Many people fall in love with Irish Setters because of their wonderful rich chestnut coloured coat and their outgoing personality but there is much more to the breed than that.They are intelligent dogs despite what you might have heard.Quite often people say they are scatty and untrainable, but they are more likely to be stubborn and self-willed, especially as a puppy. You may have heard they are destructive, that they chew. Well yes that can be true, but all puppies need extra attention and you need to train them. 

About Irish Setters

Irish Setters are members of the Gundog group, a medium sized dog that needs plenty of exercise when mature.  If you don’t like exercise, then it is not the breed for you. Although the origin of the breed is not clear they were bred for the purpose to ‘set’ grouse or partridge on the moors and this instinct is still with them today.  The Setter did not retrieve game, but worked as one of a pair, one ‘backing’ the other in order to locate the game on the ground.  He would then ‘point’ the game to the gun.  On command he would then flush the birds into the air.  He therefore has a need for companionship, either yours or another Setter, and youngsters in particular can become bored and destructive if left for long lengths of time.  They are fun loving, high spirited, full of energy, intelligent and affectionate.  In fact, the breed standard says “Demonstrably affectionate”.  Sometimes they are thought of as being highly strung.  This is probably because they have not been trained properly, are not getting enough mental or physical exercise or they have an owner who does not understand them.  They have an independent spirit and need an owner who is prepared to be firm and give them plenty of time.  Consistent training is needed from the day you bring them home but you will need a sense of humour because puppies will get up to all sorts of mischief and they need to learn that you didn’t put the clean washing on the line for them to play with or that you didn’t plant those flowers for them to dig up and bring to you in the kitchen, mud and all. 

If you decide to go ahead and buy an Irish Setter puppy your life will never be the same again.  You will need endless energy and that good sense of humour with lots of time and patience, but your life will be immeasurably richer.  The first decision is whether you want a dog or a bitch to share your life.  Whichever you chose they will love you unconditionally.  However, they do demand attention and affection and it is this need to be such a large part of your lives that is their charm.  Once you have had an Irish Setter it is unlikely that any other breed will take its place. They are a perfect family dog, willing to share every aspect of your lifestyle, super with children and the elderly.  They seem to know instinctively when to be gentle and quiet and when to have their ‘mad moment’.

Most training classes take puppies at 6 months of age and you can have a lot of fun ‘working’ with your puppy and learning together.Remember the golden rules:

  • Be consistent
  • Be firm
  • Be patient
  • Respond immediately with praise when he gets it right
  • Always end on a happy note
  • Keep the training sessions short
  • Never hit your Setter.  It is not necessary, as a stern tone of voice will work.  They are a highly intelligent breed.



Gentle training should start as soon as your puppy comes home.  Talk to him and build a loving relationship so that he wants to please you.  Use titbits for rewards and consider bribery your best option.  Think Dog.   Would you get off the chair if someone shouted at you, or would you get off if someone offered you a piece of cheese two metres away, saying your name and ‘Come’?


It is a good idea to start off with a cardboard box for your puppy’s first bed, as he can chew this when he is teething and it does not really matter – cardboard boxes can be replaced as needed.  If you wish to restrict him to have one chair only, then his bedding can be put on this and he will soon learn that it is acceptable to use this place and not others.  You may have a few nights of broken sleep whilst he gets accustomed to sleeping on his own.  An old clock with a loud tick or leaving the radio on very quietly may comfort him, but please be patient.  

Once he has stopped teething you can consider a permanent bed for him and there are many different types available but, as Setters seem to be very good at chewing bedding, consider carefully.  Probably a heavy duty plastic one will last much longer than a soft one made from material.

Some setters don’t mind where they sleep!

Another idea is to buy a large indoor kennel (cage) and this is fine as it can be used as his bed, with the door left open during the day.  He can be closed in for very short times during the day if you have to go shopping.  Puppies and older dogs actually find cages safe and secure.

Providing your puppy or dog with an indoor cage, takes advantage of a dog’s natural need for a den-like ‘home’.  It is also effective in house-training because of a dog’s natural reluctance to soil its own sleeping place.  Indoor kennels can also help to reduce separation anxiety, prevent destructive behaviour such as chewing furnishings and potentially dangerous or valuable household items. 

Most dogs which have been introduced to the kennel cage whilst still puppies, grow up to prefer their cage to rest, in particular when they are tired and want their own space or territory.  A cage, or your dog’s bed,  should never be used for the purpose of punishment.

Try where possible to locate the cage near to you when you are home.  This will encourage your puppy or dog to go inside it without feeling lonely or isolated when you go out.  A room that you use regularly is best, such as a lounge or kitchen.

At first, leave the cage door open so that your dog can go in and out of the cage at will.  Place a piece of cardboard or towel between the cage bottom and the slide out tray to prevent it from rattling.  Never make a toilet area in your dog’s cage, you are using it to house-train him.  Think of your cage as an enclosed bed.

The perfect bedding is veterinary fleece bedding.  This type of bedding is specifically designed to be hypoallergenic and machine washable at hot temperatures and dries very quickly.  Often recommended by breeders and vets, it is very safe and helps to keep your dog warm and dry.

Place your puppy’s favourite toys and dog treats at one end, opposite the opening door.  These toys may include, a Kong, Nylabone, ball, or a cotton bone.  Toys should always be inedible and large enough to prevent them from being swallowed.

A small hook-on water dispenser should be attached to the cage if your puppy is to be confined for more than one hour in the cage.

So that your puppy associates his/her kennel cage with comfort, security and enjoyment, occasionally drop small pieces of dry food or dog biscuits in the cage.  Whilst investigating his new cage, your puppy will discover edible treats, so reinforcing his positive associations with the cage.  Also feeding him in the cage has the same effect.  If the dog hesitates, it often works to feed him in front of the cage, then just inside the door and finally right in the cage.

At first, praise your dog when he enters.  Do not force the puppy into the cage.  Induce your puppy into his cage with a small toy or treat.  Overnight, remember to leave the cage door open so that your puppy can get out to go to the toilet on any newspaper you have left him.

The cage could be located in your bedroom at night, or if not possible, then in the kitchen.  It is advisable to first of all cage your puppy for short periods of time while you are home with him.  In fact, cage training is best accomplished while you are in the room with your puppy.  This prevents an association being made with the cage and being left on his own.

A Few Key Points to Remember

  • Always be sure to allow your dog the opportunity to ‘relieve’ himself outside before leaving him.
  • When your puppy is quite young, be prepared to get up early in the morning to take him outside.  Always stay with your puppy and praise him when you get the required result.
  • Always use the same language, such as ‘Be clever’, then he will always associate the words ‘Be clever’ with going to the toilet and will often perform on command.
  • Very young puppies may have an occasional accident.  Do not make a fuss, just be prepared to clean it up.  They quickly learn to go outside if you are consistent.
  • If you decide to use a cage then never use it as punishment.  You need your puppy to be happy to go into his cage at any time.
  •  A dog cage can be used at any time in a dog’s life.  Many pet behaviourists recommend a cage even for older dogs.
  •  A cage is an aid for training a dog.   Never leave a distressed or poorly dog in a cage.
  •  Do not leave your dog in direct sunlight, or in a conservatory, or anywhere he may overheat.

He should have his own toys to chew and it is a good idea to give him his own ‘shoe’.  This can be used as a substitute if he picks up one of yours.  Use the instruction ‘LEAVE’ removing the shoe from his mouth and replacing it with his own toy.  Praise him when this has been done.  It is a good idea to practise taking away his toys with the above instructions and then giving them back, in order for him to understand that he must give up anything when he is instructed to do so.  This will avoid the problem in later life when he may have something quite valuable and does not want to relinquish it.

You must be extra careful with any remote controls, electric cables and telephone lines whilst your puppy is going through his teething stage.  Make sure none are available for him to get at during times when he is left alone or even while your back is turned. Not only are they potentially dangerous to your puppy but the damage done can be very expensive to repair.

Blue Green AlgaeThere are apparently many different types of blue-green algae which are found in water and which play an important part in its bio-diversity. Usually they are there in small quantities which are harmless but in still, warm, sunny weather the algae multiply very quickly and become excessive. They can be seen as a blue-green scum or bloom on the surface of ponds and lakes and even at the edge of the sea in some places.
About 50% of the different types of algae are poisonous, and it is very difficult to tell them apart from those which are harmless, so it is safer to assume they are all poisonous. Don’t let your dog drink from, or swim in water with algae floating on it. Some authorities put up warning signs if they know it is there.
If your dog does come into contact with the algae and becomes sick then see your vet as an emergency as it can be very serious and dogs have been known to die, although this is rare.
Symptoms of poisoning can be seen within minutes or maybe take a few hours to show.
They include:
• Lethargy
• Panting
• Excessive salivating
• Vomiting –possibly with blood
• Diarrhoea
• Muscle weakness
• Difficulty in breathing
• Seizures
• Black, tarry stools
If your dog gets the algae on his coat then wash or hose him down and don’t allow him to lick himself clean as he will be ingesting more. Also don’t let other dogs in the house clean him either.
These algae have been found as far north as The Shetland Isles in the UK, and also in other parts of the world as well and can vary in colour to red or black.
For more information go to the PDSA website:-

blue-green algae – PDSA

Breed_ClubsThere are 8 Breed Clubs in UK associated with The Kennel Club:

Belfast and District Irish Setter Club 

Irish Setter Association, England

Irish Setter Breeders’ Club – Irish Setter Breeders Club Home All Irish Setter Lovers

Irish Setter Club of Scotland

Irish Setter Club of Wales   Irish Setter Club of Wales | Facebook

Midlands Irish Setter Society

North East of England Irish Setter Club North East Of England Irish Setter Club |

South of England Irish Setter Club SEISC | South of England Irish Setter Club

Reproduced by kind permission of the Kennel Club

Last updated March 1994

Breed Standard

Photo Source Irish Setter | Breeds A to Z | The Kennel Club

A breed standard is the guideline which describes the ideal characteristics, temperament and appearance including the correct colour of a breed and ensures that the breed is fit for function. Absolute soundness is essential. Breeders and judges should at all times be careful to avoid obvious conditions or exaggerations which would be detrimental in any way to the health, welfare or soundness of this breed.

From time to time certain conditions or exaggerations may be considered to have the potential to affect dogs in some breeds adversely, and judges and breeders are requested to refer to the Breed Watch information related to this breed for details of any such current issues. If a feature or quality is desirable it should only be present in the right measure. However if a dog possesses a feature, characteristic or colour described as undesirable or highly undesirable, it is strongly recommended that it should not be rewarded in the show ring.

General appearance

Must be racy, balanced and full of quality. In conformation, proportionate.


Most handsome, and refined in looks, tremendously active with untiring readiness to range and hunt under any conditions.


Demonstrably affectionate.

Head and skull

Head long and lean, not narrow or snipy, not coarse at the ears. Skull oval (from ear to ear) having plenty of brain room and well-defined occipital protuberance. From occiput to stop and from stop to tip of nose to be parallel and of equal length, brows raised showing stop. Muzzle moderately deep, fairly square at end. Jaws of nearly equal length, flews not pendulous, nostrils wide. Colour of nose dark mahogany, dark walnut or black.

KC Head Shot

Photo Source: Irish Setter | Breeds A to Z | The Kennel Club


Dark hazel to dark brown, not too large, preferably like an unshelled almond in shape, set level (not obliquely), under brows showing kind, intelligent expression.


