The day had finally come to bring our Irish Setter home. Throughout all the setup and research we were feeling prepared but still a bit anxious. Pickup day at Point Proven Kennels arrived fast and driving home with Willie was a bit surreal. I love interacting with dogs, especially working dogs. But heading back with a pup I purchased, family in tow, was novel and almost a bit foreign but it was a truly amazing memory. Willie was coming home and would share a lifetime with my boy, Finn.
Willie settled in to our home quiet quickly. He didn’t appear to miss his 14 littermates at all (sorry). We still had to set up a few final things, like his crate and toy bin, but Willie was now family. We quickly started learning from each other. We had an early accident in the kitchen because I was unfamiliar with his cues, but both myself and Willie have been learning quickly. These setters are sharp and he is taking to hand signals, and some commands already. We aren’t rushing it, but we will take any small victories we get.
As with most new ventures, some things have been easier than expected, and some things have been harder. Keeping Willie happy and on a schedule has been manageable thus far; Willie has a great temperament and we can’t be happier about that. Potty-training and crate training have gone … as expected, but having a puppy in the house with an infant requires a ton of attention. Meeting the needs of both a baby human and a baby dog does not allow you to zone-out much. Having a supportive partner and being on the same page is essential. Even then mistakes still happen; the dog gets the wrong toy or Willie plays a little rough with Finn. Luckily, the cat and puppy have negotiated a temporary ceasefire, mainly through sheer feline assertiveness. And as I type this, Willie is chewing on the front rug and in need of a correction. Priorities, right? Despite all that, we are learning and progressing.
We also have the continued support of some of the other dog families, who are sharing their journeys. We’ve noticed that all the pups are different and amazing in their own way. The peer-support approach to training has been very helpful for us. Another good reminder for us is that there is no “silver bullet”. Despite all the training videos and articles, nothing can replace putting in focused time and reps with your pup to build habits and your relationship. These setters are smart and deserve attention. We own working dogs and they need to work.
We had a real highlight today getting the whole family out ice-fishing at our shack in Lockport. Willie cried in the truck a little but relaxed so hard in the shack that he slept for 2 hours! It was great for our mental health to get out of the house, but also good for Willie’s socialization – to experience a new environment. We didn’t catch any fish, not even a bite, but we learned some new things about our dog and our family. We will definitely be going on more truck rides to get comfortable with that, and hopefully more extended fishing excursions.
And now we are home, and so is Willie. He is the absolute cutest (sorry other puppy owners) and we are learning more every day. We know there will be more accidents and some whoopsies, but we got into this for the journey and not the street cred of owning a setter. At the end of the day, seeing the family grow and daydreaming of autumn chicken hunts with the boys is as close as this old wing-shooter gets to perfection.