Here in the U.S., the AKC (American Kennel Club) ranked red heads the 68th most popular dog breed in 2006 based on new registrations, slipping from 67th place in 2005. This always amazed me given the fact that people will go out of their way to complement my red heads when we are out and about. I will have people stop in the middle of the street to ask about them. I am sure you all have the same type of experiences when your babies are nice enough to let them take you for a walk or a car ride.
Although I cannot confirm this, I have heard that Richard Nixon, one of our former Presidents, had an Irish Setter when he was in office in the early 1970s. Irish Setters shot up to 3rd place on the popularity list because of this. Due to demand, there was a rush to breed the dogs and you can imagine the rest of the story. Red heads got a bed reputation and their popularity declined here.
How about in your native land? Are Irish Setters popular?
Here in Tassie there were 14 Irish setters in the state; the lady who used to bred them doesn't anymore and if you want one you have to import it from the mainland. I am not sure of their popularity overall in Australia but it is low; I don't think they even make the top 100. Yes we were stopped many times with Conaign,so that people could pet him and admire him and many tourists wanted to have their photos taken with him.
I don't believe Nixon was the reason for rise of popularity in the USA. In my eyes its change of type and rise of genetical defects.
Nixon was not popular (Watergate). Probably it was more the effect popular youthbooks had like Big Red (Jim Kjelgaard) and the movie from that by Walt Disney. Bottomline: a sporting dog though eyecatching, still great for outdoors experiences.
Worldwide analysis does show rise and drop in popularity are on same timelines with change of type: more showy, less sporting.
The UK had a rise of popularity on same timelines without influence from Big Red/Walt Disney, hardly known over there. Nixon was not popular either in European cultures.
Change of type is to be followed by comparing pictures in the most popular breedbooks, especially "Irish setter show champions in Great Britain" and for the USA "Irish setters in word and picture" and "The New Irish Setter" (both: W.C. Thompson).
UK rise in numbers: 1967 (1458), 68 (1963) , 69 (2679) , 70 (3277) , 71 (3764), 72 (4792), 73 (5438), 74 (5590) that year ranking 9th in the top ten which was: 1) Yorkshire terriers, 2. Alsatians, 3. Retrievers (Labrador), 4. Spaniels (Cocker), 5. Collies (rough), 6. Retrievers (Golden), 7. Poodles (toy), 8. Cavalier KC spaniels, 10. Shetland sheepdogs. Gradullay dropping since that time when more and more breeders went show-only (due to the Show Champion title so no FT -qualification necessary anymore).
Netherlands: rise 1973: 1100; 74: 1300, 75: 1600 (topyear). Drop: around 1978: 549. Now back at 200-250 a year.
In "What is your favorite setterstory" theres a picture of Nixon/King Timahoe....Note the type of that one coming from the Tirvelda-kennels, in coat, height &weight very different from nowadays leading USA show-winners.
Compare for the UK-scene dual dogs like Ch Hartsbourne Brackenfield Bronze and Ch Wendover Beggar with their follow-ups....
So the only common denominator in my eyes for both cultures is change of type: more showy less sporting. Anyway intresting topic.
Thank you again Henk for the historic information! In Finland and the rest of Scandinavia there is still a FT prize required for ShowChampion-title.In Finland one has to get at least 2.prizex2 in the open class or 1.prize once in field trials + the 3 sertificates from shows to become the Finnish ShowChampion. We had a long period of time without a single Finnish ShowChampion but 2006 one dog, Auburn Wings Rex gained the title and now 2007 two dogs have been "blessed" with the title, Douedal´s Far-and-Fine and just a few weeks ago Tydalens Rabbe became ShowChampion.
I am sensing some change in the judging. More and more the field type has gotten better prizes, not from all judges but some have changed their opinion. Still I´talking about one or two judges :-))))
Our goal is the get our dogs into working class in shows,field dogs get more respect there...naturally ;-)
In Slovenia Irish Setters are not very popular. They were quite popular in late 1980's and early 1990's when we had up to 100 dogs registered each year. Now we avarage 2-3 litters a year. Last year we had 4, this year it looks like there will be no litters at all, next year probably 3 or 4. Mostly it is only people who are really interested in the breed that decide to have a litter and I think it is better this way. I've seen first hand what popularity did to f.e. Golden Retrievers over here. We are a small country and there is a limited number of poeple who want to own an Irish. Most of our breeders realise that they need to breed quality so they are able to export some puppies. of course there are always exceptions....
i don't think that irish setters are that popular here in hungary either. also, many people still think that they are hyper and nervous, this mindset coming from the temperament of the old-old lines. and these people just stand and wonder about my two calm dogs standing beside me, wagging their tails... (by the way, another misbelief is that they are bred for retrieving from water, no idea where this comes from though.)
what makes me more furious is that you still can read in some recently written dog books that Irish are like this... i am happy that we were able to change the mind of some people, those who met my dogs :-)
some years ago i found show catalogues from the 80-ies in a second-hand bookshop. there were several pages of irish entered, 70-100 dogs... wish i could have seen that...