Of moderate size, fine in texture, set on low, well back and hanging in a neat fold close to head.


Jaws strong, with a perfect, regular and complete scissor bite, i.e. upper teeth closely overlapping lower teeth and set square to the jaws.


Moderately long, very muscular but not too thick, slightly arched and free from all tendency to throatiness, setting cleanly without a break of topline into shoulders.


Shoulders fine at points, deep and sloping well back. Forelegs straight and sinewy having plenty of bone, with elbows free, well let down and not inclined either in or out.


Chest as deep as possible, rather narrow in front. Ribs well sprung leaving plenty of lung room and carried well back to muscular loin, slightly arched. Firm straight topline gently sloping downwards from withers.


Wide and powerful. Hindlegs from hip to hock long and muscular, from hock to heel short and strong. Stifle and hock joints well bent and not inclined either in or out.


Small, very firm; toes strong, close together and arched.


Of moderate length proportionate to size of body, set on just below the level of the back, strong at root tapering to a fine point and carried as nearly as possible on a level with or below the back.


Free flowing, driving movement with true action when viewed from front or rear, and in profile, showing perfect co-ordination.


On head, front of legs and tips of ears, short and fine; on all other parts of body and legs of moderate length, flat and as free as possible from curl or wave. Feathers on upper portion of ears long and silky; on back of forelegs and hindlegs long and fine. Fair amount of hair on belly, forming a nice fringe which may extend on to chest and throat. Feet well feathered between toes. Tail to have fringe of moderately long hair decreasing in length as it approaches point. All feathering to be as straight and flat as possible.


Rich chestnut with no trace of black. White on chest, throat, chin or toes, or small star on forehead or narrow streak or blaze on nose or face not to disqualify.


Any departure from the foregoing points should be considered a fault and the seriousness with which the fault should be regarded should be in exact proportion to its degree and its effect upon the health and welfare of the dog and on the dog’s ability to perform its traditional work.


Male animals should have two apparently normal testicles fully descended into the scrotum.

*Note for prospective puppy buyers

Size – The Kennel Club breed standard is a guide and description of the ideal for the breed; the size as described does not imply that a dog will match the measurements given (height or weight). A dog might be larger or smaller than the size measurements stated in the breed standard.

Text source & Copyright: Irish Setter | Breed Standards | The Kennel Club

These days it is not necessary to buy prescription only veterinary medicines (POMs) only through your vet as there are several reputable online retailers. The Veterinary Medicines Directorate has been promoting their Accredited Internet Retailer Scheme to those who buy or are considering buying medicines online.  The Directorate recommends that you look for the scheme logo on websites in order to give you reassurance that you are buying safe and effective medicines.

The VMD has produce a leaflet about the scheme which can be seen on its website: and search for internet retailers

You may also find a particular site through personal recommendation.  Just remember to check if there are postage and packaging charges to add.

Canine communication involves a lot of subtle gestures and signals, when we observe and interact with our dogs, we could save many stressful situations by understanding the following signals that dogs exhibit.

Human Turning Head

This can be done when being approached, or when the dog is worried, it helps to avoid eye contact and can very often relieve tension in a situation.

Avoiding Eye Contact

Again this is used by dogs to show submission, to avoid a confrontation or diffuse a hostile situation.

Turning Away

Turning to the side, or back can be calming.  Dogs at play usually begin by turning their side or back to the dogs, this denotes that they are friendly and wish to play.

Licking Lips or Nose

This is often a sign that the dog is frightened, worried or stressed, when you are correcting your dog, you will very often see the dog lick its nose or lips.


Dogs often show this signal when they are being sniffed at by other dogs, especially dogs that are larger than themselves.  Movement could signal aggression so the complete stillness and avoidance of eye contact will very often diffuse, or prevent aggression.

Using Slow Movements

Dogs may use this when they see another dog, or if you call them back angrily, they move slower than normal on purpose to avoid the confrontation, or slow things down a little.  This action usually demonstrates that the dog is under stress.

Play Bow

This is an invitation to play romp and have a good time.  Dogs can use this when they meet; it is their way of saying, ‘I am harmless, let’s play’.  This type of signal is also very often a precursor to sexual behaviour.

Sitting Down

This can be a signal of a dog being uncertain of you, another dog, or the situation the dog finds itself in.  Issuing the dog the command, to sit, is an excellent way of diffusing a stressful situation when a dog is under stress.

Lying Down, Stomach Showing

This is a signal of submission.

Lying Down on Stomach

This is a calming act and very often is used by strong dominant dogs to calm situations and let the other dog know they have no reason to show fear.


Dogs often yawn when under stress; it can act as a calming signal.  We should yawn at our dogs when the situation is tense as it often helps them to relax.


Dogs may use this signal when being approached by another dog, their owner, or the situation.  They will suddenly start to sniff the ground and again it acts as a diffusion device with the avoidance of eye contact.

Tail Wagging

This is not always a sign of pleasure or happiness.  It could be a sign of a white flag, or dominance.  Tail carriage is very important when understanding the dog’s intentions.

In Conclusion

It is helpful to understand a dog by observing its body language before and during handling and training, as this is the best indicator of its temperament, personality and drive.  Handling and training should begin from 8 weeks old, or when you first get the dog if a rescue, or adult animal that has been re-homed.  What follows are tips for improving dog behaviour and handling.

  • Set ground rules that must not be broken, no matter what the circumstances, i. e. never being allowed on the furniture etc
  • Remember the golden rules of stopping dominance, i. e. regular handling, stopping pulling on the lead, do not allow dogs onto the furniture, regular grooming
  • Insist on being able to handle, inspect and groom the dog as early as possible, even if the dog objects, never let the dog win or pull away from this type of handling
  • If nervous behaviour is exhibited, i. e. around traffic, judges etc do not reward the behaviour by comforting the dog as this will compound the fear and make it worse
  • If when the dog objects to handling, or is defiant, always make sure the dog follows your commands, or accepts the handling –never let them win, as this is seen as being submissive
  • Always handle in a positive manner
  • Never hit a dog
  • Always use motivational training methods, rewarding good behaviour
  • Understand and respond appropriately to a dog’s body language
  • Good socialization is the key to ensuring you have a well balanced dog who is able to cope with training and handling


It is important that your dog is kept secure and safe in your car so that he cannot distract you whilst driving.  Also, should you be unfortunate enough to have an accident you don’t want him being shot forward and hitting a passenger or driver.  You can use a dog guard, cage or even a harness and make sure there is sufficient bedding for him to be comfortable.  It is also important that he stays quiet and doesn’t move around continuously whilst travelling so it is important that he learns this from the beginning.

It is sensible to get your puppy used to car travel.  Most travel very well but others may be car sick so, if necessary, start with just letting you puppy in the car with a chew or toy without going anywhere.  Next introduce him to short car journeys with a special walk at the end and gradually build up the length of the journey.  If he is a pup that continues to be a poor traveller there are dog travel sickness pills you can buy .

When going on a long journey make sure you allow time to make sufficient stops to exercise your dog.  If travelling along motorways most service areas have some grass areas where you can walk. Make sure you take fresh water, a bowl and food if necessary. Don’t forget your poo bags.  In England microchipping is now a legal requirement but, as an extra precaution, make sure he is wearing his collar with ID tags in case he escapes. 

Try the following link which gives details of suitable places to walk your dogs when on a long journey. They are all supposed to be within about 10 minutes of a motorway or major road.

Follow the link below to The Kennel Club guidelines for road travel with your dog:

As your pet gets older it is important to realise that although problems may start to happen they can be treated. However it helps if you check your dog regularly from an early age and vets generally carry out an annual MOT when giving vaccinations.  It is also important that correct feeding and regular exercise, along with worming and other parasite control programmes are maintained throughout his life.

It is always helpful to take stock at regular intervals as it is all too easy for problems to creep up without being noticed and noticing subtle changes may help you to catch a problem and treat it before serious damage has been done. 

Whilst it is unrealistic for your older pet to run, chase or play as actively as a young dog he will eventually slow down. Old age doesn’t mean that he needs to become a couch potato but his exercise will need to be more gentle and sedate.  He may sleep for longer and his sleep may appear deeper but he should remain bright and alert.

Signs to look out for:

  • Excessive drinking can be symptomatic of several problems some of which may only need monitoring. However, if caused by kidney disease or diabetes, which are complex, treatment by your vet will be needed.
  • Coughing and or breathlessness may indicate heart problems that are better treated early.
  • Excess weight creeps up and canine obesity is a major concern for vets. Although it may seem that extra exercise may the answer to losing unwanted weight be careful not to suddenly over exercise as that could cause further problems. Regular gentle exercise is needed so that circulation and digestion are improved along with helping muscles not to seize up.
  • Unexplained weight loss needs to be checked out so regular weighing will help maintain the correct weight and indicate if advice or treatment is needed.
  • Older dogs can feel the cold more so it is important their bed is away from draughts and it might be worth thinking about buying a coat for walks on a really cold day. 
  • Sometime changing the diet, slowly, may help and there is now a choice of food that is formulated especially for the “senior” dog. As always, feed your dog the best you can afford.
  • Stiffness of joints or limping may indicate rheumatism or arthritis that can be treated.
  • Claws that have been left untrimmed can curl back on themselves. Dew claws are easily overlooked and can cause discomfort and pain if left untrimmed.
  • Callouses on elbows may need treatment. It might simply be making sure that the old dog lies on soft, bedding and not on hard floors but if they become infected they will need veterinary treatment.  Supportive bedding may also help old joints.
  • Lumps and bumps, wherever they are on the body, can be indicative of a variety of problems and they should be checked out.
  • Discomfort when eating may indicate gum or tooth problems. Regular checking is required to make sure that the gums are looking healthy and are not red and sore and that there is no build up of tartar on the teeth.  If infection is allowed to go untreated then gum disease can follow and will be painful. Teeth can be descaled if required and halitosis, bad breath, may indicate there is a problem in the mouth. Sometimes it is necessary for a dog to have some teeth removed and whilst this should not be undertaken lightly, if there is severe infection that cannot be cured with medication then your dog will feel so much better.
  • Eyes clouding over or becoming “milky” to look at.  Nuclear sclerosis is a normal aging change of the lens which will continue to appear cloudier over time.  It is easily mistaken as a cataract which is a different problem that also causes the lens to become cloudy and which can affect older dogs of every breed. While a cataract is an abnormality that can cause blindness and inflammation inside the eye, nuclear sclerosis is normal for an older dog, and the condition has minimal effect on vision. If this happens, the changes are generally slow and the dog usually adapts but he may become more hesitant in moving around, especially in new places.  He will not be able to see well up close and going down stairs or catching a small treat may be more difficult.
  • Any change in behaviour that can’t be explained may be suggestive of an underlying problem.

Although we obviously can’t stop our pets from getting old a balanced diet, regular exercise and observation, with a follow up if needed, are the key factors throughout their lives which will help us keep them healthy into old age.  


Caterpillar of the oak processionary moth. 

Extract from an article on The Forestry Commission website which is no longer available:

People in parts of London and Surrey are being reminded not to approach caterpillars of the oak processionary moths which  emerge from oak trees in these areas. They are also being advised to keep children and animals away from the caterpillars and their nests, because the caterpillars’ hairs can cause itching skin rashes and other health problems. The public is urged to report any sightings.

