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Hello! This is a long one, so if you do read, thank you so much for your time! If you don't, I don't blame you!

So after years of seeking, researching and waiting, I have found myself with an Irish Setter. Sometimes I actually stop and go "I actually have a red setter. Here. In my home. And he's my friend..."

We are on day 4. His name is Dash, and he's slowly getting that. He's already learned to sit and when I call his name from across the house he comes running. Sometimes he makes it without tripping over his HUGE feet.

From the moment we brought him home we have had the crate as his place to go. We feed him there and to be honest, he wanted in before we'd even put any bedding in there. No problems with being scared. Over the course of his first day leading up to the night, we would encourage him, leave a few treats, his puppy flannel that came with him. When he was napped we would gently move him there to sleep on his own in his own space. We occasionally closed the door briefly, and when he cried, ignored him until he was quiet for about 60 seconds, then playtime.

We would take him outside to his toilet area every time we thought he'd need to, so after drinking, eating, napping, and playing. Also when he was doing the "sniff and walk"
He had some accidents, but not a worry as we just took him outside, cleaned it up with some lemon scented wipes, and that's that.
First night we played, went outside, and took him to his bed. He cried up a storm. Since we knew he'd had all his needs seen to, he'd had a lot of human interaction all day, we decided to ignore him. He settled down, and slept for a while. When he woke up again and started crying, I waited for a brief lapse and then went to take him outside. He did his thing and went back to bed. He cried again but we ignored him again. This repeated around every two hours, but I was prepared for it.
Second night I did the same thing, but it took less time for him to settle, which was great.
Last night I decided to try something a bit different. I took his water away earlier in the evening after he'd had a big drink (about 8pm). I decided his bedtime would be a bit later at 11pm. Between that time he went outside a lot, played, napped a bit, general puppy stuff. At 11, I took him out one last time and put him to bed. He cried for a few minutes then went to sleep. I'd set my alarm for 2am. It came around. I honestly can't remember if he was crying all not but since I must have been asleep, I'm thinking he wasn't, or if he was, it was nothing panicked. I took him out and offered him some water, then back to bed. He didn't cry at all. :) my mother gets up at 5am for work so she took him out then let him wander around in and out while she got ready. When she left at 6.45 he went back to bed and I didn't hear him until about 7ish. I waited a little bit for him to settle, then too him straight out and began our day.

No accidents in the house since the day before yesterday, and no messes last night either!
I'm hoping to keep this routine going until he reaches 3 months and I will then start pushing the 2am break a bit further little by little.

He's been really great, but occasionally he will go where he shouldn't, or do something he shouldn't.
I'm just wondering what the ideal way to show a puppy his age he can't do something is?
Currently I am just doing what his mother would have done (to the best I can without actually being a dog) and that is just blocking him each time, saying a firm no, and if he still persists, taking his scruff and tugging him away, then distracting him with a toy or an activity. When he does divert his attention, stops doing the thing, I praise him and he's great. But sometimes he will really start to try it on, start growling, running to the thing (example, a plant) and then putting his mouth on my hand. If all else is failing I will use my hand on his scruff and "alpha roll" him. At this point though he's in the middle of his tantrum so I just remain calm say "no" or "leave it" firmly, but apart from that, standing over him and not giving him any attention. After a few seconds of this I will release and give him the opportunity to run after a toy, and give him space to "shake it off". This morning during what felt like constant altercations with a particular corner he once pooped in, and some wires that can't be moved, I did this and after described above, he eventually sat down and decided on a toy. To which I praised and we played with. Also, every time he went to the place I didn't want him to go to (also sometimes the bin) and I say leave it, sometime I do one sharp clap loudly, or block him, and he moves away. When r moves away I praise him and play with him. Most of the time this is the case. He does the thing he shouldn't -> I say no, clap, block -> he looks at me, moves away -> I praise and reward. This might go on several times. But he does eventually lose interest and I praise him for that too.

He's a happy boy, but the biggest in the litter, and I was warned by his breeder that he's very bold and will need training straight away as he is the most dominant. We have started as we mean to go on, so that a few weeks and months down the line when he's bigger , more boisterous and chewing everything, we have at least some groundwork in place.

What do you think about this so far? Does anybody have anything to add, or take away? It's trail and error, and I'm playing by how he goes, but if anyone can see something else from what I've described I would really appreciate the advice. I am naturally a very worried person. I really love him and want the best start for him so he can really enjoy being a dog. And I think he's been so so good as far as puppies go, so far. He plays so well and last night he figured out the kong toy. He was so amazed when he pounced on it and his puppy biscuits came flying out.

All this being said, we know he is young, he has to make mistakes to learn from them (which is why supervise him when he's out of his crate. He's beautiful.

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Hi Becky

It is very clear how much you love your boy, Dash, and that you are trying to do your very best for him.

