The term “soft mouth” when used to refer to dogs is one that is reasonably well known by most dog lovers, although we will provide a simple explanation for its full meaning later on. However, whilst the term soft mouth is fairly commonly used, we tend not to hear so much about the obvious opposite to soft mouthed dogs; hard mouthed dogs.
Being soft mouthed or hard mouthed isn’t necessarily an either/or thing too, but more of a spectrum; some dogs naturally fall towards the extremes of one end or the other, but this can be quite variable. Coupled with this, soft mouthed dogs can still display hard mouthed traits and vice versa; although for dogs at the two extremes of the spectrum, they rarely or never will.
Part of the reason why we use the term “soft mouthed” more than hard mouthed too is because the trait of being soft mouthed, whilst reasonably widely spread and found in quite a number of different dog breeds, is reasonably uncommon in terms of the percentage of dogs as a whole that display the trait.
Oftentimes, this means that the assumption is made that any dog that isn’t soft mouthed is therefore hard mouthed, or more to the point “normal,” or displaying what you’d expect for the species, rather than being something notable like being soft mouthed and so, deserving of specific mention.
Soft mouth or hard mouth is a spectrum rather than a yes or no box to tick; that said, there are a number of dog breeds and types that are widely considered to have a hard mouth or to fall very much towards the hard mouthed end of the spectrum.
With this in mind, this article will explain what types of dogs tend to have a hard mouth, and why. Read on to learn more.
Let’s make sure everyone is on the same page first of all by explaining what a hard mouth is and what a soft mouth is! If you think of “mouth” as meaning “bite,” so “soft bite” or “hard bite” then it makes more sense.
The “mouth” or “bite” in this regard refers to the dog’s level of bite inhibition; how much control they have and exert over how hard they bite or hold onto something with their teeth. All dogs can control this to quite a finite degree, but some are more apt to do so than others.
Dogs that naturally and instinctively hold things delicately and softly are said to have a soft mouth, whilst those that tend to chomp onto things, dig in with the teeth, or bite with a high degree of pressure whether this is needed or not, are said to have a hard mouth.
The “mouth” of a dog in this respect doesn’t refer to the physical traits of the dog’s mouth like the jaw and teeth, but rather what they do with them.
The physical strength any dog can potentially exert with their jaw (and so, through their teeth) depends on the size and strength of the dog.
Ergo, a Golden retriever for instance, will have more power in this regard than a Yorkshire terrier – but this doesn’t mean the former is hard mouthed and the latter soft mouthed (in fact, where these two breeds are concerned it is likely to be the retriever that is soft mouthed and the terrier that is hard mouthed)!
A hard mouth is not a physical trait, but a measure of control and a dog’s willingness to assert and demonstrate this control.
As well as recognising individual dog breeds, the Kennel Club also groups collectives of breeds with broadly shared traits into wider sections that reflect the things they have in common; such as gundogs, pastoral dogs, terriers, toy dogs and so on.
There are also other types of collectives recognised for breeds with shared origins or traits that later diverged into specific defined breeds collectively retaining some common traits, like spitz dogs, and another example, mastiffs.
Certain types of dogs (and certain specific breeds too as a result) tend to have hard mouths, or widely display hard mouthed traits, which includes virtually all terriers such as the Staffordshire Bull Terrier and Jack Russell, and all bull-type breeds like the French bulldog and English bulldog.
Theoretically yes; just as a soft-mouthed dog can carry something as delicate as an egg (as retrieving breeds like the Golden retriever we mentioned earlier are theoretically capable of) but also hang onto a rope very firmly to play tug of war, so too can a hard-mouthed dog bite more gently, if they wish to.
Whether they wish to or not is another thing; but a very soft bite can be seen in every single dog breed, including those with the hardest mouths, in one particular scenario; when the dam or mother of a litter scruffs her pups in her teeth to carry them.