These caterpillars can cause serious health problems in dogs and  further information can be found at:

Christmas is a time of fun and happiness and no one wants an emergency visit to the vet  

so here are a few tips:

Make sure all decorations are well out of reach. Puppies, in particular, are very curious and may want to play with or chew them.



Make sure the Christmas tree is well anchored and don’t be tempted to leave presents at the foot of the tree unattended.  If you have a young puppy you could choose to have a smaller tree on a table out of reach.

New toys are just as fascinating for dogs as well as children but dogs may chew them, so make sure they are put safely away. 

Remove wrapping and wires as well as toys and batteries. Pets may decide to chew them and could choke. Batteries can cause internal burns if chewed and eaten.

Make sure all the chocolates can’t be reached, even those still in their boxes or wrappers.  Even a small amount can be dangerous to dogs. We’ve known dogs who have opened the box, without damaging it, and munched their way through the contents.

Make sure houseplants are out of your pet’s reach, as many of them are poisonous. These include poinsettias and mistletoe.

If your pet is not used to many people around then make sure he has a quiet spot where he can be safe and feel secure.

If your visitors’ children are not used to dogs make sure they are supervised.

Visitors may not be used to closing doors behind them so be extra vigilant. If you have children or grandchildren you could ask them to make special notices to put on the doors you need to be kept closed.

Don’t leave the leftover turkey on the side while you are enjoying lunch.  Dogs develop long necks, so put it somewhere safe where your dog can’t reach it. He can easily choke on cooked turkey bones apart from being sick if he eats too much rich food.

Please don’t be tempted to give too many table scraps. Turkey and all the trimmings can lead to an upset stomach and maybe even an unexpected visit to the vet.  Raw carrots make a fun treat.

Don’t forget to exercise your pet and remember those toilet breaks.

This condition is known by several names including Frozen Tail or Dead Tail.

Cold TailThe first indication is that your setter will stop wagging his tail and then you will notice that the last two thirds of his tail will be hanging down at right angles to the first third when he does try to wag his tail or even when standing still. This looks incredibly strange when you are used to a tail that is normally held level with the back. 

The cause is not really known but is associated with, swimming in cold water for any length of time or the tail getting cold after a bath and not being dried properly.  A contrast in temperature of the water with your dog may be sufficient to cause a mild case. It can be left and will recover in a matter of hours or over a couple of days although it will probably be uncomfortable and your setter may not want his tail touched.   If  it lasts for longer or he seems particularly uncomfortable he may need anti- inflammatories.  However, if you know there has been some sort of trauma or you are concerned you may want to visit to the vet.

DEFRA Code of Practice for the Welfare of Dogs

This document gives advice on owning a dog.


Animal Welfare Act 2006

Introduction to the Code

The Code of Practice

Section 1:  The Need for a Suitable Environment

                 Making sure your dog has a suitable place to live

Section 2:  The Need for a Suitable Diet

                 Making sure your dog has a healthy diet

Section 3:  The Need to be able to Exhibit Normal Behaviour Patterns

                 Making  sure your dog behaves normally

Section 4:   The Need it has to be Housed With, or Apart From, other animals

                  Making sure your dog has the company it needs

Section 5:  The Need to be Protected from Pain, Suffering, Injury and Disease

                  Making sure your dog stays healthy

Annex 1:  Sources of further information

Crown Copyright 2009

These are the classic plastic “lampshade” collars used to stop dogs (and cats) scratching, pulling at bandages or stitches, licking wounds or chewing themselves.  When using an E collar try tying it, using a bandage, to your dog’s usual collar as this will stop him from removing it.  Stand in as big an area as possible when you first put it on him so he can get used to moving around without bumping into things.  A few titbits might help to take his mind off it.

Some dogs adapt quite happily to wearing it, but others may need some encouragement and help.  They don’t all manage to gauge the width of doorways, or be able to move around furniture, so be prepared to help when he gets stuck and also be prepared for bruised legs when he comes to you and doesn’t know when to stop.   The chances are that when he bumps into things he will refuse to move at first and will need your help.

It is important to keep it scrupulously clean as it can become very smelly and unpleasant very quickly, especially in warm weather or if he drools.  It is a good breeding ground for bacteria and if he already has an open wound or is recovering from an operation you don’t want to burden his system any more with an infection.  Remember not to use a disinfectant that smells a lot as this can be quite unpleasant.

 If you are able to be with him then take it off to give him a break, but watch him closely as it will only take two seconds for him to start licking or chewing again.

 A soft pillow can make it more comfortable for him when resting and you may need to decide whether or not to use his crate, if he has one, as he might not be able to move around properly. 

Your vet will be able to provide you with an E collar which will be the right size for your dog.  The large pet supermarkets sell them in a variety of different sizes as well but they call them Buster collars.

We now have photos of an Irish with a Buster tyre collar which may be more comfortable.

Sometimes, as well as being protected from licking, a wound needs to be kept clean and an Elizabethan collar may not do that. In these cases an old tee shirt, bought very cheaply from your local charity shop, may be ideal for the job.

excersise1Do not assume that because the Irish Setter is a large dog, he requires hours of exercise every day from the moment he is able to go out.  It is not a good idea to give your puppy free running, except in the garden, until he is about four months old and then only for about 15 minutes a day until he is about 6 months old.  The Irish Setter grows very quickly, and hips, joint muscles and ligaments can be permanently damaged by too much exercise too young.  You can gradually increase exercise until he is 12 months old.  He can be road walked from the age of 6 months, but again only for a short period, gradually increasing the time as he gets older.  The minimum requirement for exercise for an adult is between 30-45 minutes, preferably free running once a day. 





A walk round the block is not enough and if he doesn’t get sufficient, regular exercise he will become bored, hyperactive and possibly destructive, although occasionally will manage with about 20-minutes a day quite happily.  Exercise can be built around your family commitments to some extent, but Irish are creatures of habit.



Again, it is not a good idea to allow your Irish Setter to climb stairs or jump on and off furniture, or at least not in excess, until he is 12 months old. Until this age his bones are soft and can be damaged easily by such activity. It may lead to damaged hips and shoulders, which in turn could lead to health problems later on.  Once his bones have hardened off at approximately 12 months old, these activities will not stress his bones. 

excersise3Your puppy will be happy running around and getting used to meeting people and dogs on his walk.  Try to go to the same place at the same time every day and have regular reward points (biscuit stops) on the way round so he comes back to you and gets a biscuit.

However, the day will come, probably when he is about 7 months old, when he decides not to come back!  Don’t lose your temper or chase after him.  Try shouting his name and when you have his attention start running in the opposite direction.  Yes, the opposite direction! If you chase him, it is very unlikely you will catch him and he will think it is a game.  He may then run after you, or he may not!  Be patient and wait, keep shouting his name and do not wander too far, as he will know where he left you!!

When you are exercising your Setter use a collar and lead, but make sure it is very secure and that he cannot slip his head out of it (i.e., over the ears).  However, if your Setter pulls on the lead and most do, no matter how much you train them, try either a ‘Halti’ or a ‘Gentle Leader’ head collar.  Do not use a choke chain as they are not necessary and also damage the fur around his neck. Always carry plastic bags so that you can clean up when necessary. Remember, never exercise immediately after meals and never feed immediately after exercise.

When you bring your puppy home, the breeder should have given you a diet sheet to follow. If they don’t offer one then ask for a copy. This will detail the type of food your puppy has been eating and how his diet will change as he grows. They will suggest that if you wish to change this diet, it is advisable to do so over a period of a week, adding the new food to his usual food whilst decreasing his original food until you have completely changed his diet. This is how his diet should be changed at any time during the rest of his life.

There is no one diet that is best for your Irish Setter. It will be trial and error to find one that suits him and your lifestyle. Always feed the best quality food you can afford as the better quality food has less byproducts. Reading the label can make quite interesting reading. If the label says “meat and animal derivatives” this is a generic term for any animal protein and can come from any animal and almost any animal part, including the less desirable bits. Choose a food that is labelled ” chicken” or “beef” and is specific. There is a growing choice of organic food and food without additives or colouring. Today there are many manufacturers that supply diets specifically for puppies, juniors, adults and even seniors as a dogs nutritional requirements change throughout its life.
There are a number of foods on the market and the choice will be your own. They are:
1 A Complete Dry Food.
2 A Concentrated Complete Dry Food.
3 Canned Food and a biscuit mixer. Many canned foods are now complete, but can be fed with a biscuit mixer.
4 Tripe or Fresh Mince with biscuit mixer.
It is not a good idea to feed flake type complete foods, as these can swell and ferment in the stomach. If the complete food you choose swells up when soaked, then feed it soaked. However, nowadays, most concentrated complete foods do not swell when soaked and can be fed dry.
Each manufacturer gives instructions as to how much to feed. This should only be used as a guide, because dogs, like humans, are individuals and you must decide whether your dog needs more or less than the manufacturer states. The basic rule is that your puppy or dog should never look thin and all his bones should be nicely covered with flesh. If you are unsure that you are giving your dog the right amount of food consult your vet or veterinary nurse.
It is important to remember that is it is possible to give your dog too much food and many vets today are finding they need to run obesity clinics to help dogs lose weight. Your dog should always have a waist and you should just be able to see his ribs.
Complete foods are, as they say, complete and will contain all the vitamins and minerals needed for both puppies and adults. However, if your puppy becomes faddy and he may do so on leaving his siblings, as the competition will have gone, then it may be best to feed him a concentrated complete food, as they do not need to eat large amounts to get the necessary nutrition. If you feed canned meat, tripe or mince, then you should consider giving calcium tablets daily to puppies (Canovel is excellent and states the dosage on the drum) together with a vitamin/mineral supplement such as SA37.
Stick to one food with your dog, as contrary to popular belief, dogs do not get tired of a food. The need for variety is a human trait, so do not spoil him, as frequently changing his food will possibly make him a finicky eater.
Fresh water should always be available; however it should be restricted for about an hour before and after food and exercise. It is essential that you never feed your dog immediately before or after exercise. Allow him to cool down for about an hour before feeding. Read the page on Bloat to find out why this is so important.
Around 5-6 months your puppy will probably be on 2-3 meals a day. Feeding his daily food ration twice a day instead of once is a good regime to follow through his lifetime. Mealtimes are generally the highlight of his day, so why not make his day twice!
Some people say not to give bones to your puppy as they can splinter and sharp, dangerous pieces can be swallowed, often resulting in emergency surgery. If you do decide to give them then make sure you only give large beef bones. Never give lamb or pork bones and never give cooked bones of any sort.
Be guided by your breeder as to whether to offer milk to your puppy, goats milk being more easily digested than cows, easily bought from large supermarkets and it freezes well. Only give it to older dogs as a treat or watered down, as it is not good for their digestive system, however much they like it!
The Pet Food Manufacturers Association has a website with lots of useful information:
In the past research has suggested that it is a good idea to raise the food bowl to help prevent your Irish Setter from bloating but the latest research suggests this is not the case. See our separate page on bloat for more information.


Many setters don’t worry at all about fireworks

 but if you are concerned the following may be useful to you:

If you have a puppy or young dog that has not faced fireworks before think about getting a CD which gives a series of noises, from vacuum cleaners and noisy cars to fireworks.  By playing the CD regularly your dog gets accustomed to the noises.  To distract him from the noises you can get him interested in other things such as games, training or chews so he is not concentrating on the sounds. It is an opportunity to introduce your puppy to unexpected and potentially upsetting noises in a controlled manner. 

