Lots of dogs will happily pick up a dead bird and present it as a gift to their masters and mistresses, but most can’t do it so gently that nary a tooth is hooked on a feather, foot or wing. Being able to find a shot bird after having flushed or pointed it out in the first place usually takes training, and good retrievers have what’s called a “soft mouth” – the ability to bring a bird back to the hunter completely undamaged. The problem with a “hard-mouthed” dog is that the bird is presented to the hunter, “pre-chewed,” making it unpresentable, if not inedible. Some professional trainers believe that a hard mouth can be a hereditary affliction, and encourage hunters to buy their pups from a line of dogs with a strong history of soft-mouth. Others believe that a good trainer can train the bite out of pup’s retrieve with various methods.
In any litter, some pups may be much less soft-mouthed than others, but there are some breeds known for producing more soft-mouthed dogs than other breeds, and those include the Poodle (which is a retriever), Golden Retriever, Cocker Spaniel, and the Gordon Setter.
“Gordon on the Moors” by Steven Nesbitt