Exclusively Setters

Home for Irish Setter Lovers Around the World

Do our Irish Setters lack pointing instinct in comparison to the other pointing & setting breeds?

I've been urged to start this new theme rather than continue the discussion under the theme on 'standard' set by Wim. I am at present not actually sure this will end up being a very valid discussion theme as we may just end up with votes of 'no they don't' versus 'yes they do'... 

All statements can really only demonstrate personal impressions as I doubt any of us here can look back on many years of experience in training a large number of Irish Setters originating from many different breeding lines...

But here we go, I'd like to put the following questions to you:

  1. Is the pointing/setting instinct still present in our breed?
  2. Should we be doing more to preserve pointing & hunting instinct?
  3. Do you as a breeder look to breed from dogs with pointing instinct?
  4. Would you wish for your dog to be assessed by a trainer as to his (the dog's!) natural ablities?
  5. What background knowledge do you base your views on?

Views: 3129

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

I can speak for the USA that yes our pointing instinct is being lost.

We have very few people (Breeders) perserving the naturarl instinct in our Irish.

When I look for breeding dogs I will not breed to a dog I have not personaly seen point and work birds. Did that once went by a picture of him on pointing it was a waste of a breeding nothing pointed, but they where pretty.

We have a few dogs over here of show only lines that point but they are not reproducing there talents. People do not understand that point should be a priority when breeding not just and after thought.

My background is I have been breeding a dual irish for the last 16 year. I have had hunting Irish my whole life, my father bred and hunted with his Irish. So I have been involved with them for 45+ years.      


I have three show-type Irish, one who has some field lines behind her too.

All three of my dogs both point and set, and my youngest bitch, I have to say, is a total pain to take to the park because she is so obsessed with birds to the point that I can't let her off-lead at the risk of never seeing her again.  All wonderful if I wanted to work her, but I don't.  She is a show dog, and a companion animal, and I'm not about to pretend otherwise.  Do I think she could work?  Yes.  But not in the same way those bred to field trials would work.  But she certainly has the instinct.

My boy once held a 4 minute point on a group of galahs...not exactly the most traditional of game...but again, it shows the instinct is still there.

1: I do think the pointing/setting instinct is still there(stronger in some lines than others)) Hunting instinct in Rua and some of her pups(especially her Brabrook babies!) Although Milo has good instincts too! But I always encouraged their hunting instincts, along with good recall training, so I had some control;o)

2:I believe we should preserve the hunting instinct and breed for better hunting ability! Would be a shame to lose it even in companion dogs!

3:I try my best to use stud dogs with hunting instinct(when possible)

4:I would also like my dogs assessed by a trainer! I did do some training with Rua and Abbey last year which ended with them both passing their gundog qualifier( a test to show their hunting instincts)

5:I can base my views on my own dogs and the number of setters I have observed staying at my kennels(mostly show dogs)

I'm trying to reply to various posts in one reply rather than to each individually.

Astrid, you are a step ahead of me: I still need the experience of owning a working bred Irish... I am sure your girl will teach you a great deal about working with setters. I believe it can be hard for a newbie to come to terms with the higher reactivity level?

I'll not address the health theme here but I wish you the best of luck with your girl and look forward to reading your updates. By EC do you mean the European Championships? ;-)


Cassie, I greatly value your input here as I know you have been acctively encouraging the dual Irish for many years and your view from 'across the pond' is different again to the scene we know here in  Europe. I get the impression that the devide of the strains between show and working is even greater in the US than the UK? It needs tremendous conviction and love for the breed to carry on the path you have chosen and breeding the dual purpose Irish Setter. But from what I hear you are succeeding! And just one plead from me: please please keep that low tail on your pointing Irish!


Hi Melinda, I must look up those galahs VBG ;-)) On the other hand, what you term as hunting instinct in your girl is maybe not the kind sought after for a working dog. The madly crazy dogs that chase little birdies are not necessarily going to be the best working dogs... as in some cases they lack trainability and biddability.