If he is particularly sensitive you can buy a DAP (Dog Appeasing Pheremone) diffuser which plugs into an electric socket and which mimics the pheromones released by lactating bitches which are calming and reassuring.  It is recommended to start using the diffuser about a month before fireworks begin as it can take that long for it to be effective and should be plugged in 24 hours a day.

Many people use herbal products to help reduce anxiety and calm pets and you could consider Scullcap and Valerian, but not if your bitch is pregnant or lactating.

Some people are recommending thunder shirts which produce a calming effect.

It is not unusual for a dog that is anxious to try and burrow into a dark corner or in the bottom of a cupboard.  It is useful to make a den beforehand and get him used to it so that he can go into it and feel safe.  If he already has a crate or cage you can cover it with blankets to keep out the light and muffle the noise.  If he doesn’t have a cage then find somewhere else in the house, maybe a cupboard, under a bed or make a den out of cardboard boxes. He may even choose the place himself. Give him lots of extra bedding to burrow into and make sure he is away from windows or the door and put it somewhere in the house where the level of the noise is as low as possible.  Don’t shut him in, as he needs to feel secure but not trapped and it might help if he has toys and new exciting chews to distract him. Also giving him an unwashed piece of clothing, like a jumper, may reasssure him as it has your scent on it.

It’s useful to know if there are going to be any local displays or even if your neighbours are going to be having a firework party so you can be well prepared.

On firework night the following are useful tips:

  • Make sure he is not left alone and afraid.
  • Follow your usual routine as much as possible.
  • Make sure he is well exercised before it gets dark so he is tired and also has been to the toilet.
  • Pull all the curtains and put the television and/or radio on before the fireworks start.
  • Close all windows, doors and cat flaps so he can’t get out and the noise is minimal.
  • Make certain he can’t get out of the house in case he panics and runs away.
  • Make sure he is wearing his collar with an identification tag.
  • If he does get anxious don’t pay excessive attention to him but reassure him. If you make too much of a fuss of him you are reinforcing his behaviour. 
  • Remain happy and calm as this will send positive signals to him.
  • Don’t scold him if gets anxious as that will only make matters worse.
  • If he normally sits with you then let him and pat him as usual but don’t make a fuss.
  • Never take him to a firework party or take him in your car and leave him unattended.
  • Don’t leave him alone while fireworks are going off as he will be calmer with someone familiar around.
  • Don’t punish him as this will make him more distressed.
  • Give him a distraction like a new toy or chew.
  • If you are expecting visitors make sure he can’t get to the door and squeeze past.
  • Make sure the water bowl is filled as an anxious dog will pant more and get thirsty.

You will know if he is anxious if you see any of the following;

  • Trembling/shaking
  • Becoming restless: pacing and panting
  • Becoming destructive
  • Hiding
  • Whining
  • Digging
  • Looking worried
  • Listening for the next noise
  • Clinging to you
  • Barking, whining or howling
  • Trying to run away
  • Soiling
  • Dribbling
  • Self trauma
  • Excessive yawning and panting

These days firework parties often happen over several days or even a couple of weeks so be prepared before 5th November and if you are really worried about your pet then ask your vet for advice. Ask your neighbours to let you know if they are having fireworks so you can be prepared.

After the fireworks have finished don’t forget to check there is no debris in the garden and that the ashes of your bonfire are not hot enough to burn his nose or feet. 

The pup below had to be taken to the vet when it broke its leg but there are ways you can prepare for emergencies and first aid can often save life.

1. Keep the name, address and telephone number of your vet next to the phone.

2. Keep a pen and paper by the phone to take down instructions if necessary.  Maybe your vet uses a locum and you need that telephone number and directions to the surgery.

3. Make sure all the numbers are stored in your mobile phone.

4. Phone your vet before making an emergency visit.  Maybe they can give help or advice over the phone.  It may also help them to prepare for an emergency if they know you are coming and you will be certain there will be someone there when you arrive.

5. Keep a Pet First Aid Kit at home and take a basic one when you are travelling.

The normal temperature of a dog is about 38.6 degrees C (101.4 degrees F).  Ask your vet or veterinary nurse to show you how to take your dog’s temperature.

The normal heartbeat of a dog at rest is between 90 and 100 beats per minute and it may be possible, with practice, to feel the pulse on the inside of a hind leg.

First Aid Kit
A suggested first aid kit:

  • Disposable latex gloves
  • Bandages – co-hesive, open weave and crepe
  • First aid tape – both Micropore (easily comes off the skin) and adhesive types
  • Sterile dressings
  • Cotton wool
  • Swabs
  • Clean pieces of sheeting
  • Tweezers
  • 5″ flat scissors with round ends
  • Syringes (without needles) that can be used to give liquid medicines or water
  • A rug or blanket that can be used as a stretcher
  • Rectal thermometer
  • Styptic powder or sticks, Kwik Stop, or cornstarch  to help to stop bleeding if you catch the quick when cutting your dog’s nails.
  • Salt to make a saline solution.  This is a perfect solution for cleaning most wounds.  Make up the solution by dissolving 1 teaspoon of kitchen salt in 1 pint of warm water. When using make sure it is at room temperature to clean cuts, abrasions, rashes etc.
  • Thornit canker powder-follow the instructions on the pamphlet.
  • A dusting powder to dry out slow healing wounds.  Weleda make a homeopathic one based on arnica and calendula.
  • Hypercal (hypericum and Calendula) This is a homeopathic cream found in any good chemist and excellent for shallow cuts and abrasions where the skin is broken.
  • Arnica tablets.  A homeopathic remedy ideal for bruises.
  • Pill Crusher to help any tablets go down. They can be crushed and then mixed with a favourite cheese or liver pate.
  • Tick Remover:  It is possible to buy a special gadget to remove ticks.  It is important that the head is removed otherwise an infection may flare up. 
  • Veterinary Grade Manuka Honey can be bought easily on the internet and is invaluable as an antibiotic and antiseptic. The main worries are how to stop everywhere getting sticky or for it to be licked off, so a little ingenuity might be needed on your part before you use it.

Anal Glands:  Some dogs need to have their anal glands emptied regularly as they become full and will become impacted and possibly inflamed.  Usually the dog “scoots” on its backside or continually tries to bite itself.  Your vet will empty the glands or ask him to show you how to do it.  Beware though, the anal secretion is very smelly.

Cocker Mouth:  On the outside of the lower jaw the skin is creased which allows bacteria to flourish, so wiping with saline solution can keep the area clean and sweet smelling.  If it gets infected it may be known as Cocker Mouth as Cocker Spaniels seem to suffer from this a lot.

Coughing:  Although this could be caused by a number of reasons it may be a symptom of Kennel Cough which is highly infectious and needs veterinary treatment.  Youngsters and oldies seem to be most at risk but if left untreated it can be serious for all dogs. 

Cut Pads:  Dogs often seem to cut their pads and unfortunately they cannot be stitched and will take time to heal.  Keeping the wound clean is important so use saline solution and then Hypercal or dusting powder. Keeping the foot dry and clean is a major problem during exercise so bandage the foot and use an old sock for protection, though it is possible to buy specially made protective bootees. 

Eyes can be cleaned by dropping a couple of drops of saline into them.  If you tip the head back then the drops will stay in the eye and not run out.  Alternatively you can dip cotton wool in the solution to clear away “sleepy dust”.  However, in many cases veterinary advice should be sought.

Split Tails:  Setters sometimes get split tails by wagging them against hard surfaces such as walls.  If this happens the damage can be cleaned and bandaged although you may find the dressing comes off very quickly.  Practice makes perfect. 

Stings:  Usually these don’t cause any problems but occasionally a dog can be allergic to them and then veterinary attention is needed as it is when the sting is inside the mouth which may cause swelling.

The Setter in the picture is wearing an Elizabethan Collar which is used by vets to stop a dog scratching its head or trying to remove stitches.  Different dogs can react in different ways at first, but as you can see, they usually get used to them.

Sometimes you have to be inventive. The old lady below had an abscess on her shoulder which needed to be kept clean.

Please remember it is important that you contact your vet if you are concerned in any way about your pet’s health.

Regular grooming is essential for your Irish Setter and should be a pleasure for both of you. However it is important to train your pup as soon as he is settled in his new home so it is not a chore as he needs to get used to being groomed when young.   Start with short grooming sessions with gentle brushing so you are establishing a routine.  If necessary get someone to help hold him still as he may be very wriggley to start with but remember to be gentle and not rough with him.  Ask your helper to stand in front of the dog and hold him, gently,  by the collar on each side of his head and talk to him.  This not only stops him from moving around but also reassures him.

To keep your Setter tidy and to keep his feet and ears tidy it is a good idea to ask your breeder to show you what to do and ask them to show you a good bristle brush that is good for his coat.

Grooming your dog is an ideal opportunity to check him all over.  Make sure that his eyes are bright and not runny.  Make sure that you add a dental check to your routine. It is possible to get dental tooth wipes to help combat the build up of plaque.  You can also get dog toothbrushes and toothpaste which can be used regularly.  If your dog is not used to a toothbrush you could try a finger brush instead.  If, in your older setter, there is a bad build up of plaque then your vet may recommend descaling to prevent gingivitis, inflammation of the gums.  This means an anaesthetic so it is better and cheaper, to keep up regular dental cleaning yourself.  Check inside his ears to make sure there is no build up of wax or any unpleasant discharge, if there is, then get your dog checked out by your vet.  There are several reasons why this might happen but the ear is very sensitive and it is important that this is not left but dealt with quickly.

If you run your hands all over him you can feel if there are any lumps or bumps hidden under his coat.  You can also find out where the mats are in his coat.  If you start this immediately and always try to groom him in the same place he will soon learn what to expect.  This is also good practice for when he needs to go to the vet as he will be used to being handled in this way.

A young puppy has a short coat so grooming is easy.  Most dogs enjoy grooming and will learn to stand quietly, especially if there is a small treat when you have finished.

As he matures his coat will grow and become thicker and longer.  If you do not keep up a regular grooming routine his coat can quickly become tangled and matted which is not healthy but small knots can be gently teased apart quite easily.

It is important to pay particular attention to the area behind and under the ears as it is not unknown for this to become so matted that it can cause open sores if left.  Thinning scissors are best used here and your breeder can give you advice on these. 

The armpits are another area that need particular attention, and that means checking right up into the armpit as it is very easy to miss a tangle.  As he gets older it is useful if he learns to lie down as this will allow you to reach under his arm pits and the groin area.

The feathers in the groin area can get badly knotted if not groomed regularly, so much so that it must be painful when moving.  If there are small twigs, bits of heather etc caught in the feathers they easily become tangled and then matted and it may be necessary either to take a pair of scissors to cut out the mat or go to a canine beautician to have the job done for you.   You will also have to be careful not to nick the skin and cause further problems and this is one reason why it is important to train your pet to being handled, so he learns to stay still when needed.

Hair will grow between the toes and if left unchecked can become matted with mud and extremely painful so it is wise to trim that hair and check daily that there is nothing stuck between the toes.

