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Information Connection: Irish Setters

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 The Irish Setter

By Cathy Richey

Irish Setter Quick Facts:

  • Group Classification: Hunting dog.
  • Country of Origin: United States.
  • Date of Origin: 1800s.
  • Weight M: 65-80 pounds.
  • Height M: 26-28 inches.
  • Weight F: 55-65 pounds.
  • Height F: 24-26 inches.
  • Life Expectancy: 10 to14 years.

The Irish Setter is an active, aristocratic bird dog. Most people agree that the is the most beautiful of all dogs. With its flowing, auburn coat, long ears, soft expression. and regal presence, this hunting dog turns heads wherever it goes. It addition to the striking color, the Irish Setter's coat is glossy. The hairs of the fur are long and straight. It's longer on the dog's ears, chest, tail and back of legs.

The Irish Setter has a build that is substantial, yet elegant. It is a large dog, though not among the largest breeds. While the Irish Setter is not as powerful as the dogs typically thought of as guard dogs, you do not want to encounter one that thinks you're threatening its family.

The Irish Setter stands over two feet tall at the shoulder, and a typical male can stand and put his paws on your shoulders even if you're slightly tall for an adult male human. The dog is also a fast runner. Those not bred for the narrow skull are also surprisingly intelligent.

The Irish Setter is most likely a cross between the English Setter, Spaniel, and Pointer. It was developed during the fifteenth century. It was called the Red Spaniel in Ireland, but in 1876 became known as the Irish Setter. The name Irish Red Setter was chosen first by the American Irish Setter Club because of the acceptance of only red dogs as typical of the breed. In most countries, red with small white markings are acceptable.

The Irish Setter has a rollicking personality. Shyness, hostility or timidity are uncharacteristic of this breed. Most are outgoing, with a stable temperament. Irish setters live life with enthusiasm. They are jokesters and are easily amused. Irish Setters enjoy simple pleasures like a good run, chasing butterflies, bird watching, and going on rabbit patrol.

In the field, this dog is a swift moving hunter. The Irish Setter is an all-around hunting dog with an excellent nose and extraordinary skills on the terrain. Today, the Irish Setter's skills include hunting, tracking, pointing, retrieving, agility, and competitive obedience.

At home, he's a sweet natured, trainable companion. These dogs can easily be housebroken. They make excellent pets, in the field and as a loving companion. It is important to train them young for good house manners. This breed is energetic, affectionate, intelligent, high-spirited, and full of energy. Irish Setters are responsive yet sensitive. They generally get along well with other animals.

They are excellent with children, and lack aggression and the guarding instincts of other breeds such as the German Shepherd or Doberman.

Watch-dog? Yes, they are very alert. Guard-dog? Not really, they are much too friendly. However, they will attack if their family is clearly threatened. The emphasis is on the word "clearly." Teenage boys can horse around and wrestle, and the Irish Setter won't be the slightest bit alarmed. Unfortunately, a friendly stranger picking up your two-year old toddler won't alarm the dog either.

An Irish Setter is always looking for someone to have a good time with, and he's not all that particular about whom. Only if the dog sees clear signs of aggression will his protective instincts be aroused.

Irish Setters are very loveable, impulsive, and sometimes giddy. The Irish Setter is the perfect breed for a fun-loving, active family.

They enjoy running circles around people or dogs in an attempt to play. Sometimes known as "Big Red or the Red Setter" they have boundless energy and are full of high spirits. They love to exercise and exert themselves with anything, which requires careful training by the owner so that their busy minds do not turn to more destructive behaviors if they are bored.

Many owners of Irish Setters are getting involved with agility training. Agility utilizes the Irish Setter's main strengths; speed and energy. If you've ever had the opportunity to see an Irish work the weave poles at breakneck speed and fly over the next jump, you know what we're talking about. This kind of training shows this breed off at its best. He's an awesome athlete and gorgeous at the same time.

