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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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Well Good Morning everyone!

The responses I have received have been more than eye opening in addition to heart lightening. If there was a way I could give each and every one of you and your Setters a big hug from me and a puppy kiss from Willow we would! I also wish I would have known about this site weeks ago prior to questioning my state of mind, but it seems now that my prayers for help have been answered and THANK YOU!.

Please realize that I've done everything except back flips for Willow to this point, but only because I'm afraid of spraining my back and having a chiropractor bill. Mornings are chaos between getting the cats fed, getting the dogs out & in, Willow walked and fed, Doc medded, lunches packed and the two of us humans out of the house, but I come home every day at lunch time to let her out and to spend time with her, mostly with a ball or frisbee. My neighbors have now seen me in every conceivable outfit under the sun as I've run around the house in no less than a bath towel (not by choice) to my pajamas to full business suits, in heals, slippers, sneakers and barefoot. Nightly the two of us spend time again playing, training or walking/running solo or attending class or socialization. I will and have done just about anything to set the a path for success until this roadblock keeps interfering, or should I say “red”block?

Anyway, last night after I alleviated my brain of my concerns to the forum, I shut off my work computer (we don’t have the internet at home), had my hair appointment cancelled/rescheduled, I took Willow over to my father's 100 acre property about 10 minutes drive away. It was just her and me exploring the hillside with a pocket full of turkey treats and a Frisbee in tow should the need to have grasped her attention arose. We had a blast! We walked for over a half an hour until the sun started to set. She never wandered farther than 10' to 15' from me before turning around and checking in. At one point I stopped walking just to see how far she would get and at the 30' mark, turned around and realized I wasn't there behind her, she came barreling back to me as if to say "there you are!". I promptly told her if she had been paying attention she wouldn't have lost me in the first place, after praising her lavishly. We came home where she ate a decent dinner, played with Sophie for a bit, chased the cats who were after a red laser pointer, chased the laser light, settled down to teethe on a rawhide and as soon she got into a comfortable chewing pattern, daddy came home and she alerted me and half the neighborhood of his arrival. (This is apparently a new trick that Sophie must have taught her while I wasn’t paying attention)

Now it was late and bedtime for everyone. I often sleep by myself due to my husband's obscene snoring practice and last night I shut the door to the guest room from the other dogs (surprisingly they survived the drama of being abandoned, though they would say different) and it was just the two of us loafs in bed. I felt her snuggle up to me at least three times during the night and my heart skipped a beat. I haven't slept that well in weeks and she didn’t want to wake up, but both coffee and nature were calling. After feeding the screaming mimi’s (aka the cats), getting Mike off to work, lunch packed, it was prep time for me. On went the shower, in went me and in came Willow (though I know she was after the running water) and out went a soaking wet puppy racing through the house after Sophie and Lily cat. During my face paint application she came back to the bathroom with her rawhide chew and again ten minutes later with a stuffed toy. The bone and toy were on the other side of the house three rooms away, so she had to think to bring them closer to me. I acknowledged her gifts gratefully and let her continue to be happy until it was time to "kennel up". She was not at all pleased for the first time in a long time about being put in the big gray box, but was settled down prior to my departure, albeit 30 minutes late for work.

While I will continue to take baby steps and try not get too excited, what a difference a day can make. Am planning on repeating the entire process tonight, weather permitting. Stay tuned for updates on Monday and have a Happy Halloween!
Hi Andrea, glad it works! But yes, she is still very little, there is no rush :)
We are there all the time, so I guess we are boring things taken for granted, and with all other exciting things to be discovered I am not surprised they play little attention to us;)

Little tip: take a car and go 2 days in a trip with Willow, camping would be wonderful, unfortunately the season is not the right one.. We did, when Oberon was 4 months old, just for a weekend and it helped seeing some more bonding then :)
Staying together in a different environment, sleeping all together in a tend/hotel room, doing the trip, etc..
Well, I guess in the end the idea is similar to what you experienced with the walking :)
Thanks for the detailed update! Willow will never leave your side now....Happy Halloween! And enjoy your Irish!

They are definitely all different ... or perhaps I should say they are all nuts in different ways! Girls of any breed tend to be a bit slower to show you they love you (even though I am convinced they always DO love you, just too busy and independent to spend their time worrying about YOUR needs!) I recommend you give it time and just appreciate her many wonderful qualities ... she's beautiful, funny, lively, exasperating, and on and on. Perhaps she will never be a dog who BEHAVES closely bonded to you ... although I seriously doubt this about an irish setter ... but just love her for who she is. Best wishes.
Andrea are you in Europe or the US? I didn't notice you saying and was just curious. I enjoy your writing style very much and look forward to updates on the further adventures of Willow and you. Sounds like your making great progress already.
Just an FYI, Cash doesn't like to sleep in bed with us. I also usually sleep in another room because my husband snores like a freight train too. And Cash slept with us till he got his first bed at about 4 months. From that night on he sleeps on his bed next to us. He prefers it. We try to coax him up on the bed for cuddles and he won't budge. He loves his own space as long as he is in our room.
Oh I'm in the US, outside of Rochester NY to be exact. Guess I should have mentioned that somewhere along the way but I was otherwise preoccupied.

