An intelligent breed like the English Setter will never tolerate isolation, inactivity or give up their need to explore. The owner who takes on the breed with the assumption that mental stimulation for dogs is an exaggeration is the owner who will sorely regret his or her underestimation. As with all highly intelligent breeds, the English Setter typically does not wait to be entertained. They are very much the kind that will take it upon themselves to explore, whether outdoors or indoors. The clever English Setter has been known to not only clear fences but open cupboards and refrigerator doors, dragging out whatever contents it finds. While this may be inconvenient, it is simply an indication that the dog needs more stimulating mental activity.
Everyone knows that physical activity is the best way to exercise a dog's muscles but the best way to exercise an English Setter's brain is by putting their most basic instincts to work. The English Setter is a gundog, born and bred to hunt in grassy fields. Hunters choose this breed when they need a dog with a natural ability to sniff out quarry and point their location. However, this does not mean one has to be a hunter; only that activities should mimic those a dog would perform out in the field. Scenting a training dummy and hiding it in the yard is a great way to get the English Setter's nose and brain working.
Because the English Setter loves activity, one way to combine physical exercise with mental stimulation is with agility course training. This type of activity has the dog moving through, around, under and over different obstacles. The challenge comes when the course must be completed in a certain amount of time. In places where there are no dog parks or training courses available, owners will be pleased to find they can find such equipment by going online. Many pieces can be sold separately allowing owners to create their own course. This is especially helpful when space is limited. There are also simple four or five piece beginner's kits that help an owner teach their dog the basics.
To keep busy during the day, English Setters should have plenty of sturdy, non toxic toys to play with. One of the best toys for this intelligent breed is the Kong. The Kong serves not only as a chew toy but as a treat dispenser as well. Once an owner inserts a tasty treat into the center of the toy, it is up to the Setter to find a way to get it back out. The Kong has been known to keep dogs busy for many hours and provide the ideal amount of mental stimulation.