seeing birds die of natural causes unless I'm that natural cause.
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Re: Why is your dog hard mouthed?

Postby booger » Thu Nov 29, 2018 2:55 pm

GONEHUNTIN' wrote:
booger wrote:
GONEHUNTIN' wrote:Excellent point Jonov. In my experience there are two important things: 1) Very very few dog's are hard mouthed. Most people don't even know what a hard mouth dog is. 2) Nearly all hard mouth is man made, in one way or another. Mostly by permissiveness.

A true hard mout dog can not be cured, only partially controlled.

One of the oddest of the mouth issues is "clamming" or we used to call it "freezing". The dog clamps down on a bird and you can't even pry his jaws open. When I was still a pro my vets in Idaho and I were working on a theory on this. I told them that when it happened the dog's would look glassy eyed and look like they wanted to give up the bird but were unable to. We started working with glucose prior to a trial, thinking that the dog may have been experiencing low glucose levels. Unfortunately, this was when I was retiring as a pro and we never finished the experiment. This was with one dog that had made a run for national derby champion (he had 36 points) when I pulled him for freezing. I think it still may be a valid assumption depending on the animal.

The most detestable of them all is the ahole that puts his paws on the bird and tears it apart, glaring at you all the while. Grrrrr.


How does one train a dog to be hard mouthed?
And since most people don't know what hard mouthed is, what does that mean to you?



Let me answer your second question first, just what is a hard mouthed dog. A dog that destroys or severely damages a bird is hard mouthed. He will crush the birds and break the ribs, put their paws on the bird and tear it apart, squash it until it's flat as a pancake. Those are HARD MOUTH DOGS. A dog is a BIRD EATER if it actually tears the bird apart and eats it, or in the case of small birds like quail or woodcock, just wolf's them down and eats them whole. A dog is a FREEZER OF CLAMMER is he gloms on to the bird and no amount of pressure can open his jaws. Those are the three common mouth problems and actually, all three are very uncommon.

A dog that simply chomps up and down on the bird while bringing it in is NOT usually hard mouth, he's actually loose mouthed. Many people confuse a loose mouth dog with a hard mouth dog.

What makes a dog hard mouthed? I don't think it's genetic; I have personally never seen it passed from generation to generation. I think there are many common reasons for hard mouth. 1). Using small birds. Many dog's including older dog's can't resist composing or even eating a small bird. Now, conversely, using LARGE birds on a young dog can cause the same issue because the dog has to use so much effort to pick up or hold on to the bird. If you give a 12 week pup a mallard to retrieve, because of the weight and bulk of the bird, he may from then on use an iron grip on all birds, crushing the small ones. 2). Toys. Lord, I hate toys. When a dog squeezes a squeaky toy and it makes a sound, it sounds like a small animal and the dog's natural instinct is to kill that animal. Then they start munching the toy because of the softness and the fun noise. I can't prove it, but I think squeaky toys may be the number on cause of hard mouth in dog's. If you give your dog squeaky toys, take the squeaker out, don't just punch holes in it and "de-squeak" it. 3). Pulling the bird from the dog. What happens when you tear a bird from a dog's mouth? His natural inclination is to bite down and pull back. Result? Hard mouth or clamming. Never, ever, PULL a bird from a dog's mouth. When commanded to DROP the dog should OPEN HIS MOUTH AN BACK HIS HEAD AWAY FROM THE BIRD. That is the correct way for a dog to release a bird. 4). Taking the bird to fast. What the Hell is the rush to get the bird from the dog? From the time he's a pup, praise and pet him when he brings a bird back. Let him strut around with it and tell him how great a dog he is. Then, gently take the bird from him. Many dog's don't like to release a bird because after all the hard work they've done the get it, it is then ripped from their jaws before they can really inhale and enjoy the scent and taste of it. Give him a break and let him hold it a while. 5). Not making the dog sit or stand for delivery. If the dog is sitting or whoa'd at your side he is much more apt to give you the bird than if he's prancing around and playing keep away with it. Make sure the dog is still and immobile and only then take the bird.

Those are the five basic things that create a hard mouth dog.


It isn't like breeders look at hard vs soft mouth when considering parents, so it wouldn't be something you could tell was genetic or not. Well I guess on the side of mangling the heck out of birds, they'd fail UT (well no prize), so maybe they would be taken out of breeding. Maybe that's why really hard mouthed dogs aren't that common?

You made a bunch of great points, but I also think dogs, like people are predisposed to certain behaviors, that are not trained. I believe even if you avoided taking birds from dogs, using toys that encourage chomping, did the sitting to deliver, that you might run into these behaviors.


And to your other post, having a dog that retrieves birds alive saves you money on duck search :mrgreen:
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Re: Why is your dog hard mouthed?

Postby AverageGuy » Thu Nov 29, 2018 5:49 pm

Using a non-scientific survey I recall seeing more hard mouthed English Pointers than other breeds combined in my personal experience/observations. Would just be speculation on my part as to why that might be.

My GWPs pups have all started out soft mouthed, and all them so far evolved over time to the point where the crippled rooster pheasants never arrived to me still alive as the dogs got older and tired of spurring struggling roosters on the way back to me. They did not become bird manglers in any way, and continued to retrieve doves and quail unmarked with their original soft mouths, but they put enough pressure on the roosters to put an end to their fighting them during the retrieve. None of them killed ducks or geese and I have never found it to be a problem to take them by the head and wring their necks once I asked the dog to release them. My current dog has brought me a lot of tiny squealing baby rabbits through the summer still alive and unmarked when he sits at heel and then drops them into my hand when I command him to do so. So far he has not taken to killing any crippled birds of any species and instead delivers them all alive. Whether that will change down the road remains to be seen, it did with several other GWPs prior relative to the rooster pheasants.

I definitely appreciate a soft mouth on a dog, but make no claims in knowing what degree genetics play into it if any. I think GH's list makes a lot of sense as well as the notion that most hard mouthed dogs result from handler mistakes. I made the mistake with the squeak toy myself with a puppy in the past. He was obsessed with working it in his mouth making it squeak, it was cute as heck, and the dumbest thing ever for encouraging poor mouth manners. I got lucky and took it away soon enough that it did not ruin his mouth manners with birds. Never again since ...

Interesting Post Bruce. Hope your Hunting is going well this year.
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Re: Why is your dog hard mouthed?

Postby Bruce Schwartz » Thu Nov 29, 2018 8:36 pm

Thanks AG - The hunting has been exceptional for the most part. Glad to see chukar numbers are coming back up out here, but I had a mildly disappointing time on prairies for sharpies and huns. Gray partridge numbers (Hungarian ) are down 85% worldwide, according to WWF! (https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/worl ... wf-n926061). Whoa!

I think GH's post was great. My wife just can't seem to get enough squeaky toys to keep up with the demands around here. That could be it. I killed three drake mallards this morning and all three had punctures of the skin on one side of the breast and one had a 1" tear, although I didn't see any meat damage. The dog in question likes to bite a couple of times en route on the retrieve. It isn't a problem with chukar or sharptails (but if you're up close you can sometimes hear ribs breaking). I guess they flatten out in her jaws easier than mallards. LOL. Then all species are gently dropped into my hand at the completion of the retrieve. I've found that if I give her a couple of low level nicks at just the right time she won't bite hard- but I forgot the collar this morning.

Anyway, I figured this was just German dogs speaking German but my son's lab can tear some breast meat, and it seems a number of different breeds at HRC hunt tests seem to be sort of hard on the quarry too, so it doesn't seem to be a breed specific thing (or a result of FF). Maybe Doc can weigh in on this.

I miss my old Griff's retrieve ((once she had most of her mandible removed for cancer). With her jaw nubbin she could only bring them in by the wing or head. One of these shots I included shows her at age thirteen although in her prime she could puncture bird's skin as well. The other two images were taken this morning.

So, aside from taking out the squeakers, or surgically removing the jaw, I'm not sure how to deal with this. A well timed nick seems to do the job at present. I guess you can click on the images and they'll size up?

Glad to have the discussion.

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Re: Why is your dog hard mouthed?

Postby AverageGuy » Thu Nov 29, 2018 9:30 pm

Always enjoy your photos Bruce. And yea Humans are overrunning and destroying the earth. I work to improve my little piece of dirt and have to stay away from focusing on the macro view too much as I disagree with most of it but feel powerless to change it.

Sidenote: I follow MDC on FB and they frequently post the excellent video work your Parents produced. I always enjoy it as well.
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