Why Does my Greyhound Chatter his Teeth? How to Interpret

You’re preparing a meal for your greyhound, and suddenly, from behind you, there’s a clicking sound. Is it a rattlesnake, or a skeleton from a scary movie? No, it’s your greyhound, his teeth clicking away like a Spanish dancer. Seasoned greyhound owners are used to this behavior, but if you’ve never had a chatterer before, you’re bound to want to know…

“Why Does my Greyhound Chatter his Teeth?”  The great majority of the time a greyhound chatters his teeth, he is doing it as a harmless way to expend excess energy – usually happy excitement –  without misbehaving in the house or on the leash.

All of my greyhounds have chattered when they are in that state of goofy, high-doggie-excitement, during which the typical dog would be jumping, barking, or both. But, of course, greyhounds are not your typical dog, which is why dog “experts” who do not know greyhounds get this wrong, wrong, wrong. I wanted to take a closer look at this behavior, and see if my experience was typical. What I found was surprising, delightful, and – in the case of the “experts” – a little annoying.

Greyhound Teeth Chattering: a quirky behavior

For many of us, the only chattering dog we’ve ever seen is Scooby Doo, so it’s easy to see why the first-time greyhound owner would be disturbed to see his dog randomly chattering away. Thank Heaven for greyhound forums – and Greyhound Homecare, of course – where the anxious owner can reach out to greyhound veterans, and learn that his chattering greyhound has not seen a r-r-roast….I mean, a g-g-ghost (sorry, Scooby)! Greyhounds chatter as an expression of great joy and anticipation. The videos provided in this article show perfect examples of this behavior.

In addition to being one of the fastest creatures on the planet, greyhounds may well be the fastest chatterers, too! Your greyhound will show you his little front teeth, while he chatters so rapidly, it sounds like a drum roll. My dog, Peaches, would slip behind me while I prepared her food and start doing this. I wouldn’t even know she was in the room, when she would give herself away by letting a little chatter escape. Your greyhound, too, may begin to chatter when he’s feeling impatient, waiting for you to prepare a meal, or while you are getting ready for a walk.

Greyhounds tend to be among the most emotionally reserved of all dogs. People mistake their demeanor for coolness. It’s not that they’re unemotional; it’s just that they don’t respond to every stimulus by bouncing off the walls. Greyhounds seem naturally programmed to conserve their energy. Yes, sometimes your greyhound will zip around the room to play or because he’s happy to see you; but more often, that joy will be expressed by happy chattering.

Other Reasons Your Greyhound’s Teeth May Chatter

Greyhound’s Teeth Chattering when They Sense the Approach of Others 

If your greyhound freezes, stares off into nowhere, and begins to chatter, it may be that someone is approaching your home. Greyhounds can often sense this from an amazing distance.  Peaches seemed to have a kind of greyhound-ESP, with regard to my husband returning home from work. His job was about a mile from home, and Peaches would give the Thousand Yard Stare and start chattering reliably 20 minutes before he came home. We worked it out once – She could sense the moment his intention turned toward going home – Clearing his desk, grabbing his keys, going to his car. If he took longer than 20 minutes, Peaches would start crying. It would always turn out, then, that my husband got detained, either because he had to go back for something, or had to clean snow and ice off his car.

Greyhound’s Teeth Chattering from Cold

When a person who is unfamiliar with greyhounds sees one chattering, he will often ask if the dog is cold. Although this is not usually the case, it does happen. This is not how any of my greyhounds ever expressed feeling chilly, but it does happen sometimes. 

The more common sign that a greyhound is cold is that he will “snowball:” lay down and curl up into a perfect, tight, little circle. The long legs are drawn up and the paws get tucked into his tummy. He will thread his long tail through all this, and bring the end around so he can drape it over his nose. It’s amazing how small he can make himself. If you see your greyhound shivering (or chattering from the cold), that means he is very cold. Although this can happen with any greyhound, it’s more likely to begin as they age. That’s the time to drape a blanket or shawl over your old friend. Make sure it’s light in weight; you don’t want to aggrevate any arthritis he might have.

Greyhound’s Teeth Chattering from Fear

All kidding aside about Scooby Doo, there are also greyhounds who express fear by chattering their teeth. If there is a thunderstorm brewing, and your greyhound lets out a chatter, that is not happy chattering. As with chattering from the cold, this is not how any of my greyhounds showed fear, but other owners have reported their greyhounds doing so. 