It is possible to use scissors to remove hair balls, obviously being extremely careful not to cut the skin.  Mud can be removed by soaking the foot in warm water first, as can snow balls.  Grass seeds can be a major problem in late summer so it becomes vital that the feet are checked after each walk.  The inside of the ears need checking to make sure a grass seed hasn’t found its way in there either.  In winter, if your dog walks on areas which have been treated with salt it is sensible to wash the feet as the pads can become very dry and cracked.

Dogs have a particular problem when they start to cock their legs.  When they have lots of feathering, it can become smelly, unpleasant and brittle if left covered in urine.  To help to keep the feathering clean it should be rinsed with warm water after exercise.  This way it is easier to remove any twigs and sticky burrs as well.  Squeeze the excess water from the feathers and let them dry naturally as it is not a good idea to towel dry or use a hair dryer daily as it splits the hair.

Irish Setters moult; bitches more often than dogs because of the hormonal changes caused by their seasons, so be prepared for soft fluffy hairs around the place along with the dust and dirt.   Dogs really enjoy being groomed when moulting and it is better to get the dead coat in the brush and not all over the furniture.

Regularly check his nails, together with the nails on his dewclaws, if he has them, and trim if necessary.  You can learn to do this yourself if you feel confident and your breeder will advise you the best nail clippers to buy.  However, many veterinary nurses will do this for you if you prefer.

Regular grooming also means that you can keep a check on unwanted visitors, e.g. fleas or ticks.  There are many preparations available from your vet, ask his advice, but keep a flea spray ready to tackle any visitors brought home from the fields. You can buy tick removers which makes removing them very easy.

Your dog can be bathed if necessary and there will come a time in your life when it will become necessary.  They do seem to love to find the foulest smelling spots on the walk and roll in them so it is best to keep a dog shampoo in the house.  In an emergency a ‘human’ shampoo can be used, but these really are too harsh for a dog’s coat and baby shampoo is better.  Make sure you have got rid of any tangles first, otherwise they will just get worse when wet and can cause your dog great discomfort. 

Every year we seem to hear about dogs dying of heat stroke and the upsetting thing is that in most cases it needn’t have happened. The most usual case is the dog left in a car on a hot day. Even if the outside temperature is only pleasant, the temperature in the car can rise incredibly quickly and within a surprisingly short time it can be as high as 110-115 degrees Fahrenheit.
Dogs can’t lose heat through their skin by sweating, like humans, and they are permanently wearing a fur coat. If they get too hot they pant and lose heat through their tongues and the pads of their feet. The normal temperature of a dog is between 101 and 102 degrees Fahrenheit (38.3 and 38.9 Celsius) but even when it rises to 103 degrees Fahrenheit there can be problems and anything above that can be very serious indeed.
It is important to recognize the signs of heatstroke which include:
• Heavy panting
• Dark red gums
• Heavy saliva and as the situation gets worse the gums may dry
• Dehydration
• Disorientation
• Unwilling to get up or move
• Rapid heartbeat
• Vomiting
• Diarrhea
• Collapse
• Rectal temperature of 104 degrees or above (but don’t wait to find a thermometer if you see the above and the dog has been in a hot place)

To check for dehydration: Use your thumb and forefinger to gently pull up the skin on the back of your dog’s neck.  As soon as you let go it should fall back into place immediately.  If it is very slow in going back then the chances are he is dehydrated.  Get your vet or your veterinary nurse to show you how to do this.


  • Move him to a cooler position in the shade, if possible with a cool breeze or use a fan.
  • If he wants to drink let him have some water but not too much.
  • Cool him with cool water, possibly by hosing him down, immersing him in a bath or water butt. Don’t be tempted to use cold water as this can lead to further problems with the sudden change in temperature.
  • Use wet towels or cool sponges, especially around his neck, on the pads of his feet, on his tummy and between his back legs.
  • Remember not to leave the towels on too long as they will become warm and don’t cover him with wet towels.
  • Do not use very cold water as it can make matter worse.
  • If possible keep monitoring your dog’s temperature with a rectal thermometer and once it returns to normal stop cooling him down.
  • Don’t let him get cold as this can cause problems as well.
  • Take him to your vet for a checkup.

Preventing Heatstroke

  • Don’t leave dogs in cars even on warm days.
  • Make sure your dog has plenty of water and shade if left outside on hot or humid days.
  • Don’t exercise heavily in the heat of the day.  Exercise first thing in the morning or later in the evening.
  • If being left alone during a hot day make sure there is a flow of cool air or a really cool place that your dog can get to.
  • Leave windows open.
  • Make sure there is plenty of cold water available at all times.
  • If travelling by car make sure you have the air conditioning on or leave your dog at home.
  • If your Setter is obese or has a problem with his breathing for any reason then he is more likely to suffer from heatstroke.
  • Be aware that puppies and older dogs are more at risk.
  • Have fun in the garden with either a toddler’s paddling pool or the hosepipe.

Make iced treats for your dog:

  • Frozen chicken soup cubes
  • Blend some of his favourite foods together and freeze into cubes
  • Freeze dog treats in a disposable cup for something bigger and longer lasting (Don’t forget to take out of the cup before giving it to him)
  • Freeze some of his favourite fruit or vegetables
These days there are a number of specialist products available which can be a great help in preventing your  dog from getting too hot:
Cooling mats/pads
Cooling coats
Cooling collars
Pet safe freezable toys
Portable water bowls
Lightweight, reflective aluminet sheets to help keep the car cool when parked
Portable fans that can be used in the car
Window sunshades for the car to stop direct sunshine when travelling
For more information about keeping your dog cool in hot weather visit the Blue Cross which explains about heatstroke and water intoxication:-  Blue Cross

Begin house training your puppy right away.  Have a regular feeding schedule and make frequent trips outside, repeatedly saying ‘be clever’, or whatever words you wish to use.  When he obliges, praise him.  If your puppy walks round the floor in circles, sits or whines at the door, or voluntarily gives you the ‘look’ – sustained eye contact with a slightly anxious expression – it is time to take him outside.  When he has ‘done it’ praise him and bring him back inside.  Last thing at night; go outside with your puppy, so that he can ‘be clever’ for the last time of the day.  He may not like the dark, so do not just put him outside on his own.

The following are good times to take your puppy out:

  •  First thing in the morning
  • Right after he wakes up from a sleep 
  • On your return when he has been left alone
  • Straight after meals
  • Last thing at night
  • As soon as he gives you the ‘look’ or starts walking round in circles

Of course, accidents do happen and if so, you should never raise your voice or spank him and never rub his nose in it.  If you catch him in the act, rush him outside to finish and praise him.  ‘Bac To Nature’ makes an amazing product to be used on carpets, that will take all smells away and this is highly recommended.  Another idea is just to leave a pad of newspaper by the back door and your puppy will use this if necessary.

Some puppies will have accidents when they get excited and you can anticipate this by getting them to greet guests, for example, outside or where the flooring can be easily mopped.

Sometime puppies may start messing again when you think you have the problem solved. Maybe there has been a change or something that is causing stress which is upsetting him. Fireworks or moving house are obvious examples which may make your pup forget his training or maybe something has happened which has stressed or upset you: losing another pet or a major family event.  Sometimes they lapse for no apparent reason. Again patience and your vigilance are the keys to getting back to normal.

It is a legal requirement in for any dog in a public place to wear a tag or collar with your name and address on it. It is not necessary to have the name of your pet and some people believe it is not a good idea as it allows would be thieves to call him.

You do not have to add your telephone number by law but it is advisable, especially a mobile phone number, as you could be out looking for your pet when someone finds him and tries to contact you.  We know of people who have been looking for their dog on one side of a common only to be phoned by someone who had found the dog waiting by the car a couple of miles away.

As of April 2016 it is a legal requirement that dogs in England have to be microchipped. There are some people who do not like the thought of a microchip but our experience has been positive.  The advantage is obvious in that if your dog is lost it can be returned to you easily, providing you have kept the details up to date.


Source: Taking part in the Good Citizen Dog Scheme | The Kennel Club

There are now many insurance schemes available for pets and it is your decision what to do and where to go. Compare the policies very carefully as there are different levels of cover and you need to decide what you want and how much you are prepared to pay. Ask around and find out about the experience of other owners when they have had to make a claim.
Some people, rather than pay a policy, put a certain amount into a special bank account that is only used for vet fees. One thing though is certain; vets are not cheap and if your pet needs an operation or unexpected treatment, you might well be looking at a bill for several hundred pounds, if not into the thousands. If you have insurance at least you are not in the position of having to say “I can’t go ahead because I can’t afford it.”
If you decide not to take out insurance for vets fees then think about 3rd party insurance. This covers you if your dog causes any damage or injuries to anyone, their property or pets. You may be covered on your household insurance.
Check if your breeder gives you free 4 weeks insurance through their insurer and if they do it may be in your interest to continue with the cover.

The Animal Welfare Act requires anyone who is responsible for a pet, to do what is reasonable to meet their welfare needs.  As a dog owner, it is your legal responsibility to do this.

A Pet’s Welfare Includes

  • A proper diet
  • Access to clean, fresh water at all times
  • Somewhere suitable to live
  • Any need to be housed with, or apart from, other animals, as appropriate
  • Allowing animals to express normal behaviour
  • Protection from pain
  • Protection from suffering
  • Protection from injury
  • Protection from disease

The penalty for failing to care for a pet could be a fine or even a prison sentence.

The DEFRA site (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) gives information and guidance on animal welfare legislation.

It is now a legal requirement that all dogs in England are microchipped so check with your vet about getting your dog chipped if not done already. When you buy a puppy it is now the breeder’s responsibility to have it miro-chipped before you buy it.

In 2016 The Kennel Club  launched an information guide on managing your dog’weight. Apparently it is estimated that about 45% of dogs are overweight and it is hoped this new guide can help owners of dogs that need to lose weight. The guide discusses how to tell if your dog is overweight, examines the cause of obesity and provides hints and tips to owners. If you are concerned about your dog’weight please consult your vet.

As rule of thumb you should just be able to feel the ribs of your pet. He should also have waist but not be so thin that the pin bones are very obvious.


Compulsory Microchipping 

It is law in England, Scotland and Wales for all owners to ensure their dog is microchipped.

All puppies must be microchipped before they are 8 weeks old and

it is illegal to sell a puppy which is not microchipped and part of a registered database and the breeder must always be the first recorded keeper of the puppies.

All relevant documents, including microchip details, must be passed to the purchaser (keeper)and it is the keeper’s responsibility to keep their details updated on the database.

For full details of the legislation go to:

You must make sure that your dog is registered on one of the databases that meet government standards:

 However, there are microchipping companies that are not on the official list and, because they are not recognized, it means that any dog registered with them may not be found if it goes missing and also, the keeper of a dog that is not on a recognised database could be fined.

Many puppy owners are advised by their vet to spay their bitch puppy or neuter their dog puppy.  Unless there is a valid medical reason for doing so, such as a pyometra in a bitch, or a testicular cancer in a dog, neither procedure should be undertaken lightly or as a matter of course, as both procedures can have long term health effects for the dog or bitch.

Before you decide to go down this road please stop and think about the consequences.

Long Term Health Effects of Spaying Bitches


  •  If done before 30 months it greatly reduces the risk of mammary tumours, the most common malignant tumour in female dogs.
  • Much less risk of pyometra.


