Adopting a dog comes with its challenges. And when it comes to adopting a former hunting dog – you need all the help you can get. Which is where Setter Rescue Netherlands steps in – rehoming formerly abused and neglected hunting dogs and finding them a forever home.

“And thanks to Tractive GPS trackers, we can bring the rescue dogs home to adopters in the safest possible way,” says founder Alex Voncken. “Plus, it can help build trust between dogs and dog parents both.”

So here’s a glimpse into Setter Rescue Netherlands’ amazing work – and how we’re helping them give these newly-adopted dogs a fresh start to a longer, happier, healthier life. Because after all, you can’t buy love – but you can rescue it.

Who are Setter Rescue Netherlands?

Founded by Alex Voncken in 2019, Setter Rescue Netherlands is a non-profit dog rescue based in south-eastern Netherlands. And their mission is to help newly-rescued hunting dogs find safe, loving forever homes.

Setter Rescue Netherlands founder, Alex Voenken, and his dog Oliver

“The first dog I ever adopted taught me so much about life – I just knew I had to do something to give back,” Alex describes.

“So I decided to set up a foundation to adopt dogs and help people build a life with them. Which is our goal at Setter Rescue Netherlandsto bring hunting dogs from abroad and inland to a better life.

How do they work?

Setter Rescue Netherlands works with NGOs across Europe to coordinate dog rescues. With a team of 40 volunteers, they specialize in:

  • Taking in former hunting dogs,
  • Helping them adapt to their newer, safer environment,
  • and socializing them towards humans and animals.

All to help these dogs connect to potential adopters and ensure they’ve found a safe, loving forever home.

“Many of our dogs come in from Spain and Italy, but also from Greece and the Netherlands as well,” Alex explains. “And we don’t just end things once our dogs are adopted.”

“Rather, we stay in contact with their families for the dog’s entire life. Which does take time, but it’s always worth it.”

Challenges in the process

Rehoming dogs isn’t easy. There’s a ton of paperwork involved in order to get things done legally and with no stone unturned. 

Alex Voenken sitting by a transport van with one of his rescue dogs

Alex explains, “After we’ve gone through the entire adoption process with potential adopters in the Netherlands, Belgium, or Germany, we prepare the dogs for travel. Adoption papers, legal documents, everything.”

“A few times a year, we drive ourselves with our bus loaded with donations for dogs and cats to the south of Italy – and also to take some dogs back with us.”

“For which, our number one priority is transporting them comfortably – but also safely.”

Besides, regular followup with the adoptive families can be time-consuming and difficult as well. Alex, being an expert on how Setter dogs grow and develop over time, is also the go-to person for new dog parents who might not have adopted a former hunting dog before.

And even so, “It’s the best job in the world, helping both dogs and people,” he says. “I see it every time I bring a new dog to a new family. It’s incomparable – more happiness than I’ve ever seen in the world.”

Why are former hunting dogs abandoned?

Setter Rescue Netherlands specializes in adopting former hunting dogs. Why? Because these dogs come with deeply-honed instincts that might create a challenge for new dog parents. It’s also one of the reasons why they’re abandoned by former owners.

Here are a couple of examples from some of the dogs up for adoption on the Setter Rescue Netherlands website:

Goofy, a 2-year old Blue Belton English Setter was abandoned by a hunter, likely because of difficulties adapting to hunting and stalking prey.

Cris, another Blue Belton English Setter, was abandoned by his former owner after he got injured in a fight against a wild boar. With his front leg amputated, he was no longer able to hunt as effectively as before.

Others, like Nettuno and Marvin were simply abandoned by their owners without any apparent reason. In fact, Marvin, another Blue Belton English Setter, was rescued just in time before being abandoned at a municipal council shelter.

Why former hunting dogs need special care

Former hunting dogs – and other high-energy dog breeds – tend to have strong prey drives. Which means their genetic history and instincts drive them to chase down woodland animals, like squirrels, rabbits, deer, and even wolves, in some cases! Prey drive is also one of the key reasons why dogs run away.

A Setter Rescue Netherlands rescue dog wearing a leash and harness with a Tractive GPS tracker

Which is why Alex advises:

“It’s best to keep a former hunting dog on a leash for the first few months. Their hunting instincts are still high, they might not fully trust you or your family yet – and you might not know if they’re afraid of something. Like, say, fireworks on New Year’s eve.

Which might cause them to run away.”

“That’s why, for us, the safety of our dogs is always our number one priority. And Tractive has helped us enormously with it.”

Rehoming dogs with Tractive

Setter Rescue Netherlands picks up dogs from other countries – and then transports them to their new adoptive families in the Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany. And how does Tractive help with this process?