One thing that has really helped my dog is Adaptil spray (check price here).  When I see/hear a storm approaching, I just spritz some of this pheremone spray around, and she’s noticeably calmer.

More commonly, the frightened greyhound will freeze and get this weird, blank stare. His lower lip may tremble; he may even let out a little whine. Often, they will tremble all over. My first two greyhounds were world-class tremblers, with Peaches as best overall trembler, and Shannon – at 85 lbs. – most likely to shake the vet’s scale to pieces (for more on shaky greys, check out my article, “Why Does My Greyhound Shake?”).

When NOT to Call the Vet

Speaking of fear and teeth-chattering, fear is, too often, mistakenly cited by  “professionals” as the most common cause of this behavior in greyhounds. In the 23 years I have owned greyhounds, the most annoying thing is the obnoxious habit some people have of attributing every, single quirky behavior in a greyhound to abuse suffered during their racing careers. In the case of teeth-chattering, it isn’t even a breed-specific behavior; nonetheless, the old trope is brought out again. This passage comes from petmd(.com):

“Dr. Lisa Fink, a staff dentist and oral surgeon at Cornell University Veterinary Specialists, says she’s seen a lot of Greyhounds click their teeth together in her exam room. Many come from racing backgrounds and may be more nervous in a hospital setting, she explains.”

…as though no other breed of dog ever hates a trip to the vet, especially when they are in so much dental misery, that they’re visiting an oral surgeon….or maybe Dr. Fink feels that a show-greyhound would be just fine in this situation, but not one who’s been through the horrors of racing. Regardless of your opinion of racing, it’s pretty clear that Dr. Fink’s logic has some pretty deep cavities! 

A Second Opinion on Greyhound Teeth Chattering

The author of the article is, at least, balanced enough to counter Dr. Fink’s reasoning:

“But teeth chattering is not a breed-specific tendency. [Dr.] Wystrach says she’s seen patients ranging from Border Collies, Jack Russell Terriers, and Labrador Retrievers to Chihuahuas and Poodles exhibit this behavior….Like humans, a dog’s jaw may also click together if the pet is shivering from the cold or has a fever, Wystrach says.”

Wystrach, the other vet cited in this article, is not an oral surgeon, but the owner of an animal hospital. As such, her opinion on teeth-chattering is much more well-rounded. Throughout the article, she covers a wide range of reasons a dog’s teeth might chatter. In fact, she even mentioned that it is sometimes seen in dogs who have a “high prey drive,” a cause that was also noted by a couple of the greyhound owners I researched while writing this piece. Wystrach’s first reaction to the question, though, is that teeth-chattering is usually basic, goofy dog behavior that you see more in some breeds than others; so I was surprised when I read on, and the author at petmd jumped to conclusions, Fink-style :

“But both experts agree that the most common cause of teeth chattering is oral pain. The pain could be due to an injury, Fink says.  Teeth chattering could also be caused by loss of enamel, which makes the teeth more sensitive, or a painful condition like tooth resorption.”

First, none of Wystrach’s comments indicated that she thought oral pain to be “the most common” cause of teeth chattering. And, by this point, Fink is almost comical. First greyhounds chatter because they are PTSD-ing from racing, but then she says it’s from “oral pain.” It’s as though she suddenly remembered that her original theory wasn’t going to do anything to pay the bills at her office. This might sound cynical, until you consider how illogical it would be to chatter one’s teeth while they hurt! 

Greyhound’s Teeth Chattering: a symptom or a quirk?

Sorry if I sound like I’m ranting; but for the health of your greyhound, it’s very important to consider others’ personal agendas when they tell you these things. Picture meeting Dr. Fink at a cocktail party, and casually mentioning your greyhound’s teeth-chattering. While she’s trying to convince you it’s “tooth resorption,” slipping you her card, and advising you to call the office tomorrow, it might be a good time to reflect and realize that ‘fearful’ greyhounds with “oral pain” are probably the only greyhounds she ever sees. 

Not that we should minimize any health problems that crop up; just the opposite, in fact. That’s why Greyhound Homecare is here –  to help you become informed about your greyhound, including the knowing the difference between a symptom and a quirk.

If you enjoyed those videos, here’s my rollicking, greyhound-packed video about teeth-chattering:

Gail McGaffigan

The owner of the Greyhound Homecare website and YouTube channel, Gail has had retired racing greyhounds as pets since 1997. Please visit our channel, too! https://www.youtube.com/c/GreyhoundHomecare

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