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Teeth Clacking... What Does It Mean?

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My J.J. has done this since week 1, and I've never quite figured out what it is after 6 months. When he gets really interested in a smell, presumably the smell of another dog's markings, he will open and close his mouth and make clacking noises with his teeth. You can see his whole mouth open and close and the first few times I saw it I thought he had found something to eat in the grass but he had nothing in his mouth.


This is different from chattering. I've seen my boy chatter and it's a very rapid clicking of teeth, almost like a vibration, when he's very excited about something like imminent chicken feet. The clacking is much slower, more like one clack per second.


Patricia McConnell's blog mentions it, but she believes that slow clicks of the teeth are a sign of aggression, as in “Hear that? Those are teeth! Big, white, sharp, bit-ey teeth! And I know how to use ‘em!” But in J.J.'s case, he isn't directing his teeth clicks at anything.. just kind of, contemplating to himself? And if I call him, or distract him, he stops.


Any ideas? Just curious!


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I've always thought it was like chattering, just slower. A variation on an excitement response. I don't know if dogs have the scent glands like cats do for a Flehman response. :dunno

Chris - Mom to: Lilly, Felicity (DeLand), and Andi (Braska Pandora)


Angels: Libby (Everlast), Dorie (Dog Gone Holly), Dude (TNJ VooDoo), Copper (Kid's Copper), Cash (GSI Payncash), Toni (LPH Cry Baby), Whiskey (KT's Phys Ed), Atom

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Guest twoskinnydogs

John does this also, it is most definately Flehman when he does it. John only does it after smelling or tasting (yuck) Rita's urine. I guess the females still produce the pheromones after being spayed.

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The second paragraph in this article explains this behavior, which is the equivalent of the Flehmen response mentioned by Lisa. My whippet does it after he smells my female greyhound's 'girl parts'. He did this the very first time they met, and still occasionally does it now. :rolleyes:

Jennifer &

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Ollie (whippet), Gracie (whippet x), & Terra (whippet) + Just Saying + Just Alice


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Could it be "air snapping" ? It's different from chattering and is quick, sharp clicks of their jaws in the air, usually accompanied by a smile. Two of mine would do this when they were excited and happy.

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Sweep does this too, right after she's groomed her, uh, nether regions. Given that, it seems olfactory related vs. excitement or aggression, and as you describe it is definitely distinct from the faster, vibration-like chattering she does when excited. This is almost like she's chewing the air.


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Always missing my boys Mud and

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Guest BuckeyeAmy

Both my boys do it and for the same reason. They chatter when they are really happy and excited, such as when I come home from work. It's always accompanied by lots of wagging and obviously happy body language. I love it! :beatheart

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