Exclusively Setters

Home for Irish Setter Lovers Around the World

Need feedback on my 11-month old's behavior

Hi everyone,

Please weigh in if the below behavior is common to adolescent setters and can this be waited out/corrected without neutering the poor boy?

My 11-month-old Sammy LOVES people, but especially their faces. He does what I call a "drive-by jump" where he jumps right next to them in hope of reaching their face and usually startles them into an unpleasant remark to me about how I need to better train my dog. He shakes when he sees a new person and usually bolts right toward them for the "kiss".  His recall, which was solid a few months back is now non-existent. It's hard to take him on walks, as he would pull me with all his might, even a couple of times to the ground. I tried front clasp harness, which only gave him horrid sores around the armpits. In desperation, I tried the prong collar as he needed to walk and I needed to be able to hold him- that no longer walks as he just pulls through it and I don't want him developing aggression. I am not teaching him to walk on gentle leader nose collar- he paws at it and still manages to pull/jump. 

The most disturbing change though is him randomly growling at us when we try to hold him back from another dog or say get him off the bed. He can even try to mouth our hand, not aggressively, but rather in what feels like a frantic state.

I'm trying so hard to wait this out as he's such a sweet boy at home, but outside stimuli get the best of him and he becomes unruly. Doing anything outside gives me great anxiety and stress. Has anyone else experienced anything similar?

PS- no treat of ANY kind, including steak (literally) works on him once he is stimulated.

Views: 795

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

Hi Vera, It's probably no great comfort but yes, have been through all of the above (with a female). Well - nearly all: No growling at us, except in play, where I growl back! I can understand your desperation but cannot recommend the prong collar. You want your dog to work with you and not against you or just to behave, because he avoids any form of pain. I could recommend two things: Get a long line (10-12 meters, solid, preferably a flat band not a cord), attached to a harness (not to a collar!) and go on walks where there is no distraction (no other dogs, no people) or at times, when there is none other around. Use a pair of old circling gloves against burns on your hands and first learn how to handle that line, for when he bolts off and hits the end of the line with you being unaware, he'll surely throw you to the ground (I hope you're a strong lady!). Only give him as much line as he needs and pick it up again, when he comes closer. Go on short walks (half an hour), for the longer you're out with your dog in an exciting area, the higher the adrenalin level gets and you don't want the level to hit the roof (btw. the body can get addicted to a high level - it's called 'runners high' - so you need to break that cycle). Should you not be able to put him back into a car box (to settle down) after half an hour you can also sit down on a bench until he's settled again. A very good exercise in connection with this is: Stand on your end of the long line or attach it to a tree and simply ignore your dog. As soon as he looks at you, praise and treat - or even better click and treat (expect to have to wait for 10 minutes for the first look…) - you will notice, that as soon as your 'walks' get as boring as this, you and your treats will have some attraction :-). Should a jogger pass by, take you dog on a short line and don't let him jump up. I always let Joy sit and fed her through, while the person passed us, when she was young.

The second thing, I can recommend is the use of a gentle lead or halti when you have to go out where people are, but it is best to built up the use of it at home, where there is no distraction and make the halti special. Have a look at my photo series here, where Joy slips through her collar - same can be done with the gentle lead:


I would again use a clicker to get Sammy get used to the gentle lead and built it up like: Click and treat, when he sniffs at it - then in the next session click an treat when he put his nose through for 2 cm, then all the nose, then keep it like that for 2 seconds without pawing then 10 seconds - and so on, I think you get the drift :-). It takes a lot of patience, but it's well worth the effort. Sammy is still very, very young - with Joy, I had to work hard to not just be thin air at the other end of the line. I hope the above was in some form helpful. Enjoy your Sammy - I'm sure he's ever so sweet, when he is resting in his basket :-).

PS - I've had no boy but I don't think neutering does the trick.

I agree...I think hormones are playing a part and you need to assert your authority, in a calm manner.  Try a Dogmatic head collar as it works a treat and does not ride up like a gentle leader can.  Neutering won't help.


Hi Cornelia,

I can't thank you enough for all of your advice. I no longer use the prong collar as I also got the notion just as you pointed out that he is trying to avoid pain and i wasn't comfortable with this. For the last two weeks I've actually been working on the gentle leader. We worked up to going around the block and he is 90% good with it. The only time he gets riled up is with other dogs around. The next thing I will try is your advice on walking in non exciting areas for half hour. You are so right on the "runner's high"- I could see it in him and so DO need to break the cycle. I have lots of reservations about neutering and that's why decided to reach out on the forum- I'm glad to hear it's not the solution, because I really didn't want to do it to him.

I have a another question for you: how do you deal with jumping, or rather preventing it?

Thank you ever so much!


Dear Vera glad you stopped the prong collar! Just have a look at the above: I was skeptical but this is the most amazing non pulling lead I never seen and- my God- IT WORKS!!!!! 

is non constrictive at all, actually quite loose aroud the body and padded so it doesnt ruin the coat, but I think it works with the body movement (a bit like when leading horses?) of the dog shoulder. I tried for Oberon since  I had  triple shoulder surgery few weeks ago to repair my rotator cuff and I was soo worry to get on the street with a puller that I was cosidering not to take Oberon with me for several months... But with this one I can walk him with a finger :))

I  cant recommend highly enough how amazing it is  and , yes, I was very very skeptical before to try :)

For Oberon we use the large size - good luck !!!

is called Ancol "happy at Heel" . we only use it for walking and I take it off when I leave Oberon off lead in the park for playing with other dogs because is soo loose that he can traps his legs inside while running or jumping :)

but it turned a STRONG puller in a dog that I can walk around even in peace  with two rotator cuffs repairs done a few weeks ago  - so to speak ;) 

