Soft Mouth

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

2 thoughts on “Soft Mouth”

  1. I did field work with one of my Airedales. I worked with a spaniel trainer and he set up situations that brought out Eli’s natural instincts. By the third time in the field he was finding, flushing, and retrieving. He had a naturally soft mouth – not what most people would expect with a terrier. I can’t tell you what a thrill it was when he brought me his first bird. It was all instinct. He had not been taught to retrieve and he was five years old when we started.

    • We love hearing personal stories like this, Linda!

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