Welcome to your complete guide to the stunning Irish Setter.
With their elegant looks and distinctive red feather-like coat, these fun-loving dogs are hard to resist.
The Irish Setter belongs to the Gundog Group, and not only excels in the hunting field but an array of other activities as well.
While it is easy to fall in love with the Irish Setter, it is not a dog that is suited to every home and lifestyle.
In this guide, we find out where the Irish Setter originated from and what it is like to live with this charming redhead.
Discovering the care and health issues associated with the breed along with their training and exercise requirements.
So, before you start looking for puppies, let’s give you all the facts, helping you decide if the Irish Setter is the right breed of dog for you.
Where do Irish Setters Come From?
The Irish Setter originated in Ireland during the 1700s.
There is little information about their exact heritage, but it is believed that the breed developed by combining English Setters, Gordon Setters, Spaniels, and Pointers.
The Irish Setter was bred to track, point, and retrieve gaming birds and is considered one of the most beautiful gundogs in the world.
Although famous for its red coat, early Irish Setter hunting dogs had a bicolor of red and white allowing them to be seen easily in the field.
The first red Irish Setter emerged in Ireland during the 19th century.
As conformation dog shows became popular, the deep red colored coat was the favored choice in the show ring, which almost saw the extinction of red and white Irish Setters.
Possibly the most influential Irish Setter in the breed’s history was a dog named Champion Palmerston.
Born in 1862, his features were more distinctive than any other dog during that time and he sired so many puppies that most Irish Setters today can trace their lineage back to him.
Arrival to US
The first Irish Setter dog was imported to the USA in 1875, and three years later in 1878, the American Kennel Club accepted their first registration of the breed.
The Irish Setter quickly became one of the most popular breeds in the USA.
Between the years 1875 to 1948, 760 Irish Setters were to become conformation champions, but only five became field champions.
The magazine Field and Stream called for a revival of the working Irish Setter.
Today, you often see two types of Irish Setter, bred for either conformation shows or as a working dog.
The breed’s popularity increased during the 1960s and 70s mainly due to the books and Disney movie which featured an Irish Setter called Big Red.
They were also seen in the White House as pets for both Presidents Richard Nixon and Harry Truman.
According to the AKC, the Irish Setter currently ranks 76 out of 194 breeds in the USA.
The Working Irish Setter
Bred for stamina and agility with a powerful sense of smell, the working Irish Setter could move all day over a variety of terrain.
But unlike other hunting dogs, a setter does not chase or kill its intended victim.
Instead, he assists the hunter by smelling for the prey with his head held high to analyze scent particles drifting in the air.
When a dog catches the scent they wag their tails rhythmically, indicating to the hunter they have tracked down their quarry.
But what does the word “setter” mean?
The word setter is derived from the dog’s action of “setting.”
When the Irish Setter discovers the bird, they crouch down and set their posture in the direction of it, allowing the hunter to locate the prey.
What does the Irish Setter look like?
Without a doubt, the Irish Setter is a head turner with his distinctive red feather-like coat and regal air.
The head is long and refined featuring a straight muzzle, a noticeable long muscular neck, brown almond-shaped eyes and large floppy ears set low.
The body of the Irish Setter is solid yet athletically built, and they are somewhat longer than they are tall.
Their legs are strong and muscular with powerful hindquarters ending with small feet, which allow for agility and speed.
Their straight medium-length tail starts off thick at the base and then narrows to a fine point.
Irish Setter Coat
The Irish Setter coat is his defining glory.
On the head and forelegs, the hair is short and silky with long feathering featured on the ears, hind legs, and tail with fringes of hair on the belly and chest.
In the show ring, the conformation Irish Setter has a heavier, longer coat.
A short-haired Irish Setter is common in the hunting field.
The coat is shorter but with the same feather-like features.
The Irish Setter colors are either deep red or vibrant shades of chestnut or mahogany.
A small splash of white is allowed on the head, chest, throat, or paws but no black markings are permitted.
Irish Setter Grooming
Groom your Irish Setter at least every other day as the featherings can become tangled and always check for debris in his coat when you return from walking.
Taking your Irish Setter to a professional groomer is a good idea as they can thin out his feathers to make them more manageable.
As part of your Irish Setter grooming routine check his ears weekly, wiping them out with a moistened cotton ball using a cleanser suggested by your vet.
Trim his claws regularly and brush his teeth at least twice a week to prevent tartar build up.
Do Irish Setters shed?
Irish Setters have fine hair so are moderate shedders, especially if you brush them regularly.
What size is an Irish Setter?
There are two types of Irish Setter: show and working, with both meeting the breed standard requirements.
The working Irish Setter is medium-sized with a lean and athletic frame.
The show Irish Setter is larger and heavier.
Irish Setter Weight and Height
Male Irish Setter show dogs stand between 26 to 28 inches at the shoulder and weigh between 65 and 75 pounds.
Female Irish Setter show dogs stand between 24 and 26 inches tall at the shoulder and weigh between 55 and 65 pounds.
Male working Irish Setter dogs stand between 23 to 26.5 inches at the shoulder.
Female working Irish Setter dogs stand between 21.5 to 24.5 inches.
The weight varies for both sexes of the working Irish Setter but is, on average, between 45 and 55 pounds.
Irish Setter Temperament
The Irish Setter temperament is as flamboyant as his coat.