“With the GPS trackers, we can let the dogs out in between visits – and follow their every step,” Alex describes. “Which is almost impossible when we’re transporting several dogs at once from one country to another.”

Setters exploring a forested area wearing Tractive GPS trackers, leashes, and harnesses

“Because thanks to the safety harnesses, extra collar, double leashes, dog tag, and Tractive GPS trackers, we can take for a walk with complete peace of mind.”

“Which also helps our dogs feel calmer and more relaxed when we’re transporting them long distances.”

Informing new dog parents about the perks of a GPS tracker

With Setter Rescue Netherlands, each dog is delivered with:

  • A mandatory safety harness/anti-escape harness
  • A leash
  • And an optional GPS tracker

New Setter parents are expected to use these items for at least 3 weeks as their new dog learns their new environment. 

And how does the Tractive GPS help them better understand their new dog?

A Setter dog standing in a field wearing a leash, harness, and Tractive GPS tracker

“The tracker can help new owners follow the dog’s entire journey to their home – live and in real-time. Which helps them better understand the perks of being able to track their dog wherever they end up wandering.”

“During the adoption process, we also brief new families on why a GPS tracker is useful for their dogs,” Alex explains. “While we’re getting to know them, we demonstrate how LIVE tracking works and why it’s so important for active, high-energy dogs like Setters.”

“This way, we also offer new families the option to buy the tracker at a discount.”

“And we’re proud to share that around 90% of our adoptive families use our code and make the investment in Tractive.”

Why hunting dogs need a GPS tracker

With their hunting instincts and high energy combined, Setters are a prime candidate for getting lost in the woods or wilderness.

“Besides, they might still be prone to anxiety – be it from their past experiences or the stress of a new environment,” Alex explains. “All of which make them more likely to suddenly run away, despite all the safety measures we take.”

Two dogs interacting in an open field

“Ultimately, even a few seconds of negligence can be enough to make a dog run away.”

“And it’s exactly for these moments that the Tractive tracker is the perfect solution to find your dog again as quickly as possible. Especially since the dog does not yet know where their home is during the first period – neither do they know nor trust you as much.”

“So it’s important to buy a tracker for their first few weeks, at least.”

Alex also has years of experience working with Search and Rescue (SAR) teams to find missing dogs. “Plus, with Tractive trackers, you’re making an investment of just a few euros per month – all for the safety of your dog.”

“It’s a potential lifesaver if you take an active dog for a walk outdoors or in the woods.”

What Tractive features might help new dog parents best? 

LIVE tracking

“For hunting dogs, if you’re walking off-leash in a forest, it can take just minutes for them to disappear – maybe even 2-3 kilometers away!”

“That’s the difference with or without a tracker. I can easily track a dog’s location in real-time and even see where they’re headed.”

Tractive GPS live tracking

“Before Tractive, it was frustrating because I could never tell where my dogs were off wandering. Because with hunting dogs, you can never tell where they might be one minute. And they’ll be gone the next, if you’re not tracking them.”

“Plus, once they’ve caught on the scent of an animal, they can run up to 50-60 kilometers per hour! You might only find them if you’re lucky.”

Heat Map & Location History

Besides LIVE tracking, Tractive also includes a Heat Map and Location History. Features that help you understand your dog’s favorite wandering or hiding spots.

The Tractive GPS Heat Map feature which helped locate the kittens.

“The Tractive Heat Map is helpful when you’re walking off leash,” says Alex. “You can see what spots your dog likes to sniff around longer than others.”

Besides, Tractive’s Location History has even saved the lives of dogs around the world. Like Imogen, an energetic Borzoi who crashed through the ice in a nearby lake – but was rescued from freezing and drowning from her tracker’s Location History.

Activity tracking

Setters are a high-energy dog breed who need a ton of exercise. “They always want to run and be outside,” Alex describes. “If you walk with them on a leash for 2 hours – or even a few kilometers – and then come back home, they’ll still be ready to go!”

Which is where Tractive’s Activity Tracking can come in handy – to ensure you’ve gotten your new Setter enough exercise. But for these former hunting dogs, it helps to start slow. 

Tractive Activity Monitoring for dogs

Alex explains: “When we first pick them up, most of these dogs are underweight. They’ve never had the opportunity to run around and play as much as they should.”

“But after 3-4 months, Activity Tracking can be very helpful to see if they’re getting enough exercise – especially if they’re walking off leash.”

In fact, most of the rescue Setters the organization picked up experienced years of abuse and neglect before getting their new lease in life. “Most of our rescue Setters either lived outside in a cage for up to 23 hours! If they were lucky, they might have gotten one hour of outdoor time to run around, hunt, and be active.”

