1. Key Breed Facts
2. Breed Characteristics
3. Looking for a Irish Setter ?
8. Intelligence / Trainability
9. Children and Other Pets
11. Caring for a Irish Setter
15. Average Cost to keep/care for a Irish Setter
Irish Setters are very distinct looking dogs that over the years have consistently been popular both in the show ring as well as in a home environment. Originally bred as working gundogs, they have to be among the most glamorous of dogs which means more often than not, they are the focus of lots of attention from fans of the breed and other people too thanks to the gorgeously rich chestnut-red coats and their very kind natures.
These setters are among the oldest of their type around and were first bred in Ireland where they made their mark as being excellent gundogs although it has to be said, the Irish Setter is known to have a bit of a mischievous streak in them.
Being one of the oldest of the setter breeds, the Irish Setter was around before English or Gordon Setters appeared on the scene. They originate from Ireland where they were developed by crossing old-type spaniels, setting spaniels and Scottish Setters. They were originally bred as hunting dogs and were to become excellent scent dogs. However, the Irish Setters of yesterday were much like the dogs we know today and they boasted a mischievous side to their nature which often got the better of them when they were being put their paces and working.
In 1882, the first Irish Red Setter Club was established all thanks to the efforts of The Earl of Enniskellen who worked hard to breed only the best quality dogs. It was the Earl who developed the breed's striking solid red coat. With this said, many dogs that were exhibited during this time still boasted white or black markings in their coats which was a throw-back to traits seen in the Gordon, Red and White Setters.
The Irish Setter has always enjoyed a tremendous amount of success in the show ring, thanks to their wonderful looks and hyper personalities and these charming dogs continued to do well until the breed was almost lost the 1940s thanks to the onset of an eye disease known as Progressive Retinal Atrophy which today is better known as PRA. Fortunately, with the advancement in veterinary medicine, it is now possible to have all Irish Setters DNA tested for this eye disorder and any dogs with the condition are never used in a breeding programme. This has helped increase breed numbers with fewer cases of dogs suffering from PRA over recent years.
Height at the withers: Males 58 - 67 cm, Females 54 - 62 cm
Average weight: Males 27 - 32 kg, Females 24 - 29 kg
The Irish Setter boasts a very athletic and racy outline with a tremendous amount of power in their hindquarters. Despite their glamourous looks, these setters are true working dogs and like nothing more than being given things to do. They are refined and handsome dogs that boast long, lean heads which are slightly domed in between their ears. Their muzzles are quite long, square and deep with strong jaws and wide nostrils with dogs boasting dark mahogany, dark walnut or black noses.
Their eyes are almond shaped and dark hazel right through to dark brown in colour which are set level and which show a kind, intelligent expression these dogs are known to possess. Ears are fine in texture and moderate in size being set low and well back. They hang neatly close to a dog’s head showing a neat fold. Irish Setters have a strong jaw boasting a perfect scissor bite where their upper teeth neatly overlap their lower ones.
They have moderately long well-muscled necks which dogs hold slightly arched adding to their proud looks. Shoulders are deep and sloping with fine points and front legs are sinewy and straight showing a lot of bone. They have deep chests which are quite narrow viewed from the front with well sprung ribs carried well back. Loins are muscular and slightly arched again adding a graceful dimension to the overall look of an Irish Setter. Their topline gently slopes away from the wither. Hindquarters are powerful and broad with dogs boasting strong back legs. Their feet are small, firm with strong, closed and arched toes. Tails are moderately long and set just below the level of a dog’s back. It is thicker at the root but tapers to the tip and dogs carry it level to their backs or just a tad below.
When it comes to their coat, the Irish Setters boasts a superb long and silky one that’s free of any curls or waves. They have feathers on the upper parts of their ears, on the back of their front and back legs as well as quite a bit on their undersides. Feet are also well feathered in between a dog’s toes and their tails boast having a fringe of long hair right to the tip. Their defining feature is their glorious rich chestnut coloured coat. Irish Setters are allowed to have a small amount of white on their chest, throat, chin, toes as well as a very small star on their foreheads or a narrow streak/blaze on their noses.