Lunchtime was funny - apparently while the water in the shower is a hit, water from the sky is not... she does not like the rain, but the toweling off afterwards was the bomb ;)

I should mention that I'm in no way shape or form looking for a robot for a dog nor a human in a dog suit. I just wanted to know that at some point she realized we share the same house! LOL!!!
Hi Andrea.
I'm sure many of us on here recognise much of what you've written as descriptions from our lives, at different points, with different dogs. Just hang in there and don't try to play the 'favourites' game....be sure you are a very important part of the pup's life, even if there are no clearly overt signs from her. Sometimes the bond is not what you are expecting or hoping for, but it is there nevertheless. I sometimes feel guilty that my husband doesn't get as much from the dogs as I do , who spends more time with them, but then I see them together in a 'private' moment and the love shines through...
So keep on being unselfish with your love, and your 'moments' will happen too.
Oh Sue. You are so right ... the bond, no matter what form it takes, is always there. Sort of sneaks up on you sometimes, especially if you expect it to feel one particular way and it differs. I had a lovely golden retriever years back that was a stray I took in when no one else would. He was incredibly needy ... always had to be touching me or at the very least looking at me. I gave him constant loving and DID love him, but he overwhelmed me sometimes and I always wished he was just a tiny bit more independent like my irish setter girl. Long story finally ending ... when that golden boy died, I cannot tell you how it broke my heart. It was a lesson learned and never forgotten.
I am sorry you are so desperate.I bet your lovely baby picks up on your anxiety as well.
I had (and still have!)a 'problem' setter ,Ellie,who would hide from me in the garden, who refused to eat and who was generally failing to thrive for the first year of her life,although all tests were negative.Nothing would interest her to eat. I know some setters 'forget' to eat but Ellie was abnormal.My wife and I experimented with foods as you have done,she never touched her puppy food that came with her again! Although I don't know what you feel about it our solution was to feed her on raw meat.That worked for about 2 months then she wouldn't eat it.We have cats and she discovered a cat 'wet' food plate and ate the lot! Since then she has had wet cat food and has thrived.She has had a lot of health problems since having a hysterectomy for pymetra and is now on a low dose steroid and will eat anything!
Why, I wonder, are you against her eating the adult dog food? If she likes it let her have some but control the quantity so she doesn't get bloated.In my view anything is better than nothing!
I am sure your puppy will respond to you and welcome you ,Ellie and I get on so well now and she is a pleasure to have!
Good Luck!
Andrea I will give you new owner but this is Grandma Grumpy!

You have two adult Springers you are not completely new to dog owning. I am going to suggest that right at the beginning you got caught up in this poor puppy's back story, you got her at six weeks she had no training from her canine mum (she had a wet nurse_ and you admit that you wanted to increase your "children"


It is right that you have recognised that she doesnt care for.you... she doesnt. She doesnt rate you at all. You are the maid!

Get a grip of this situation. Stop feeling that you owe her the world for having lost her mum, and give her the guidance she needs. Get yourself back to the top of her pack (please dont read any more Milan - he is hopeless)
The pulling stops, the ignoring stops, tipping bowls off the counter is a no no. Go riight back to basics.

Training should be short and productive, even try clicker for good response Its a little different and may make you more interesting.
Mark out a plan of basic behaviours and decide how long you are going to take to teach them. That way you can tick off the improvements.

this is a naughty child who has the opportunity to become a delinquent. She deserves to be the best puppy in the world and THAT is your job!!!
Hi Andrea

I think you've had some excellent suggestions already here and I'm sure your relationship with Willow will improve steadily. I certainly agree with what Sue Humphrey says: Willow takes her humans for granted. Ever since she was a new born puppy she has had human slaves taking care of her welfare, feeling sorry for her, ensuring she had all she needed. In short: Willow is the centre of your world but as yet she does not see you as the centre of hers!

When a puppy comes to his/her new home, the family are all looking forward to welcoming Puppy. We humans make Puppy the centre of our activities, hereby making Puppy say to herself: "Wow, I like it here, these humans give up their food for me, give me the tastiest morsels, when I whine they try to read every wish from my eyes, give me their chews, let me lie on their sofa or bed, follow me wherever I go... So I must be a VERY IMPORANT PUPPY!".
Very Important Puppy gets used to having slaves around. Very Important Puppy takes slaves for granted. Sometimes the slaves have the cheek of waking Puppy up when she is fast asleep. So Puppy gives a little growl to say she dislikes being disturbed...

On the other hand, there is also Sophie. Sophie speaks the same language as Very Important Puppy but always made it clear that Puppy is not important at all. Sophie was there first and makes that clear by taking no notice of Puppy. Sometimes Sophie is willing to play with Puppy, but only when she feels up to it. At other times she'll growl and say 'no, not today'. Sophie does not share her food with Puppy. When Sophie plays, the two can romp and growl playfully and they fully understand each other. On the walks, Sophie finds the interesting smells and Puppy learns to watch what Sophie is doing, so she can join in on the fun.

Andrea, I'm sure you have guessed where I am heading. Try to become alittle more aloof when dealing with Willow. Make her realize that All Good Things in Life are only available through you and if she is willing to say Please.
First of all, try a 24 hour session as follows:
Do not cuddle her if she comes demanding fuss. If you want to fuss her, call her to you. End cuddles before she ends them. Do not talk to her and do not look at her whenever she moves;-).
Remove all the toys. Play with her when YOU decide you want to play. Fetch her favourite toy and call her to you. Play for a short session then end the game before she ends it. Get up and go away. Leave the toy with her until you can remove it without making a fuss. Sophie should not be around during these activities.
Stop feeding her. :-) No, don't worry... not completely. Just stop feeding her a bowl full of dog food at meal times. Instead fill her ration into bags and go into the garden or go for a walk with only Willow. Call her to you and give her a nibble of her food. Keep walking away from her, taking a different direction to the one she chooses. Every time she rushes towards you you praise her and give her a handful of food. Do not give her a full ration as you want her hungry next time you go out.

I am not one to say: don't worry, they all grow out of it someday... I prefer to work on achieving the behaviour that I expect. It is worth it and our dogs are intelligent enough to understand!
I'm afraid I sometimes feel they are far more intelligent than us humans...




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