Irish Setter (Irish Red Setter)

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rich chestnut with no trace of black; with wite patches
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Good with kids:
Pros Cons
  • forms strong bonds with its masters
  • loves children
  • excellent hunter
  • great family companion
  • training can be challenging
  • needs a lot of daily exercises
  • needs to be brushed daily

The Irish Setter (Irish Red Setter, or Red Setter) is an outgoing, restless and mischievous breed, which originated as a hunting dog in Ireland. Shortly it became truly popular because of its prodigious red coat and excellent hunting talents. This breed is an extrovert, always ready to play with other dog or its owner and will make both as great hunting dog and an excellent family companion.


The Irish Setter was initially a variation of the Irish Red and White Setter and it appeared in Ireland and in the United Kingdom in the XVIII century. In Gaelic it was named as «Modder rhu» that is translated as «red dog». In creation of the Irish Setter took part a number of the breeds, including the Irish Terrier, Irish Water Spaniel, English Setter, Pointer and the Gordon Setter. Primarily the dog had a name of the Irish Red Setter, which is today simplified to the Irish Setter.

In the XIX century the breeders started purposefully breeding the Irish Setter whith coloration of solid and rich mahogany. The trend for this colour of Setters was established by the Irish Earl of Enniskillen, who in 1812 kept exclusively red type of the Setter in his kennels.

Prior to 1862 the Irish Setter served only as a hunting dog. It is renowned for its versatility and can work as a pointing dog, a scent dog, and a retriever. The hunters who liked to hunt on their own or couldn’t afford to have many dogs preferred this breed over the others.

The 1862 was marked with the birth of Champion Palmerston, the Irish Setter which determined the standard for the modern breed. It was bigger and bonier with more clearly outlined muzzle than other specimens of the breed at that time. The vast majority of the today’s Irish Setters are somehow related to Champion Palmerston and its traits can be obviously recognised in the breed description of the modern days.

In 1875 the Irish Setter was brought to America and in no time it became amazingly popular there as the family companion as well as the show dog. Gradually the breed members have been divided into two types, the show type, which is called the Irish Setter, and the working gundog with the name of the Red Setter. The American Kennel Club (AKC) gave recognition to the breed in 1878.

The popularity of the Irish Setter in the USA spiked in the 1960s and 1970s due to the books and films featuring a Big Red, the Irish Setter star. Nowadays it’s less fashionable than previously but it remains one of the most recognisable breeds in America and in Europe.

The Irish Setter is a dog with bright individuality, rollicking and energetic. It offers a well-balanced combination of independent character and loyalty to its master. The breed is apt to develop a tight bond with every member of the family. The Irish Setter is great with children and is going to become a willing playmate for them. It will put up with substantial roughness in the game but it’s more suitable for home with older children since it’s too boisterous for a toddler.

The Irish Setter easily lets new people in its life and most of the time will be amicable with strangers. Though it should learn the proper manner since it tends to welcome newcomers in your house by jumping and knocking them over in attempt to kiss. This breed can be turned into reasonable watchdog which will notify the owner about approach of a stranger. But it’s going to be poor guard dog as it’s deprived of natural aggressiveness to excel in this job.

It hasn’t been noticed that the Irish Setter has some considerable issues with other dogs. Actually it prefers to live with minimum one canine but the more the better. The fellow dog should also be vigorous and active so the Irish Setter won’t bother it in attempt to play. Under condition of sufficient socialization the breed will be friendly with strange dogs and non-canine home pets. The Setter shouldn’t attack and hurt the prey during the hunt and only barks to detain it. That’s why it will get along with a home cat and other small animals. Some dogs tend to harass cats but only in an attempt to drag it in the game.

Health Problems

The most common problems for the breed include:

• ear problems;
• eye problems;
• canine hip dysplasia;
• elbow dysplasia;
• epilepsy;
• skin allergies;
• hypothyroidism;
• auto-immune disease;
• gastric torsion;
• osteosarcoma;
• lymphoma;
• gastric cancer;
• von Willebrand’s disease;
• patent ductus arteriosis;
• canine leukocyte adhesion deficiency;
• celiac disease.

The attendance of the Irish Setter requires considerable amount of efforts. The coat of the dog is prone to mating and tangling so it should be carefully brushed every day. It also needs regular trimming which can be done by the owner himself. Majority of the owners prefer to take their dogs to the professional groomer every 6 to 8 weeks.

The Irish Setter is not particularly heavy shedder but it does shed. The breed isn’t recommended for the individuals who are not capable to put up with tons of hair on their clothing and furniture or who are just allergic to dogs hair.

A special care requires the ears of the Irish Setter, which attract debris and dirt. They must be cleaned regularly to prevent the irritation and infection from happening.

The Irish Setter is deemed to be pretty challenging to train thanks to its independent and obstinate nature. Usually the dog wants to please but not so enthusiastically as other breeds. Sometimes the stubbornness wakes up in it and when no amount of persuasion and incentives are going to make it do what you want. That being said, the Irish Setter is a smart and capable learner and with due commitment from the owner it can achieve great results at agility and obedience competitions.

It’s important that the trainer declares and asserts its dominative status right from the beginning of the work with the dog. The Irish Setter must respect the handler and shouldn’t forget who the boss is. A mixture of firm and imperious hand with plenty of treats works best in training of this breed.

As a hunting dog the Irish Setter is exigent to amount of physical activity. The master should walk with the dog at least for an hour every day but it should also get a chance to roam around on the territory with high fence.

Your dog will gladly accept any strenuous exercise in a form of work or game you can offer it. This breed will make a wonderful hiking or jogging companion.

The Irish Setter which has not enough outlets for its exuberant energy is predisposed to turn into nervous, destructive, overexcited animal with a nasty habit of on-going barking.