Exclusively Setters

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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?

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Lovely photo Susan.



Thank you, Pat, now those are the kind of fields we need for our setters here in Switzerland... who cares about mountains, anyway??? ;-))

I would have thought big grassy fields were not the first choice for a place to train setters (no grouse and too many rabbits), unless they are going to be worked/trialled entirely on partridge, and even then stubble fields are better than grass. The first choice in Ireland , Scotland and the north of England would be mountains,hills and grouse moors covered with heather, which are the habitat of grouse. And in Norway it is much the same

When you live in the South of England, mountains and hills are rather rare....we have the chance that Salisbury Plain is owned by the MOD and the Southern Pointer Club gets regular permissions for us to go and train there. Here we hope for pheasants and partridges as this is the game the setters/pointers will encounter on their week-end shoots

When I did my training here, around my own area(flat grassy fields near a bog and river), we were happy to find pheasant and snipe! No grouse!  When we did our qualifier up on the Wicklow Mountains we only found snipe on the day! My girls were happy;o)

No doubt you are right, Margaret: when looked at from the purist's angle this would not be the ideal place to train your field trialler.

I see your comment has already provoked reactions from both Catherine and Cornelia, who are voicing my thoughts exactly: We have to make do with what we can get!

In an ideal world I would be born into a 'dogging' family, become head keeper of some rich gentleman's hunting estate and have access to the grouse moors to train my setters. I'd have a rabbit pen to teach steadiness, I'd spend the first months teaching my pup the basics (trust, recall, drop, trun to whistle and handsignal) and I would then first take him out onto the barren grouse moors to get him to quarter into the wind, ensuring control at all times. Once that stage is reached I'd take him out with a well trained steady dog and get my youngster to point behind the older dog, holding the lead whilst the grouse are flushed...  

I'd actually follow the training scheme outlined by  Bob Stakelum on the Irish Breed Club's website http://www.irishredsetterclub.com/home/index.php?option=com_content...


Sadly, as Cornelia has written, Switzerland is a country where game is scarce - apart from deer and fox. No grouse moors avaialble within a range of 1500km...  Still, I was fortunate that Glen despite being trained on mainly pheasant, some quail, partridge, snipe and woodcock, was actually intelligent enough to cope with grouse after just three days of training on the grouse moors. 3 days was all he'd had prior to gaining his CoM on grouse. So though it may not be ideal, as I say: we must take what we can get and use it as best we can.


I  applaud and fully agree with Susan, Catherine and Cornelia and it is so encouraging to hear of their ongoing training of their Setters.    Like them, I have trained my Setter on ALL types of terrain and varied the training venues as much as possible - whether that is grass, stubble, moorland, forests or boggy fields for him to gain as much training as possible.   I was also lucky in his early years to have the use of a rabbit pen and a pheasant pen which taught him steadiness.   I have stopped him many times on hares and one of these actually rose up  under his chest but he still obeyed the stop whistle.

First and foremost my boy is my pet and companion and his natural appitude for the gundog 'work' is a bonus.   To watch your Setter, which YOU have trained entirely YOURSELF,   in action across whatever ground you have use of  is immeasurable in a great sense of personal achievement.   If anything that I have done with Ray encourages others to  do the same with their dogs and to just enjoy them then that is reward enough.





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