Irish Setter

"Hunter from the Emerald Isle"

Photo of Irish Setter


As is the case with many wonderful breeds, this dog's origins are obscure and blurred by the practice of cross-breeding based on need and desirability. Still, most historical references to the Setter, at least from the eighteenth century on, place him in Ireland, where he was seen as either a red- or white-coated dog, or a mixture of the two. It was in the early nineteenth century that the solid red or solid white coats became typical. In America, it is the solid (or self-coated) red that became the standard. But coat color was not the only factor in the Irish Setter's development. Some experts believe that the ancestors of the Irish Setter were the early flushing spaniels of the fourteenth century, when bird hunting was accomplished by the dogs pointing to the trees in which the birds hid. Nets were then thrown over the trees and the dogs were given the command to flush; this caused the birds to attempt to fly away, at which point they were caught in the nets. From then on various other breeds were introduced to create the Irish Setter of today. They were possibly Bloodhounds, Pointers, and other setters.


The Irish Setter is highly energetic, easily excited, and exuberant about anything that he senses is about to happen. The prospect of going outdoors, going somewhere in the family car, or even having his food dish filled, sets him off into leaps and bounds of pleasure. He is also quite affectionate, gentle and sweet-natured. In addition to being a great hunter of birds, he is a wonderful companion, at his best on long walks and spirited runs. On the other hand, he is a strong-willed dog, playful, mischievous, and at times over-exuberant. There are those that are aloof, too independent, and suspicious of strangers, but these are not true representations of the breed.


The modern Irish Setter is a solid red-coated dog, mahogany or chestnut colored, with small (if any) patches of white on the chest or the toes, or both. He is a large dog, with the male standing 27 inches high at the shoulders, and 25 inches for the female. The ideal male weighs around 70 pounds and the female approximately 60 pounds. The look of the dog is elegant and graceful with a distinctive trot adding to his flamboyance. The Setter head is long and lean, with extraordinarily long ears that flap in the breeze as he runs. His eyes are dark and project a delicate, expressive countenance that is alert and intelligent.


Training an adult Irish Setter is similar to training a puppy. This is an excitable and highly energetic dog. He is also strong-willed and in his own best interest requires early obedience training before exuberance turns into stubborn behavior. The Irish Setter is a chore to train because he insists on doing things his own way. He is also very sensitive and cannot tolerate any harsh corrections. Nevertheless, he does require a consistent, determined, and somewhat firm trainer that does not give in to his playful behavior. An untrained Irish Setter can and will ultimately ruin the interior of a house or apartment, which is one of the reasons that housebreaking must begin immediately. A Setter must be given vigorous, daily exercise (at least one hour a day) or he will never become a properly trained dog.

Grooming & Care

His long, silky hair can and will tangle and eventually form mats that are difficult to undo. He will require a thorough brushing at least twice a week, followed by a combing. A simple water spritz before brushing makes the task easier. His long to medium hair should be scissored as the coat becomes frayed looking, which could mean every three or four months. An occasional bath is necessary for the sake of hygiene as well as keeping him looking well-groomed.

Health Concerns

The two major health concerns of the Irish Setter are gastric torsion (bloat) and epilepsy. They are also susceptible to various diseases of the blood, hip dysplasia, progressive retinal atrophy, and a variety of skin disorders.

Famous Irish Setter

Big Red from "Big Red: The Story of a Champion Irish Setter and a Trapper's Son Who Grew Up Together, Roaming the Winderness"

Ideal Owner
Activity Level 32
Schedule 34
Home 9
Children 48
Experience 11
Quick Facts
Grooming 110
Exercise 14
Challenges Needs a lot of exercise and attention.
Height 25 to 27 inches
Weight 55 to 75 pounds
Life 12 to 14 years
Home Alone 83
With Kids 86
With Strangers 91
Availability 23

This client information sheet is based on material written by: LifeLearn

© Copyright 2014 LifeLearn Inc. Used and/or modified with permission under license.

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