Irish Red and White Setter

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white with red patches
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Good with kids:
Pros Cons
  • excellent gun dog
  • wonderful family companion                     
  • friendly
  • requires a sufficient amount of daily exercises


The Irish Red and White Setter is a joyous, sociable and spirited dog from Ireland. Most of its history this old and revered breed served as an indispensable hunter’s companion but nowadays its members are often acquired for companionship. However, the dog gained much less popularity and international recognition as its cousin the Irish Setter.

In ancient times bird-hunting was one of the most favourable pastimes among both Irish nobility and commoners. In the absence of guns hunting dog was supposed to silently pinpoint the location of the feathered game so that the hunter could throw the net over it kill it with bow and arrow. Early variety of this dog belonged to Spaniel family and oftentimes referred as the «setting Spaniel». Gradually several distinct breeds evolved from these ancient spaniel-type dogs and one of which was the Irish Red and White Setter. First thorough descriptions of the breed date back to XVII century although it was most likely developed much earlier. By the beginning of the XVIII century the breed was well-established in its native Ireland.

The Irish Red and White Setter was characterised with unsurpassed intelligence and patient demeanour, which allowed it to stand motionless and point until the hunter came close enough to finish off the game bird. This hunting style lost its fanciers with the invention of firearms but fortunately it didn’t affect the breed. Setter became a much-preferred gundog since it was virtually impossible to accidentally shoot the dog as it didn’t pursue escaping animals.

By the end of the XVIII century Irish breeders began to breed increasingly more all-red Setters. In time the dog with such coloration seemed to gain more appeal and this variety started to dominate not only in a show ring but also in the field. As the result in the early XX century the population of the Irish Red and White Setter was fairly scarce. The First World War almost wiped out the breed from the Earth surface as very few pureblood specimens survived its hardships. In the 20s of the XX Rev. Houston and his cousin Dr. Elliot made a commitment to restore the dog to its former glory. Thanks to these enthusiasts nowadays hunters from all over the world have an opportunity to enjoy the company of their Irish Red and White Setters.

Although the Irish Red and White Setter has never won such a favour as its closely related the all-red Irish Setter its long-term survival is no longer a viable problem. It is well-established in its homeland as well as in England and America. The breed was given formal recognition of the United Kennel Club (UKC) in 1978. It was recognised by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 2009.

The Irish Red and White Setter is a clever, work-driven and loyal hunting dog, which adapts well to the life of a family pet. Such a frisky and spirited dog is recommended for active families who can provide it with enough physical and mental stimulation. It’s also known to have excitable and impulsive character so this breed needs early and proper socialisation to learn to react adequately to the wide variety of situation. A well-mannered specimen will become an indefatigable playmate for children and will handle a small child with proper patience and care.

The Irish Red and White Setter is also naturally amicable and trustful dog, which is always glad to acquire a new friend. Actually it tends to express its happy excitement by jumping and trying to lick so timely obedience training is imperative if you want your dog to behave politely with your guests. The desire to defend is usually weak in this dog so it won’t make a good watchdog. At the same time it is sensitive enough to signal its master that someone is approaching the house door. The breed will never become a decent guardian as it usually perceives all strangers as potential playmates.

The Irish Red and White Setter likes to spend time in the company of other dogs and very rarely comes into conflicts with them. This breed doesn’t tend to compete for an alpha status so it can co-exist with other canines with few issues on the permanent basis. Surprisingly enough but this hunting dog is fairly accepting of other animals if it got used to their presence since puppyhood. It will definitely treat a household cat as a part of its pack if they have been brought up together.
Health Problems

The most common problems for the breed include:
• von Willebrand’s Disease;
• eye problems;
• canine leukocyte adhesion deficiency (CLAD);
• canine hip dysplasia (CHD);
• epilepsy/seizures
• gastric torsion;
• hypothyroidism;
• immune mediated hemolytic anemia.

The Irish Red and White Setter should receive certain amount of care but not an excessive one. The dogs’ master should regularly brush its medium-length coat to keep it free from mats and tangles. Trimming or shaving are not advisable as it is an essentially working breed, which should have maximum natural appearance.

Such basic care routines as nail trimming, teeth brushing and ear cleaning will help the dog to look well-attended and maintain good health. The Irish Red and White Setter requires only rare bathing although working specimen should be bathed considerably more frequently.

The training of the Irish Red and White Setter needs minimal efforts since this dog is endowed with exceptional intelligence as well as willingness to oblige. In order to get optimal results in the work with this breed the trainer should use consistent, calm and patient approach to the learning process. The breed is extremely sensitive to the changes in the tone of voice in humans so it should be always addressed in a confident, firm but respectful manner.

Remember, if this dog believes that it’s smarter than you are than no amount of coaxing will make it obey your commands. It is also impossible to attain any success in training the Irish Red and White Setter if you use hard correction and punishment as motivational techniques.

The Irish Red and White Setter has extensive exercise requirements because of its hunting background. This dog will be quite content with apartment living as long as its master will invest enough time in walking and playing with his dog. Naturally such kinds of activities will never become an equal substitution for a free run in a securely enclosed area.

Although this breed is characterised with low level of aggressiveness it should always be leashed on walks just for the sake of its own safety. Under exercised dog will quickly get bored and will demonstrate its dissatisfaction with such situation in destructive actions, excessive barking, restlessness and disobedience.