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Can Irish Setters Be Left Home Alone? Advice For Owners

Irish setters do not cope well when left alone for more than 3-5 hours at a time. Setters are highly sociable and depend on having frequent interaction with their owner and family. Negative outcomes are likely when Irish setters are left alone too long.


Why Irish Setters Can’t Be Left Alone

Irish setters have a long working history, originally bred as “bird dogs” that point out wild-game and help their owners have a successful hunting session.

Due to working so closely with humans for centuries, setters develop very strong bonds with their owners, in a short amount of time.

Setters often confuse themselves with lapdogs, and whenever they aren’t out exercising, will be glued to your side as an excellent companion.

This deep connection with their human family is what makes it so difficult for them to spend time alone.

After all, dogs still don’t fully understand what’s happening when we leave them to go to the grocery store… They don’t know what’s going on, where we are going and how long we will be, so anxiety quickly follows.

We have to remember that for our dogs, we are the most important part of their day. All dogs want their owner’s time, focus, and attention, especially Irish setters.

How Long Can Your Irish Setter Be Left Alone?

Unfortunately, the answer is that it depends… Not all Irish setters will have the same tolerance. Some may be genuinely ok for 5 hours, whereas some may become agitated and frustrated after 45 minutes.

The best way to find out your Irish setter’s tolerance is to start monitoring his behavior, body language, and the state of your home whenever you leave the house for different durations…

Signs you’ve been gone too long:
Evidence of destructive behavior (includes ripping things, scratching doors, chewing items)
Overly anxious when you arrive back home (whimpering, cowering, shaking)
Urination despite having been let out before you left
You can hear whining, barking, crying as you approach home
Any signs of discomfort, overall agitation

It can be challenging to figure out, but it’s important to make a conscious effort to work out what kind of tolerance your setter has. This way, you are in a better position to help them.

Using a pet camera. If you really want to help your setter, investing in a pet camera is a very good thing to do. After a little setting up, you will be able to see in real-time your setter inside the house from your smartphone. You will instantly see whether she’s calm, sleeping, pacing around, or destroying something. I will talk a little more about pet cameras below.

Typically, 3-5 hours is the maximum for most breeds. And many advise against leaving a dog alone for more than 3-5 hours regardless of their tolerance.

The Best Thing To Do If You Work Long Hours

Working long hours is probably the biggest concern for most owners, and it’s because of work, our dogs get left home alone on a daily basis.

Only a small percentage will live close enough to home where they can go home for their lunch break. But if you can, that’s already a great way to break up the time your setter is alone for.

For the vast majority, however, this won’t be the case.

Hire a dog sitter, or ask friends & family. This is the best (and the only) option you have. Depending on your situation you may be able to ask friends and family to visit your setter. But if you can’t, then hiring a dog sitter is the way to go. This is by far the best thing you can do for your setter as nothing beats having real company.

Hiring a dog sitter can sound scary, but it’s actually a well-established service nowadays and is available in most areas.

With a quick Google search or with the help of Facebook, you can find local dog sitters close by. You can oftentimes see reviews left by other pet owners as well as interview them beforehand if you like.

If you work long hours, it’s a must. If your setter continuously spends too much time alone, a range of negative issues can develop, which I’m about to cover below.

Negative Affects Of Being Left Alone

It helps to be aware of the negative effects that can happen from being left alone for too long, too often.

Negative effects from being left alone:
Destructive behavior
Temperament changes (more aggressive, aloof to strangers)
Stress & depression
Separation anxiety
Isolation distress

As you can see, these are all big problems that are hard to overcome once developed. That’s why it’s so important to actively prevent them.

When do these issues develop?

It’s really hard to say when these issues will develop, as it depends on your setter. For some, the negative effects may become apparent after a few weeks of being left alone, and for others, it may take years.

As it’s very hard to predict when these issues may develop, it’s important to do as much as you can to prevent them from the start.

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6 Ways To Keep Your Irish Setter Happy When Home Alone

Here are some additional ways you keep your Irish setter calm and content while you’re out of the house.

Exercise before you leave

Exercising your Irish setter before he needs to spend any amount of time alone is a must! Setters need a lot of exercise anyway and are a high-energy breed. If he gets left alone before any of his energy is spent, he’s going to get frustrated and agitated extremely quickly.

It’s always advised to give your setter a good run before being left alone (even if that means waking up earlier). This will allow him to feel calmer and more relaxed… he may even be satisfied enough to sleep while you’re gone, which is perfect.

Use interactive puzzle toys

Having some interactive puzzle toys with treats incorporated will keep him busy and entertained for quite a substantial amount of time.

If you pop a kong toy down with frozen peanut butter inside, he won’t even realize you’ve left the house, he’ll be completely fixed on his toy for quite some time.

You can also get other interactive toys like the Star-Mark Bob-A-Lot which you can use dry kibble in, this option almost asks like a slow feeder, which again can keep your setter occupied and entertained for a long time.

Keep the radio or tv on

By keeping the radio or tv on you will effectively drown out external noises in your neighborhood that would have otherwise kept your setter on edge.

It’s not that your setter enjoys the sound of your local radio host’s voice, it’s that it makes it harder to hear other animals, people, traffic, and distractions which will all prevent your setter from being able to relax.

Make his area very comfortable for him

Ensure your setter has a clear “designated” area when you leave him, don’t let him roam the whole house.

Let him reside in one room where he has his water, crate, toys, and blankets. Spend as much time as you can developing and establishing his relationship with his crate and his area, as this will become his “safe zone”.

Designated areas will help keep your setter feeling safer and more secure, compared to if he has all the rooms to himself.

Focus one making one part or room of the house, somewhere he feels extremely comfortable.

Leave an unwashed t-shirt for him

Sounds weird, but it’s actually an awesome trick! The sense of smell is absolutely everything to dogs. A dog can smell anywhere between 10,000 to 100,000 times better than we can. And you can use this to your advantage…

A dog becomes very attached to their owner’s smell. Your smell to your setter symbolizes safety, security, and comfort.

To keep your sense of smell going at a high level, you can put an unwashed t-shirt of yours in his crate as a comfort item.

This will provide your setter with your scent, despite you not being there. This will subconsciously keep your setter feeling much calmer and content. (just be careful if your setter has a tendency to rip things up)

Get a pet camera

As I mentioned earlier, pet cameras are a very good investment. Some cameras include two-way monitors, and nearly all cameras include two-way audio, so you can actually see and speak to your setter.

Being able to instantly check up on your setter from your smartphone wherever you are, is invaluable.

You will see whether he’s calm, sleeping, or looking nervous. Even if you are at work, you can quickly check up on him and if he’s looking very agitated, you are in a better position to ask a friend or family member to go around and keep him company. Without a pet camera, you literally have no idea how he’s doing and what he’s up to.

This pet camera is one of the highest-reviewed on Amazon: Conico Pet Camera Audio 1080p

Thank you for reading! I hope this has shed some light on this important topic. If I have missed something you were expecting to see, please let me know! I am always happy to add relevant sections to my articles.

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Before making any decisions that could affect the health and/or safety of your dog, you should always consult a trained veterinarian in your local area. Even though this content may have been written/reviewed by a trained veterinarian, our advice to you is to always consult your own local veterinarian in person. Please read our full dislcaimer if you have any questions.