They love to be around their human companions, but like all dogs needs consistent discipline. It's easy for a human companion to lose sight of the dog's need for leadership. As an example, suppose you ask the dog if he want to go for a walk. The typical setter will get very excited. He's thrilled to be going for a walk.

So you open the door and he bolts out, only to get hit by a car. What you should do, instead, is calmly issue the Sit command. Then attach the leash. Then open the door. As with all commands given to a dog, there is no need to shout and the command should be given with neutral inflection. The high energy of this particular breed makes observance of basic dog discipline extra important.

Aside from not confusing the dog, one benefit of consistency is you reduce the need for commands with the passing of time. The same young dog who was a risk at the door should be a dog who will wait for you to go out first, then follow and walk at your heel without a leash when in middle age. It just takes consistency. This particular breed will take longer to reach that point than, say, a border collie or a German shepherd.

Irish Setters are very outgoing, friendly, spirited and lively throughout their adulthood. They mature slowly, making them have the demeanor of a puppy most of their lives.

Thinking about purchasing an Irish Setter? Purchasing a new puppy is a commitment that may last ten or more years. So please educate yourself on the Irish Setter breed, including all stages of their life from puppy hood to older dog. Don't make your decision based on how this dog looks or how cute the puppy is. Many people regret having chosen an Irish Setter, because they are the wrong people for that dog and things just don't turn out well.

Ask yourself:

  • Will I be a good leader for this dog?
  • Can I be consistent with discipline, always doing the right things so the dog understands the rules?
  • Do I have the time it takes to learn proper dog training techniques?
  • Do I have the time to train a new puppy?
  • Do I have the resources to give my new dog a rewarding life?
  • Do I have a local veterinarian that I can take my new dog to?
  • Do I have a groomer or can I do the grooming myself on a regular basis?
  • Can I remain calm, kind, and respectful--yet firm--when the puppy does something wrong?

If you're not capable of remaining calm and in control of yourself, don't get a high-energy dog.

Health issues

Bloat is a health issue for many deep-chested dogs, it's a painful twisting of the stomach that cuts off the blood supply, trapping gas and acid. Sometimes fatal without surgery, and the exact cause is not known. It's the second largest killer of dogs other than cancer, but Irish Setters can be particularly susceptible to it because of their deep chests. Feeding two or three small meals a day is better and safer than one large meal. In fact, if you use corn-free kibble you can give the dog a fresh bowl of food many times a day.

The corn is actually not compatible with the dog's system (if your vet tells you otherwise, disregard that disinformation). One of the negative effects is it increases the dog's appetite. That's why corn-fed cattle are so fat; it's why cattle are sent to feed lots to fatten up and corn is what they get. You may notice a similar effect among corn-fed humans (read ingredients labels), dogs, and cats.

A perfect Setter day would be 50 to 70 degrees. Never leave them out in extreme heat or cold. Irish Setters like their creature comforts. The softest place to sleep is the best place to sleep. They are happy to share your bed and your pillow, if the opportunity arises.

Irish Setters actually require a surprisingly low amount of grooming. A weekly brushing, especially around the fringe areas and foot feathering, and a monthly bath will do in most cases unless you take your dog into the fields. Then frequent brushing and extra flea and tick maintenance will be necessary. Because of their large size, many owners opt to take this breed to the grooming shop instead of attempting to haul "Big Red" to the bathtub or shower. If he escapes wet, he will run to your favorite recliner and it now becomes his towel. He is a clown. A beautiful clown.

The Irish Setter proved a worthy gundog to the English, and is still used today for that purpose. Mostly, though, this breed has been moving into the position of family pet rather than hunting dog. Today the Irish Setter is mostly a loving friend of the family. And it's still popular in dog shows around the world.

About the author: Cathy and her Doberman Trooper conduct research into all kinds of topics and produce articles like the one you see here. To contact Cathy or Trooper, write to Get the facts from Cathy, and let the Cathy Factor give you an edge.

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