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HI all!  I’m writing this a little tongue-in-cheek so please forgive my ill-attempted approach at humor as it’s the only thing from keeping me from being committed to an institution in my current state of mind…So let me start from the beginning – it’s only appropriate as I’m new here and perhaps it will shed some light the situation at paw and hand.


Willow is our first Irish Setter and turned 4 months old today (10/28).   Sadly, her mother did not survive giving birth and passed away during the emergency c-section while delivering her and her 12 littermates, of which sadly only 7 survived.  This had been her second litter and she was a mere 5 years old.  The puppies were sent home with a surrogate mother (a Springer Spaniel), who was then returned to her owner after 4 weeks.  Willow came to live with us at the age of 6 weeks on August 20th, 2010 and it was that day, unbeknownst to me, that my life as I knew it would be forever changed.


My husband Mike and I live on approximately 7 acres of land, including a creek, in a semi-rural community.  While we already have two adult Springer Spaniels:  Doc, a 13 year old male and Sophie, an 8 year old female, and after losing our 14 year old Cocker Spaniel in July ’10 and our youngest Springer at the age of 4 in November ’09 , our house seemed empty, so we decided to increase our four-legged child population by one as we have no human children.  While the other dogs did not necessarily expect the arrival of the newest addition, they have reluctantly accepted her antics over the past 10 weeks.  She is completely submissive to Doc, (even though she doesn’t need to be as he moves like a 100 year snail due his age combined with the Phenobarbital/potassium bromide meds to control his seizures) and she finds Sophie an absolutely fabulous play, chew and chase toy, so much that when I let her out of her crate, she runs straight past me and latches onto one of Sophie’s ears (who fortunately is quite accustom to the antics of an unruly pup having produced two magnificent litters of seven herself).  The four cats are fully aware of their escape instinct and if they are not being chased, are perched high atop a safe location peering down at their newest sibling, cursing under their meows the entire time.


My nightly trips to the gym for cardio, weight lifting and general mind-melt were almost immediately replaced by walks (now ½ walk, ½ runs) with eventually some ball retrieving and Frisbee throwing or outback field play, mixed in and amongst Wednesday night trips to obedience school (which she passed with flying colors) and Tuesday night/Saturday afternoon puppy socialization hour at a nearby dog center.  Forget sleeping in anymore (unless “she” wants to) as now we’re up and on our morning walk most days before the rest of the world hits the snooze button.


Our house also now resembles a fine pet food store – there are currently no less than 6 opened bags of assorted puppy chows.  We’ve attempted Iams (what she came to us on), Beneful (against my wishes), Nutro Holistic, 4Health, Innova, Purina Puppy Chow, Eukanuba Lamb & Rice, and various concoctions and ratios of all of them with or without various enhancers such as stuffed pepper soup (please don’t comment on that as she loved it for exactly four days), venison & rice, turkey & stock, just stock, just turkey, just venison, just rice, cottage cheese, parmesan cheese, water and canned food…  We’ve fed three times, twice and once a day.  Have tried putting the food down for 10, 15 or 20 minutes and picked up the remaining portion.  Have skipped meals.  I’ve talked with Iams and Purina experts to great length on the phone and received their money-back guarantees as well as the aforementioned feeding tips/guidelines.  Mind you, she’ll gladly eat the adult McKibbles & Bits until she bloats, (which we have NOT allowed, but she would if she could…) but heaven forbid she get a decent meal in her gut for more than six meals in a row before she changes her mind like the wind.  I even took her to the vet for complete blood panels as I thought she might be sick, knowing full well that a healthy dog wouldn’t starve itself to death.  Every test came back negative and normal…  When she was a puppy had been treated for ghiardia and also wormed at the age of 12 weeks (even though two stool samples came back negative) to simply to rule out any cause for suspicion.  Mind you, I did not need a vet to inform me that she’d like to see her gain some weight.  I got back in my car and cried.


I’ve never walked into a bookstore and purchased a book prior to owning her.  I now own and have read the complete works of Cesar Milan, 101 Dog Tricks and Dog Obedience for Dummies.  The answers I’m seeking weren’t found on any of those pages, but the bookstore can’t wait for my return.


She is wonderful in her crate as she’s finally stopped peeing in it (which is another topic for conversation that pushed every one of my last buttons as it makes my daily commute home during my lunch hour to “let her out” a lot quicker if there isn’t a bath for the crate, her and me involved).  Some nights she sleeps in there but most nights lately she’s in bed with me and Sophie (or am I in bed with them?) as she takes up more room with those outstretched long legs than a giraffe in a tent.


