Australian Shepherd Health & Genetics Institute

Australian Shepherd Health & Genetics Institute

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What is a correct bite?

A corect bite is described as “scissors” with the upper incisors closing in front of the lower with no more than 1/8 inch gap between them.  A level bite is acceptable under the AKC standard but is faulted in the ASCA standard.  ASHGI holds that the level bite should be acceptable because it is fully functional, as demonstreated by the fact in can be found in wild wolves which depend on their teeth to survive.

How common are bad bites in Aussies?

Acording to the 2009-10 ASHGI health survey, 10% of breeding dogs produced bad bites.

What is an undershot bite?

The lower jaw protrudes beyond the upper, causing the lower incisors to lie in front of the upper when viewed from the side.

What is an overshot bite?

The lower jaw isn’t long enough, with a noticeable gap between the upper incisors and the lower.  Lower canines will sometimes be positioned behind the upper canines.  Sometimes the gap is relatively small but it can also be as much as an inch or more.

What is parrot mouth?

A very severe overshot bite.

What is a wry bite?

The sides of the lower jaw grow unevenly, leaving the jawbone to some degree lopsided.  Teeth will be misaligned where the jaw is malformed.

What is an anterior crossbite?

The lines formed by the incisors in the upper and lower jaws will cross each other resulting in some lower incisors protruding in front of the upper.

What is a level bite?

The upper and lower incisors meet at the tips.  This is a minor fault under the ASCA standard and not faulted under the AKC and FCI standards.  Level bites are functional.  A survey of wolf dentition in the 1980s found that about 10% have level bites, further indicating that there is no loss of function. 

Will bad bites correct?

The jaws should grow about equally, so that the teeth stay in alignment.  Sometimes there will be a little uneven growth that temporarily results in a bad bite that later corrects.  Slightly undershot jaws seem less likely to correct than slightly overshot.  Gross differences are not going to correct completely.  Usually the jaw structure will be set by about 6 months, so if a bite is off at that point it will probably remain so, though there are rare exceptions.

Is it OK to breed dogs with bad bites?


Is there anything other than heredity that can cause or correct a bad bite?

Physical trauma to the jaw might result in a bad bite, but the type of trauma that would cause that isn’t likely to go unnoticed.  If the bite isn’t very far off, braces or other dentistry techniques might correct it but minor bad bites rarely cause the dog enough trouble to justify the expense.  In show animals such alterations are in violation of show rules.  In breeding animals they are perpetrating a fraud.

How are bad bites inherited?

The specific genetics of the various forms of bad bites are yet to be determined.  Given the complex structure of the teeth and jaws, inheritance is likely complex.  The frequency of bad bites can be minimized by not breeding dogs that have produced them to mates that have either produced them or have a family history of bad bites.  Breeding for a length of jaw that equals the length of the topskull and for a slightly tapered muzzle will also minimize the number of bad bites.  Breeding for short, blocky muzzles tends to increases frequency.  It should be noted that short muzzles, though by some considered fashionable, are not in accordance with the breed standards.

What should I do if I produce puppies with bad bites?

Minor bad bites don’t cause the dog any significant difficulty; these pups can be placed in non-breeding homes.  Severe bad bites may cause difficulty eating.  Depending on how the teeth are aligned it may be necessary to remove the canines to prevent damage to soft tissue on the opposing jaw.  Pups with severe bad bites might be placed in non-breeding homes provided the new owner is aware of the problems the dog may experience due to the bad bite.