Irish Setters were originally bred to work as gundogs and although extremely good at the job they were bred to do, they had a mischievous side to their natures which often got the better of them. However, today these extremely attractive setters are known to be one of the most genuine dogs around, boasting an affectionate, friendly nature. They love nothing more than to be in a family environment and will join in all the fun and games that typically go on in a household.
They are quite excitable dogs by nature and always exhibit a fun-loving, zest for life. They are a great choice for first time owners because they are easy to train all thanks to their desire to please. However, because of the "naughty" side to their nature, it takes time and patience to train an Irish Setter and their education needs to start early and be consistent throughout a dog's life for them to be truly happy, relaxed and well-rounded dogs.
Irish Setters are high energy dogs and therefore owners have to be able to give them the time these dogs need to be truly happy, well-rounded dogs. This means lots of exercise and the right amount of mental stimulation to prevent boredom from setting in. A bored Irish Setter can get into all sorts of trouble especially when they find new things to entertain and amuse themselves around the home which typically involves destroying anything they find.
These dogs thrive on being around people and do not do particularly well when they are left to their own devices for long periods of time. They are also known to be quite accident prone all thanks to their quick turn of speed and the fact they can be very excitable at times. With this said, when given enough exercise and lots of mental stimulation, an Irish Setter forms a very strong bond with their owners, but they do need to know their place in the pack. However, as previously mentioned, their training has to start early and it needs to be consistent with a lot of emphasis being put on training an Irish Setter to respond to a "recall" command.
They are also known to like the sound of their own voices and have a reputation of being barkers when the mood takes them. The only way to avoid this from happening is to make sure an Irish Setter is kept busy and given heaps of mental stimulation. When talking about these dogs the saying a "tired dog is a good dog" is never truer. With this said, these charming, attractive dogs really do remain puppies at heart throughout their lives which has to be taken into account when they are being put through their paces.
Although Irish Setters are a good choice as family pets, they are not the best choice for families with young children or toddlers. The reason being that these dogs are often quite boisterous when they play which means they could end up knocking a toddler over and scaring them. Any interaction between children and an Irish Setter should always be supervised by an adult to ensure things stay nice and calm.
An Irish Setter's training needs to start as early as possible with a lot of emphasis being placed on the "recall" command as previously mentioned. They are not hard to train, but their mischievous nature paired to a strong instinct to hunt can prove too much for them at times. However, with a lot of patience and gentle persuasion, the Irish Setter can be trained and some dogs compete and even excel when they take part in obedience trials.
The thing to bear in mind, is that Irish Setters are sensitive dogs by nature and therefore they do not respond well to any sort of harsh training or correction. The breed is also slow to mature physically and mentally which has to be taken into account when training them. Pushing a dog too hard will not achieve good results. However, these setters are also known to be independent dogs and at times they can be a little stubborn and hardheaded.
Irish Setters are known to get on well with children and will play nicely with them. They seem to have an affinity with small people, but because of their size, they could well knock a toddler over by accident which means any interaction between children and an Irish Setter should be supervised by an adult to make sure playtime does not get too boisterous.
Irish Setters generally get on well with dogs, but when it comes to cats and other small animals, they need to be introduced to them early in their lives and then grow up with them. The reason being their instinct might get the better of them when they encounter any small animals and cats. Care has to be taken when an Irish Setter meets any small animals or pets they don’t already know.
For further advice please read our article on Keeping Children Safe around Dogs.
The average life expectancy of an Irish Setter is between 10 and 15 years when properly cared for and fed an appropriate good quality diet to suit their ages.