The beautiful Irish Setter dog is exceptionally genuine, possessing a loving, friendly, and affectionate nature. He is loyal to his family.
He does have a mischievous side that often gets the better of him, along with a reputation for being stubborn and always wanting his way.
Irish Setters are excitable dogs who have boundless energy.
They live life to the fullest and enjoy nothing more than being the center of attention.
As the Irish Setter loves being around people, they do not like to be left alone for extended periods.
This could lead to destructive behaviours, such as chewing and constant barking.
These dogs are fun to be around but take a long time to mature, often maintaining a puppy mentality for much of their adult life!
Is the Irish Setter Good with Children and Other Pets?
The Irish Setter has an outgoing personality.
He loves people and gets on well with children.
Many make excellent therapy dogs.
However, due to his boundless energy, the Irish Setter is too lively to have around small children as he may accidentally knock them over.
The Irish Setter gets along with other pets so long as he is brought up with them.
How much exercise does my Irish Setter need?
The Irish Setter was bred to hunt all day so he has high energy levels requiring lots of exercise.
He should be exercised at least twice a day for a minimum of thirty minutes combined with mental stimulation to stop him from becoming bored.
The breed is ideal for active owners and makes for an excellent jogging, cycling, and hiking partner as well as excelling in agility.
They are not ideal for apartment living but do best in a home that has a large backyard with secure fencing to run around in.
Irish Setter Training
Irish Setter training must start while they are still young.
Although they are an intelligent breed, their mischievous nature, stubbornness, and inquisitive mind make them challenging to train, along with the fact that they are slow to mature.
The Irish Setter has a sensitive nature, so she requires lots of patience and gentle persuasion, using positive reinforcement techniques.
The more fun you make training for your Setter the easier it is for you.
Irish Setter Lifespan and Health
The average Irish Setter lifespan is between 10 and 15 years when cared for properly, so they are a long-term commitment.
The Irish Setter is a healthy dog, but some specific hereditary issues and disorders affect this breed.
Not all Setters will have these health issues, but it is essential to be aware of them.
If you are considering an Irish Setter puppy, make sure you go to a good breeder who can provide health clearances for both the puppy’s parents.
Here are some of the possible health issues of an Irish Setter.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy
PRA is a degenerative disorder that causes eventual blindness, and which nearly destroyed the Irish Setter breed during the 1940s.
It is now possible to detect PRA by DNA testing.
A good breeder has their dog’s eyes certified annually and does not breed any dogs with this disease.
This condition is inherited and is where the thigh bone doesn’t fit properly into the hip joint.
Dogs display lameness and pain in one or both hind legs. Arthritis can eventually develop.
A breeder should provide a clearance certificate for both parents and not breed any dogs with this issue.
Epilepsy exists in Irish Setters, causing seizures.
The condition is currently being researched to see if it is hereditary in this breed.
Epilepsy in dogs cannot be cured but can be controlled with medication.
Gastric Torsion (Bloat)
This life-threatening condition affects large dogs, especially if they eat or drink fast or are fed one big meal a day.
It occurs when the stomach is inflated with gas or air and then twists. The dog is unable to belch or vomit to expel his stomach of the excess air causing the hindrance of blood flow to his heart.
A dog with bloat requires immediate veterinary treatment.
Hypertrophic Osteodystrophy (HOD)
HOD can affect Irish Setters and causes lameness.
The condition is linked to excessive amounts of protein and calcium in the diet and often affects puppies between 4 and 8 months old.
Other symptoms include fever, loss of appetite, and swollen joints. It is difficult to diagnose and is sometimes fatal.
Treatment is carried out with steroids, pain relievers, and antibiotics.
Common in Irish Setters, hypothyroidism is when there is an unusually low level of hormone produced by the thyroid gland.
Symptoms include lethargy, poor coat quality, and weight gain. The condition responds well to treatment.
Breeders should provide a certificate for both parents and not breed dogs with this condition.
Finding Irish Setter Puppies
When looking for an Irish Setter puppy, always go to a reputable breeder.
You can find breeders on the website of the Irish Setter Club of America, who have agreed to abide by the club’s principles of integrity.
A good breeder will happily answer your questions and provide health clearances and breed papers.
Expect them to ask you questions, too, so they can see if the Irish Setter is the right dog for you and that the puppy they are selling will have a caring home.
Look at the living conditions of the puppy. It should be a clean environment, and all the puppies must look healthy.
Ask to see the mother and if possible the father, too.
Is an Irish Setter the Right Dog for you?
An Irish Setter is most suited to an active family with older children who have the time to dedicate to the high exercise requirements of this breed.
He needs to be kept in a house, living indoors with his owners but with access to a large yard to run around.
Time must be put aside for regular grooming and training to keep his mind stimulated.
If you can meet the Irish Setter’s needs, you will have a loyal, loving, and affectionate companion who can join you in various outdoor activities.
References and Further Reading
- A review of research to elucidate the causes of the generalized progressive retinal atrophies
- A review of one hundred cases of presumed canine epilepsy
- Predisposition to gastric dilatation-volvulus in relation to genetics of thoracic conformation in Irish setters
- Metaphyseal osteopathy (hypertrophic osteodystrophy) in growing dogs. A clinical study
- Dietary hyperthyroidism in dogs