I am sharing my views only to give you another perspective to think about. I do not believe in the Alpha/Dominance viewpoint even with a horse who can weigh 500kg+. I do not believe any dog/puppy wants to dominate a human being. A puppy is a baby. Above all else a puppy needs unconditional love as well as knowing he/she is safe and obviously good nutrition, etc. I do not reprimand a puppy if they chew a piece of furniture for instance. They are not being naughty. How are they supposed to know they should not eat something like this. I try to keep things like this out of their reach until they grow up a little. I am not “on their case” all the time about trivial things.  I only use the word “NO” very selectively and when I do, my English Setters (and horses) really take notice.

English Setters cannot be left on their own so I have never purchased a puppy without another English Setter to help them (as well as me). A mature aged English Setter will teach a puppy so much. My boy, Hobson was marvellous with my baby girl, Annie.

I can prove that dogs and horses understand human language very well. I believe it is important to talk to your puppy. He will understand and will only want to please you, except puppies do need to be puppies in the process.

I have never used "treats" much at all as a reward with my English Setters. They thrive more on hugs and verbal praise. I give them "treats" any time and they soon learn the reason I do this is because simply, I love them so much.

I do not allow puppies to cry. My puppies/ dogs have always slept inside the home from the first night, and in my bedroom, so that I can keep an eye on them. I do not believe in crate training.

I like what Turid Rugaas writes about puppies. If you type “turid rugaas puppies” in a Google search you can download a PDF document "The Puppy and the Young Dog, About Growing Up".

Best wishes from Susan in Australia

Great job Becky,

I've used the crate from day 1 with my boys, particularly feeding them there to avoid food confrontations. They now know the crate is their private room and they'll go in there on their own if they are very tired or when they don't feel well.

BTW, Dash is a great name.

I think you're doing great, Becky. And I don't know, "alpha" may have a bad connotation for some people, but someone had better be the pack leader. It's like being a good parent, you love your children, but you'd better be in charge! Lol I use positive reinforcement too but the treats are coming out less and less for Dougal because he becomes unglued when he sees/smells the treats and it's difficult getting him to focus. Lol They'll always keep you guessing . And if you haven't noticed, if you ask for advice on here....you're going to get it. Everyone always has your best interest at heart, so you should find something that works for you and Dash. : ).

Here is a brilliant article, which tracks the history and then comes up to date with how things have turned the circle and fallen backwards again with Cesar Milan.


I was one of the first trainers in the UK to teach dominance theory when I worked with a man by the name of John Fisher who wrote several books.  I was also one of the first to test the theory and found it wanting. I tested it first of all on my own dogs, and all it taught them was how to walk through doorways, how to lie in their own beds, and an expectation that I ate first, but this is how the brain learns. Persistence and consistence on rules.  It taught them absolutely nothing about respecting me or trusting me. Nothing. Nada.   This is also what people reported back to me in training and behaviour consults too.  We eventually did a full scientific study on the pack leadership theory and that's when John Fisher decided he wanted to get a new book out to counter what he had previously written.  However, he died of a brain tumour before we got beyond the first chapter.

What does work is being a good parent, interrupting poor behaviour and teaching teaching teaching, reviewing reviewing and reviewing - just like you do when you start a new job from scratch, or learn to drive a car.

Well said Fran.nothing to add. Becky ditch these outdated and harsh ways you sound like a lovely lass as I said before open minded. Irish setters are beautiful, fun loving, loyal intelligent dogs they use there brains in way I think no other dog does. They work out ways to get you to love them so much, they work out ways to sneak onto beds find ways to open the fridge. This is not naughty it's clever. To own a Setter is a gift don't be harsh and you will have a dream dog. Can be very cheeky at times. That's the joy of them if you want a boring dog should have got another breed.
Sounds like your Dash is lucky to have you as he's mentor and leader......enjoy the wonderful years ahead forming a strong bond Becky. Take care x

Best wishes with your boy Dash, Becky. Oh and wave goodbye to your heart!

Hi Becky

I've just read your blog. You're doing a great job, don't worry Irish Setters are no different to any other breed, some dogs need a firmer hand than others. Murfee was a handful when he was a puppy, in fact he used to attack me when we were out he would run at me for no reason and start biting me. We had special training but we just hadn't been firm enough with him. I know all trainers say this if they play up but actually this has proven to be the case. If he was naughty we would put him straight on the lead and march him into the kitchen and shut the door for a couple of minutes and repeat if necessary if he was quiet he got a lot of praise. We persisted Also with training, he is trained to a whistle, which is very useful because if you do lose him for a while he will be able to hear you wherever you are. I rarely have to use it now because I allow him to roam for a little while as I think setters need this, after a few minutes if I can't see him I blow the whistle and he returns straightaway. The only thing I would disagree with is taking his water away, I think dogs should always have access to fresh water. Murfee is now a very quiet well trained dog. Setters are very intelligent, they may not behave well at training classes because I think they get bored with the repetition. Keep up the good work he is obviously listening to you already. You will not regret getting an irish setter in fact I would never have any other dog myself.




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