Although the Irish Setter is thought of as a healthy dog and one that boasts a longer life span than other dogs of their size, there are certain hereditary and acquired disorders that owners need to know about if planning to share a home with one of these extremely handsome dogs. The health disorders that seem to affect the breed the most are as follows:
As with any other breed, Irish Setters need to be groomed on a regular basis to make sure their coats and skin are kept in tip-top condition. They also need to be given regular daily exercise to ensure they remain fit and healthy. On top of this, they need to be fed good quality food that meets all their nutritional needs throughout their lives.
One of the most striking features about an Irish Setter is their gleaming, long chestnut coat. Dogs boasts lots of feathering on their ears, chests, backs of their legs, abdomens and tails which in short means they are high maintenance when it comes to keeping their coats looking good and in top condition.
Their silky featherings have a tendency to knot up and get tangled if dogs are not regularly and frequently brushed. When dogs come back from a walk, their coats and more especially their feathers need to be towel dried before being gently brushed.
It's also important to regularly check an Irish Setters ears to make sure there are no foreign objects like brambles or thorns in them. It's also essential for their ears to be kept as dry as possible because they are prone to suffer from ear infections. If too much moisture is allowed to build up in a dog's ear canal, it provides the perfect environment for a yeast infection to take hold. This type of infection is known to be hard to clear up.
It's also a good idea to take an Irish Setter along to a professional groomer, especially if a dog boasts longer than usual feathering. An expert groomer would be able to thin them out so they are more manageable and they would be able to do this without changing the overall classic look that makes the Irish Setter stand out in a crowd.
Irish Setters as previously mentioned, are high energy dogs and therefore they need to be given a heap of daily exercise. They like to be busy which means a minimum of 2 hours’ vigorous daily exercise with lots of mental stimulation included in their day. If not given the right amount of exercise and mental stimulation, an Irish Setter would soon get bored and this could lead to them being unruly and wilful which makes them harder to manage and handle.
If you get an Irish Setter puppy from a breeder, they would give you a feeding schedule and it's important to stick to the same routine, feeding the same puppy food to avoid any tummy upsets. You can change a puppy's diet, but this needs to be done very gradually always making sure they don't develop any digestive upsets and if they do, it's best to put them back on their original diet and to discuss things with the vet before attempting to change it again.
Older dogs are not known to be fussy or finicky eaters, but this does not mean you can feed them a lower quality diet. It's best to feed a mature dog twice a day, once in the morning and then again in the evening, making sure it's good quality food that meets all their nutritional requirements. It's also important that dogs be given the right amount of exercise so they burn off any excess calories or they might gain too much weight which can lead to all sorts of health issues. Obesity can shorten a dog's life by several years so it's important to keep an eye on their waistline from the word go.
Irish Setters are susceptible to bloat which means they should not be fed just one large meal a day, but preferably 2 small ones. They should not be fed just before they go out for a walk or just when they come back from one either because this puts them more at risk of developing bloat.
If you are looking to buy an Irish Setter, you would need to pay anything from £550 to over £600 for a well-bred pedigree puppy. The cost of insuring a 3-year-old Irish Setter in northern England would be £21.20 a month for basic cover but for a lifetime policy, this would set you back £47.97 a month (quote as of April 2016). When insurance companies calculate a pet's premium, they factor in several things which includes where you live in the UK and a dog's age and whether or not they have been neutered or spayed.
When it comes to food costs, you need to buy the best quality food whether wet or dry, to feed your dog throughout their lives making sure it suits the different stages of their lives. This would set you back between £50 - £60 a month. On top of all of this, you would need to factor in veterinary costs if you want to share your home with an Irish Setter and this includes their initial vaccinations, their annual boosters, the cost of neutering or spaying your dog when the time is right and then their yearly health checks, all of which quickly adds up to over a £1000 a year.
As a rough guide, the average cost to keep and care for an Irish Setter would be between £80 to £110 a month depending on the level of insurance cover you opt to buy for your dog, but this does not include the initial cost of buying a pedigree puppy.
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