Irish Setter

The Irish Setter is undeniably one of the most beautiful breeds in the world. Their flowing red coat is famous, an apt representation of their allegiance to the Emerald Isle. However, these dogs have more to offer than just their beauty queen status. The Irish are capable athletes, whose gentle and easy-going temperament allows them fit splendidly into family life. Read on to learn more about the Irish Setter.

Description of the Irish Setter

These dogs are known for their silky, flowing red coat. In fact, they come in three striking shades: chestnut, mahogany, and red. Setters with a red and white coloration exist, though they are technically a different breed than the traditional Irish Setter.

The Irish Setter has a graceful and powerful build. Their smooth hair flows softly around lean muscle. Although elegant, these dogs are not slight. They have the substance and muscle of sporting dogs.

This breed was originally developed as a bird dogs. The name “setter” comes from their training to set, or drop down to their bellies, when they found a bird. The Irish Setter was even used as a hunter before firearms became popular. Later in their history, they simply accompanied hunters and played more of a role in tracking and retrieving.

Today, these dogs make gorgeous and social family pets.

Life Expectancy and Size

The Irish Setter is a long-lived breed. In fact, their life expectancy is more on par with that of a small dog. Well-bred individuals will be healthier than many other dogs. Despite their size, they can live between 12 and 15 years.

These dogs are medium to large in size, easier to handle than some bulkier dogs. Most Setters stand between 25 and 27 inches at the shoulder, and they weigh 60 to 70 pounds.

Protective Ability

This breed is not known for its protective capacity. Although alert, they are not extremely vocal. They love their owners and are extremely loyal, but most Irish Setters do not have the protective instinct. These kindly dogs generally do not display any aggression.


The Irish Setter is job-oriented and smart as a whip. Give these dogs a reason to listen and they will happily oblige. It is smart to approach everything like a job with the Irish Setter. If they think training is silly or pointless, they will be less likely to listen.

When paired with a capable teacher, the Irish Setter can excel at important jobs, where they may become anything from hunters to therapy dogs. This breed has a particularly capable nose, so search and rescue is another good career choice.

Make sure to approach the Irish Setter’s training with positivity. These are sensitive dogs that feed off of their owners’ emotions. Do not be tempted to become strict or harsh. Rather, approach the Setter’s training through reward- and relationship-based methods.

Energy Level

In youth, perhaps until about 3 years of age, this breed can be a handful. Like many large and athletic dogs, they can be bouncy and boisterous. However, as they age, the Irish Setter becomes a calm and dignified companion. They’ll always be up for a game, though!

These dogs are high energy, and require adequate exercise to stay happy and fit. However, they’re calm enough to make good family pets.

What Living with an Irish Setter is Like

This dog is an example of a fine family pet. The Irish Setter has a great, double-sided personality. While they are social and calm at home, they are also athletic and always ready to play when they have the option. This breed is a good choice for active owners or those with children.

The Irish Setter can adapt to a variety of environments, although they should have at least some access to the outdoors. They are social creatures, and may suffer from separation anxiety. However, they are great with people and other pets. When well bred and exercised, these dogs have fewer health problems than most other breeds.

Care of the Irish Setter

These dogs need some serious coat care and adequate exercise. However, for many families, the time required is more than worth it.

Environmental Needs

The Irish Setter was bred for the harsh environs of Ireland. As birding dogs, they had to be slight enough to maintain their endurance and sturdy enough to hold up on the rocky terrain. Today, they can fit well into most environments, both hot and cold. They love the outdoors and should always have access to a place to romp.

Exercise Needs

As a hunting dog, the Irish Setter requires adequate exercise. This could come in a variety of forms. For some families, long daily walks can be a good way to keep these Setters happy. However, walks should also be supplemented with outdoor play. These dogs love clowning around with children to get their energy out.

These dogs make great companions for athletic owners, too. They can keep up with runners or bikers. Of course, they would make great tracking and hunting dogs for those so inclined.

Shedding and Grooming

Shedding and grooming is one of the most difficult aspects of caring for the Irish Setter. This breed’s luxurious coat requires some looking-after, as they should be brushed a few times a week. This helps keep them shiny, and avoids mats.

Only occasional baths are needed. In fact, too much bathing can irritate their skin. It is important to trim the nails regularly and clean the ears. The Irish Setter is particularly susceptible to ear infections.

Some owners choose to trim or clip these Setters a few times a year. This can help cut down on grooming and make their impressive coats easier to manage. Their double coat does not tolerate shaving, so don’t rely on that to reduce grooming needs!

Ideal Home Environment

This breed is perfect for families. They are great with well-behaved children, social with strange people, and enjoy the company of family pets.

Ideally, the Irish Setter has an owner that can keep up with his athleticism. This could be as simple as playing with him in the yard or taking him for hikes and runs. These social dogs should always have plenty of interaction with their family. Otherwise, they can become bored and destructive. This dog will do particularly well with adequate access to the outdoors.

Health Concerns

This breed is generally quite healthy. They are extremely long lived, with many reaching the ripe old age of 15. Big areas of concern are the eye and the hip, especially as the Irish Setter ages. Other problems can arise with the thyroid.

They Irish Setter is also prone to bloat, which plagues many large dogs. This stomach problem can be life threatening. Feed small meals, and don’t allow these dogs to exercise after they eat.

Behavior Problems

This breed is not known for excessive behavioral issues.

As puppies, and up until the age of 3, the Irish Setter can be boisterous. This can become tiring and these growing dogs can quickly become a pain. Make sure to engage in productive training sessions, and provide young Setters plenty of exercise. Know that these dogs tend to calm down as they age.

Another issue that can arise is separation anxiety. This breed is not well suited to being left alone for most of the day.