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Hi all,

This probably sounds like a really silly question - but what gundog activities can I do with Finn, just to occupy his mind and try and harness his natural urges?

He isn't interested in a retrieve at all, which isn't that surprising seeing as that isn't what Setters were bred for! I've looked all over the net but can't seem to find much info on training a Setter in gundog work, so any help would be much appreciated :)

Sorry to go on to a totally different topic, but as soon as he hit 8 months, Finn turned into a total nightmare. He marks everything, has a very sporadic recall, pulls on the lead and doesn't listen to a word I say. You can say whatever to him, do whatever to him, and you can see by the expression on his face that it just doesn't go in! I know he's going through that "stage" - but does anyone have any coping strategies because it drives me mad some days!  

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Hi Charlotte,

I suggest teaching him quartering....it is what they are bred for....whereabouts are you? I train mine with the Southern Pointer Club but the Kennel Club organises training days as well. If you go on the Kennel Club page you should find out the dates and venues.Hope this helps.


Just seen you are in Sussex. I am in Hampshire and the Southern Pointer Club organises the training days on Salisbury Plain and people come from all parts of the UK.

This is appearing before my 1st post and should be after.....but if you reverse them it will make sense. ;-))))) I hope ?

If you want to do some gundog training, you will need to have done some basic obedience BEFORE you go on a gunday training day. At least have your dog reliably coming back to the whistle, and  sitting/dropping on command

And some people (including me) find it easier to train a dog on their own, not in a group. Just you and the dog,  not distracted by other people and their dogs around you. There are plenty of gundog training manuals you can read which go from basic obedience to advanced. And even if you decide to go on a training day, you will still need to put aside at least a few minutes every day to keep the training going on your own.

Thank you Catherine and Margaret for the replies. I will take a look at the Southern Pointer Club - but I don't think I'm ready for a group situation yet! ;) 

As Margaret said, I think I need to get his basic obedience at a better level first, but I'll still be interested to see what it says.

Hi Charlotte

This 'not listening to you' thing ........ you could try clicker training which encourages the dog to 'listen to' and 'watch' you.  You can do it anywhere - like while you're watching TV or any everyday task.  When you have him focussing on you, you proceed to obedience stuff at more and more of a distance.  The idea is to create such a bond with you that Finn finds satisfaction in pleasing you.  THEN go to gundog training - and don't rush it, let him watch the other dogs and take small steps in training - short lessons regularly, but each one ending on a happy note... but above all make being with you and pleasing you, FUN!


I find the whistle helpful because it helps to break the 'trance' that he goes into when he's sniffing. He's not too great at coming to it yet, but we're working on it!

I think it is just the age, but mind you - I've heard people say that they've never owned an obedient Irish Setter! 

Oh, also, just to clarify to everyone because it wasn't very clear, I meant more gundog activities that we can practice at home, rather than formal gundog training.

Hi Charlotte

this is by Turid Rugas just a snippit. go to her web site for the whole article. 8 months is the begining of problems if classical conditioning has lapsed, it does pass i have one just on 8 months. Rosie

Puppy license

The first and major mistake we do as puppy owners, is to set our expectations and demands to the puppy so high that there is no way the puppy will be able to meet them. In nature and where the dogs are allowed to grow up naturally in a pack, they learn self-control very gradually. Until they are about 16-20 weeks old, they have a so-called ´puppy license´. They get to flutter their license about and say ´Na-na-na, you can´t get to me - ´d4cos I have a puppy license!´ We often see how the puppies are taking advantage of this license. They bully the adult dogs around, and we can almost see that mischievous sparkle in their eyes.The adult dogs let the puppies carry on with unbelievable patience during this period of time.

By 16-20 weeks of age, the puppy license is about to expire. Now, the puppies gradually need to learn to control themselves better and behave more politely. They will still be forgiven for their many mistakes and errors - after all, they are not yet adults. Adulthood will come naturally with time and experience.

It may seem confusing that a puppy move from one developmental stage to another within only a few days, but we need to keep in mind that they go from puppyhood to adulthood in less than two years. In comparison, humans use 20 years before we can call ourselves adults - many need even more time than that.

