Exclusively Setters

Home for Irish Setter Lovers Around the World

Hi All,

I am new to this site, having recently purchased my 5 month old puppy, Gannon, about a month ago. I am about to embark on the task of training my pup (I am registered for a class) and I was wondering if there are tried and true methods for training that work best for the breed? How many repetitions does the setter need before they "get" what you are asking? And if you don't mind, what have been the most common training issues you have had with the breed? Anything I should be prepared for? I really appreciate any information you can provide! I want to make sure he becomes a confident and well-adjusted dog. Thank you!




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Hi Jessica,  I'm also in the US, though on the west coast. My puppy, Sullivan, is 6.5 months and my first IS, though definitely not my first dog. Obviously, my experiences are based on just Sullivan and not a wealth of IS knowledge, but he is a bit different from my other puppies. 


The biggest difference I've noticed is that he needs *very* positive interactions. He is now food motivated (from living with  my beagle, I'm sure) so I do use food occasionally as a reward, but he is actually quite happy to work simply for praise. He does not like  being yelled at/disciplined so his training has involved rewarding/praising behaviors I want rather than disciplining the behaviors I don't want.  He is also an incredibly quick learner. He's probably the fastest learning dog I've owned. It really only takes a couple of repetitions before he has a new command down.  He is a huge goof, though, and will test limits. 


Our biggest issues are pulling on the leash and jumping on the kitchen counters/table. For jumping up, he knows "off" so I will give him the command and he obeys it; however, he gets right back up when he thinks I'm not paying attention. I think it's probably become a game to him. I just keep telling him "off" and praising him when all 4 paws are on the ground. The leash pulling has been more of a hassle. He's generally fine if we're walking and no one is around but he is  a social butterfly and wants to greet every human and animal he sees. I've picked up one of the no-pull harnesses that allows you to attach the leash to a chest clip and that has worked wonders. 


I don't know what it's like in your area but in mine, Irish setters are rather rare. Sullivan attracts a crowd and people, both adults and children,  just adore him. He has become the mascot of our neighborhood, which is wonderful for his socialization and practicing his commands. 

Welcome to ES Jessica and Gannon........what an adventure you have set out on....and I am sure you already have lost your heart to your young Irish. I am in Missouri and have been owned since 1973 by Irish Setters...always males until this last one sort of fell into our lap...a rescue named Molly who now rules her home and allows us to live with her.

  Seriously you will find praise and food rewards (not everytime once they get the idea) go far in training a young Irish...keep the lessons fun and use a happy voice and Gannon will learn quickly.  Don't drag lessons out for long periods....and I found it was easier if I had worn my Irish out a wee bit with either a game of fetch or a walk before doing training lessons and always ended our lessons with a game or brisk romp . They do tend to be distracted by people and other dogs but that is part of working on that training....I always taught mine to sit (in heel position ) if I was going to stop to talk to others....and to offer a paw to them.....kids love that .   Here too  there are not a lot of Irish Setters so Molly (and my lads before her) had lots of attention....which can be good for socialization but frustrating when training in public as my IS loved attention from others . Worth the effort to train around others to get the lessons down pat.  Hardest for me was always recall .....especially in their teen years they sometimes pretend they are suddenly unable to hear!  among other little attention getting tricks.  In formal classes I am afraid it was the long down ,leave your dog that was always my downfall........as my lads would down and when I was about halfway across the room I would hear giggles and knew exactly what they were doing....crawling along behind me .....would down as soon as I turned to look at them but no way were they going to be left out of whatever adventure they thought I was going on at other side of the gym!  I would also be sure to have a long line for recall training and only let Gannon off lead in a fenced in area until you know you have recall down pat....I still am pretty cautious always about off lead unless I am in an area I truly know is safe for my IS.  I just have never felt that raising my voice in anger works with an Irish .....they somehow would make it into a game if I did ....and there were a few times I was steaming mad at one of them but they always looked soooo full of guilt that I would have a hard time to not laugh at them.  They will try to make anything and everything that gets them your attention into a game......and I did find if my lads were ignoring me that talking very softly....and turning my back on them (if they are in a safe place) usually got attention back on me as they hated not having my attention. 

  You will find many different blogs on here about training....worth a read as others here have so many good ideas....and what works for some will not for others.....you soon will know the best approach for your particular Irish.  Enjoy all the fun and laughter that Gannon will bring into your life. 

very funny Sue, I know mine do not like to repeat and repeat something they alreay know how to do. 

This is a dicussion i really like...

I own IS now for 30 years and grew up with one ..

And al that is written here above is true,they part devil and part angel ..that is what make's them uniek ..

If you are infectet with the setter virus you will never lose it ...

For me personel ..the irish setter is a way of life..and the best medicine against my illniss..

:-)  :-)  :-)  :-)  like your comment Sue!!!

OK.... my recommendation is you do not go to the training classes. 
Recommendation two is do not start training unless you are sure you will go through the whole process.
Tip 3: an irish setter may get the idea from the first repetition and the following repetitions are just reinforcement and reasuring to the dog that he is doing the right thing therefore eleminating confusion. By this I want to tell you that if you do things right it will almost instantly get the dog to learn.
Tip 4: Confusion is created by people treating dogs like people, they do not rationalise the same way... the easiest way to teach a dog, not just an Irish setter is to associate the action with a word, sound, voice, or physical body language (i.e. hand signals) example would be which my dog reads from me, that If I move a step back he comes and sits to me. He picked that up on his own. 
ASSOCIATING AN action with a command can be for example, when you say "Sit" push him gently on his bum to a sit position, or put a lead on him and physically sit him at the same time saying "Sit" (only once), you do not need to repeat the command twice or yell or say it ten times until he complies.

The thing about commands is that a Sit for a dog is just a sit, it is the same as a "Beeep" on a whisle so, if you say "Sit",,,, "Sit",,, "SIIIIIITTTTTTTTT!!!!!!" to the dog is like  Beep, Beep Beeeeeeeeeeeeeep... which is a whole new different command.... Thats why I say dogs are not humans and people should treat them like dogs not like humans...

Keep Training short with a puppy, and keep it intersting...
number 1 rule for me is that I do not use treats....I suggest the same to all mainly because I get my dog to work for me not for a treat, if he doesnt listen he gets corrected, if he listens he gets praised by me not by me with a treat in my hand...that way he learns to listen... By correcting I do not mean punishment to hit a dog.... I simple walk towards the dog can freak him out, or even just a sound like Akkkkaa...

I also suggest you find someone who had a dog previously, and by someone I mean a real person who can get the results not just someone who had a dog before...

Ask me Im keen to help,..... 

Agree with Cornelia 100%.....positive training and rewarding the response is where I am at with mine and have been with all my Irish....I do use a food reward when first learning a new command and then switch it up to voice reward intermixed at random times with the food reward....then strictly voice and with my Molly I use a lot of hand signals as she does quite well with them. Those food rewards might come back on a walk when she leasts expects it so she focuses on what her crazy human is doing. And yes they do read our body language....as we also learn to read theirs....part of that perfect bonding of human and dog!

Enjoy each day with Gannon and take lots of  pictures of those funny moments.


for me "best training methods" is very extensive topic. But yes I have some main rules which could help to have lovely and well behaved puppy.

1 - you have to be interesting for your puppy, more interesting than everything else all around, it means that on walks YOU have to be funny, playfull, also helpful etc. and it means you should have with you one of the favourite toy, treats and be active, to show your puppy that beeing with you is great,

2 - you have to give your puppy some freedom on every walk - don't call him all the time, let him go away to meet some other pups or dogs or humans and have fun with them (of course if you are sure they want the same), to check some bush, and do what he wants to do. When he will have enough he will come back to you and then show him that you are really happy that he is again with you, or if you decide it is enough remind him that you are very interesting as well (watch "1") and be happy that he acts like you want.

3 - you have to show your positive feelings to your pup, your reactions have to be very readable, it means that when you are happy you must be visibly very happy, everytime your pup does something you asked or you like - show him that you are happiest owner in the world. And when he doesn't behave well you stay calm but change your voice and show him that you don't like it. For my dog it is enough just to show him that I'm offended and don't touch him and walk other way and say that he is naughty boy.

4 - training - very important is to start training as soos as possible, I start the first days (8-9 weeks old pup), short sessions (2-5 minutes) then few minutes break for play and then again some training, I train pup on every walk and at home of course, I don't use physical pressure (irish setters hate it), just use natural behaviour of my pup, I always use treats or toys (you will see which is better for your pup) for young dogs to prize good bevaviour. And watch "3" :)
I know many people saying - "oh your dog is so well behaved because you have treats, my dog should do what I want because I want" ...well, everybody have his own methods but I can see their dogs (few years old now) are still naughty and wild, when my dog just loves me and will do almost everything to make me happy and I don't have treats in my pocket since few years.

That are only main rules :)

How is it going? Have you cancelled all the good advice yet or have you achieved everyting you set out to do? I imagine most of it is there and some of it is still to come.  If its not coming together? My advice at this stage is to hit the dog with a brick and run before anyone can blame you!!  Lotss of luck it will be woth it all in the end!



this is my first post so here we go..

Firstly, your dog is 6-7 months old? Just a baby really so don't expect too much, its important that he bonds with you so I'd say its less the formal lessons and more the time you spend with him.

Train him to do what you want him to do - I can never understand people making their dogs "shake hands" for example. Make sessions short and fun and build on what he knows so when he has learned sit then add wait, then heel then stand, then find it for when you've hidden one or more toys. Remember to have a game over command (I use all gone) and to praise him however he does to build the bond that you have "worked" together


Our setter learns when he is in a game or excited - dull sit exercises don't do so well (although my terriers loved them!). One of us is around in the day so every situation is a chance to teach him something.


You're bound to get a whole lot of advice, most sound, some strange, and of the latter I'd say never (let anyone) shout at him, raise a hand to him, shake his neck or turn him on his back and hold him down.


Finally, he'll have off days, 1 in 4 perhaps when he is on planet setter, so be flexible.


All the best with him





well said Bryan...
Our boys are at obedience training classes Hamilton aged 7 years because he has been attacked on 4 occasions and therefore expects entire males to be aggressive. He thinks it's all beneath him and spends a lot of the classes just gazing around except when the females are near then he comes alive and does what ISs do best - show off! Micawber 2 years is doing his Gold test and loves all of it without doubt he's clever and loves all the attention and meeting up withhis 2 friends a miniature Schnauzer and a beautiful GS. He also does agility and takes great delight in showing off especially when he sits on top of the bridge to get the applause
Our trainers have a puppy class for dogs from 4mths upwards to socialise them and we have gained a very social life from all the training
The training is done with food rewards Hamilton has his favourite mature cheddar and Micawber cooked chicken breast it definitely works for our two. The only thing I would say is our ISs get bored easily then they get naughty today Micawber has turned out a storage basket which was in the utility room- a shopping bag, clothes brush, small towel etc all found their way to his bed




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