She does “toss her cookies” if she eats prior to a car ride, so meals are withheld until our return and we drive with at least one window down.  Again, she’s in her crate at this time for all travel.


Speaking of cookies, I’ve resolved to making my own from a Dog Biscuit Cookbook I purchased during one of the trips to the bookstore mentioned above…  She seems to like the banana/peanut butter then the pumpkin/peanut butter version, and I did too.


As for her antics…Yesterday she realized she could jump in the tub and drink from the trickling tap water left on for the cats (this I admit made me laugh out loud).  She’s flipped bowls of cereal with freshly poured milk right off the counter (of course my back was turned for .04 seconds), and thinks she’s the pre-rinse cycle for the dishwasher and at puppy socialization she will seek out the two pups that are having the most fun and quickly make herself the third wheel.


BUT IN AND AMONG ALL OF THIS, SOMETHING IS MISSING!!!!   Where is the puppy that realizes I exist for her happiness?  She rarely comes to me just to be with me or see what I’m doing… she much prefers to play with Sophie, she’ll sit on the couch but turn and face the other direction AND she all but despises physical attention.  I’m actually afraid to correct her for the fear of the distance between us widening. 


And here are some other goings on that we’re struggling with the most or the ones questioning my level of sanity and need for anti-anxiety, anti-depressant meds:


·         She can sit and stare out at absolutely nothing in the distance within 6 feet of me and never hears “Willow” once in the 101 times I’ve said it.  If Sophie is added to the mix, make it 202 times.


·         She curls up on her dog bed in the other room, peering at me, yet when I approach her, she does not wag her tail and will groan if I attempt to move her.


·         She assumes the couch is hers, whether we are in the room or not.


So some questions in closing at this time as i simply must get back to work...

  • Are all Irish Setter puppies the same?  (dumb question as I know they are not) 
  • Is she a cat in a dog suit? 
  • Will it get better BEFORE I’m confined to a straight jacket and padded room? 
  • Or am I just getting a harsh lesson in being the proud owner of a beautiful and intelligent Irish Setter?

Many thanks for your time and input...


Andrea & Willow

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Andrea, I too am a new Irish owner and am loving it ...... And all I can say is he knows who loves and cares for them the most (he loves everybody else too btw) but it did take time when they are tiny babies its all new and in the early weeks I used to think hey I already love you, feed you, keep you safe etc come to me ...... Then one day he climbed up put his arms (front paws but I call them his arms & legs) and kissed me then snuggled in ....... He is only 10mths now and for months we have had the best bond I could ever have wished for .. We communicate sometimes only by facial expressions and he senses so much .... He has even trained me how to know when its time to walk , eat or just play regardless of time, weather or work!
It's what saddens me is that we don't have "that" bond and I'm SO scared that we never will.
Hi, I meant I am sure and hope it will come....... I never had it initially then it happened..........
You have just described so well the meaning of IRISH.....you either love it or loathe it.... I know it is is maddening but you will get over it and enjoy her very very very very soon........ I hope! The bond will come.......
How else then to be the one that takes her on walks and runs, teaches her, controls when to play and when to eat. I'm a little reluctant (which by the way is NOT at all normal for my personality) that if i show her that I'm top dog, that she'll absolutely "choose Sophie over me". What else do I need to to? Ready, willing and able yet completely updside down since her arrival...