  • Done under general anaesthetic which always carries a slight risk.
  • Triples the risk of obesity and its many associated health problems.
  • Causes urinary ‘spay incontinence’ in between four and twenty percent of bitches.
  • In the Irish Setter, it affects the coat very noticeably. It becomes dry and woolly and can become very curly and owners sometimes find it difficult to groom.

Long Term Health Effects of Neutering Dogs


  • Eliminates the small risk of dying from testicular cancer.
  • Reduces risk from non-cancerous prostate disorders.


  • Done under general anaesthetic which always carries a risk.
  • Triples the risk of obesity and its many associated health problems.
  • In the Irish Setter, it affects the coat very noticeably. It becomes dry and woolly and can be very curly and some owners find it difficult to groom.

There are also other health issues which you may like to discuss with your vet.

Both bitches in the photo below are spayed and show how the coat can change, even though the owner tries hard to keep them tidy.

As a breed we are used to submitting DNA samples from our dogs either for DNA testing for the specific diseases PRA rcd1 and PRA rcd4 as well as CLAD or else for sending DNA for research purposes, such as that at Helsinki into epilepsy. 

There are, however, other uses for DNA, such as profiling of an individual dog and parentage testing and the article below is written by Dr June Swinburne director of Animal DNA Diagnostics.

If you value the concept of accurate pedigrees for your dogs then the scientific validation of their accuracy should be considered; undoubtedly errors exist in current pedigrees.

If at any point inherited disease requires investigation then an accurate pedigree can be of great help in investigating the basis for the inheritance, and which individuals are at risk.

DNA profiling 

Uses of a DNA profile 

There are several uses for DNA profiling. These include:

  • To obtain a unique identification of the animal, in the event that he was stolen
  • To obtain a unique identification of the animal at the time of disease testing
  • To enable parentage verification

A DNA profile consists of data from a selection of genetic ‘markers’. There are thousands of genetic markers in a dog’s DNA, and these are of several different types; the ones we use for profiling are known as ‘microsatellites’. Typically a DNA profile will consist of data from 13 – 19 microsatellites. The microsatellites chosen for use are called a ‘microsatellite panel’.

It is extremely likely that the DNA profile from any one dog is completely unique. For this reason it is similar to a fingerprint, and indeed a DNA profile is often referred to as a ‘DNA fingerprint’. The only exception to this uniqueness would be between identical twins, which are genetically identical.

Different laboratories around the world could choose different selections of microsatellites for the panel that they use, however usually there is a core of markers common to most labs. These core markers are decided by scientists at the conferences held by the International Society of Animal Genetics (ISAG), which take place every second year. Here scientists working in the field discuss the pros and cons of the different microsatellites that they have used and decide which ones work best. The panel of markers which Animal DNA Diagnostics Ltd will use are a commercially available panel consisting of 19 markers.

Parentage verification

The basis for the use of microsatellites in parentage verification is that they vary in length. Each animal has two copies of each microsatellite, one inherited from each parent. In its most basic form, parentage verification checks that the copies inherited by the puppy are also present in the presumed parents – if they are not then the puppy cannot be from these parents. In order to perform parentage verification DNA profiles from the dam, all possible sires and the offspring are required.

This is much easier to understand in an illustration:


The illustration above is for one microsatellite. As shown the dam shares copy H with the puppy (‘Progeny’), and Sire 1 shares copy D with the puppy, so for this microsatellite the inheritance agrees with Sire 1 as the father. In contrast Sire 2 is excluded as the father as he shares no copy with the puppy. Just by chance a potential father could share copies with the puppy, and it is for this reason that more than one microsatellite is examined. As the number of microsatellites examined is increased, the chances of a male sharing copies of all microsatellites with a puppy which is not his offspring decreases dramatically. The panels in use for parentage testing today (consisting of 13-19 microsatellites) can reduce this chance to negligible. The probability that the qualifying male is the father is therefore very high.

There is one situation where care must be taken. This is in the case where either of two closely related males (e.g. littermates) could be the father.  In the vast majority of cases parentage verification will distinguish which of these males is the sire. In rare cases paternity is not conclusively determined with the primary marker panel and further markers are required. It is important that all males which could be the sire are tested; this is especially important where potential sires are closely related.

We have focussed on questioning which male is the sire of the puppy, but the analysis does also confirm that the presumptive dam is in fact the mother; in rare cases a puppy is paired with the incorrect mother and this will be detected.

Sample collection 

A DNA profile is obtained from a sample of an animal’s DNA. This DNA sample can be extracted from a number of different sources including, among others, a blood sample, a mouth swab or hair roots. The DNA obtained from each of these sources is, to all intents and purposes, the same and will not change during the animal’s lifetime. So a DNA profile obtained from a puppy would be identical to that obtained from the mature dog. In UK vets are not generally allowed to take blood and

for dogs, the most usual source of DNA is from a buccal swab – that is a sample of cheek cells taken from swabbing the inside of the animal’s mouth. The aim of a buccal swab is not, as is often thought, to obtain a sample of saliva, but rather to collect loose cheek cells which are constantly being shed inside the mouth; these are easily collected with a cotton swab or collection brush by rubbing this firmly against the inside of the cheek.

One drawback to buccal swabs is that they can potentially be contaminated with DNA from other dogs. This is more likely in unweaned puppies which are likely to have their mother’s DNA inside their mouths. Young dogs may also have DNA from their companions inside their mouths. For this reason it is preferable for dogs to be separated from their companions for at least one hour before sampling. In addition, to prevent contamination of the sample, dogs should not have access to food for 2 hours before sampling.

Once taken the swab should be left to dry thoroughly before being sent to the laboratory. Swabs do not need to be refrigerated, and can be sent within the UK in the normal mail in suitable packaging.

Once the swab arrives the DNA will be extracted and stored frozen. DNA can be stored frozen indefinitely, but the quality of the sample cannot be guaranteed for extended periods.

Avoiding sampling failure and error

The most usual problem encountered with buccal swabs is that the swabbing is not performed adequately and that there is little or no extracted DNA. This can only be avoided by the owner obtaining a suitable sample by preparation and careful swabbing.

In addition, the possibility of mix-up does arise where several dogs are being swabbed in the same session, and swabs become mixed up. This is particularly a problem when litters of puppies are sampled which are of similar appearance. The owner must take great care that the sample is labelled correctly and can be matched with the correct puppy.

A more exacting sampling procedure can be put in place by requiring that the sample is taken by a vet. This could be combined with checking other identification such as a microchip or tattoo, the details of which can be attached to the DNA sample. This approach is used in the registration of Thoroughbred racehorses, where foals are micro-chipped at the same time that a DNA sample is taken; parentage verification is mandatory for their entry to the studbook. The use of a veterinary surgeon does however add to the costs.

An alternative could be that the samples are taken by a third party, such as Breed Society officials, often at a breed show, or at clinics held specifically for the purpose. Clinics are often held to sample dogs for DNA disease testing.

The possibility must be considered that owners may purposefully submit samples from the wrong puppy. This could be profitable for an owner where parentage of a puppy could add to his value; a sample from a legitimate puppy from the preferred parents could be submitted in place of the faked puppy’s sample. One could also imagine scenarios where false submission could be used to avoid KC restrictions on litter numbers. Although these dishonest practices could be imagined, in practice these should be rare as parentage testing in the next generation would uncover any anomalies.

Great care is taken in the laboratory to avoid sample mix-up. Procedures are put in place to ensure that this is avoided.

Data storage 

A database will store the DNA profiles, and perform parentage verification. In it’s most basic form the parentage verification analysis would simply ask the question “Does the male(s) suggested as the sire of this puppy qualify as the father?” As the database builds up increasing numbers of profiles, the additional question could be asked “Do any other males on file qualify as the sire?” and consequently a more accurate probability can be assigned to the parentage assignment.

More information about this and other DNA tests can be found at:


If you are interested in Irish Setter pedigrees then we recommend you visit the site below. It is the home of the most comprehensive, up to date and accurate database of which we aware. Pedigrees are continually being added with more from Europe and other countries as well as UK ones. 

The database was the brainchild of Michelle Webster who developed it over many years and following her untimely death her executors donated it to the Irish Red Setter Rescue Charitable Trust (IRSRCT) who now maintain it and make it available to all for the good of the breed.  Access via Links tab in menu above or:

In the early months of 2013 Pet Theft Awareness Week was organised in conjunction with a number of contributors to raise awareness of the growing trend of pet theft in the UK.  It is a non-profit organisation with the aim of helping people take actions which could stop it happening to them. Follow the link below for more information.

Doglost is an organisation that reunites dogs with their owners. Follow the link to below for more information.

It is very easy to assume that the food we eat is suitable for our pets.  This is not always the case and some very common foods can cause problems in dogs.  Some of these problems may only be mild, while others can be severe and even lead to death.  Obviously puppies and the oldies are the most vulnerable but, even fit and healthy adult dogs can be badly affected.  Here are the most common foods that cause problems but this list is not exhaustive.

Alcohol:  Dogs can suffer from alcohol poisoning and if enough is taken it can cause death.

Chocolate and cocoa powder:  Contain caffeine, theobromine, or theophylline, which can all be toxic to dogs and affect the heart and nervous systems.  They can cause seizures, coma and even death from heart failure.  Plain, dark chocolate is more dangerous than milk chocolate.  Theobromine stays in the dogs system for a long time, so do not be tempted to feed small amounts and think that is all right.  If you want to give chocolate treats to your dog then buy dog chocolate as the theobromine has been removed.

Apples, Apricots, Cherries, Peaches and Plums (seeds/stone):  The fruits themselves are not toxic  but the seeds/stones should not be given.

Avocados:  All parts of the avocado are  poisonous.

Broccoli:  Do not feed large quantities regularly as it can cause an irritation of the intestines. 

Caffeine:  Coffee and tea contain caffeine.  The symptoms of caffeine poisoning are similar to those of chocolate poisoning.

Cat food:  Generally has too much protein and fats. 

Grapes/Raisins:  Contain a toxin, which can damage the kidneys.  Raisins are more concentrated than grapes, therefore more poisonous.  Some dogs have eaten fairly large amounts with little or no adverse effect whilst others have died with just eating a very small amount.

Milk and Dairy Products:  Some dogs do not have sufficient amounts of the enzyme lactase, which breaks down the lactose in milk.  This can result in diarrhoea.  Lactose-free milk products are available for pets.

Mushrooms:  Contain toxins, which can cause shock and result in death.

Nuts:  Especially Macadamia nuts can affect the digestive, nervous system and muscles.

Onions:  Can harm red blood cells and cause anemia.  Eating some occasionally should not be a problem but they should not be given often.

Potato Peelings and Green Potatoes:  Affect the digestive system.

Raw eggs:  Can cause salmonella poisoning in dogs.  If you want to feed raw eggs it is best to use Organic but lightly scrambled is best, especially as an invalid food. 

Rhubarb Leaves:  Large amounts of raw or cooked rhubarb leaves can cause convulsions, coma and, in extreme cases, death.

Salt:  Too much salt may cause kidney problems.  It should never be given to your dog to induce vomiting because increased sodium in the blood causes the brain cells to swell (cerebral edema).

Sugary foods:  Can lead to obesity, dental problems and possibly diabetes.

Tomatoes:   The plants are the most toxic, but tomatoes themselves should not be given.