Yes I recall when at the Int show in Zagreb there were 67 red Irish entered (and 1 R&W). This was I think 1993 or 1994 - first Dr Signjar Memorial Show. I also recall judging 40+ Irish at a CAC show in Slovenia - also back in 1992. But if we compare quality then and now I prefer to see fewer but better dogs at shows.
Laura is right about old lines, don't think it was just the Hungarian ones. We had some from Hungary also and they were very nervous, gunshy etc Also most of the dogs bred in 1980's over here were no good for hunting. They would kill game, pointing was poor etc - and they had quite a fe "working" lines behind them. Since 1988 all setters used for breeding over here must have done at least one FT test/competition. We have seen a dramatic improvement not only in working ability, but also in characters since then.
In the United States the breed of dog that the President owns has a great deal of influence on the public. Even if the President himself is very unpopular. For example, FDR had Cocker Spaniels in the 1940's and they became very popular at the time. Nixon's King Timahoe definitely influenced breed popularity. And then came Gerald Ford with Golden Retriever Liberty (bred by excellent California breeders) and look what happened with Goldens! LBJ had Bassett Hounds in the 1960's, but his treatment of them was so awful - picking them up by their ears! - that I don't think he inspired much breed popularity, but then he was so demonized by Vietnam war protesters that I doubt anything that he favored would have become popular.
When I first started showing Irish Setters, in the early 1970's, just before the great breed explosion in popularity, I had the experience of going to show venues in many parts of the West Coast. Invariably someone would run up to me at the shows crying, "I have a year old Irish Setter and he's eating my house! What can I do?" It was all I could do not to tell them that they shouldn't have purchased the dog in the first place.
Irish Setters rose to #3 in breed popularity in the US in the mid '70's, but only stayed there one year, I believe. They have been falling off ever since. I was amazed that when I was at a public attraction just a few years later, with two of my Irish in the parking lot, a family from New Jersey asked me what breed of dog they were. I almost couldn't believe it; everyone knew what an Irish Setter was then.
Now, of course, I frequently hear stories of a new puppy owner going to a vet and the vet saying they haven't seen an Irish Setter in their practice for over ten years. Such a rise and fall. I personally think that Irish Setters are wonderful, and if they are your cup of tea, so to speak, no other breed will ever really satisfy you. But they are also highly specialized dogs and not appropriate for many of the homes that own them. I will not ever place an Irish in a townhouse or apartment, although I certainly will a Gordon. And I think that may be part of the reason why so many Irish are kept in small fenced backyards and not given the exercise they so badly need. They are in the wrong homes.
I once had a wealthy gentlemen come visit my Irish and he wanted one very badly, for ornamentation in his backyard! When I told him he would have to bring it into the house, he was horrified and said that his housekeeper would be terribly upset. Needless to say, I did not sell him a dog!
When I had four dogs, two Irish, two Gordons, I bought a house in the country on 4.5 acres. I didn't need the land at all; I bought it for my dogs, and they have the run of the place, indoors and outdoors. Anyone who visits Calif. and wants to see how my dogs are kept is perfectly welcome. But be prepared to throw tennis balls for quite a while - it's quite the sight to see two dozen setters running for them, esp. when the field is green in the winter and spring. We have horses, trees, woodpiles, water tubs, smelly stuff to roll in, places to dig huge caverns, and all manner of dog toys and whatever clothing they happen to confiscate littered about. My only regret is the lack of a real pond. My dogs play all day, come in for naps, and at night crash all over the house. The only times they are in a run is when they (the girls) are in heat. We have crates all over the house with open doors and they are often occupied by snoozing pooches. We take them camping, hiking, to the beach, the snow, etc. They are happy dogs.
Wendy, one of your sentences made me recall something that I'd read about on American homepages when I started to deepen my knowledge (and my English LOL) about Irish Setters. Namely: that most American breeders would not place a puppy into an appartment, only a house with fenced yard.