“But that’s where Tractive plays a role. It can help you build trust both ways – both in your dog and in you. Because you can follow their movements via the app and always know where to pick them up.”

“Tractive offers us security – and helps build trust.”

“Preventing a lost dog is an avoidable situation,” Alex says. “The stress of it is never worth it. In fact, the experience before and after using a Tractive device…it’s incomparable. Which is why we want to emphasize how important it is to use a tracker – especially for new dog parents.” 

Because when a dog decides to bolt, the difference between keeping them safe or losing them forever can depend on mere seconds.

Helping adopted dogs experience a loving home

“Last year, I was involved in a search effort in the neighborhood for a recently-adopted dog,” Alex describes. “The family drove them in with the dog in the car. Once they were parked and opened the doors, the dog escaped.” 

“We searched with a team of 20-30 volunteers – but 3 days later, we found him run over by a car. Never able to live in a home or experience the kindness of a loving family.”

Besides, the benefits of a Tractive GPS tracker far surpass the pain and fear of coming home to find your dog missing.

“It’s waterproof, has a very accurate range, includes a LIVE function with real-time updates…even the beep and the light can help search in difficult or dark terrain. Plus, it comes with so many extras to keep track of your dog’s activity.”

“So many advantages against the grief and misery when your dog has run off and you don’t know where to look. Especially a hunting dog, who can cover miles of distance within minutes.”

Building trust & letting dogs enjoy some off-leash freedom

Alex’s first experience with Tractive was for one of his first dogs, an energetic Greek Setter. In fact, before Tractive, his dog would often wander off into the woods or wilderness – and Alex would never know when he’d return. Which meant only going on walks while leashed.

But thanks to Tractive, “…he was able to go off-leash again. At one point, he even came over and licked my face as if to say Thank you for letting me walk off leash!

Founder of Setter Rescue Netherlands, Alex Voenken and a rescue dog

“In fact, putting the tracker on your harness and collar and keeping it on means the battery lasts around a week. I use it for my own dogs as well.”

“Some dogs have such a high hunting instinct, they can never walk off leash. But that’s more about the owner, not the dog. Even dogs with a high hunting instinct can walk off-leash. It’s all based on trust.”

How you can support Setter Rescue Netherlands

Whether you’re in a position to adopt a dog or not, you can take an active role in helping us build a safer world for our furry friends. Especially those who’ve never experienced the joy of a loving forever home – or being able to run free.

So you could:

Make a donation or sponsorship

As a non-profit, volunteer-run organization, every donation you send to Setter Rescue Netherlands is invested for the benefit of their dogs. For example, your donation might help a dog:

  • Get spayed or neutered
  • Vaccinated
  • Get a life-saving medical procedure
  • Get safely transported to a warm, safe, loving forever home in the Netherlands

For more details, please visit the Setter Rescue Netherlands website. (Available in Dutch.) Or make a donation directly to them here.

Donate To Setter Rescue Netherlands

Get informed on how to care for a former hunting dog

High-energy, active dog breeds come with their challenges. And especially so if they have a high prey drive or are more prone to anxiety.

So consider getting informed on:

A rescue dog wearing a harness and Tractive GPS in a kitchen with a woman, child, and another dog

Alex’s tip for new dog parents:

“Don’t expect a perfect dog. They need a ton of love, time, and especially patience. You have to prioritize regular training – basic commands. You need to socialize them and teach them how to live in a house.”

Adopt a rescue Setter yourself – or spread the word

Setter Rescue Netherlands invests a ton of time, patience, love, and effort into training and socializing their rescued dogs. Which gives them a good start to life with a new family, since they don’t come from a pound or a shelter. (Where they might’ve been mistreated even further.)

“Adopting a dog from this ‘second start’ can take you closer to getting the ‘perfect dog’,” says Alex. “But you do need to be patient. With some dogs, it can take years for them to fully trust you.”

Here you can find a list of rescued Setters still looking for a loving forever home. So please consider spreading the word to a friend or a loved one who might be able to make an investment at this point.

Read more: How to adopt a dog

Because in the end, “The happiness you get from building a life with dogs is incomparable,” says Alex. “And that’s a happiness I want to share with other people. When I see the photos of our adoptive families and their new dogs, it reminds me why it’s worth it.”

“We’ve always focused on quality over quantity – and Tractive helps us keep that. For a couple of euros per month, it’s always worth finding your missing dog.”

Track Your Dog With Tractive

Want to learn more about Setter Rescue Netherlands? Check out their Facebook page for a ton of cute pics, safety tips, and a ton of inspiration for the great work they’re doing.

And if you’ve enjoyed this post, share it with a fellow loving dog parent – and let’s help build a safer, happier world for our furry friends today.

Because after all, you can’t buy love – but you can rescue it.