Yeast Dough/Bread Dough:  Can expand and produce gas causing pain and possible rupture of the stomach or intestines.  Rising dough can also release enough ethanol to cause alcohol poisoning.

If you think your dog has eaten large quantities of any of these call your vet for advice.

Obviously foods are not the only potential dangerous substances found in the home, cleaning agents, moth balls, detergents and many types of medication are also possibly dangerous. In the garden or garage fertilizers, slug pellets, antifreeze, petrol or diesel, mouse/rat poison and some garden/house plants can all be extremely dangerous.  Some bulbs can also be poisonous.  Cocoa husk mulch should never be used in the garden where there are dogs (see the information about chocolate).  It is sensible to make sure that these are all properly stored away from your pets (and children!).

The following link is to Cornell University which gives ten tips for a poison safe household:

This link is to the Dogs Trust which list plants to be aware of:

t that your pet has eaten a poisonous plant contact your vet.  If you do not know what the plant is and you are asked to go to the surgery take it with you to help identification as different plants cause different problems.  Don’t forget your pet may even appear completely normal for several hours or for days. 

Even exercising is not free from possible problems.  Rape fields are best avoided as the rape is particularly poisonous.  Pesticides used on crops can be a major cause for concern and recent newspaper articles suggest that farmers may have to tell local home owners when they are spraying crops. 

Harm from the above foods, plants or household items can easily be avoided if sufficient care is taken in monitoring and storage but it is important to be aware of the potential dangers.


“Genetics and the Social Behavior of Dogs” published in 1965 by Dr John Scott and Dr John Fuller is still regarded as one of, if not the most, important and comprehensive studies on the development and behaviour of the domestic dog. It is available to order on Amazon.

Below is a very brief outline of the stages they identify as being crucial in the development and socialisation of puppies and young dogs.

A dog has ten clear stages of psychological development which affect how it interacts with people and other animals and controls its behaviour in situations dependant on its age.  Puppies develop through clearly recognizable stages, each one being characterized by certain behaviour patterns and emotional reactions.  These have been called The Ten Stages and are discussed in further detail below.

1.                  Pre-Natal Period

Environmental factors that affect the pregnant bitch also affect the subsequent development of the puppies mind.  This is why it is critical to give the bitch good all round care.

 2.                  Neo-Natal Period (0-2 weeks)

During this period the dog spends around 90% of its time asleep.  The hearing, vision and temperature regulation are under developed and the pup’s brain is barely myelinated.  The way in which a dam behaves with her offspring will greatly influence its behaviour in later life.

 3.                  Transitional Period (2-4 weeks)

During this period, the sensory abilities come on line, the eyelids open and the first set of teeth appear, the dog will wag his tail and bark for the first time, at this time the litter mates play a much more important role.

By four weeks of age, hearing, pain, touch and vision responses are similar to that of an adult, the brain is almost fully myelinated and the dog is ready for complex learning.

 4.      Socialization Period (To Dogs – 4-6 weeks / To Dogs Humans 4-12 weeks)

From 3 ½ weeks the pups begin to interact playfully.  From this age the pup learns through play, how much pain they can inflict on each other as a result of chewing and biting.

The facial expressiveness of the puppy at five weeks contrasts to the mask like appearance of the puppy at three weeks.  This is due to the development of expressive ear movements, elongation of the muzzle and the improved functions of the muscles that control the lips.

At 4-5 weeks of age, puppies frequently carry small objects in their mouths and engage in tugs of war.  A defensive protective pattern emerges, in which the pup vigorously guards an object or food.  Several puppies may follow one litter mate who is carrying something in its mouth.  These are the first signs of co-ordinated group activity, or pack performance and dominant and submissive behaviour.

This is the optimum time for the dog to establish social relations with other dogs, humans and other species.

Scott and Fuller describe this period as a special time in life when a small amount of experience will produce a great effect on later behaviour.

 5.                  First Fear Impact Period (8-11 weeks)

Any traumatic experience, whether it be frightening or painful will have a more lasting impact on the puppy now, than if it had occurred at any other time in its life.

 6.                  Juvenile Period (12 weeks to maturity)

Most of what occurs in this period will be determined by what went on before.  The dog will experience gradual improvement of the motor skills as he grows in strength and activity.  Consistency is the key during this period, ensuring the dog knows its boundaries is key to guaranteeing that you don’t have unwelcome behaviour.  If the dog hasn’t developed normally through the previous stages, then socialization must take place during this stage.

 7.                  Seniority Classification Period (4-8 months)

This is often referred to as the ‘Age Of Cutting Teeth’.  This period is defined by the dogs test for leadership, very similar to teenage children; the dog will test all members of his pack for weaknesses and then, if allowed, exert his authority and move higher within the pack position.

 8.                  Flight Instinct Period (4-8 months)

Turning a deaf ear is classic behaviour in this period; the dog will often disobey commands, run away, or turn a deaf ear.  It can last a few days or weeks and is again, a test of the owner’s position in the pack.

 9.                  Second Fear Impact (6-14 months)

This is a stage that most people do not understand.  It could occur once, or several times, depending on the dog.  It is marked by a sudden change in behaviour of the now adolescent dog who may suddenly be reluctant to approach something new, or be frightened of something, or someone familiar.  The way in which an owner reacts in this stage is crucial to the dog’s normal development.

 10.             Maturity (1-3 years)

Maturity is a very vague stage, as some breeds do not mature until they are 3-4 years, however, whenever the maturity is reached, it is usually marked by a renewed test for leadership of the pack, especially in male dogs and again, the way in which the owner responds to this is critical.

The way in which breeders, handlers and owners respond to a dogs behaviour is crucial at all the above stages of development, one mistake and the dogs development could quite easily be set back.  This would then need further work and training to ensure the dog grows into a well adjusted, social animal, comfortable in all surroundings.

As soon as your puppy has had his inoculations and can be taken out, it’s a good idea start to socialise him by introducing him to other people and other dogs. An excellent way to do this is to attend puppy socialisation classes where he will meet other puppies of a similar age in a safe environment. Your vet will probably know when and where these are held if they do not run them at the practice. You will also probably be given information about looking after your puppy including information about parasites such as worms and fleas.



  • IRISH SETTERS TODAY by Eve Gardner
  • A SURVEY OF EARLY SETTERS by Gilbert Leighton-Boyce
  • THE IRISH SETTER by Catherine G. Sutton
  • IRISH SETTER by Margaret Williams
  • IRISH SETTERS by Gilbert Leighton-Boyce
  • IRISH SETTERS by Susan M. Edwins
  • THE IRISH SETTER by Janice Roberts     
  • The Irish Red Setter: Its History, Character and Training  by Raymond O’Dwyer

It is often possible to get these on Ebay if you want to buy a copy.

For a more comprehensive list see the Books on The Breed page on SEISC | South of England Irish Setter Club

Check with your vet to find out when he gives the first inoculations (usually 8 and 10 weeks, but this can vary from vet to vet).  He will give your puppy a thorough examination when he goes for his first inoculation if you did not visit within the first 24 hours of buying him.  It is not a good idea to let your puppy come into contact with any other animals in the surgery so keep him on your lap while waiting.  Don’t forget to carry him from home to the car and from the car to the surgery.’

Also check with your vet when you can take your puppy out but until then he should stay in your enclosed garden as he will be susceptible to diseases.

Puppies sleep a lot in the first few weeks and it is important that they are allowed to sleep undisturbed.  If you have small children, please make sure that they understand that they must allow the puppy to sleep in peace – he is not a toy! 

Puppies change their milk teeth at about 4 months and like babies they have sore gums and can sometimes be slightly off colour.  Their milk teeth are incredibly sharp and children need to be aware of this, otherwise they might get hurt when playing.

To train your puppy, you must start as you mean to go on.  If you do not wish him to get on the furniture, then you must make it clear from day one.  It is not a good idea to let your puppy to climb up or down the stairs as he can injure himself and if he does it too often it may lead to problems later on with hips.  Just use a firm voice and one word ‘NO’.  It is advisable to use a limited vocabulary to start with.  Chose a few words initially and use them each time.  This will avoid confusion and help with your puppy’s understanding, i.e. No, Come, Sit are good ones to start with.

It is useful to have his bedding ready for when you get him home. Also it is important to have the food he is used to so you don’t have to make a sudden change, which may upset his stomach.

Don’t be tempted to have lots of friends come and visit him but allow time for you to get to know each other.


When you return home after being out in the snow check that your Irish doesn’t have snow balls attached to his fur.  If he has, then use warm water or a hairdryer to melt them otherwise they will make a mess and he will probably try to remove them himself and chew his fur as well. Pay careful attention to his feet to make sure there aren’t any between his toes. If he has been walking on salted or gritted pavements don’t forget to clean his feet by putting them in a bowl of warm water to stop any irritation.  If the temperature is well below freezing then it is not a good idea to leave a metal water bowl outside as his tongue could stick to it and make sure the oldies and youngsters don’t get too wet and cold.

Most importantly take your camera with you to capture the moments of sheer delight and fun.

Puppies are born without teeth and their baby teeth start growing about 4 weeks. 

You may not see any of these puppy teeth fall out, which they start doing about 3- 4 months, and by then you will be very happy for your puppy to be losing them as these milk teeth are razor sharp and often inflict unintentional damage on you. 

A good guide to when your puppy is teething is that he will start chewing more.  Wood seems to be favourite i.e. table and chair legs and we have known puppies to start on the walls.  However it is sensible to give him something safe to chew on and something that will not send your blood pressure sky high when he is damaging  furniture or chewing cables or remote controls.  Give him his own toys to chew including raggy pulls, nylon bones and kongs filled with food.  Some people soak rags in salt free soups and raw carrots are great fun.  You may find that he wants to chew sticks or stones when he is in the garden and it is best that he doesn’t, just in case he gets a splinter in his mouth or swallows a stone. There is the perennial debate about giving dogs bones and if you decide to give bones then make sure they are not cooked and or chicken bones as these splinter too easily.  The big knuckle end of a beef bone is best and will keep a puppy occupied for ages.

The change from milk to adult teeth usually happens without any problems, apart from a little bleeding of the gums, but if you are concerned consult your vet.   Quite often you will not even find a tooth that has come out and the first sign will be a gap or two, usually at the front of the mouth.  The pre molars and molars at the side and back of this mouth take longer to grow.

Sometimes a puppy will retain a milk tooth, usually a canine, which is one of the two “fangs” and it may be necessary to have it removed by the vet under anaesthetic.  Don’t be tempted to remove it yourself because if you break off the root it will cause pain and possible infection.  If the new tooth is coming through next to the retained tooth it is a good idea to speak to your vet just to check that the new tooth is not being displaced by the milk tooth.


Puppies have 28 teeth but an adult will have 42 and an Irish Setter should have a scissor bite. This means that his top teeth should fit snugly in front of the bottom ones.  Sometimes a setter will have a level bite, which is when both sets of teeth are level and sometimes the bottom teeth sit in front of the top teeth.  If either of the last two happen let your breeder know. 



Looking after adult teeth is important and your vet should check them with his annual MOT, if not more often than that.  It is useful to get your vet or veterinary nurse to show you how to look after your dogs teeth and how to clean them properly.  Your vet can probably supply you with toothpaste and brush or “finger brush”.  Don’t use human toothpaste as it is not designed for dogs and dog toothpaste is usually chicken or beef flavoured.