The young dog

Once the puppy period passes at around 4 to 4.5 months of age, the adolescence begins. It consists of several stages and lasts up to around two years of age. Sometimes it takes more time, other time less. Young dogs are like young humans:

  • They like action and speed.
  • They get easily bored when      nothing is happening.
  • They have no self-control at      all.
  • They cannot control      themselves when something exciting happens. Like kids who see a firetruck      or dogs who smell a rabbit.
  • Their ability to concentrate      over any longer period of time is poor. While kids ´forget´ to come right      home after school, the dog forgets what you asked him to do ten seconds      earlier. They prefer to be with others the same age or with similar      interests.
  • They will rather play that      do other things.
  • They find cramming boring      and it takes the fun out of learning. Young dogs need training, but in      short and fun sessions so that they are able to stay focused and not get      tired of it. Their needs of activities can be met with short and easy      training sessions on an simple agility course, recall training, taking      walks in the woods, being with other dogs and play off leash, and so on.
  • They gradually need to learn      self-control, but only little at a time. That´s why we do things stepwise,      like expecting the dog to remain gradually longer in exercises like      ´sit-stay´ - 2 seconds, 5 seconds, 10 seconds, etc.
  • Be considerate when the dog      is loosing his concentration - allow the dog to get a break in order to      get his focus back, help him to continue the training.
  • Let the adolescent dog meet      with other dogs - Important!

Turrid is my new god what a staggering difference her teaching has made at our place

I like the advice she gives to train in very short sessions, so the puppy doesnt get bored or lose concentration. This is one advantage of doing most of the training on your own, you can incorporate just a few minutes training into daily exercise, or even around the house. If you want to have a well trained gundog , the basic training needs to be started early, but a young puppy wont get much out of a whole day training with a group, and anyway most training groups dont want young puppies taking part

The few training days available for setters and pointers are mostly single full  days or a weekend , or Peter O'Driscoll's short residentail  courses. Spaniel and retriever training courses are more often run by local clubs , with shorter sessions, maybe a couple of hours, on a weekly basis, which seems to work better. In my area Moray Firth Spaniel and Retriever Club runs weekly evening sessions in the summer, and  a local picking up team also provides excellent weekly training outside the shooting season, but both expect participants to have done basic obedience with young puppies BEFORE they start attending the sessions

 But I realise there are far more spaniels and retrievers, and not enough setters and pointers to run a weekly session on a local basis. Its a problem .

Errol was exactly the same at 8 months - only that we never went through that lovely puppy phase together as that's the age when we got him. He had already exhausted two previous owners.... To be thrown into that situation was a nightmare so I don't envy you. But do persevere - there is a light at the end of the tunnel - it just takes 2 years to reach it!  :)

Let me know if you find somewhere to train Charlotte. Who knows I might even join you... although at 2.5yrs Errol would have to be registered as a 'mature student'. ;) 

Btw. we still need to go for that walk. Sorry for delay in replying to you but I've been away.


I have my setter, Phil as a working dog, and as a lovely family pet too. He is 4 years and a few months now. Working means me, him, fields, hedgerows, woodland and fields (and gun too). It is not play (and not for me), he gets into character when the cabinet opens, somehow he knows, it is what he is for and we work as a team.

It is in him to work (go into hedges etc to find/look for birds etc) and he points when he sees. This applies to birds and foxes. He won't move far from the point until I tell him to, then he waits to see what's shot and stands over it, he's not a retriever after all.

Not much of what he does when we are out for a general walk or at home measures up to all this in total but I'd say just keep up the basics with the lead, hiding and finding things, coming back and waiting. These are all things a gundog does, the diffrence is environment, noise, trust and the dogs aptitude. I'd say add in some whistle and hand commands and never raise a hand to him. For the field he must trust you and most importantly, know that you trust him.

Finally, your pup is fairly young and its easy to expect a fair bit, he is too young for the field for now (too many distractions) so the basics are the way to go, all the best with him.

Late evening rambling post !





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