I'm afraid as the weeks are passing so quickly (we've had her for 10 weeks now although 1 of those weeks we were on vacation which was planned a year ago) that she's already formed a bond with Sophie and she'll never "like" me... It's hard to imagine a dog that doesn't want to "be with me" after the bonds I've had with all of our other dogs... that's the madening part.
my first one, Odin was an angel from puppyhood on. and then Danka came... i remember crying at night, wondering 'okay, which of my dogs is the real irish setter then?". Danka needed time, her "god" was Odin, not me. it was impossible to reach to her, no famous method worked. but one nice day she realized that i exist as well. she turned into a wonderful dog, adoring me the same way as Odin always did. now i have Neita as well, she seems to be a mix of Odin and Danka. and little Zilou - who is only 3 months old, though born at my place - she really really loves me. but i know, puberty is till ahead ;-)
sooner or later the time will come. wish you lots of strength! (loved to read your story, btw!)
Sue, how lovely to hear you say 'people' because that is exactly what they are and as such we bond differently with different people. Andrea, Willow is such a baby and I have always found Irish Setters sit and think!! What naughtiness can I get up to next, where's the peg bag gone, what did I do with my teddy, where's the chew I didn't eat etc etc. They seem to do it all their lives and every Setter I have had Micawber now 14 mths is no different if only we could read their thoughts or perhaps not!! I'm sure the bonding will come as Willow gets older and then you'll wonder why you worried. Hamilton at 6 months, now 6 years of age, was adamant he was going to be no. 2 in the pecking order and when Andrew returned from the office he would position himself in Andrew's chair and refuse to budge, in fact he would sometimes become quite aggressive but all these things pass and they become the most wonderful 'people'
Good luck Lois
Andrea I loved your post! I have my fourth irish setter who is just 12 days shy of 1 year. In the early months he was too busy to be cuddled. He was a shark with red hair. I found I could massage and cuddle him when he was dead tired from a day of antics and running. And I never let an hour go by that I didn't kiss and cuddle him. I knew how fast he would grow up and how I would miss the puppy days. He is much more affectionate now. He doesn't come up and put his head in my lap but rather his arse. He always backs in for some rubs. And whatever room I am in, he is there. He must be in the same room but doesn't feel the need to touch me. Just see me. Earlier on he would run off if you tried to cuddle him and now he stays put and enjoys the attention. He has learned it isn't always me approaching for ear cleaning, nail clipping etc. Sometimes it is just to love him up. My dog also lost his mother when he was 10 days old from what I was told. But we didn't take him home till he was 9 weeks. I am sure such a young dog as yours, prefers the company of his pack. I know my dog sure does everyday at the dog park. He lives to be with his dog friends. I agree with Sue, maybe time alone for both of you which it sounds like you already have with classes, or rather just time will bring you closer. She is too busy discovering the world around her and seeing the world through a new puppy's eyes is delicious to me. It is what makes this age so wonderful. Hang in there, we have all been there and for me, no other breed can bring me such joy on a daily basis. Beauty in motion.
Hiya I too am a new Irish Setter owner or should tha be owned by an Irish Setter? I love my puppy so much but she too is much more elusive than any other dog I have had. She will choose to sit on the other sofa by herself, and she does not always come for cuddles. However when we are out if I call her she comes straight back and also if there are other dogs around she will stand with her head poking between my legs.
When it comes to bed times though she snuggles in to me along with my sprollie...collie springer spaniel cross, hubby and I hang onto the sides of the bed for dear life but would not have it any other way.

She is 7.5 months now near 8 and I would say that she is affectionate but she likes to suss us out and takes her time but it is so worth it and I kn ow that she will eventually be a cuddle puppy just like our sprollie. Dogs like humans are all so different but I do know I want another one!!!!
Sorry meant aloof rather than elusive !!!!
I had a number of breeds before ending up with my first setter in the 70's.
The two dogs before the irish setter entered my life were german shepherds. I never had to bother about trying to bond with them, they so desperatly tried to bond with me instead.
So my setter was a huge chock!

He was a happy soul, but just as happy with anyone else and felt we were walking TOGETHER even when he was like a mile away from me!
It took a lot of training, but even he turned into a "normal" dog in the end!
I have had setters since that first one and no longer have the same problem...but I do train a lot and get them to WANT to be close to me.
Food, games or whatever.
I make certain I am the supplier of the "fun" part in their lives.

I feel I have to work harder than I would with for instance a german shepherd or a border collie, but its definatly worth the effort!
Welcome to the world of The Irish Setter!.

Loved reading all this and am still laughing!.

Rio is only my second Irish Setter, - Jinty got to almost 16 years old. though there are times I can't believe she lived so long!, she could be an absolute horror at times and drove me to distraction for the most part it was fun - the rest was exhausting and frustrating, she eventually calmed down to be obedient and a joy to own.

I am trying reverse psychology with Rio or rather trying not to repeat the mistakes of the past, in the hope it will not take as long to achieve the end result, as with children ignore negative behaviour and praise and reward the positive.

You may think that nothing is 'going in' but the day will come when all the hard work pays off and the dog actually 'gets it' as if someone has thrown a switch.

Oh Rio is still stealing toilet rolls if left on the holders, they are hanging or hidden in the most obscure places! - it's all a game, he wants attention, if you watch them, you can see them working things out, give them challenges, hide thing's for them, ask them to bring things for you, they love it.

I think if you embrace their behaviour (after all we all know what they are going to do left to their own devices!,) it makes life so much more enjoyable.

And how many other breeds of dog can you skip down the road with should the fancy take you!.

'viva le difference!'




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