Home for Irish Setter Lovers Around the World
Have you tried a feed ball? Rather than putting down a bowl of food for Bess, food balls have to be pushed around and the food drops out and keeps dogs amused for ages, thereby using energy and brains!!! Males are definately more maleable, I currently have bitches and the contrast is marked, previously I had Setter and vizla males and they were so horizontal it was unbelievable!!!!! You could introduce the whistle too when the first bits drop out (and you could use chicken or something "treaty" just a small amount) and Bess will be delighted to have "found" it and remind her of her puppyhood when here breeder whistled and fed.............. it also endorses that you are sharing the kill with her as the leader of the pack. Rattle it and walk around with it for a bit and when she follows then put it down - brainwashing don't you just love it!!
Luckily I live in Victoria, BC, Canada and there are still places I can take him and just let him loose and we can walk for hours. For those days when we don't have time to go for a hike, I have a mountain bike and a "Springer" that attaches him to the bike hands-free. We can do the 1.5 miles around the lake across the street in a matter of 20 minutes or so. He LOVES it, because he can go as fast as he likes. I can even ride it into the lake at the boat ramp so that he can have a dip, still attached to the bike. For really long rides we take the "Croozer Dog" bike trailer so that we can go forever and he can ride back in the buggy.
Mind you, your dog should be a year old so that his or her joints have time to fully form before playing so hard.
Hi there! My bitch is only 6 months of age, so we aren't doing any long distance hikes or extremely long walks yet. Still, Abby needs to run off leash every now and then. Luckily, we have a lot of fields and unused pastures a short distance from our house which we use for her to run at least once a day.
Right now she is really into rabbits, and we have those everywhere (front yards, backyards public parks, woods,.. you name it) so I am extremely careful with letting her loose if there is a street nearby - or in the woods, where she will loose sight of me quickly (for once she does, it confuses her and she runs of somewhere, trying to find me. She choses the opposite direction of where I am, in most cases). So I walk her on a 10 meter training leash whenever there is a chance of rabbits appearing to distract her.
As for teaching the dog to come for food:
I thought of a word which I do not use in our everyday context and I taught her to come immediately when I say it. This is our emergency return command. I avoid using it frequently and only use it in dangerous situations, so it does not wear off. Abby knows that she will get a super special reward for returning on this emergency command. I took a while just practicing, starting with situtaions in which there were no distractions at all and when there was only very few steps of a distance between us. Whenever she returnes after I give her the "emergency return command", she gets a big piece of her favorite food ever (I use this favorie food only(!) as a reward for this command) and I basically danced a happy dance for her, too. We continually increased the distance and the level of distraction during training, and I taught this command daily, but I waited for about three weeks until I really dared to use this command when there was a long-eared, cottontailed distraction in front of us.
We do have our normal "come here" command, too. But I find that when she gets distracted it will not always work. So I use the emergency command in such situations. And it works quite well - I am not sure wether it works so well because it basically means that I promise to give her her favorite food, or because I took care to lay a strong foundation.
By the way, I often thought about getting a whistle, too. Do you think your dogs respond better to those than to your voice?
Not a strict "Groening Approach", though I did pick up some of her ideas. I always think it nice to choose whatever methods from a lot of different approaches that may work for us. Believe me - Abby has been "real fun" since her 5th month. She's one of the really driven IRWS and there is a lot of moments when I cannot get through to her at all an she just fades out everything but her and her object of desire. No talking, no touching, no jumpingup and down in front of her nose or waving a hand in fornt of her eyes will give you any reaction. But I am glad she freezes so often before taking off - gives me time to grab the leash. That's why, just like you dog, she is hardly ever out without the solid long line (so THAT'S the correct English term, thank you! It is just what I meant by "training leash"), even when I let her run freely I use it. Much like you. Once she sees game or picks up a scent: Blackout. I believe she would even miss a ten ton truck running her over. But we are working on that, and as she gets older, she grows more conscious. And it's not like I had not known what I was in for before getting a dog of this breed. The recall works fine without game nearby, no matter wether she is 5 or 100meters away. I am glad we have this kind of foundation - though I do not see how her drive could get worse, who knows what additional troubles the little devil might have up her sleeves for me... I do try to reward her heavily for sitting down in front of whatever she watches - she tends to do that from time to time, so I try to strenghten this particular behavior - as you said: It gives you a lot more time to react. Since she still has so much trouble concentrating when there's game neraby, I will have to wait until I can start to teach her to sit down in front of rabbits or magpies. But once she's better with her attention, I will try and use this as an additional command, as well, thanks a lot! And thank you for your opinion on the whistle, I guess I will really go for it and start using one.
I am very fortunate to own a large piece of land and I put an invisible fence on 3A. There is one area that is old horse pasture where I crop the grass short and that is the romp space. We either jog around, play frisbee or ball for awhile and then I let them free romp. Once the tongues start hanging, they get a rest and then we do our 'homework'. One of my guys, if allowed to keep running, will run himself ( and me ) nuts. He then is totally out of it so I must be careful before he reaches that point. My 1st IS was lost at 3yrs of age and now I go crazed if anybody is out of my sight for too long. It was great when they started selling the invisible fences as DIY so what would have cost probably $!600-2000, costs $400. The peace of mind and sweat equity were well worth it. As nuts as it sounds, I have actually heard of dog treadmills.
I heard that five minutes of a walk for each month is fine, that would amount to 5 by 8 - 40 minutes. And a wild rund is fine, too. We had Anton on a tracking lead for a three months, and it helped. now we are back to running wild - and the Black Forest is full of yummy deers and rabbits. The challenge with setters is their intelligence. The need some brain exercise on top. Somthing like Hide and Seek or Find Stuff. However, once they pick up a scent, off they go like rocket. Fortunately, my heart is strong enough to take life with the two Reds.