Breed of the Week - Irish Setter

by Alexis Esty

The Irish Setter is believed to have developed from mixing the Irish Terrier, Irish Water Spaniel, English Setter, Pointer and Gordon Setter. It was originally named the Irish Red Setter in the United States because the Irish Setter was a red and white dog with shorter legs than today’s breed. Irish hunters needed a fast working, keen-nosed dog that was large enough to be seen from a distance. They found this in the red and white setters but it wasn’t until the 1880’s when the first kennel of solid red setters appeared.

The Irish Setter is an all purpose hunting dog; both a pointer and a retriever in all types of terrain. These dogs are especially good for hunting game birds. Their many talents include hunting, tracking, retrieving, pointing, watchdog, agility and competitive obedience.
The personality of the Irish Setter is fun loving, playful and affectionate but also mischievous, independent, intelligent, stubborn, anxious to please, and yet, determined to have its own way.

These dogs are slow maturing both physically and mentally so they stay a puppy much longer than other dogs but this does not mean that they are difficult to train. They adapt well and house train quickly. Once they learn a lesson, it is never forgotten, so it is best they are taught with firmness and affection rather than cruelty. Irish Setters are protective dogs and will enthusiastically announce the arrival of visitors, making them good watchdogs.

Because this is a high energy breed, having a fenced in yard where they can stretch and play is a good idea. A long walk or run for an hour or more a day is a must to keep this dog happy. Irish Setters need brushing or combing regularly at least every two or three days, as well as a good clipping or trimming to keep them looking their best. It is best to keep them inside with their family during the cold weather but can survive outside in temperate or warm weather, although banishing any dog outdoors away from family and other dogs is not advised.

Some major health concerns of the Irish Setter are PRA (Progressive Retinal Atrophy), CHD (Canine Hip Dysplasia), and Gastric Torsion. It is suggested to test for eye, DNA for PRA, hip, cardiac and thyroid. With DNA testing for PRA, it should no longer be a concern throughout life if both parents have been proven negative.

Irish Setters can live for a healthy 12 to 14 years.