I'm having similar problems with my 10 month old male.  Every walk is a "stalk walk" where he is singularly focused on salamanders (we are in Florida 6 mos of the year), lizards, birds, squirrels -- basically anything that moves. When he sees a salamander on the tennis courts we walk past, he will leap into the air and throw himself against  the fencing around the courts. I walk him with a 26 ' extention tape lead and a martingale collar (sometimes a harness, but he's getting too strong for that). And I generally have to hold the lead with both hands.  In fact, he gets so excited on his walks that I believe after tons of vet bills and an ultrasound, that this is the source of his digestive problems -- excitablility. He has been to puppy class - did well, but as soon as he turned 7 mos., he became more unruly. I do believe it's a waiting game. He has too much energy and here in FL not enough exercise. Excercising them to exhaustion is major, and a larged fenced in year helps-- as does swimming.  All my previous boys where excellent swimmers -- this one hasn't gotten used to the water yet,  Luckily we live on a lake in PA, where we will be heading back in 2 weeks.  I have found that none of these boys really matures or settles down until they're at least 2-3.  But obedience training or agility training helps -- as does show training, even if you are not showing.  In fact, I have found show training superior to all the others in getting a young Irish in control.  My boy is also very mouthy.  He understands he's supposed to drop my hand from his mouth, he just enjoys grabbing it and my ankles as I walk down stairs -- to him it's fun, and I'm having a hard time breaking him of this habit -- again, I think it's immaturity -- he's a teenager now and just full of the devil.  So, if you love the breed, you just hang in and keep him occupied.  I would never exercise in a dog park without a long lead, though. I do not believe in letting a dog run free like that w/ other dogs around. I even keep a 50-100 lead on my boys when they swim.  Good luck!!!

Its so frustrating when a reasonably well behaved youngster hits the rebellious delinquent stage and yes I recognise some of those behaviours.

Some good advice from people here and it is really important to focus on the positives at this time. Lots of praise for behaviour you want. No attention for behaviour you don't want. Try to find things that will hold/divert his attention, and do avoid the over stimulating situations and build towards them gradually.

My younger boys are walked together and have learned they only get to greet another dog, approaching on lead, by sitting first. That way I can control the situation better :) I found that Callum went through a terrible stage of pulling and I used a Halti body harness and double ended lead to attach at the chest and back. It had an amazing calming effect, and his whole persona changed the minute I put the harness on him (even without a lead). Finally, now he walks well, I have reverted to a Halti head collar which is not really needed for 80% of the time, but is my insurance when walking the 2 strong dogs who could easily pull me over if they forgot themselves!

Neutering is not the answer. Patience and positive training is in my opinion. Good luck in getting the 'good' Sammy all the time.

Hi Vera,
He's hit adolescent. I suggest you find a quieter place to walk your pup if possible. Please get rid of the prong collar ASAP. Horribly cruel. Is there a gentle trainer near you I would get some classes under your belt. Also go onto Dog Star daily a mountain of training tips and blogs all from top gentle trainers. It's a hard time as a lot of people say the first two years are tough but enjoy him. When you see people dogs coming towards you turn away till you have some control. Try working in you garden with a friend and get a rock solid sit happening. Sit on recal sit to greet your friend if he goes to jump get your friend to turn away no talking touching or eye contact. When he sits huge reward have a mountain of treats. Remember our fur babies are good most of the time so reward and praise them then we forget that and just go off when they are a little naughty. Have to give them feed back so they start to know what you want from them. Talk softly to your pup. But do start working in the house, garden then a quiet place till you build up the distractions always go back if it's too much for you pup. With the growling once again food in your hand lure him off with a word could be off, trouble is we make matters confusing by allowing thing sometimes not at other times be consistent. Hope this help training is the key. If you feel frustrated leave it till you are calm.

Thank you to all who took their time to give me invaluable advice and great feedback. Knowing that this is more or less to be expected, I can better help Sammy go through this stage of his life :). The prong collar hasn't been used in about a month and he is now 90% comfortable with the gentle leader. We stay away from public places and go for our walks in the evenings. He also goes to the dog park where can interact with other dogs under supervision and learn some manners. 

I still struggle with enticing him with treats as soon as the environment gets a bit more interesting, so if anyone has suggestions- they're always welcome. 

Our little boy is taking us on a very interesting journey and we are so happy to have him in our life!

I found with my male Irish Setters at about this age if out in public they

We're acting up at the sight of another dog or person that a simple about face

And walking the other direction got their attention quickly. I'd then do some 

Simple training with them...sit,heel,sit throw in a paw shake and lots of praise

Then do another about face and walk toward the distraction talking softly all

The while to them....if they started to get over excited I repeated that about 

Face and walked the other direction. Didn't take but a time or two for 

Them to figure out pulling or over excitement toward another dog or person

Got them walking the opposite direction. I always used a sit and stay by my

Side for greeting people. 

I do have to caution about dogs nipping at pants etc on steps.....broken knees

Are not fun! I now send any dog down or up the steps in front of me so

No more tumbles. Sorry about capitals....Kindle is doing that on its own.

They do outgrow a lot of their wild ways but sometimes it's best to wear

Them out chasing a ball in the yard before their walk at that age. Add

Distractions slowly....I actually paid a neighbor's little girl to bounce tennis 

Balls while walking past us to practice sit and stay for one of my lads. She

Loved helping and then later playing ball with him in our yard. Sometimes a shorter

Lead is also a safer choice while going thru their teenage stage. Good luck

And enjoy your boy.

Sherry and Molly

PS I also used a heeling figure eight when walking as it kept my Irish on their

Toes wondering what crazy thing I was going to do next!




© 2024   Created by Gene.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service