Carmel, thanks for being the first to answer my questions:-) I suppose I should do the same myself... though I think the answers would probably be very close to yours! I admit thinngs are getting difficult for breeders: we want health, temperament, looks, pointing instinct, working ability... it is not going to be easy! And then you need the puppy buyers who can cope with an active &intelligent setter!




Thanks Susan I do love this breed and will stay the path I have chosen. I do not think you have to worry about my dog’s tails I have never been one to follow a fashion trend. I was trying to lease a bitch to breed to Gandalf and was told I could not because she did not want to be embarrassed by the tail set he may pass on.

Yes there is a very large divide in the bred over here it is a shame. I believe it started first when they bred English setters in to save the hunting ability in the 40's (That is all documented in the pedigrees) and when the bird instinct was interfering with there showing and they wanted a big winning "Irish". Unfortunately with human nature when people want to win the shorter road is much easier to travel.



Hi Susan

My bird mad girl definitely lacks biddability...;-)

I know the type...:-))

Haha, Finn, I guess that was working lingo for being 'shot over'... VBG

It sounds as though Fergus has all the qualities to make him a good worker - and is now showing the youngster which strings to pull. Just watch out they don't decide they no longer need you!!!

I'd say choose what you think your dog will enjoy most - and it will turn out being what you enjoy most! You can still show him when he is fully mature at the age of 5 or 6 years or later but you can't postpone training for much longer... Give it a go and good luck!

Hi Finn,

I did write 'shot OVER  this Autumn'.......thanks for making me laugh though....I would not dream of shooting my dog! :-))))))

Hi Susan,

Yes, I do believe that our Setters have the natural ability for both pointing and 'working' as long as they are encouraged by their owners and I do not think it is a problem as to whether they have 'show' or 'working' in their pedigree.

A well known gundog trainer said of Ray when I asked him to assess my boy and went out with him for over an hour that he couldn't train him in anything else as I had already trained him up to field trial standard myself - high praise from an actual 'working' gundog trainer.

The instinct IS there in our Setters.

Hope everyone has a good relaxed festive holiday weekend.


Sara and Pat, thanks for joining in here!

Sara, referring to your friend who goes shooting up in the scottish moors... sounds great! I agree, a dog with no stamina will not be much use when out all day and every day during the shooting season. So the Reds top them all - brilliant:-)) 


Pat, you and Ray have achieved so much together over the last years! Another succesful team prooving that it is possible to work and train your dog to a high standard even if you are not yourself part of the working fraternity. Perseverence does pay off in the end - and the joy we derive from working with our dogs means that both they and we enjoy many days of happiness.  


I fear I must come to an end here as the festive season calls and my time is definitely running out on me... Merry Christmas to you and thank you all for joining in!

i think i can, from my own modest experience, confirm previous statements from other members. Yes, i think there is still some instinct left in IS, but it has tendency of disappearing as the dog gets older if not cherished properly by owners. I have male IS who was a star of the hunting field as a youngster, flushing game in the places where experienced dogs have run through without finding anything. But since i don't work my dogs on regular basis this behavior is almost totally lost after few years. And no, dog wasn't trained at all, nor would i left my dog to a professional trainer for few days, let alone few weeks or more.

On the other hand his litter brother went to a completely different home, his owner was a gamekeeper and a dog was in the fields literally every day accompanying his owner to work. Owner told me that he never had such a brilliant hunting dog before in terms of speed, will to hunt, and endurance.

I don't have the privilege of owning ES or Gordon so cant speak about them, but at the moment i have 3-4 months old German shorthaired pointer and i am very surprised and impressed with its hunting instinct in a positive way. It is totally different story - sniffing, marking, etc, even so young.

I don't wish to point fingers and please don't get me wrong, but it looks like our breed has became a ladies breed. Have a look at our members here, or at any dog show and you will see that at least 80% are ladies, while traditionally hunting is a male sport after all. If put in such context it looks obvious why IS is so handsome today but struggling to keep up in the fields with other more "manly" breeds.  :)




© 2024   Created by Gene.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service