Let's talk Irish Setters

Irish Setters are instantly recognisable by their eye-catching feathered, rich red coats, but these lively and intelligent dogs have much more to offer besides their graceful good looks. They were originally bred as hunting dogs and still sometimes fulfil that role today, but as friendly as they are athletic, Irish Setters also revel in the role of family pet. Albeit sometimes mischievous family pets whose boundless energy needs to be channelled into exercise and play.

Official name: Irish Setter

Other names: Irish Red Setter

Origins: Ireland

Close-up of Irish Setter in black and white
 Drooling tendencies

Low

Warm weather? Medium
 Shedding level High
Suited to apartment living?  Very low
 Energy Level (high, low, medium)* High Family Pet?* 
Very high
 Compatibility with other pets Very high
Can stay alone?* Very low

 * We advise against leaving pets alone for long stretches. Companionship can prevent emotional distress and destructive behaviour. Speak to your veterinarian for recommendations.

Every pet is different, even within a breed; this snapshot of this breed specifics should be taken as an indication.
 
For a happy healthy and well-behaved pet, we recommend educating and socializing your pet as well as covering their basic welfare needs (and their social and behavioral needs).
 
Pets should never be left unsupervised with a child.
 
Contact your breeder or veterinarian for further advice.
 
All domestic pets are sociable and prefer company.  However, they can be taught to cope with solitude from an early age.  Seek the advice of your veterinarian or trainer to help you do this.

 
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Illustration of Irish Setter
Male
58 - 67 cm Height
15 - 30 kg Weight
Female
55 - 62 cm Height
15 - 30 kg Weight

 Baby age  Birth to 2 months
 Puppy age  2 to 12 months
 Adult age 1 to 7 years
 Mature age  7 to 10 years
 Senior age  from 10 years

Close-up of Irish Setter jumping up on persons chest

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Get to know the Irish Setters

All you need to know about the breed

The flame-haired Irish beauty is a staple of the Emerald Isle’s myths and legends–and the Irish Setter is living proof that they don’t just come in human form. The Irish Setter’s mahogany locks have ensured over the years that the breed, originally a hunting dog, has become a prize-winning dog show champion, as well as a much-loved family pet.

Their joie de vivre is irrepressible and these high-energy dogs have much more to offer than just their beautiful coat. Although with their whimsical big brown eyes and their abundant auburn locks, they really are breathtakingly beautiful dogs.

Irish Setters - the set part of their name refers to how they were originally trained to stand to show they had spotted prey - make their doggy presence felt, and in a good way. That means they need plenty of exercise, plenty of attention and they like to be where their humans are. They are not keen on being left alone for extended periods. Once trained, they are gentle with children and other animals in their family.

However, Irish Setters have a reputation for being a little … overexcited, shall we say? That energetic reputation isn’t entirely undeserved but these lovely dogs get away with a little bit of bumptiousness because they’re also affectionate, loyal and sociable. It’s fitting that Irish Setters come from the land of good craic (a Gaelic word for fun) as that’s exactly what these Celtic canines are.

Irish Setter sitting in field, mountains in background

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2 facts about Irish Setters

1. Big Red

Big Red, the eponymous star of Jim Kjelgaard’s 1945 novel and a 1962 Walt Disney film, is probably the most famous Irish Setter ever, despite being fictional. Some real-life Irish Setters have had high profiles too – several Irish Setters have kept U.S. presidents company in the White House, including King Timahoe, known as Tim, who was named after the hamlet Richard Nixon’s ancestors came from in Ireland.

2. Perennial puppies

Mischievous puppyhood lasts a long time for Irish Setters, in temperament at least. The breed is known to be slow to mature: some owners report that their dogs never fully grow out of their puppyish ways … but around two years is quite normal. That means you’ll likely have a rambunctious, high-energy and full-sized setter “puppy” on your hands. Early, consistent training and socialisation activities are good ways to help your Irish Setter set-tle down. 

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History of the breed

Like other setters, the Irish Setter was originally bred as a hunting dog and named after the stance it was trained to adopt, “setting” or lying low to show human hunters it had found birds without getting in the way of the nets that would then be thrown to trap them.

As hunting methods changed so did the breed, but even standing upright, setters have kept the evocative name. 

The Irish Setter is the result of breeding between the Irish Red & White Setter and a mystery red-coated breed as far back as the 19th century. It owes its sleek, athletic silhouette to the hunters of the time who wanted dogs that were rangy and tall enough to lope tirelessly across the flat expanses of Irish countryside. 

Close-up of Irish Setter looking at camera in black and white

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From head to tail

Physical characteristics of Irish Setters

1. Ears

Long, feathered ears that lie flat against the head.

2. Head

Chiselled head with elongated muzzle.

3. Body

Lean and athletic silhouette.

4. Coat

Flame-red glossy coat of medium length, longer at chest.

5. Tail

Medium-length feathered tail, tapering to the end.

Close-up of Irish Setter sitting looking away from camera

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Things to look out for

From specific breed traits to a general health overview, here are some interesting facts about your Irish Setter
Irish Setter puppy running through dried grass

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Caring for your Irish Setter

Grooming, training and exercise tips

That beautiful chestnut-red coat requires regular grooming to stay glossy and gorgeous and avoid tangles. Irish Setters need to be brushed a couple of times a week. They also need a nail trim once a month and the occasional bath with a specially-formulated gentle doggy shampoo. Take advantage of grooming time to check their ears as Irish Setters can be prone to ear infections. Irish Setters need plenty of exercise – substantial walks (an hour a day as a bare minimum) as well as play sessions should keep them physically fit and mentally stimulated. Intelligent and eager-to-please Irish Setters should respond well to training as long as you’re patient: make sure that it’s fun, so they don’t get bored (they can be inquisitive and easily distracted) and reward-based, with any treats coming out of their daily rations.

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All about Irish Setters

 

Put it this way: you’ll need patience. Irish Setters are intelligent dogs and should – eventually – respond well to training. But they’re inquisitive (read easily distracted) and can be stubborn too. Consistent, reward-based training will work; just make sure the rewards come out of their daily rations to keep your Irish Setter at a healthy weight.

Once trained, Irish Setters get on well with children although like any other breed, they shouldn’t be left alone with little ones. Some Irish Setters can be a little exuberant by nature and others a bit more reserved, but early socialisation should help them get used to people and other animals and settle down into their role as the most beautiful member of almost any family. 

Other breeds that might interest you.

Sources

1 - Veterinary Centers of America https://vcahospitals.com/ 

2 - Royal Canin Dog Encyclopaedia. Ed 2010 and 2020

3 - Banfield Pet Hospital https://www.banfield.com/

4 - Royal Canin BHN Product Book

5 - American Kennel Club https://www.akc.org/