Training a dog to open her mouth - how to?
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Thread: Training a dog to open her mouth - how to?

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    Senior Member winniec777's Avatar
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    Training a dog to open her mouth - how to?

    Can anyone give me a step-by-step method for training a dog to open her mouth on command? She's pretty responsive to "drop it" and "leave it," but there's always that 1 object that's too exciting and too small for me to see/catch before it ends up in her mouth. I'd like to be able to give her an "open" command and have her open her mouth so I can see what's in there. Would be good for giving her pills and for exams, too.

    Has anyone figured out how to do this? Thanks.

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    Senior Member poodleholic's Avatar
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    Re: Training a dog to open her mouth - how to?

    I would keep working on the "drop it" for an object already in her mouth, and on "leave it" to prevent picking the object up. I've never really trained a dog to open it's mouth on command, however, I do condition my dogs to being comfortable with me opening the mouth, lifting lips, examining teeth, etc., and to remove any object in the mouth.

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    Senior Member Dogstar's Avatar
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    Re: Training a dog to open her mouth - how to?

    This is actually a GREAT example of a behavior that you can shape.

    Start with her sitting in front of you (if she's little, put her on a footstool or the coffee table. :P) Have treats in your hand. Click for ANY mouth movement- most dogs will give you SOMETHING in anticipation of treats- ideally, your dog will open their mouth a crack and you can click for that.

    She will have NO clue what you're clicking for at first- most dogs aren't that aware of their bodies. That's okay- that's the beauty of shaping- you can shape an unconcious habit. Once she's reliably finishing the treat and opening her mouth that tiny bit again, stop clicking for every TINY crack and click only for the better ones where she opens her mouth a fraction of an inch more. Once you've got your dog reliably opening her mouth a small amount, stop clicking for small and start clicking for moderate.

    Now, if you've got a dog who is NOT clicker savvy or easily frustrated, instead of stopping clicking so clearly, keep clicking for half of the current level she's on (for example, if she's opening it regularly a little, then click for half of those and ALL that are better) but give better treats for the really good ones and only okay treats (enough to keep going, but not highly desierable- something like a piece of cat kibble for the 'okay' treat and a piece of cheese of the same size for the 'really good one')

    Do 20 treats worth (That will probably get you to opening the mouth more than a tiny bit but not much) and then go take a break- you're making your dog think hard!

    You can keep going from there- selecting front the best of what you've got, you can gradually teach your dog to open her mouth widely and HOLD it open.

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    Senior Member rosemaryninja's Avatar
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    Re: Training a dog to open her mouth - how to?

    Go with Dogstar's suggestions. I would say clicker training is probably the easiest and most effective, if not the only way to get this done.
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    Senior Member Corteo's Avatar
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    Re: Training a dog to open her mouth - how to?

    I agree, clicker would be the way to go with this. Good luck!



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    Senior Member Dogstar's Avatar
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    Re: Training a dog to open her mouth - how to?

    PS - I was playing with this earlier with Lizzie - I'll post video later. :P

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    Senior Member winniec777's Avatar
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    Re: Training a dog to open her mouth - how to?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dogstar View Post
    PS - I was playing with this earlier with Lizzie - I'll post video later. :P
    Awesome - thank you! I will try this. I just started her with the clicker so she's not totally used to it but her head does spin around quickly when she hears it, so I think she's charged.

    At what point do I introduce the verbal or visual cue to "open?"

    Poodleholic - I agree on working more on "drop it." Would go a long way, I'm sure. Tonight my husband left a half a choc chip cookie in a napkin on a table as he went to answer the phone. Guess where it ended up? Of course I was right on her asking for a drop. She wasn't even close to complying. My fault. She drops 99% of things pretty quickly. New things like this cookie or dead vermin or other really high value stuff - no luck at all. I'm just hoping that with enough repetition of the "drop it" and "open" training, she'll do it almost without thinking.

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