My Odin has been living in an appartment for over 10 years now, Danka 2,5 years = all their lives. I have seen too many dogs on chains in the backyards here in my country but also freely running dogs who were only seen by the owners once a day: when they received food, saying "the dog has a garden, there is no need to take him for walks". I also know about show dogs that are kept this way, though groomed several times a week and cared for more than described above, but still always in their home environment. I really think that my dogs are happier in the appartment than living in a garden without any attention. In my opinion if a person knows what an Irish Setter is about, then it is possible to keep them even in an appartment in the middle of a big big city. I managed to ask for partly home-office at the company I work for, so they are not alone all day. OK, I admit that Odin had periods when she was at home alone for long hours when she was younger but she always had dog company (of a rottie, we hired an appartment with a friend). And never any problems. I assume they slept through the day, knowing when the time would come for the big evening walk and fun.
Both of my girls are very social, friendly and smart, I can't feel any disadvantage having them in an appartment. Honestly said, sometimes I just feel the opposite. They have a special relationship with me, I think everybody can confirm this who knows us :-) Sure, I would love to have a house with a garden, even a little one. But it is not easy to buy a house here (money...) and if you find the perfect one that you could afford, then it is in the other part of the country with no job opportunities.
What about the others here? Would you sell a dog to me? :-)))
(When Gene posted the second weekly update, it contained: "If I ever come back as a dog, I would want Laura Kolbach of Hungary as my owner/Mom. Her dogs/kids have some great fun...". This made my cry.)
I once visited a woman with whom I co-owned a female Irish Setter. When she purchased the dog she lived in a rented home by herself and taught junior high school. Within the first year, she moved out of the house into a single room in a boarding house, quit her job teaching, and went back to school to study graphic animation. She and the dog were kicked out of the boarding house when the dog - who was left alone in the single room for many hours a day - finally broke down the room door. Then her car was stolen and she had no funds to replace it. She moved back into her parents' home with the dog. The parents helped her purchase an old car and the dog slept in the car on the street, and during the day was chained up to a tree in the backyard.
I can't even remember why I went to visit her, but the minute I saw the dog chained in the yard, I told the woman I was going to take her home with me and keep her until she got her own life straightened out. Unbelieveable! When I got her to my place, I shortly discovered that this dog was an absolutely wild thing, had no training whatsoever, barely knew her name, Maeve. She was, however, also lovely.
She stayed with us for about a year and then I had her at a show where my good friend Valerie Gervais of Kulana Irish Setters in British Columbia was entered. I showed Maeve to Valerie, who immediately recognized her worthy qualities and offered to take her. She is with Valerie to this day and is officially Can. Ch. Kulana Dream On Bright Star. She has had two lovely litters and is well loved and well cared for - she will turn 11 in November.
I guess the point of all this is that just having a house with a fenced yard does not qualify a person to own an Irish Setter! Dogs in an apartment, especially with another doggy companion and whose owners come home mid-day and give them lots of exercise, can - obviously by your example - be happy, but I still believe this is the exception to the rule, and I would need a great deal of information and perhaps a home visit before I would place a pup in such a situation.
Wendy, your story about Meave just shows how owner's situations can change dramatically, causing great suffering to the dog - and I'm sure not all are as lucky as Meave.
I find the hardest bit about breeding is not the choice of stud, the rearing of pups, the socializing etc. but interviewing and trying to size up the potential puppy buyers in just a couple of visits. Quite often I find in theory they know all the right answers but when it comes to everyday training and living with the dog things look very different. Personally I am quite sceptical of people who have no animal experience whatsoever.
As to placing a puppy in a home where the owner is out all day - sorry, no, I don't do it. Personally I find 6 hours is the abolute maximum for leaving a dog alone regularly. I know the dog can cope, but I do not consider it fair on the dog, who is a social animal and needs the other pack members. Depriving a dog of company will lead to the typical problems like barking, destruction, separation anxiety etc. So my recommendation to potential buyers is to reconsider and maybe wait until circumstances have changed.
Laura, I believe your personal situation to be a little different - you have the luxury of a home office and the dogs have each other for company. And I feel sure they lead a busy and full life:-) Am I right?
This is such an interesting discussion...but sort of hidden under the wrong heading. I came across this flat/house and how do you choose by pure chance. I have gone in and started a new thread on the subject. Hope you dont mind :-)))))