If you allow a build up of tartar, not only will your dog’s teeth become discoloured but his breath will probably smell as well and it can lead to dental disease such as gingivitis or diseased teeth, which may need treatment under anesthetic.  If left untreated infection can get into the bloodstream and cause further problems, so regular dental care is important.

The Kennel Club runs The Good Citizen Dog Scheme which can be invaluable training for Irish Setters as well as being fun and promoting responsible dog ownership.  They supply a list of Good Citizen Dog Scheme classes throughout the UK.

There is the Puppy Foundation Assessment which aims to help puppies socialise and begin education and training.  There are also 3 awards: bronze, silver and gold which require higher levels of training at each stage.

The link below takes you to the Good Citizen Dog Scheme site and gives further details.

In spite of what you might have heard about Irish Setters not being trainable, there are Irish Setters who have successfully completed the tests and both owners and dogs have had a lot of fun along the way.  You could be one of them.

We are often urged to think about the end of the life of our pets but how often do we think about what would happen to them if we die suddenly: especially if we live alone. There are many potential scenarios and it is impossible to cover them all but two happened within the space of a few weeks. The longer term issue of what is going to happen to your pet is obviously important but it is the immediate practicalities that are often not thought about.  


Having been in this situation with a friend, who lived alone, who was walking her dog in the morning, having coffee with her afterwards and then hearing that she had died that evening it brought it home as to what needs to be considered, however uncomfortable.

If the owner lives alone it may be a friend, neighbour or family member who raises concern and dials 999 asking for assistance and this means that the police will be called along with the ambulance.  The operator will tell you what to do and the paramedics will confirm the death. 

Unbelievably, within a month, another scenario came to my attention when an elderly owner was taken into hospital and her four dogs were left alone in her house for 3 days before anyone went to feed them.  The emergency services are obviously concerned with people and not pets and if there is no one in the house to look after your pet then the police, if they are present at the scene, will arrange for it to go to the local RSPCA or maybe it will get left in the house with no action taken. However, there are some simple actions that can be taken to ensure your pet is cared for.

In the house have a card that is displayed in a prominent place with contact numbers on it. This is not meant to be a primary means of identification but purely a means for allowing your pet to be cared for in an emergency situation.

Preferred phone numbers: The phone number of a trusted neighbour, relative or friends in the area who can help out in an emergency and have access to the property. (Even in the middle of the night).

It is also useful to have a list of other information such as:

Medications: List of any medication your pet may be taking.  Include the name of the medicine, the dosage, how many times a day and what time it is taken.

Vet: in case your pet needs treatment in the immediate future.

Name of pet and any other information you feel is relevant.

You can also carry a card with the contact numbers in your wallet so that if something happens to you whilst you are away from the house the emergency services will be alerted to the fact you have pets at home that need care.

It is obviously essential to speak to your designated contacts and make sure they are willing to act and know what is required of them. It may be that they are only going to be a temporary carer but they need a key, or know where you keep your spare key and any codes that are needed. They also need information about your pet so they are cared for properly.

It is possible to buy emergency SOS packs and all you have to do is arrange your contact details and fill in the information.

Hopefully this information will never be needed but it is better to be prepared for the unthinkable.

The following article appeared in a SEISC newsletter in 1987 and, with the exception of the numbers used in the first paragraph, it is just as relevant today as it was 30 years ago.

Today the numbers of dogs in UK, according to Pet Food Manufacturers Association’s Pet Population Report, now stands at 8.5 million dogs in 24% of households.

Guide Dogs for the Blind is now known as Guidedogs



Train Your Dog

There are over five million dogs in this country, yet only a few thousand owners train their dogs in good basic manners.

A great deal of research has been done on the easiest and kindest ways to train dogs, by the Guide Dogs for the Blind organisations, around the world. It would be a considerable advantage if every pet dog were as well trained. 

Clubbing Together.

The dog, being a pack animal, required a leader.  Should the owner abdicate discipline, which the dog respects, then the dog becomes the pack leader, and pack leaders are unpleasant companions.

There are many dog clubs in every part of the country. Some are for pedigree dogs, destined for the show ring  beauty competitions, run by the breed clubs.  But a growing number have sprung up which teach good basic behaviour to dogs.  The owner learns to prevent pulling on the lead, which is uncomfortable for the owner and for the dog. They learn to teach the dog how to sit, to lie down and to stand still until told to move. Such disciplines are invaluable: sitting at the kerb means car drivers know the dog won’t leap into the road: the vet needs the dog to stand for examination and well trained dogs do not fuss when treated: every dog should lie down when the family is occupied, eating or having visitors.

The dog should be the lowest pack member in every household and shown his positon, with even the baby able to command him to behave. All children, even visiting children, must be taught how to live with a dog and never allowed to tease it or play roughly, which leads to trouble.

Dogs can be taught where and when to do “its business”  on command, in an approved place, which means they can then be taken out safely in public. They can be taught to sit and be petted without jumping up to greet other dog and people sensibly, and to come when called every time, not just when the mood seizes them.

Basic training must be done correctly and regularly. It needs about half an hour every day as dogs’ memories are short and they learn by small stages.  And it must be done kindly. A dog that is constantly told it is stupid will be stupid; a dog that is praised does its best to earn more praise.

Fun of the chase.

The dog also needs to be guided through its day and shown what he may or may not do in every situation. He must be trained not to chase cats, people or farm stock, none of which comes naturally.

Some people give up as it takes time: it takes skill and it takes a considerable amount of patience, but it’s worth every minute. Those who have neither the time nor patience should opt for a cat, not a dog.

The end result of the training is a partnership that is envied by other dog owners. The dog is far happier as a working partner not a nuisance to be tolerated,  and the owner’s quality of life benefits enormously.



Since the Brexit deadline of 1January 2021 the rules for taking your pet abroad have changed so it is important that you know exactly what is needed now to  make sure you have the right paperwork. You could speak to your vet who should be able to give the relevant information and some pet insurance websites have useful pages dedicated to travelling abroad.  Have a look also at the DEFRA site for full information and advice on what is needed:

and, of course, you need information for bringing them back into UK:


Your pet will already have been microchipped and this is the only permanent identification accepted on official documents. He will also need a rabies vaccination which you organise through your vet, who will advise you how old your pet must be before this can be done. Different countries have different requirements and it is essential all the paperwork is correct before you travel.

You need to make sure your pet will be able to return to the UK with you, so check the rules connected with the rabies vaccination and any other requirements, including tapeworm treatment.  Just remember it will take time to get everything in place.


Veterinary Poisons Information Service (VPIS) 

is a 24 hour emergency service for veterinary professionals.

The Veterinary Poisons Information Service was established in 1992 and has been providing 24 hour advice to veterinary professionals in the treatment of confirmed or suspected poisoning in animals.

On 5th September 2016 the service was extended to pet owners. They handle enquiries on all poisonings including drugs, household products, plants, agro-chemicals and venomous bites and stings. They cannot help with any other veterinary enquiries unrelated to poisoning.

It is open to the public Monday to Friday, from 9am to 5pm. 

For emergency poisons enquiries, please call

+44 (0)2073 055 055

The cost per enquiry is £30 paid through an automated payment system. This payment is required before you speak to a specialist who will be able to advise whether your pet does or does not require a visit to the vet.  

There will only be one charge per case, even where there are multiple calls from you or your vet. Where your pet requires treatment, your vet is able to call back for further advice free of charge.

For further details:

If you do decide to go ahead and get a puppy or even an older setter one of the most important people in his life, apart from you and your family, will be your vet.  It is really important that you have a vet you can trust and talk to if needs be.  Apart from the routine visits for vaccinations, worming and the minor problems such as kennel cough, should you need a vet for a more serious problem, then you must be able to trust them and have a good working relationship with them. Your vet will be able to refer you to a specialist if needed.

Ask around and see who has a good reputation in the area.  It may not be the practice that is round the corner, but equally for an emergency, and believe us they do happen, you need a practice that is reasonably close.

Many veterinary practices these days have nurses who carry out a number of procedures including new puppy checks, post operative care, weight clinics, puppy classes to social your puppy, microchipping and much more.

The RCVS (Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons) runs an accreditation scheme for vets’ practices and you might find it useful to have a look at their site before you choose your vet as well

Vet Alice came up with this innovative way to minimise the amount of shaving that was needed when this boy was castrated


Barking is the equivalent of human conversation; it’s a great way of attracting the attention of another dog or human.  It also announces a dog’s intention and very often helps to relieve stress.  Different barks mean different things.

  • A series of high-pitched barks mean the dog is worried or wants attention.
  • A single bark in the dog’s regular voice means that it is curious about a particular person, or situation and wants to make contact
  • Quick repetitive high-pitched barks mean that your dog has very often spotted something and wants to play or chase.
  • A low repetitive bark – the sort the dog makes when a stranger approaches, means that the dog is feeling defensive or threatened.


Growling is an unmistakable warning sign; dogs use it to tell other dogs and humans to back off.  Dogs very often growl when they are frightened.

  • When a dog combines a growl with a posture of dominance, the dog intends to be aggressive.
  • When a dog combines a growl with a submissive posture, the dog will be fearful or defensive.
  • A growl during play between dogs or humans has no aggressive undertones at all.


Howling is a dog’s equivalent of using the phone; it is how the dog communicates with dogs in other territories, even when they are a great distance away.

  • A sing-song howl is used to contact other dogs and means that the dog is curious or happy
  • A plaintive, mournful howl signals the dog is in distress

Whining or whimpering

This vocal range communicates that the dog is fearful or under stress.

  • When a dog is excited or lonesome, the dog will whine, or whimper for your attention, this can sound like yawning.
  • When a dog is stressed, fearful, wounded, or worried, it will give repetitive whines that may be punctuated with shrill yaps.

Water intoxication in dogs is rare but it can get serious very quickly. It can happen when dogs swallow too much water, possibly when swimming or playing in water, for example when fetching a ball from a lake or even when playing with a garden hose. When dogs take in too much water it dilutes the sodium concentration in their blood and that is when the problems start.

  • Symptoms:
  • nausea,
  • lethargy,
  • loss of coordination
  • staggering 
  • dilated pupils
  • glazed eyes
  • excessive salivating.

In severe cases:

  • difficulty breathing
  • collapse
  • seizure
  • coma

If you think your dog may be suffering from water intoxication contact your vet.

Winter Nose
At this time of year some setter owners notice that their dog’s nose is gradually turning pink. This is often called winter nose. Usually it is not a sign of any health problem providing your dog is otherwise fit and healthy. If you are worried or concerned then make an appointment to see your vet. It is caused by the black pigmentation fading in winter but the colour will return in the summer. Sometimes the pigmentation around the eyes also lightens at this time of year too.
The photo below shows the colour an Irish Setter’s nose should be.

If you want to keep the nose black, or get it back to black, then you can try supplements with elderberry in them but please make sure they are for dogs.


isbc book

The Irish Setter Breeders Club (ISBC) have produced an 18 page booklet with useful information for new owners of an Irish Setter.There are sections on:

Feeding and Settling In

House Training and Socialising

Exercise/micro- chipping

Basic Training

Seasons and Spaying

To Spay or Not to Spay

To Neuter or Not to Neuter





Rescue Scheme/Books for Reference

The Irish Setter Breed Standard

If you would like to buy a copy then please contact Paula Lucas at: