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On discussing the intelligence of dogs on the bbc this morning (9th August) Dr Roger Mugford when pressed on which breed was the thickest, replied the Irish Setter was mentioned, is this right? what do other Irish Setter owners think.

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Bit surprised as I remember he had a dog from Sybil Lennox and always told her how wonderful the dog was!
I think this is based on an old rumour that has been going for a while. Started (as I recall) on a survey made in the US amongst dog-owners in the late 80's.
The reason given for the irish setter being voted to be the most stupid breed of dogs was that people let them off the lead and the dog would just run......(the dog-owners own words).
To me that just shows a total stupidity amongst the owners, buying a breed they have no idea about and not realising the working pattern of an irish setter.

I have competed a lot in obedience with my setters and have three obedience champions in a row (FCI-rules). This does take a bit of doing with a dog that is bred to work AWAY from you and without gazing up at you at all times. I think that for instance a Border Collie (came out tops at the same US survey) is a quicker learner but only due to its pattern of work.

But then what is intelligence?
I am not certain that following a command blindly is actually a sign of intelligence.
In fact in humans we dont think so, do we?
Yet we are actually assuming that an animal that follows commands blindly is intelligent...does that make sense? Not to me!
What I miss here is the complete text or link to have all relevant information. As for personal observations, yes I think the Irish setter selected for conformation only dived down in average IQ hugely in last decades. Say a development from sporting athlete to complete clown, maybe mirroring what happened in breeders circles.
I met Roger Mugford several years ago and yes indeed he had a dog from Sybil he used to rave about so I would be very surprised he said this also....Is it possible to read the whole interview somewhere?
What program was it on? we might be able to listen again.
Hi Catherine,
It all took place on the news on Sunday morning, Roger had been asked to comment on some research that said dogs could be as intelligent as a two year old child , he was asked by the presenter to name the "thickest dog", to which he replied , the Irish setter.
I doubt any links exist to this news article.

Regards Neil
where does that put irish setters that are pets only then gennadi?
sometimes i think you just say things to be at odds with other members on this site.each to their own.ive not seen any other posts on here either show people slagging working dogs off or vice versa =only you.well my pet setter is from a show dog but she is far from been THICK
I heard this interview too. He also included the bulldog. Irish Setters may not be quite as intelligent as some breeds, ie collies, but are certainly not thick. What they lack in intelligence they certainly make up for in affection, temperament & character.

Border collies aren't intelligent, they're 'yes men'... you wouldn't catch a setter wrapping it's head round your leg and then trying to walk!

Sounds familiar, that discussion. Before we got our two setters, people warned us. But then, ask about dalmatians, boxers, whippets - you will hear exactly the same: stupid. These people make statements about themselves.
As Ursula pointed out - it is not a sign of intelligence to just obey orders.

People who label their dogs as stupid have no idea about the breed they are dealing with. That's the problem.

As to the human - not canine - concept of "intelligence" of Irish setters: Anton and Gina prove to outsmart me at times (that's a statement about myself, haha). They know how to get what they want, and they know which button to push to get it.

As far as training is concerned: For us, plenty of exercise is the key. After a good walk or run, they are happy to work. They have so much fun with their training and are eager to learn. It takes three or four times maximum for them to pick up new things. And then they repeat and repeat, as if they see that this makes me happy. Anton, who ran miles when he saw the vacuum cleaner is now able to paw-push the on and off-button and watches how the cord disappears when he pushes another button. How smart is that!

There is this book by Stanley Coren: The Intelligence Of Dogs. He has a list that ranks the obedience intelligence of different breeds. The Irish is on rank 35, which means American obedience judges ranked them above average. The border collie is number one. The list goes down to 79 (afghan hound). If someone needs a pseudo scientific argument: There it is.

Ilona
I hate it when people arbitrarily label breeds as dumb or intelligent. Dogs' brains are wired according to years and years of selective breeding for behaviour. Irish Setters have brains that tell them to run out in front, and to make decisions for themselves based on what their noses tell them. This gives them an independent nature and a tendency to play deaf when it suits them! Border Collies are bred to listen to orders from the farmer. Could a Border Collie point birds? No. Their brains aren't wired that way. Could an Irish Setter herd sheep? No. Their brains aren't wired that way. Which is smarter? Neither. Both breeds do what they have been selectively bred to do. Once you remove them from that setting, any label of "intelligence" is purely subjective. Frankly, any "canine expert" who doesn't take this into account doesn't know enough about dogs, IMHO. The argument about which breed is "most intelligent" exists purely to stoke the egos of those humans who own them!

Ray and Lorna Coppinger have written a brilliant book on this subject. I highly recommend it.
I have had over 250 different dogs through my kennels over the last 6 years and I assure you I have noted some interesting dog behaviour!! I found the lack of training in some dogs more the problem than intelligence!!! Also any dog who was spoiled and allowed to be top dog were also difficult!! But I never really met a "thick" dog, more ignorant, rude dogs without any manners!!!! And of course the breeding has a lot to do with what they are like- labs and springers just want to retrieve toys, collies chase a football, poodles also love to retrieve and terriers constantly look for little creatures in the hedges and ditches!! My GSD Luka pointed a rabbit in the hedge for me last week?? Has he picked up tips from my reds?? And all my red heads are clever!! Megan has competed in Agility and learned this skill very quickly!! Abbey also is a fast learner!! As for hearding, my Rua helped a collie heard a few sheep back into a field, calmly and did not chase!!!! ;o))

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