Contact Us    Help    Site Map    About Us   

Hard Mouth

My 5 year old Lab bitch (Jesse) has developed a very severe case of "Hard Mouth." She is a fantastic, all around hunter. Ducks, Geese, Pheasant, and Grouse are what we hunt. The first 4 years she has had a "Soft Mouth" delivering birds to hand alive. Over the course of this last year she has tore up birds on retrevive. She is very aggressive in the field and very seldom will lose even the fastest running, crippled Pheasant. I have gone back to the basics with Jesse in terms of using a nail, spiked training dummy. Any other suggestions?
Joe in Wisconsin


Without a little more information, it is difficult to diagnose the cause of Jesse's sudden onset of a hard mouth. This of course makes solving the problem tricky.

If you haven't already, I would recommend that you review the posts on the Ask the Trainer page regarding hard mouth and my description of the forced retrieve.

When I am faced with a client's dog that develops this problem, I eliminate all retrieving of birds completely until the problem is solved. That means no hunting and no thrown retrieves. I put the dog through a very structured force-retrieve program on a forcing table. This dictates to the dog how every retrieve will be handled.

Once we have progressed from hard items to frozen birds successfully, I reintroduce live birds, again demanding strict conformance to the rules. I finish on the table with freshly killed birds and then repeat the process under very close leash control on the ground. the whole process can take several weeks but it is generally effective in correcting a recalcitrant retriever before it becomes a permanent problem.

You may want to consider turning this project over to a Pro trainer. In any case it is imperative that you remove the dog from any retrieving duties ASAP or nobody will be able to fix the problem.

Best of Luck,

Bill Corcoran
Highland Retrievers
Highland Retriever

<< Back to Q&A

follow us on: