When you bring an Irish Setter into your home, prepare for a downright giddy housemate. Full of boisterous energy and love, Irish Setters will want to be involved in everything you do. They love family time, whether indoors or out, and they get along famously with children.
This charming Irish redhead is known for its carefree personality and rocket-launcher energy. “Tireless” and “enthusiastic” are the two words frequently used to describe the breed. The Irish Setter loves to run, but given an ample daily quota of exercise, he’s a calm, fun-loving companion. The Irish Setter can be a good choice for families with older children, but he’s probably too rambunctious to be set loose with toddlers. He also gets along well with other pets such as cats if he’s raised with them. Irish Setters are alert and will loudly and excitedly announce when someone is approaching.
Choose an Irish Setter if you are an active person who can give him the exercise he needs. A long walk or run of an hour or so will do, or you can take him hiking or run him alongside your bicycle. He’s also a super competitor in dog sports such as agility, obedience, and rally and can be an excellent therapy dog. Be warned: if you don’t give him an outlet for his energy, he will become frustrated. A frustrated Irish Setter is a destructive Irish Setter.
As with so many sporting breeds, there are differences between Irish Setters bred for the field and those bred for the show ring. Field-bred dogs are smaller with a lighter coat and have much more hunting instinct than their show-ring siblings, but both types make good companions.
Last but not least, it should go without saying that a people-loving dog like the Irish Setter needs to live in the house
- Irish Setters become very attached to the people in their lives and can suffer from serious separation anxiety. They become very unhappy when they are left alone for more than a few hours and this unhappiness usually results in destructive behavior. Irish Setters do not make good outdoor dogs and need to stay inside, close to their family.
- The high-energy, athletic Irish Setter needs room to run and the best place for him to do that is in a large, fenced yard.
- Irish Setters need lots of exercise and should be exercised twice a day for at least half an hour each time.
- Irish Setters need obedience training to channel their mischievous and sometimes stubborn nature.
- Irish Setters do very well with other animals and children. It is important, however, to properly socialize your puppy regardless of the breed’s temperament or your living situation. You might not have children or other pets now, but that could change. Lack of socialization can cause many difficulties.
- Irish Setters need to be groomed daily or every other day to keep their long, silky coats from becoming tangled. They are moderate shedders, so you will have some hair in your house, especially during shedding seasons.
- Irish Setters do not mature quickly. Some dogs settle down by the age of 2, but others remain puppylike their entire lives.
- Irish Setters are inquisitive by nature and will get into anything they can find or reach. This trait can also make training more difficult because they generally have a hard time staying focused. If you can keep them interested in training, they learn quickly.
- To get a healthy dog, never buy a puppy from an irresponsible breeder, puppy mill, or pet store. Look for a reputable breeder who tests her breeding dogs to make sure they’re free of genetic diseases that they might pass onto the puppies, and that they have sound temperaments.
Other Quick Facts
- The Irish Setter’s stunning, medium-length coat is mahogany or rich chestnut red with no black. He may have a small amount of white on the chest, throat, or toes, or a narrow streak of white on the head.
- The Irish Setter’s head is long and lean with a delicately chiseled appearance. The head is framed by long ears and set off by dark eyes that show intelligence and good humor.
- AKC Group: Sporting
- UKC Group: Gundog
- Average Life span:10 to 11 years
- Weight: 24 to 27 inches at the shoulder
- Height: 35 to 70 pounds
- Coat : The Irish Setter’s deep reddish distinctive coat can be characterized as long and silky, and you’ll want to make sure it’s properly groomed in order to ensure your animal is comfortable and healthy.
- Comparable Breeds: Golden Retriever, Labrador Retriever
It’s not surprising that this handsome redhead comes from Ireland, which is famous for fine and beautiful dogs. The Irish Setter appears to have been developed there in the 18th century, probably the result of combining English Setters, spaniels, pointers, and Gordon Setters.
Those first Irish Setters were sometimes called red spaniels — a clue to their heritage, perhaps — or modder rhu, Gaelic for “red dog.” Often, they were white and red instead of the solid dark red we see today. Some, described as “shower of hail” dogs, had red coats sprinkled with small white spots. The Irish Earl of Enniskillen may have started the fad for solid red dogs. By 1812, he would have no other kind in his kennels. Other Irish breeders of the time who preferred the red dogs were Jason Hazzard of Timaskea in County Fermanagh and Sir St. George Gore.
A dog named Elcho was the first Irish Setter imported to the United States. He arrived in 1875 and became a star not only in the show ring but also in the field. The first Irish Setter registered by the American Kennel Club was Admiral, in 1878.
They quickly became one of the most popular breeds in America and a favorite in the show ring. Between 1874 and 1948, 760 Irish Setters became conformation champions, while only five became field champions. This sparked alarm for some fanciers of the original breed, and in 1940 the magazine Field and Stream called for a resurrection of the breed as a working dog. Today, it’s not unusual to see two types: the larger, heavier show dog, and the lighter, sleeker field dog.
The Irish Setter’s popularity soared in the 1960s and 1970s, thanks to the books and movie featuring an Irish Setter named Big Red, as well as the presence of Irish Setter King Timahoe at the White House during the Nixon administration. Today, the Irish Setter ranks 68th among the 155 breeds and varieties recognized by the AKC.
People rarely have a negative thing to say about the temperament of Irish Setters, being friendly to adults, children, other animals and strangers alike. This easy going nature will not, of course, make them a good guard dog, however, you will have a playful, affectionate and loyal member of the family if you choose an Irish Setter to share your home. One thing to be slightly wary of with Setters is the hunting instinct which is still alive and kicking and as a result, it is advisable to supervise them around small animals you may have in the household such as rabbits, birds, hamsters etc.
They are a very active and alert dog, and enjoy long daily walks and runs. Due to their highly trainable nature, they are usually good off the lead, provided you have trained them with a reliable recall. This of course may vary according to the dogs personality as some Irish Setters are so playful they may develop selective hearing when called back to go home!
This is a breed of dog which does not relish being alone for long periods of time and inactivity may lead to separation anxiety, boredom and destructive behaviour.
Due to their pliable and gentle nature Irish Setters are often used as PAT dogs in schools, hospitals and hospices where they will receive the attention and affection with pleasure.
Irish Setters tend to be a very healthy breed. Problems that have been noted in Irish Setters include: Hip dysplasia, cancer, progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), epilepsy, entropion, hypothyroidism, hyperosteodystrophy, bloat (a.k.a. gastric torsion), osteosarcoma, Von Willebrand’s disease, patent ductus arteriosus, canine Leukocyte adhesion deficiency (CLAD) and celiac disease.
It should be noted that Irish Setters are now one of the few breeds for which genetic tests have been developed to detect the presence of both CLAD and PRA (RCD-1).
Irish Setters require a lot of activity to maintain an even temperament. Prospective owners should be prepared to dedicate at least one hour per day to a Setter’s physical activity requirements. Brisk walks are good, but they should be allowed to run several times per week. Irish Setters are country dogs, they require wide open space and room to roam.
Agility training is often a good outlet for Irish Setters as it works the mind and the body. Though they aren’t as reliable as a Golden Retriever and may not win agility championships, Irish Setters enjoy the activity and appreciate the bonding time.
Irish Setters require regular brushing to prevent matting of the coat; even more so in the winter, when the under coat is thicker. Even without a show standard trim, this breed looks its best when it is given an occasional trimming. A thorough round of exercise for at least an hour a day is a must for this breed. Irish Setters cannot bear cold climates, preferring temperate weather.
The Irish Setter is not recommended for apartment life unless the owners are active daily joggers or bikers and plan on taking the dog along with them. This breed does best with a large yard.
Irish Setters need very little training when it comes to hunting birds, but household obedience is a different story. Don’t let the long hair fool you – this is not a Golden Retriever. Training and Irish Setter requires patience, consistency and a calm-assertive attitude. This breed develops habits quickly, and bad habits can be nearly impossible to break, so the earlier you begin training a Setter, the better.
Irish Setters can be rambunctious well after puppyhood passes and even if they receive adequate exercise. It is very important to teach your setter proper manners and not to jump on people, no matter how excited he may be to see them.
This Irish redhead has a coat that’s moderately long on the body and short and fine on the head and front legs, with long, silky feathering on the ears, the backs of the legs, the chest, the belly, and the tail.
The coat needs brushing and combing two or three times a week to prevent or remove mats and tangles. A bath every two to four weeks or so doesn’t go amiss. Tips on grooming and the best tools to use are available from this Irish Setter breeder.
The rest is basic care. Trim the nails as needed, usually every week or two. Brush the teeth frequently with a vet-approved pet toothpaste for good overall health and fresh breath. Keep the long, hanging ears clean and dry to help prevent bacterial or yeast infections from developing.
Children And Other Pets
Irish Setters are good friends for active older children, but they can be too rambunctious for toddlers. It’s all too easy for an Irish Setter to accidentally knock a child down.
Always teach children how to approach and touch dogs, and always supervise any interactions between dogs and young children to prevent any biting or ear or tail pulling on the part of either party. Teach your child never to approach any dog while he’s eating or sleeping or to try to take the dog’s food away. No dog, no matter how friendly, should ever be left unsupervised with a child.
Irish Setters are also good with other dogs in the household, as well as cats, especially if they’re raised with them, but they might see pet birds as prey since those are what they are bred to hunt.
Did You Know?
- The 1962 Disney movie “Big Red” gave the breed’s popularity a big boost, as did the White House presence of King Timahoe, President Richard Nixon’s Irish Setter.
- Bus Éireann, the national bus company in Ireland, uses the Irish Setter as its corporate logo.
- Alex the Dog from the Stroh’s beer commercials (half Irish Setter, half Golden Retriever)
- Chauncey, fictional dog of Duck Phillips in Mad Men
- Garry Owen, pet of Maine Governor Percival Proctor Baxter
- King Timahoe (1968–1979), pet of Richard Nixon, a 56th birthday gift from his White House staff in January 1969.
- Kojak, fictional dog in the Stephen King novel The Stand
- Mike, pet of US President Harry Truman
- Milord, a red Setter which was Alexander II, Tsar of Russia’s favourite dog
- Plunkett, the only Irish setter depicted in George Earl’s mythical painting of “A Field Trial in the Eighties“
- Shannon, pet of Beach Boy Carl Wilson, whose death became the subject of the 1976 song by a friend, Henry Gross
- T-Bone, mascot for the Pace University Setters sports teams
- Thunder, first mascot for the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds sports teams
- Seamus, owned by Mitt Romney.
- Redbeard, owned by younger Sherlock Holmes in Sherlock
- Sasha La Fleur, Charlie’s love interest in All Dogs Go to Heaven 2.